Signature checks into… COMO Point Yamu, Phuket
–A contemporary-style resort that blends Mediterranean-inspired design with Thai touches stands out in a popular and perennial holiday destination, as C. James Dale found out.
From its infancy as a tourist destination in the 1960s, the boom in the 1980s, The Beach-inspired trips of the 2000s and the rebirth following the 2004 disaster, Phuket has always evolved and endured. But with so many hotels competing to host travellers, being bold and distinctive can sometimes make all the difference.
Traveller: C. James Dale
Room: Bay Pool Suite
Address: 225 Moo 7, Talang, Paklok, Phuket 83110
Date: May 2018
Best for: A contemporary, cloistered getaway that places heavy emphasis on relaxation, health, and wellness.
The Signature factor
COMO Point Yamu sits in the hills on the east side of Phuket, nestled among an exclusive community of villas offering spectacular views of the Andaman Sea and the iconic limestone islands of Phang Nga Bay. It’s a polished, modern take on a luxury resort in Thailand, a property that blends Western and Eastern influences while focusing on wellness for both body and mind through the healthy living philosophy designed by COMO Shambhala. It’s the ideal retreat for singles, couples, and families, with plenty of activities available for young ones.
COMO Point Yamu is a showcase for interior designer Paola Navone, who paid tribute to her Italian roots while weaving in influences from Thailand and Phuket’s Peranakan heritage to ground the property and give it a sense of place. The open-air lobby has ultra-high ceilings with long, white light shades crafted to resemble lobster traps. Thick supporting posts are partially painted orange, a nod to the robes of Buddhist monks. A cluster of low, Thai tables sits in the centre, adorned with bowls of flowers and sculptures of comical-looking heads. In the lead up to the December 2013 opening, Navone played a hands-on role when it came to many aspects, from gluing pieces of wood onto the walls that bookend the lobby (creating a pixelated effect) to scratching the back of mirrors that hang on other walls.
Guests drive through a gated enclave before arriving at the hotel, then alight a wide, unostentatious staircase before entering the breezy lobby. Immediately, you get the sense that this isn’t your typical Thai retreat, more of a contemporary getaway that would appeal to travellers who know visiting Thailand isn’t just about traditional, steep-sloped rooftops or beachfront bungalows. Smooth concrete floors are complemented by natural elements such as woods and the lush greenery of the surroundings. Walking from the lobby you’ll pass a charming boutique, which sits opposite an open, grassed area that overlooks the sea. At the end of the walkway, you’ll find the 100-metre-long pool that’s lined with loungers and couches and framed by a sun-aged wood deck. Throughout the property, you’ll continue to see the surprisingly compatible Thai and Mediterranean influences, from the abundance of whites and light blues to the curtains of orange, yellow, and red flowers (albeit fake ones) that hang in the hallways.
There are plenty of choices at COMO Point Yamu, which has 79 rooms and suites along with 27 villas. We stayed in one of the nine Bay Pool Suites, which offer 123 square metres of space, including a living room that’s filled with a dining table for two, a large and comfy turquoise-coloured couch, and a separate bedroom boasting an inviting king-size bed. We immediately threw open the sliding glass doors and strolled out onto the pebblestone terrace to take in the view, smell the flowers of the nearby frangipani trees and then jump into the rectangular pool. The aquamarine tiles in the pool are similar to the ones used in the bathroom, where their colour provides a nice contrast for the white, deep circular bathtub and the rustic, natural wood ladders used to hang thick towels. Navone also created beguiling, bauble-style lights that dangle from simple wires above the tub. It definitely feels like someone dropped a Mediterranean condo onto the hills of Thailand, with the white walls and patterned-grey-on-white tiles enhancing the vibe. But then when you look for a place to hang your towel or pool bag – voilà – there’s the decorative Buddha hands on the wall providing a subtle reminder of where you’ve chosen to vacation.
Visitors have two options here. First, they can consider the COMO Suite, a two-bedroom hideaway spread out over 300 square metres with a grand terrace that provides a sweeping view and comes complete with a dining table, lounge space and plunge pool. Inside, the floors, walls and furnishings are white, while one wall is grey and there are pops of textures and colours elsewhere. The dining room has a long table with turquoise-coloured top and plush white chairs. In the living room, there’s a giant, cosy L-shaped couch that would easily accommodate six people. The main bathroom has a deep, circular tub with chic fixtures. Need more space? The suite can be connected with two Bay Rooms to give your family or group of friends four bedrooms.
The other top suite option is the Point Yamu Pool Villa, which offers nearly 500 square metres of space and 360-degree views of the surroundings. The two-floor villa, which can sleep six adults and two children, comes complete with vast living space, kitchen, maid’s room and expansive terrace with infinity pool. The fridge is stocked with sparkling water, soft drinks and complimentary local beer. Guests can sip champagne upon arrival and enjoy tea, coffee, fresh fruit and baked goods in the morning, brought to them by their personal butler. Limited laundry service is also included.
