The strategically hip
With more than 400 hotels and locations in just about every major city, the Marriott chain is hardly renowned for taking a boutique approach to accommodation. But the recent revamp of its Renaissance brand is part of its strategy to break into this growing sector.
And while they are still some way from being a boutique brand, the Renaissance properties aim to offer something different from the usual luxury chain accommodation. Located a kilometre from the JW Marriott Phuket - the hotelier's luxury brand - and overlooking Mai Khao Beach in the north of the island, the Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa is made up of 150 deluxe rooms, 25 one-bedroom villas, four one-bedroom suites and one three-bedroom oceanfront villa.
Overseen by P49 Design & Associates - the creative muscle behind hip properties such as W Retreat Koh Samui and the Maldives Soneva Fushi - the design concept is focused on bringing nature into the property, with a white sand and sea bubble theme in the dining areas, and the golden glow of a sunset emanating from the walls and installations in the lobby. In the adjacent lounge, a flock of metal birds designed by Eggarat Wongcharit dangle from the ceiling for a stylish welcome. Come nightfall, it is bathed in pools of changing light, which provide a pleasant backdrop to one of the lounge's signature cocktails. Order up an R Martini - an aromatic mix of vodka, lychee, grenadine and lime juice - and some calamari with wasabi mayonnaise or grilled prawns with roasted chilli paste on the side.
While not as design-driven as the public areas, the deluxe guest room is comfortable and stylish, with carpets inspired by the blues of the Andaman Sea and lamps flushed with the hues of coral reefs adding a splash of colour to the neutral decor. Commissioned artworks and toiletries from cult British brand Pecksniffs are evidence of the hotel's dedication to detail.
There are elements of luxury, too, such as the generously sized balcony - a good place to hide from potent afternoon rays - and the delicious privacy of the resort. In the three days I was there, I never heard a peep from any of my neighbours.
Most of the hotel's facilities are predictably clustered around the beach, with Thai eatery Takieng delivering dreamy vistas over the swimming pool and the gorgeous shoreline of Mai Khao which, at 17 kilometres, is the longest beach on the island.
Serving up paninis and potent espresso, Doppio, a coffee house, is also suitably chilled, with well-stocked shelves of books and magazines to lose yourself in and curved lamps to duck under. You might not have room for lunch, however, after gorging yourself at the buffet breakfast in the Lounge, where crispy crepes oozing with fruit fillings and moist chocolate chip muffins line up against tropical smoothies and freshly squeezed juices.
While the Renaissance Phuket's chic boutique ambience and proximity (16 kilometres) to the airport are certainly plusses, the resort is decidedly quiet once the sun goes down. The nightlife of Patong is a 40-minute drive away.
Nevertheless, honeymooners and stressed out professionals will adore the peace and privacy that prevail, and hipsters will appreciate the painstaking approach to design.
How to get there
Fly from Hong Kong to Phuket in 31/2 hours. The resort is 16 kilometres from the airport. Transfers available for 1,400 baht (HK$351) one way.
From US$512 per night for a deluxe room, to US$1,955 for a three-bedroom pool villa (peak season).
555 Moo 3, Mai Khao Beach, Talang, Phuket 83110 Tel: + 66 76 363 999