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Amanpuri Spa, Phuket, Thailand

Arriving at Amanpuri’s Aman Spa, we turn and take in the sweeping view of the Andaman Sea here in Phuket, Thailand. Beautiful, tranquil, amazing. We can’t linger long though because our treatments await.

We are greeted at spa reception with tea and cool, chilled towels – something we’ve gotten used to in our week’s stay here and in Bangkok.

We’re scheduled for a Royal Thai massage (for Fletcher) and a relaxing Oriental massage (for Kathy).

First, we’re offered our choice of six oils so the masseuses can customize our massages:

• Tangerine (that Kathy chooses),

• Gardenia,

• Pink frangiapani,

• Rosemary,

• Plai oil (similar to ginger, which Fletcher chooses),

• and coconut.

Of the Aman Spa, Spa Manager X, promises, “Ours is so special. It’s the first Aman spa.” We will quickly discover how special it is. (He explains that his name X is simply far easier than Jukkrawat La-ongsuwan).

We find his story special as well. While he’s worked at the resort eight years, four of those as a butler, he had no spa experience, but still got this job that he’d aspired to because he believed in himself and worked hard to reach his goal. He’s been at it now for three years.

As X shows us around the beautiful seaside spa situated amid a coconut grove, he explains there are six treatment rooms, all doubles. One room is especially used for Thai massage with a small cushion on the floor.

The most popular treatment here is the 120-minute Amanpuri Awakening, created especially for Amanpuri’s 20th anniversary. It combines herbal compresses and steam with dry massage emphasizing pressure point work.

“The Thai massage and Oriental are also popular,” X adds. “Most therapists train at Wat Pho Temple (site of the Reclining Buddha) in Bangkok, (where Thai Massage originated). Americans, Europeans and Japanese train there, too.”

This spa opened in 2002 and is still considered the flagship among Amanresorts spas. More Aman spas will be opening patterned after this one.

“In Thailand,” X explains, “there are two types of massage – royal massage and slave massage. Royal massage was only for the royal family and used pressure point. Slave massage was for local people in the villages who worked very hard and needed to stretch.”

Thai massage that Westerners are used to is the latter – with much pulling, stretching, “cracking” of joints.

“Some people have Thai massage and say it hurts or they get very bruised. We have soft (Thai massage) and say ‘try ours here.’ We try to keep ours original but depend on the guest also (to say what’s too much or not enough). Even me,” he says with a laugh, “my staff says ‘you need more days to fix the problem’.”

In high season, many guests stay at Amanpuri 10 days minimum and often come from Europe; in low season the stay drops down to maybe three days for guests mostly coming from Asia, Hong Kong and Japan. There are some Americans mixed in year-round.

“Thailand is a Buddhist country. We always think positive. We always smile. We are always happy,” the spa manager promises. It wasn’t long before we, too, were smiling in pure happiness thanks to masseuses Ying and Apple. Apple seemed to have the more physical challenge, hopping on Fletcher’s table at one point delivering his Royal Thai massage, but Ying, on the otherhand, had her work cut out for her, too, with Kathy’s troublesome knots in her upper back brought about by far too many hours on the computer and sitting in airline seats.

Our massages were near perfection, and it was hard to rouse ourselves from our post-treatment bliss but X has a special bonus for us: an amazing foot massage with Long and Rose.

They served us Casablanca tea at the start along with a snack of grapefruit slices. The spa specializes in a different tea each day so returning guests have variety.

Casablanca tea is a green tea “brightened with wonderfully invigorating Moroccan mint and Seville orange flavor of bergamot, a North African specialty.”

Generally, when given a treatment choice, like most people, we go for massage or a good body treatment, so we don’t spend much of our spa time getting reflexology or footmassage.

Long and Rose made us rethink that decision. Their long, purposeful strokes down our calves were especially relaxing, and all the specific pressure point work on the feet, top and bottom, seemed especially needed.

Their foot-work was eye-opening. But when asking them if the could see any problems for either of us based on the reflexology - where each area of the foot relates to a corresponding area in the body - neither announced any big discovery.

X next offered us some time in Aman Spa’s ultra-modern and spacious steam room. The most pampered athlete would be impressed.

Afterward, X checked with us to see how our experience was.

Our smiles gave away our answer: Amanpuri is special.

Earlier, he’d explained, “You are one of the family. We treat guests like that, and we treat staff like that.”

Now, we know exactly what he meant.

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