“My name is Nee,” says the chap in shorts stood before me. “Just like the knee.” Nee then launches said knee into the punchbag beside us to demonstrate his point. This is my first-ever Muay Thai training session and I’ve been thrown in at the deep end. Nee, a former professional fighter, now runs the kickboxing school at the Anantara Layan in Phuket and he doesn’t pull his punches. After a short demo, we enter the ring for a series of high-intensity bursts of kicking, elbowing and, of course, kneeing, with the shortest of breaks between bouts. It’s brutal stuff and forty minutes later, I’m in pieces. I’ve done my fair share of boot camps and this is up there with the hardest – and most satisfying. Learning a new sport with a real expert in the country in which it was invented is a unique privilege and it’s just one of the ways this hotel is taking the wellness tourism model forwards.
A day here could start with a TRX weight-training session, before a spot of tai chi and stand-up paddleboarding off the private beach. Then to the sensational spa in the afternoon. It’s not what you’d expect in these parts. In recent years, Phuket has made a name for itself as a wellness hotspot, but that mostly means spa time in one of the many five-star resorts here. The Layan takes it so much further, combining its natural assets with authentic experiences like Thai Hermit yoga, a version of the stretching ritual that includes traditional Thai dance moves. So picture this scene: after waking in your Residence, one of the super-luxe villas that overlook the resort, you venture to your private deck beside the infinity pool for a yoga session as the morning chorus begins. The Andaman Sea is sparkling in the distance and you’re feeling energised and entirely at one with your surrounds as your butler prepares you a healthy breakfast. This, you think, is what wellness looks like in 2019. anantara.com