What it’s like staying at Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas, a future hotel star of ‘The White Lotus’ – The Points Guy

The highly popular TV series “The White Lotus” may have revived actress Jennifer Coolidge’s career, but it has also been an enormous boost to the pop culture profile of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts — not that the Four Seasons necessarily needed a boost to its profile in the eyes of global travel snobs.

This upcoming third season of “The White Lotusmoves the fictional brand to Thailand, where reports say hosting duties will still be in the grip of Four Seasons at the Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui.

But there’s a new guest star brand this season, per those same reports: luxury Thai chain Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas. Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas is said to be featured in the series along with a yet-to-be-named hotel in Bangkok.

While Anantara spokespeople declined to comment on any upcoming time on HBO, I headed to Thailand to check out this resort and its worthiness as a luxury resort backdrop for high-brow melodrama and, as previously reported, the third season’s plan to explore themes of Eastern religion, spirituality … and death.

I can’t say I spent much time contemplating religion, spirituality or the macabre during my stay. Instead, I found the themes Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas focuses on to be tasteful accommodations, delectable dining and attentive service.

Here’s what it’s like to stay at the property.

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Related: The 14 best hotels in Phuket, Thailand

What is Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas?

Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas is the flagship luxury brand for Thai conglomerate Minor Hotels. While it might not be the main hotel star like the Four Seasons in Koh Samui, it’s easy to see why Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas is expected to still get some screen time on “The White Lotus.”

The resort is composed entirely of private pool villas (pavilion room options you might see on the Anantara website are actually at a neighboring resort) built to resemble traditional wooden Thai houses with steep gabled roofs. The dark teak wood finishes of the villas pop against the lush greenscape of the entire Anantara property, which encompasses many tree-lined pathways, lily pad-filled lagoons and a picturesque stretch of Andaman Sea shoreline.

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When you’re not enjoying the privacy of your own pool villa, you can take part in amenities like the Anantara Spa, the Thai and Indian La Sala restaurant, omakase restaurant Tree House set in, well, the trees and the main pool deck and beach.

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How to book a stay at Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas

My two-night stay was complimentary, but you can book directly through the Anantara website for stays starting at around $400 per night in the offseason. Rates rise to around $700 per night in the peak winter travel season.

While the Anantara resort is not on premium credit card booking platforms like American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts, you can book through TPG partner Skylark to enjoy elitelike benefits and on-property credits.

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The location

Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas is only a 20-minute drive from Phuket International Airport (HKT). While I might have enticed you with descriptions of greenery, sandy beaches and nature, I’ll admit it doesn’t feel that way on the drive from the airport.

A stay at the Anantara might feel like a walk through the jungle, but the resort counts a JW Marriott resort and vacation club resorts from both Marriott and Anantara as immediate neighbors. You’ll also see several shopping centers with souvenir shops, a 7-Eleven and a soon-to-open Starbucks on the drive in.

Once inside the Anantara’s arched entranceway, you’ll feel like you’ve entered Thai paradise. You’re likelier to wake up to the dulcet sounds of cawing birds in the trees rather than pulsating club music by the swimming pool. Plus, the resort’s backyard is the Andaman Sea — offering a daily opportunity to catch the best view in town for the sunset so you can post about it on Instagram to make a friend or five jealous back home.

Not that I did that or anything.

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Authentic Thai vibes and hospitality

Stepping into Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas felt like a switch flipped to turn off a lot of the commercial activity, traffic and noise felt upon arrival at Phuket’s airport. I only thought about that soon-to-open Starbucks once during my entire stay — anywhere else, and it would have been multiple times a morning.

The resort is composed of various traditional Thai house-inspired buildings spread across a lagoon. Meandering bike paths and torch-lined wooden bridges connect it all together amid the forested property.

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While there are buggies to get guests to and from points on the resort grounds, I highly recommend borrowing a bike to get around the property. Yes, you’re among several other resorts, but it felt like being in the remote jungle each morning with birds serenading from above while pedaling out to the beach for sunset yoga or breakfast at La Sala.

A sunset torch-lighting ceremony on the wooden bridges welcomed the evening amid the watchful gaze of a nearby shrine to the Hindu god Brahma (appearing to get more use during my stay as a photo-op and for ornamental accompaniment to the adjoining Anantara Spa than for religious rites).

The resort is also surrounded by Sirinat National Park, which explains why the beach area is so undisturbed by noisy mainstays like Jet Skis you might find in other resort destinations. Come here for solitude in the sun and a picture-perfect stretch of shoreline (especially at sunrise before everyone else wakes up).

Check-in

Upon arriving at the resort, a staff member greeted me at the car and walked me to a small outdoor check-in area overlooking the lagoon. Another Anantara employee lightly tapped a gong to signal the arrival. It was a fun bit of pomp and circumstance along with some practicality: Refreshing chilled tea and cold towels helped treat some of the perspiration fueled by that day’s Thai heat.

After handling all the logistics of passports and villa confirmation, an attendant brought me to my private pool villa. During check-in, you’ll want to note to the Anantara team that you’d like to borrow a bike for your stay so they can have one delivered. A separate staff member took the luggage and delivered it to my villa shortly after I arrived.

