By Veronica Inveen
Aug 1, 2021
Until recently, the only way to visit Thailand from abroad was by first enduring a 15-day stay at an Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ). That’s half a month cooped inside a hotel room—no access to facilities, no opportunity to mingle with others, and infrequent escapes outdoors for sunlight. The less-than-pleasant process is the reason that, until last month, I hadn’t returned home to the U.S. in nearly two years.
But since July 1, Thailand has reopened its most famous island with the Phuket Sandbox initiative. The scheme allows vaccinated visitors to visit Phuket quarantine-free as long as they book accommodations in Safety and Health Administration (SHA+) certified hotels and don’t leave the island for 14 days, among a few other requirements. Otherwise, it’s all sun, sand, som tam, and Chang beers—a decidedly more appealing scene in comparison to the former.
Anyway, I happen to love Phuket. Highly liveable—an international airport, malls, drivable roads, diverse neighborhoods—and damn-beautiful, any excuse to visit—nonetheless stay for two whole weeks by force—is awesome.
I knew going into the Sandbox that the hotel I selected to stay at for the required 14 days would either make or break the experience. There are more than 400 SHA+ approved hotels on the island, spanning in prices and location.
Going into the experience, I knew I wanted to be in Rawai. By far my favorite area on the island, the region is defined not only by its salt-white beaches and lush coastal hills but also by its laid-back dwellers and conspicuous health culture.
And when it comes to being centrally located, it doesn’t get much better than Wyndham Grand Nai Harn Beach Resort Phuket. Situated just behind Nai Harn Lake and a sunny walk from lively Nai Harn Beach, the freshly opened hotel is a swish gateway to the area’s many cafes, viewpoints, and sun-soaking spots.
Lucky for me, the hotel was on the approved list. I booked and reached out for the necessary documentation to confirm my stay needed for Certificate of Entry approval. The reservations team was swift in sending me what I needed, despite contacting them after office hours because of the time difference. Through their team, I prepaid for the three required Covid tests and SHA+ approved transportation from the airport to the hotel.
On a stormy Friday just seven days after the first Sandbox visitor arrived on the island, I landed in Phuket after three weeks away in the U.S. The arrival process was fairly swift: one station at the airport for registration and document checking, immigration, baggage claim, and, finally, my first Covid test of the stay.
I was whisked away from the airport by the limo transfer arranged by the hotel and was welcomed to the property about an hour later by a crew of friendly faced, masked-up staff. Regardless of the dreary weather (hey, its rainy seasons anyway), the surrounding lush foliage, backdrop of mountains, subtle smell of ocean air, and a swift check-in process immediately made my blood pressure drop and relieved some of the tension built up over 30 hours of travel.
The hotel has 10 swimming pools, all of which are connected to look like a shimmering turquoise-blue canal that the rooms look onto—or in my case, since I stayed in a Deluxe Pool Access room, sit on. Complete with a vast sun deck and loungers, a desk, and a couch, the 45-square meter room is more than spacious enough to make home for the next 14 days. While highlights like the ridiculously comfortable, jet-lag-proof DreamMaster bed or perfectly placed and abundant electricity outlets might take the cake for some, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the high-tech Japanese toilet wasn’t my favorite part of the room.
When not working, my two weeks were spent people-watching at Nai Harn Lake, surfing at Kata Beach, hanging around the hotel’s swim-up bar, discovering different sunset spots, and consuming many plates of fiery Southern Thai food—with just two brief intermissions to get my required Covid tests, both of which were seamlessly arranged by the hotel.
The floating breakfast at Wyndham Grand Nai Harn Phuket. Photo by Prapatsorn Donglomjan
Although I was technically not on holiday, I ended my stay in proper vacation style: with a floating breakfast. It should be mentioned that not all pools are primed for a floating breakfast. However, the ones at Wyndham Grand Nai Harn Phuket were seemingly made for them. With a spa jet seat in front of the room, I could enjoy my coffee and kai kra ta (Thai-style pan-fried eggs) seated and without having to do much maneuvering. It was the perfect end to the most pleasant “quarantine” experience I could imagine.
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has two other properties in Phuket that are SHA+ certified: Wyndham Grand Phuket Kalim Bay and Wyndham Sea Pearl Resort Phuket. But whether you’re heading to Phuket or staying closer to home, you’ll want to take advantage of Wyndham’s Holiday Here deal for your upcoming trip. Book your stay direct by August 28, 2021, for stays until August 30, 2021, and get up to 25% off rates and 3,000 Wyndham Rewards bonus points at participating hotels. Learn more at wyndhamhotels.com.