Aylin Öney Tan
No I’m not remarried, but this piece is about my recent honeymoon experience. Though I did this marriage thing twice, I never had a real honeymoon before. If honeymoon is a continuation of a wedding, I never had a wedding as well. The last one that was supposed to be a honeymoon ended in a disaster; actually it was an awkward one with our newly born baby in Bali. The supposedly dream holiday was tragically interrupted when my husband was hit by a motorist, and I had to endure two weeks with an unconscious husband in hospital with my little baby, feeling desperate and helpless. We never had the appetite to give it another try, soon we understood that we were not the ideal travel partners anyway and eventually gave up travelling together for good.
This recent honeymoon was with my real travel companion in that disastrous honeymoon experience, my daughter, my little baby who gave me the courage to survive with her angelic encouraging look in her eyes. She behaved fantastically, she proved that she won’t be creating any trouble, and patiently adapted to all conditions. Twenty-one years later, I took the opportunity of being invited to a conference at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, and organized a week of leisure in Phuket, but I needed a companion. Of course, my ideal travel partner was going to be my daughter. Who else could share a honeymoon-like vacation to complete a dream holiday that never happened two decades ago?
We thoroughly enjoyed our stays in Anantara properties at Layan and Mai Khao, each having their own very particular character, completely different and unique in their own contexts. Our grand finale was in Trisara, a real treasure, and a real honeymoon retreat in every sense as it is a pool villa-only resort. Our private pool villa could not be seen from anywhere; it was completely private and had a fantastically situated infinity pool with a great view. Our room service lunch was impeccably serviced, we were so happy to have our lunch in private just like a newly-wed couple would.
When in Trisara, one does not want to leave the room, let alone the property, but one has to do so, to be able to see where their wonderful food was coming from. Before we experienced the tasting menu at Pru restaurant, we visited the property’s own organic farm, which supplies most of the fresh produce of the restaurant. Actually, the restaurant gets its name from Pru Jumpa, the name of the area where the farm is located. The tender small carrots collected from the farm and cooked in a pit dug in soil in the farm’s premises, smoked by wood from Pru Jumpa, is almost bacon-like smoky and almost bears the taste of the soil it comes from. So is the craftfully sculpturesque cauliflower plate, which made chef Jim Ophorst a finalist in S. Pellegrino South East Asia Young Chef Awards challenge. All the ingredients are locally sourced from various parts of Phuket if not from the farm; deep sea black crab and seaweed from Mai Khao coast, pine needles foraged from nearby, free range chicken and frogs from Phuket town, wild seafood, sea grapes and abalone from local fisherman, squid from the southern tip of the island, all amazingly fresh and reflecting the true flavors of the island. The tasting matched with a perfect pairing of wines making a memorable dinner perfectly fit for a memorable honeymoon experience.
Slightly dizzy with the black margarita and the perfect wines, all of a sudden I realized that PRU is full of couples, and we seem to be the only odd couple, seemingly not on a honeymoon. When I tell my daughter this, she nods, giggling, she says: “Well you are in a way completing your honeymoon you started with me, but only two decades later, and I’m discovering about the perfect choices for my own dream honeymoon in the future.” What can I say, mission accomplished, never too late!
Bite of the Week
Cork of the Week: While in Phuket, do not skip the opportunity to visit Chalong Bay Rum factory to taste their exquisite rums produced in the island. Choices are great: all made from first press Thai sugarcane, kaffir lime, lime, Thai sweet basil, lemongrass and the warmly spicy cinnamon. Even if you cannot make the visit, try the brand at the nearest bar, either in neat in shots, or on the rocks, or in a finely crafted tropical cocktail. It is guaranteed; you’ll be happy, very happy!
Fork of the Week: The best breakfast ever, anywhere, was in Anantara Layan, a truly unmatched experience. One can stay at the property just to experience this breakfast. If tired of Thai food (which is hard to be) and want to switch to European, Chef Lorenzo Stelzer prepares Italian food at Sala Layan with an amazing finesse. When in Anantara Mai Khao, do pay attention to the brilliant Salt Menu at the Sea, Fire, Salt restaurant, and try whatever you fancy grilled on Himalayan salt blocks heated on fire. For a farm to table experience and an exciting tasting menu, PRU at Trisara should be your address. Chef Jim Ophorst currently represents Thailand in the San Pellegrino Young Chef Award to be announced in 2018.