May 12, 2022
THERE ARE LOTS OF stereotypes about butlers. Just saying the word conjures up images of an uptight gent bearing a silver salver right out of central casting for Upstairs Downstairs or Downton Abbey. This might be why so many resorts have been shifting to other monikers for those staff members assigned to be our PA for our stay. But not V Villas Phuket, which is wholly embracing the butler and his 24-hour personal service for guests in each of its 19 exclusive pool villas.
V Villas, which we named one of the best new openings of last year, overlooks the bay of Ao Yon, on the southeastern tip of the resort island of Phuket. Despite the distance from the northerly airport, the transfer (in a chauffeured S-Class Mercedes Benz) flew by, a glimpse of the smooth ride that awaits you throughout your stay.
Once the formalities of check-in were squared away, as if on cue my butler silently glided onto the set: an impeccably professional young Thai man in shorts and a safari hat pulled up at the wheel of an electric golf cart to take me to my villa.
Guests and colleagues call him Jack, but the formal name on his business card that he handed me (not on a silver platter) was Chatchai. After he showed me the room, I asked him to take me around the property on foot. He showed me the path to the other villas then took me through the restaurant and the rooftop bar.
From there we walked down the 239 steps to the soft sandy beach. And then – gasp – the 239 steps back up. Even in the afternoon sun, Jack didn’t even break a sweat. The same could not be said of me. (Though, that did not deter me from exploring the beach more later in my stay, even strolling over to one of the beachfront snack bars for a smoothie.)
I’m usually a pretty independent hotel guest. I’m fine carrying my own bags or getting around large estates unaccompanied. I like that better than obsequious service that can be annoying or downright intrusive. This was different. Jack was always on call by phone or Line messenger. He discreetly checked in on me a couple of times a day but he didn’t insist on driving me to dinner when I said I’d walk. He was somehow always at the right place at the right time, anticipating when I needed to be picked up, when I wanted to pull the deck chair cushions out of a summer rain shower or when I forgot my room key or cap. He and his team kept my room spotless, yet I almost never saw them.
My one-bedroom villa had 180 square meters of private indoor and outdoor area. High ceilings and a dressing room and bathroom that are each bigger than a lot of hotel rooms I’ve stayed in give you the luxury of space, and that’s before you even consider the understated elegance of the bedroom and living room, modern, flooded with sunlight, all clean lines and muted tones. Both rooms have floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that lead directly into the nine-meter infinity pool.
T+L tip: seafront is lovely, but the hillside villas facing inland get morning sun so my pool was already bathwater-warm first thing in the morning and stayed that way all day, meaning I could roll out of bed and jump straight in. In the afternoon, the deck and pool were protected from the brutal summer sun, so I could sit out and swim, read or work on my laptop without getting too hot. That being said, if you’re coming with a group, you want to ask if the oh-my-goodness sea view four-bedroom villa is available. It’s the owner’s own villa when he’s in residence, so you know you won’t regret it.
You can dine in the Yon Ocean House restaurant, which offers a selection of Thai and western dishes throughout the day. I asked Chef Sorn to recommend something with a little local flair and was rewarded with spicy tiger prawns with holy basil. But for that extra personal touch, you want to order your meals in your villa, from floating breakfasts to candlelit dinners with a special someone, attended to with the same flawless service and attention to detail.
At sunset, there is only one place at V Villas you want to be: at the dramatic rooftop Akoya Star Lounge, the highest point of the resort, where it feels like you’re peering off the edge of Phuket. As a hotel guest, you have dibs on the front row sofas and daybeds that have their feet in the water at the edge of the terrace. You could order from the cocktail list, but I had a chat with Khun Lek, the in-house mixologist who listened to my preferences then made me an off-menu smoky mezcal Negroni. Or maybe he made me two.
You can also have relaxation kneaded into you at the pristine spa. The signature bamboo massage with warm aroma candle is a vigorous treatment during which melted wax and coconut oil are applied to your skin then rolled into your muscles with different lengths of bamboo sticks, a mash-up of 50 Shades of Gray meets Great British Bake Off. Frissons guaranteed.
There is also a gym and a host of free wellness and physical activities every day, curated by the affable Lifestyle Manager Jose. I did sessions of meditation and yoga in a room lit by dappled daylight that enters through the pools of water above the glass ceiling. If that doesn’t say “inner peace” I don’t know what does. You can also join beach walks and hikes around the Ton Ao Yon Waterfall.
By the end of the trip, I embraced the fact that Jack the butler was there to make my stay a perfect one. When I said I was craving local food, he arranged to pick up dinner from the excellent Baansuan Aoyon Café that I’d spotted on my previous day’s hike. (Order this: squid in squid ink; beef satay; pandan cake with coconut jelly.) On my last night, Jack packed my bag, laid out my clothes for the next day and drew a bubble bath in the two-seater spa bath, complete with flickering candles and rose petals before retiring into the night.
Note to self: next time, either bring a date or skip the rose petals.
V Villa Phuket (an M Gallery Collection Hotel) is located 45 kilometers south of Phuket International Airport; one-bedroom hill villas from Bt19,110.
All photos courtesy of V Villas Phuket.