I wasn’t really worried; everyone I talked to said this was a classy place. Even so, the marketing materials used a smattering of words that aren’t normally associated with resorts: Factory. Plantation. Tin mine. Industrial.
Pictures of a weekend spent smeared with dirt and wearing a hardhat flashed in my mind as the taxi cruised north to the Indigo Pearl. I wondered if I should’ve packed my headlamp.
My concerns were, of course, unjustified. The moment you step into the lobby, you know this place is special. Dramatic, multi-tentacled chandeliers twist overhead, casting a blue glow over the dark, mysterious interior. Standing up while checking-in is about as popular as smoking on airplanes, so plush blue sofas, a cold towel, and the best welcome drink anywhere – an nameless herbal concoction full of floaties – start the holiday pampering even before bags are unpacked.
- Phuket FantaSea Cultural Theme Park
- Phi Phi Islands Tour with Express Boat
- James Bond Island Full-Day Tour via Big Boat
- Coral & Racha Islands Full-Day Tour
- Whitewater Rafting & 4-Wheel-Drive Adventure
- Sea Kayaking at Ang Thong Marine Park
- Flying Hanuman Ziplining Experience
- Canoeing Excursion in Phang Nga Bay with Thai Buffet Lunch
- Introduction to City Tour
- John Gray's Cave Canoeing Tour in Phang Nga Bay
Striking Gold (or Tin)
The rooms at the Indigo Pearl are stunning, and they’re the place where the tin mine theme is most prevalent. Were actual tin mines this incredible, they’d be far more popular. The 277 rooms and suites come in six types – the standard Kelly Quarters are the most plentiful while the Pearl Beds offer twice as much space, dual balconies, and a grand bathroom for a little more money.
The showerheads alone are worth the extra dough. In the freestanding Plantation Villas, sun loungers and bathtubs inside private courtyards allow you to relax wearing exactly what you wore when you came into this world, should you so choose. The soaring ceilings of the Private Pool Pavilions and Private Garden Pavilions house oversized windows that look out onto lush private terraces with a pool or garden, as indicated by the name.
The higher-end the room, the cooler the industrial touches. But not to worry, even the Kelly Quarters are light-years beyond most hotel rooms. The small details – toilet paper holders shaped like large bolts, a writing desk that appears to be floating, acrylic tissue holders with screws suspended in the lid – are entertaining.
But the textures really make these spaces memorable. Walls, counters, tables, lamps – everything begs to be touched. Liberal use of leather and rivets, combined with touches of weathered-looking wood, metal, and polished concrete, are a sensory delight. In a refreshing touch of brilliant simplicity, the master power switch next to the bed actually does its job; you don’t have to call an electrical engineer to make the room go dark at bedtime.
Mining the Menu
The selection of food and drink outlets makes for enjoyable eat-drink-and-be-merry outings. The all-day dining at the all-purpose Tin Mine restaurant features a fully stocked breakfast, an international menu by day, and themed buffets in the evening.
Black Ginger, set in the middle of a picturesque pond, is fine dining Thai-style. For what might be the best steak on Phuket, head to Rivet Grill and pick your cut, size, and side dishes. You get to pick a sauce too, but tampering with a slab of beef this tasty should be illegal.
After dinner, climb the stairs to the open-aired Rebar, on the roof of Rivet Grill, for cocktails, live jazz, and an eagles eye view of the resort. Tongkah Tin Syndicate is more than just a pretty name – the whisky bar and snooker hall is the one place in the resort where cool elegance and chic design step aside and let fun take total control; it’s a playroom for adults.
Sundays are special, and the Indigo Pearl commemorates them in style with one of Phuket’s most daring afternoon brunches. No expense is spared. With on-the-spot curries, crepes, pasta and barbeque, as well as deserts, breads, cheeses, salads, sashimi and a myriad other delectable dishes, this brunch is a contender. A dedicated crew of champagne specialists keep glasses half-full at all times; when life is this good, the glass is never half-empty.
Driving time from Phuket International Airport to Indigo Pearl is less than ten minutes. Really, it’s that close. Being a worrier by nature, I was concerned this would be a problem. I couldn’t have been more wrong; runways are a long, long distance away. The only place I ever noticed the comings and goings of aircraft was from the beach, as I marvelled at how small they looked considering how close I thought I was. For those that like convenience, there isn’t a negative side to the hotel’s location.
The beach itself couldn’t be mellower; it borders on geriatric. Massive trees and open air restaurants line the quiet, narrow lane that stands between the hotel and the beach, offering plenty of shade and a never ending supply of cheap food and drink. The crowds that turn more popular beaches into cities on sand don’t make it to Nai Yang Beach; you’re free to delve into your reading without distraction.
Rich in Resources
The Indigo Pearl began life as the Pearl Village Resort in 1986. Twenty years later it was time for a fresh look. The powers that be weren’t going to be satisfied with a mere facelift; the hotel received a complete image reassignment surgery. Bill Bensley, the biggest name in the Asian design business (he counts Four Seasons, Marriott, and Sheraton among his many satisfied customers), was called on to wave his magic wand over everything from the rooms to the gardens to the staff’s uniforms; nothing was left untouched. US$ 22 million later, the Indigo Pearl was reborn.
Did the investment pay off? Absolutely. While there’s a slight bit of maturing to do – the young gardens being most guilty – the quiet location combined with the visionary redesign have given Phuket something to be proud of. Both fun and classy, the unique Indigo Pearl is an instant favourite.