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Extremely spacious villas

At just over 2,000 square feet, the pool villa might be insulted by the notion that it’s referred to as an “entry-level” lodging at Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas. You walk up a short set of stairs onto a private deck with a green mosaic pool, two lounge chairs and a covered cabana area with a daybed.

While there are windows looking out on the bike path, you can shut these for privacy — I don’t care how much I liked the look of my bathing suit: Nobody needed to see my pale, fresh-from-Boston winter skin for the first few hours of my stay.

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The villa itself entailed a main guest room area with arched, basketweave ceilings and ample space to stretch out in the king-size bed and beyond. Along with a welcome display of fresh fruit, the Anantara team had also scattered purple orchids across the bed. There was a daybed with a side table, plus a chair and a table for hanging out in the guest room.

A workstation on the other side of the room could, theoretically, be where one does a little work in paradise while enjoying the bowl of purple orchids on an adjoining table. For me, it was the perfect spot to house an ice bucket for Champagne during my two-night getaway.

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A silk-and-wood-paneled headboard was the focal point behind the cozy bed, flanked by two nightstands with universal electrical sockets. There were also bedside switches to control lights and window shades — handy for keeping the sun out in the morning from the glass sliding doors across from the bed that opened onto the pool.

A wooden, teal-painted cabinet to the right of these doors housed the minibar, Nespresso machine and kettle for tea, as well as complimentary water.

A walk-in closet and dressing area were just off the bedroom and connected to the bathroom.

This dressing area was incredibly spacious. While I didn’t do much work at the workstation in the bedroom, I did shut the closet door and tune in for a hotel earnings call taking place back in the U.S. at midnight in Phuket. The ample room to spread out a laptop and notebook meant I didn’t exactly feel like Harry Potter living under the cramped stairwell at the Dursleys on Privet Drive.

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The closet featured two built-in shelving areas to hang clothes and a safe, robes, flip-flops, sun hats and a tote bag to carry supplies to the beach or pool. There were granite-topped stands for luggage on either side of a mirror and a dressing table that doubled as my desk so as to not disturb my sleeping husband. I won’t name names, but there are some historic hotels in Boston that, unfortunately, have guest rooms smaller than the dressing room of an Anantara pool villa. Yikes.

The villa’s bathroom was similarly roomy, with a double vanity, a walk-in rain shower and doors that opened to an outdoor shower on one side and a jetted, glass-paneled tub you stepped down into.

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The Anantara features a house blend of jasmine-scented soap, shampoo and conditioner in the shower, but what was the real standout was the soap menu you could call in for other options like patchouli, ginger flower, citrusy vetiver and cedar wood.

Twice-daily housekeeping is the norm, and evening turndown service included thoughtful touches like leaving a tray out with mosquito repellant and lavender-scented pillow spray.

If it’s too early for pillow spray and shut-eye, the cabana outside overlooking the pool was a great spot to kick back with a book and a glass of wine while basking in the sounds of nighttime taking over … and wondering which cast member of the next season of “The White Lotus” might spend time filming here and if they’d like the turtle fountain by the pool as much as I did.

Picture-perfect dining

Dining at Anantara ranges from La Sala, the hotel’s main restaurant that overlooks the lagoon, to Sea Fire Salt, a Mediterranean-influenced restaurant closer to the beach. Tree House, the resort’s omakase restaurant, is located just behind La Sala in a perch in the trees (though I did not have an opportunity to check this out during my stay).

La Sala is the all-day dining option, beginning with a scrumptious breakfast buffet. Options here ranged from fresh fruit, salad and French pastries to eggs cooked to order, dumplings, curries and rice dishes. The standout my last morning was the guay tiew kua gai — a rice noodle and chicken soup — loaded with herbs and spices that fueled me up almost as much as the four espressos that morning (jet lag may have begun to set in).

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Breakfast is typically included in nightly rates at the resort.

La Sala is far from a one-trick pony, though. The restaurant is known for its Thai cuisine but also serves Indian fare from a Tiffin by La Sala menu, and it was very difficult to narrow my choices down to just a few dishes at dinner.

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Seeing that this was a resort in Phuket and the assignment was to brush up on the Thai “White Lotus” vibes at Anantara, I merely stuck a toe in the Tiffin by Sala pool. Vegetable samosas filled with mashed potatoes, peas, ginger and garlic and served with mint chutney (350 Thai baht, or $9.50) were a treat to kick off the meal.

I may not win points for being adventurous here when it comes to the Thai side of the menu, but the gaeng phed ped yang (690 Thai baht, or $19), a Thai red curry with roasted duck, and the pad thai goong sod (570 Thai baht, or $15.50), the famous rice noodle dish with prawns and dried shrimp, were deliciously spiced and might have ruined takeout Thai for me back home.

Closer to the pool and beach is Sea Fire Salt, which has Mediterranean vibes and is a stellar spot for sunset dinners. A margarita (350 baht, or $9.50) wasn’t out of place here, and dishes generally felt lighter than what was served at La Sala. A grilled cauliflower steak with fried kale and chili with chimichurri vinaigrette (420 baht, or $11) packed a powerful flavor profile, while a spicy chicken thigh (590 baht, or $16) was juicy with a crispy skin thanks to being served over a searing stone platter at the table.

