Kamala, Thailand

Photo: Keemala Hotel
Photo: Keemala Hotel

What are you thankful for this year? Your family and closer-than-family friends? Of course. Your health and the safety of those you love? Always. But you appreciate the little things as well. A morning without a wake-up call. The smell of chocolate chip cookies baking. A glass of really good French wine. And, this year, an extra week of vacation.

You decide to spend your extra time in Thailand. It’s not your first time in the Southeast Asian country. Years ago, you followed the classic backpacker route: Bangkok, the Golden Triangle, and the southern islands. You fell in love with Phuket and its full-moon parties, gorgeous beaches, and friendly vibe. At the time, those were the only things that mattered. But as years passed, you continued to dream about the enchanting island. So now you’re returning to see the mountains and the waterfalls, the monasteries and the markets, the quieter beaches and the hidden hideaways.

Thailand’s largest island—and second-smallest province—sits off the west coast in the Andaman Sea. In the 17th century, it was an important stop for Europeans along the trade route between China and India. Tin, rubber, and tourism became the mountainous island’s greatest sources of income over time. People traveled here for the white-sand beaches, the crystal-clear water, the perfect weather, and the pampering resorts. Then the tsunami hit in 2004. The island was slow to recover.

Photo: Keemala Hotel
Photo: Keemala Hotel

Eventually, the resorts were rebuilt and the parties continued. But another side of Phuket emerged, too. Kamala, north of Patong, the largest city, was once a quiet Muslim fishing village that only a few surfers knew about. It’s still relatively undeveloped. Kamala Beach is bordered by the jungle. Villas, instead of large hotels, stand between the palm trees. The market is only open a few nights a week. While a little retreat, featuring some of the most interesting rooms you’ve ever seen, sits on the hillside overlooking the village and the calm bay.

Keemala was inspired by Thailand’s culture and traditions. You arrive to find four room options. The Clay Pool Cottages look like mounds built into the hill. The Tent Pool Villas are draped with strong white tents. The Bird’s Nest Pool Villas have a tangled, woven facade. Plus the Tree Pool Houses, which you select, are pods suspended in the air. Each features a private pool, an outside shower, a monsoon shower, and a stand-alone tub. While the rest of the resort—from the alignment-focused spa treatments to the organic food—is focused on your wellness and relaxation.

After settling into your tree house, soak in an aromatherapy bath at the Mala Spa to renew the outer layer of your skin. Learn the intricate techniques of Thai boxing. Go on a jungle trek or, better yet, a beach walk. Sip herbal tea in the lounge or a spicy Tom Yum cocktail at the Cha-La Pool Bar. Then venture to nearby temples to give alms to monks, islands to scuba dive among leopard sharks, and national parks to see elephants in their natural habitat. You quickly realize that, like yourself, Phuket has grown up since your last visit. You’re grateful that you have extra time to explore.

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