patong beach

patong

Patong Beach is the main tourist resort in Phuket, just south of where I am staying at Paresa. It’s the center of cheap shopping on the island and probably more famous for its nightlife than the mile-long crescent beach that stretches the length of town. (Think Cancun by way of Southeast Asia.) The shape of the bay being a natural funnel, Patong was also one of the worst affected areas of Phuket when the Boxing Day tsunami struck in 2004. The giant wave caused a great deal of destruction to the waterfront and immediately inland. But you wouldn’t know that today: the town is built-up and teeming with European tourists – plus enough Russians to call for street signs posted near the six-deep beach to be written in Cyrillic. Thanks but no thanks, Patong Beach; I’m not spending my last day in Thailand struggling to discover your dubiously hidden charms. I’m tuk-tukking it back to my villa.

patong beach

tsunami warning

patong beach gals

crowded with russians

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rosewood mayakoba

In case you’re wondering why I have virtually no desire to leave my suite, maybe I should share with you where it is I am exactly; Rosewood Mayakoba, about 40 minutes south of Cancun along the Riviera Maya. On arrival I was transported by a luxury boat to what amounts to my own personal sanctuary: a one-of-a-kind over-water suite of crisp, open spaces, floating graciously over the lagoon’s emerald waters. Strikingly modern in design yet crafted from such indigenous materials as to appear born of the jungle, I have an inviting lounge terrace with a plunge pool, a luxurious bathroom with an outdoor garden shower, and spectacular views of the lagoon and mangroves. Sure, the sea is calling my name – but I don’t feel compelled to move a muscle just yet.

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rice delights

Yhi Spa at Paradisus Playa del Carmen is wedged both physically and philosophically in the middle of the Cancan to Tulum hi-lo continuum, a potent reminder that sometimes it’s not about the brand but the breeding. Yhi might not be well known in the wellness world but that shouldn’t be taken as a reflection of it’s pedigree – or its commitment to authenticity. The signature treatments in this particular spa are a reminder that maize wasn’t the only grain prized by the local Mayans – they had quite the taste for rice, too. Beyond pairing it with beans, natch. Whether used as an extract or oil, its natural antioxidants were valued for inhibiting free radicals. Used as a water, rice has moisturizing and softening actions, improving the flexibility of skin with a healthy dose of Vitamin E. After an afternoon spent soaking up too much sun, Rice Delight proved the perfect palliative for me: a double dose of exfoliation and massage using rice in all its permutations. Rich in both proteins and amino acids, it left my skin as smooth as silk, proving that sometimes a happy medium is a happy place indeed.

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better a half moon than none at all

 

Touching down in Montego Bay, I am reminded vaguely of Cancun, Mexico’s sunny, all-inclusive answer to Tijuana. The hotels in Jamaica aren’t as monstrously immoderate yet the enfilade of one over-developed beachfront property after another radiates the same unsettling heat of population density. It appears as though MoBay, as the touristic area is called, has been developed in hopeful homage to the success story just across the Caribbean. More to the point, that means catering to the specific needs of an all-inclusive American tourist: cheap food, cheaper liquor, and cheap building. And while I certainly can’t begrudge anyone their right to a value-for-money vacation, I often question why anyone would choose a foreign holiday when their destination of choice seems purposefully built to shut out anything and everything that might qualify as foreign. Gated resorts, anodyne surroundings, food and drink in excessive quantity, if not quality – wouldn’t it be more economical to go to Florida? So you can imagine the smile that turned my frown upside down when my car turned into Half Moon, a 400-acre antidote to the rash of Cancunitis. Tucked away in the Rose Hall enclave of Montego Bay, the 56-year-old resort features two miles of empty, white-sand beach set against a lush and lengthy jungle landscape. In addition to spacious villa-style accommodations – and a dolphin lagoon – there’s Fern Tree, the spa at Half Moon, with signature beachfront spa suites and its very own Spa Elder. Plus, despite being booked to capacity it doesn’t feel remotely crowded. In fact, outside of the restaurant I don’t see a blessed soul, let alone a wristband reveler – or machete-wielding homophobe.

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