Shaking Up The Stereotype: The Thai Hotel That’s More Miami Than Phuket
Turquoise doors and burnt orange tables, a pool hosting world-renowned DJs and an on-site restaurant serving like-your-nonna-made-it Italian – Baba Beach Club isn’t your run-of-the-mill Phuket hotel.
In fact, the luxury property would seem more at home in the Mediterranean or Miami than on a Thai island known for traditions, temples and backpacking tourists. The feeling it doesn’t quite belong is exactly what owner Vorasit ‘Wan’ Issara intended.
“One perception of Thailand is it’s only spas and local music with all the Thai instruments,” he says.
“I wanted to change that perception and make Thailand an alternative [to summers in the US or Europe]. It’s luxury but also playful and has more of an easy-going vibe. In Thailand it’s usually very formal kind of service.”
Issara and his family are also behind nearby five-star resort Sri Panwa. Baba is the “naughty little brother” of Sri Panwa, he says. “It has a bit more of mischief.”
Baba Beach Club sits a 30-minute drive north of Phuket Airport on a quiet, private stretch of beach. Taking design cues from Miami hotels, it centres around a showstopping pool; done deliberately to give the space a “top end communal beach club” feel.
Custom-made furniture pieces – “a bit vintage but based on Chinese-Portuguese design” – decorate the lobby and restaurant.
“I wanted to respect the local design, which I love anyways,” says Issara. While Sri Panwa boasts neutral colours and styles, Baba embraces colour – in a big way. “At Baba, you have reds, pinks, turquoise. You have the pool, which is pinstripe black and white.”
Keyhole-shaped, the pool was designed to be accessible from any point, again lending itself to the communal atmosphere. “You can just step down and sit and chill,” says Issara.
Suites – some with private pools – surround the pool. Villas, including the palatial Gabana Villa, sit near the spa and gym. Everything was built with careful consideration of the area. If a tree was uprooted, it was transported to a nursery and eventually re-planted.
Music is at the core of the hotel. Sri Panwa was one of the first hotels in Thailand to have iPods and pre-loaded playlists in its rooms, and Baba Beach Club takes that one step further.
“We have a couple beach clubs here in Phuket, but the vibe I feel is not as cool as the one in Miami, Ibiza or even Bali,” says Issara. Baba’s playlist is a mix of lounge and chill music, as well as house.
The roster of DJs who play under an oversized, partial disco ball at the far end of the pool is curated by Issara himself. “We have lots of local DJs, and I’ve been travelling to Ibiza a lot so I’ve been making connections with all the DJs I like,” he says.
His aim? To bring underground, as well as “nice techno” and “nice house” to Thailand’s “narrow music scene”.
And finally, there’s the restaurant, Baba Beach Restaurant. Issara describes its food as simple.
“I want to bring the street to resorts,” he says. “One of my chefs used to sell street food in Phuket. And I love her Pad Thai recipe so when she became our chef, we stuck with that recipe. We want to bring street food tastes but with the best ingredients.”
Pizza and pasta are also on the menu – again cooked as authentically as possible. “I want it to be like when I go to my best friend’s house in Italy and his grandmum is making pasta for us,” Issara says. “I want that taste.”
Adding to the eating experience is the environment. The airy restaurant opens onto the pool, allowing guests to soak in calming views of it and the swaying palms beyond. “We’re not a restaurant in the city – we have a very open space so people can enjoy their surroundings more.”
The writer stayed as a guest of Baba Beach Club.
(All images: Baba Beach Club / supplied)
Published 04 October, 2019