Infinity Bar at the pool is both walk-up and swim-up, depending on how you feel like imbibing. While cocktails might be the main draw here (a happy hour menu included two-for-one gin and tonics for 350 baht, or $9.50), there is a menu of pool bar food staples like popcorn chicken (280 baht, or $7.60) and a mezze platter of hummus, fava bean dip and eggplant dip (490 baht, or $13).

Infinity Bar is the one spot at the resort that didn’t quite feel like it was uniquely Thai, but who am I to judge? I’d probably need a popcorn chicken break by the pool if I were spending an entire season of a show contemplating Eastern religion, spirituality and death and dealing with “White Lotus” theatrics.

Catch rays a variety of ways

The pool deck and beachfront lawn at Anantara see a variety of uses. While I was sunbathing at the infinity pool during my first morning, the next morning was more about sunrise yoga and enjoying the sound of the nearby waves.

Sun loungers are spread across the pool deck and beachfront lawn, and you’ll even find a few stationed in the shallow end of the pool. It’s not an enormously large pool deck, but it didn’t seem like there was a mob scene at sunrise to stake out a chair, either.

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Pool attendants were on hand to deliver cocktails and snacks from the poolside Infinity Bar, and you could also freshen up on sunscreen from supplies available at the attendant stand. There were two secluded outdoor showers for rinsing off, too.

The beach itself is protected (an Anantara team member pointed out an area where sea turtles had just hatched a couple of weeks before my stay), so you won’t be able to park a sun lounger directly on the beach. However, you can still rent a kayak or paddleboard to get out on the water and enjoy further fun in the sun.

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Swimming in the pool or sea might be the big draw, but don’t forget the main optics win here: It is worth pushing back a dinner reservation to after sunset so you can take advantage of the uninterrupted view from the water’s edge each day-into-night of your stay.

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Spa pampering and fitness

Along with the neighboring Buddhist shrine, the Anantara Spa was the easiest spot to flag as a potential backdrop for a “White Lotus” TV story arc. The space is beautifully integrated into the lagoon and broader greenery of the resort. Like the villa architecture, the space features dark teak decks and boardwalks leading to private treatment villas.

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It’s hard not to get a little spiritual at a place offering 120-minute signature massages. I “only” got a 90-minute Anantara Signature Massage (6,000 baht, or $163), and afterward, I was feeling completely devoid of the stress I felt just a week prior on the other side of the world battling a Boston winter. The treatment focused a lot on realignment work, which was particularly welcome after being hunched over a laptop all winter and then traveling so far.

Who knew a Thai massage followed by lemongrass tea could work such miracles on the psyche of a cynical journalist?

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While Anantara’s bikes were a great way to get some light cardio in, a small gym just below Sea Fire Salt was also available. The gym included a mix of free weights, strength training machines and cardio equipment, as well as a studio for stretching, yoga and aerobics. You can also sign up for classes such as sunrise yoga like I did, though I wish this had occurred in a more secluded area of the resort to avoid fellow guests walking by and gawking. Let me chair pose in peace!

Why Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas will be right for you

  • It’s only a 20-minute drive from the airport, but it can feel like you drove to a private slice of paradise. This is perfect for those looking to relax with limited time to travel off the beaten path.
  • You can be as busy or as docile as you like, with pampering at the Anantara Spa one day and private cooking classes and kayaking the next. This is a resort with range.
  • Anantara’s elegant villas are in great condition, and they are a steal given their nightly rates, even in the high season. Act fast before a potential TV show appearance surges rates into the stratosphere.
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Why Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas might not be for you

  • Walking around Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas might seem like a remote stretch of Thailand, but it’s still not truly secluded. After all, you can see (and sometimes hear) the pool at the neighboring JW Marriott through the perfectly manicured hedges. Look elsewhere if you’re looking for true seclusion over secluded vibes.
  • While the trio of Anantara’s restaurants offer variety, that might not be enough for foodies looking to explore a wide array of cuisines during their Thai getaway.
  • The pool and adjoining bar area aren’t the largest in terms of what you’d find at other resorts, but that is about to change: Multiple staff members during my stay let me know a renovation and expansion of these areas will take place and finish later this year.
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Accessibility

Public areas like the spa, restaurants and pool area are wheelchair accessible (though not the pool itself). Select villas are accessible, but call ahead to the resort to specifically book these. Beach access did not appear to be wheelchair accessible during TPG’s visit.

Alternatives

Checking out

If reports are true that Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas is going to make an appearance on “The White Lotus,” I couldn’t help but feel a little wistful at checkout like I was enjoying the last few days of a hidden gem. The service, style and experience at the Anantara overwhelmingly exceeds the nightly rate, and I couldn’t quite figure out why rates are so low throughout the year beyond the fact that it’s a lesser-known brand.

I hope what makes this resort so special — the friendly staff, the beautiful scenery and accommodations and the ability to forget life’s chaos at the door — doesn’t go away with any sudden spike in popularity.

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