On my plate
Anyone who has been to a COMO property knows they excel when it comes to food. Point Yamu is no different. The day begins at the poolside La Sirena with a sumptuous breakfast buffet, complete with a spread of homespun cereals, yoghurt pots, fresh fruit and a variety of juices (plus unlimited wheatgrass shots – zing!). Diners can also feast on steamed dim sum and make (in my case, multiple) trips to a cool noodle cart. Menu items, from egg dishes to pancakes, were all excellent. There’s also healthy cuisine on the COMO Shambhala menu, from scrambled tofu to smashed avocado on “real toast”, which is made from a bread chock full of seeds and dehydrated nuts. Lunch and dinner at La Sirena includes wood-fired pizzas, pastas and seafood dishes. But one option we couldn’t go a day without was the famous Big Raw Salad, which we first tried at COMO The Treasury. It’s a stunning tower of creatively cut and shaved vegetables, from cabbage to beetroot to broccolini, covered with a dijon mustard and apple cider vinaigrette. Not to be missed.
But don’t forget to save room for the mouthwatering options on the Thai street food-inspired menu at Nahmyaa. We slurped through soups featuring coconut curry or hot and sour flavors, sampled the satays and river prawns and enjoyed other dishes filled with the distinctive flavours that have made Thai cuisine a worldwide phenomenon. The decor is driven by reds, oranges and browns. There’s also a large mosaic of a fish on the wall, while the hanging lights are meant to resemble the air bubbles undersea creatures emit. But I did feel the interior design fell short of what guests enjoy at La Sirena. I really couldn’t put my finger on it. Perhaps it was the concrete floor, the one wall that was bare and crying out for some art, or the computer that was sitting out in one corner and just seemed to work against the ambience. The space just needs a little je ne sais quoi.
A fair number of hotel reviews (including some of mine) talk about spas as being “oases” or “serene settings”. COMO Point Yamu does the work for travel writers by using the perfect name for its spa – COMO Shambhala Retreat – because it’s a retreat in every sense of the word, a place that whispers wellness and calm from the moment you enter. Guests can sign up for myriad Asian-inspired therapies, from purifying facials to deep-tissue massages. During my massage, light poured in from the windows of my treatment room, which had exposed stone floors and turquoise-tiled walls. Afterward, I went to sip a ginger drink on a lounger by the adults-only pool and relished the quiet. One morning, I scrambled out of bed to make it for a yoga class that turned out to be challenging, yet still designed for people of all abilities. In a room with the sliding doors thrown open, the teacher called out instructions as daylight spread across the hills and sea behind her, the sound of birdsong filtering into the space. When it was over, I soothed my tired muscles in the steam room before hitting the showers.
The COMO Point Yamu is about 30 minutes from Phuket Town, which does have a few sights worth seeing, including the Weekend Market, the Walking Street and the Chinese Jui Tui Shrine. Our time was limited and our goal was to relax, so we hung around the property for the most part. The kids’ club, Play, offers crafts, kite-making, T-shirt designing and Thai boxing lessons, which is quite entertaining for parents to observe. In the mornings, you can get pieces of frozen fruit by the pool. In the afternoons, staff serve creatively flavoured (lemongrass-lime, chrysanthemum) popsicles from a cute cart near the lawn. Then later, make sure you head to Aqua Bar for happy hour to sip on one-for-one classic cocktails, mocktails, local beer, house wine and spirits.
Before you book with this hotel, you need to get your head around something: you won’t be tiptoeing from your villa (or anywhere else for that matter) to the beach. You want some sand and surf with your sun? You’re going to have to take a 30-minute drive and a 15-minute boat ride to get it. Not ideal, I thought, until we arrived on Naka Yai Island and relaxed into our private cabana, which was tucked into the jungle just a short distance from the 25-metre pool. It was a wonderful escape, complete with queen-size daybed, ceiling fan and private toilet, sink and shower. Just off the pool, there’s a restaurant and bar where you can get tasty Thai dishes and cool drinks. If you want to head into the water, you can borrow kayaks, paddleboards or windsurfers (wakeboarding is also an option). Or, take a walk up the hillside stairs to the traditional salas for a massage or other treatment. The day at the beach club starts around 10am and there are two afternoon return trips back to the main resort.
Definitely book a private cabana at the beach club. Once you settle in, you won’t want to leave. At the main resort, children younger than five years old dine for free provided they’re with an adult who orders from the à la carte menu. The offer includes one free pizza per day (and there are also pizza-making classes for kids). Speaking of F&B, it’s worth noting that the hotel recently brought in Steven Black, the former head chef of the award-winning rooftop restaurant Wildflower at the COMO The Treasury in Perth, to help keep the bar high at COMO Point Yamu. He’s a friendly, good-natured guy who’s approachable and can usually make time for a chat.
Condé Nast Traveller: World’s Most Luxurious Bathrooms 2016
TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award 2015: Top Hotels, Romance, Best Service and Luxury
Five Star Kids: Top 10 Phuket Family Resorts 2015
Condé Nast Traveller Gold List 2014: Best New Hotel
Thailand Property Awards 2014: Best Hotel Design and Best Villa Development
Five Star Alliance 2014: Best New Hotels
I wish I could take home…
The popsicle stand and the inventive treats they concoct to help keep you cool on hot days.
Room for improvement
One thing the hotel needs to work on is the departure from the beach club. Perhaps it was because of the tide, but we were forced to trudge down the beach and then walk along an unsteady plastic floating dock to get back to the boat. Not the luxury experience some guests would expect and something management may want to reexamine.