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The Phuket Sandbox Experiment

By: J5Travel

· Travel,Award Bookings,Luxury

I've been in Phuket since Sunday and will be joined today by Kendall, Kanise and Shanna from the team hopefully around the time I'm finishing up this ezine.

The Phuket Sandbox is the Thai government scheme that's been running since July to specifically encourage tourism back to this island. To be frank, it's not been successful, with the numbers coming in a lot lower than expected, and this is due to the rather laborious process that has to be gone through with no room for error. The J5Travel team can of course handle this as we are dealing with travel protocols for all over the world on a daily basis, but even for us this was a significant challenge.

Part of the rules state that your first 7 nights must be in the same hotel and with the rest of the team not arriving until today that means I have 11 nights in our first property. Luckily we've chosen well (see below).

Honestly, this trip is a cathartic experience. For various periods and in different guises, my team have stuck with J5Travel through the turmoil of the last 18 months and never stopped working their socks off. They clearly also believe in our long term plan. So this is a thank you to them and a treat for myself and it's lucky I'm a points nerd and could fly them all out here for virtually free, or it just wouldn't have happened. The 4 of us who are here will raise a glass this evening to our amazing team member Sarah and her new baby girl, and to Kristin and Tori, our independent contractors.

Here's the top 5 from my week.

Top 5 - Phuket Sandbox Experiment

1. The Flight (above and below)

Until someone convinces me otherwise, my number one choice of airline when heading to Africa, the Middle East or Asia is Qatar Airways. Firstly, their business class product (above) is superlative, and secondly, while I will sometimes pay the cash fare, awards are bookable with AA points at a very reasonable value, though rumors are swirling that AA will be devaluing their award chart fairly soon.

I can confirm that the airline has maintained their exceptional business class service. From the moment I stepped on board through my pancake breakfast (below) until I sat eating my lamb shank sourdough sandwich in the Al Mourjan Lounge after a long shower, it was as smooth as silk and completely removed any travel stress.

2. The Room

We're at Anantara Mai Khao Villa resort on the northwest coast of Phuket. If you haven't heard of Anantara before they are a substantial player in the luxury space with dozens of resorts throughout Asia, but also in the United Arab Emirates and with the odd property in Italy, Portugal, Spain and Ireland. Many are Virtuoso properties which means we can add extra value to any stay with upgrades and amenities.

My King Pool Lagoon Villa is a huge 2,000sq ft and well, it's gorgeous. The outdoor poolside sala (below) has become my workstation and the wifi is fast! With one skip I can jump straight in to the pool from my bed and with both an outdoor shower and bath, I'm going to be very clean for my entire stay.

3. The Beach (above and below)

Mai Khao Beach is nearly 7 miles long, and though I haven't managed the whole length yet, it's a wonderful walking beach. I've been out there earlyish before 8am and barely seen anyone. Given the hotel is currently at around 40% capacity only, that's not a surprise, but it's special to be almost alone on such a beautiful stretch of sand. Not sure where the surfers are, because the wind has been blowing and it looks like perfect surfing to me, clueless as I am on the sport.

4. The Shack (above)

Luxury isn't always about plush rooms and added amenities. Dinner 2 nights ago involved a quick stroll along the beach to a locals shack that somehow survived over a year without tourists. You know it's really local when you can't find its name on Facebook. Isn't this the kind of experience we all really crave?

The soft shell crab yellow curry pictured was phenomenal.

5. The Grounds (above and below)

I have to showcase a few photos of the grounds because the resort is stunning and reflects a chill vibe that really appeals to me directly. The ducks are also very friendly and will waddle along after you if you show any interest.

PS. Late update, the team have arrived safely, but a photo will have to wait.

Nobody likes their picture taken after 30 hours of travel.

If you're ready to plan for Asia, let us know by clicking HERE.

I love travel and I love travel planning just as much and I am proud to be building a team as passionate about exploring the world as myself. It took me a very long time to align my career with my undeniable passion for exploring, but now I and the team are here for you. Your personal travel tailors - award reservation and luxury custom itinerary experts.

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