In the 1974 James Bond film The Man with The Golden Gun, Roger Moore and a villain engage in a pistol duel in an absolutely stunning location: an island in the Southern Thai province of Krabi on the Andaman Sea. And while it’s true that this mountainous area has developed significantly since Bond’s visit, Krabi still offers an unspoiled mix of lush jungles, limestone karsts and white coral beaches overlooking 130 islands scattered across crystalline waters.
If you’ve never been to Thailand, now may be the time. With the political situation stabilized and a new “Discover Thainess” campaign encouraging tourism, you’ll find constant warm weather, stunning geography, spicy Thai food unlike anything in Boston and an incredible value for the dollar.
Of course, first you have to get to Krabi—a long haul from Boston. But you can break up the trip as I did by flying 13 hours to Tokyo and then another 7 hours on to Bangkok, where it’s worth spending at least the night. The city has a burgeoning art scene, along with great restaurants, bars, shopping and luxury hotels, like Tower Club at Lebua, where you can stay in the Hangover Suite—a setting for scenes in The Hangover Part II—before taking the quick 90-minute flight down to Krabi the next day.
Once there, one of the nicest places to stay is Phulay Bay, a sumptuous Ritz-Carlton Reserve resort with just 54 villas nestled on 50 acres of landscaped gardens overlooking that white coral beach. Thai architect Lek Bunnag designed the one-of-a-kind property with exteriors featuring local and sustainable materials, like teak and stone, along with stucco in hues of royal purple and apricot. The interior of each temple-like villa combines cream terrazzo, polished teak and Lanna Thai art (picture women dancing in silk tops and pantaloons). Oversized beds, soaking tubs and expansive patio lounge beds exude luxury and comfort, while ocean views, private pools and hidden outdoor baths and showers connect guests with nature, but in a highly private way.
After a dramatic welcome from the staff in the temple-like pavilion, you’ll meet your personal butler, who will attend to your every whim during your stay. Want a hot moonlit bath with floating orchids? Done. How about a private seaplane tour of the region? Check. This young man or woman is always available, but never intrusive.
While it’s tempting to spend all your time lounging by the infinity pool, the resort has too many Instagram-worthy adventures to ignore. You can take a private speedboat to a remote island and snorkel along the powdery beaches before picnicking on prawn and lemongrass salad. Or kayak through quiet mangroves under the curious eyes of tiny honey-brown monkeys. Or, if you’re among the CrossFit set, hike up Naga Mountain with one of the resort’s guides, then unwind in the Phulay Bay Spa with a four-handed massage (we’re talking two attendants, friends).
As for eats, you can get elegant French cuisine overlooking the water at Lae Lay and steak and pasta at Jampoon, which also has a bountiful breakfast buffet. But you’re here for the Thai food—not sweet like many iterations in the States, but pungent with chilies, garlic, galangal and kefir lime leaves and brimming with local vegetables and seafood. The pool bar, Plai Fah (a killer spot for sunset drinks), and the Sri Trang restaurant offer local Thai specialties, including a scrumptious spinach-like green that grows along the road and arrives stir-fried with chilies, garlic and egg. The resort’s organic garden produces lemongrass, mint and other herbs that make their way into cocktails, fresh salads and body scrubs at the spa. Foodies can even join the resort’s Thai chef on a tour through the nearby Maharaj Market, filled with wild greens, pea-size eggplants, exotic fruits and fish, but virtually devoid of meat, given the area’s many vegetarian Buddhists. Back at the resort, learn how to turn those indigenous ingredients into fresh rolls and green papaya salad seasoned with dried shrimp and crunchy peanuts.
Thailand has earned the nickname “The Land of Smiles,” and for good reason. No matter where you go, the locals are exceedingly friendly, kind and gracious. And the smiles are contagious. When you’re in a place like Krabi that resembles paradise, it’s impossible to feel anything but happy.
-Japan Airlines flies directly from Boston to Tokyo. From Tokyo, you can fly Thai Airways to Bangkok and then on to Krabi.
-Visit a clinic to find out what medical precautions you should take before traveling to Thailand. You’ll likely need protection from typhoid, hepatitis A and B and possibly malaria.
Phulay Bay 111 Moo 3 Nongthalay, Muang, Krabi, Thailand. phulay-bay.com