Goose? Buckwheat? Contour? Silk?
Forget alarm calls, safe deposit instructions or the hours in which breakfast is served. You can put away your passport and credit card, too, for the paperwork will just have to wait until the most pressing issue of check-in at Sala Resort and Spa, Phuket, is resolved once and for all.
What type of pillow would you like?
Fiona says that the family villas at Sala Resort and Spa, Phuket, are ‘flawless’. Pictured is the Sala pool villa
The Hardcastle’s family villa has its own private pool, garden, swing, outdoor kitchen and bar area. Pictured is a one-bedroom pool villa suite
Coming from a household where having one to yourself is a luxury (rare is the night that the head of our young son does not find its way into the parental bed), my husband and I were at a loss where to start.
Not so our daughters.
‘Ooh! Silk!’ cried Rose, 14, holding the first of four samples longingly to her cheek.
‘Goose,’ trumped Evie, 13, with the steely conviction of a second child who would sooner go without a pillow at all than opt for the same as her sister.
Bed-hopper Felix, eight, juggling all four, looked as though Christmas had come early, while my husband tried to keep a straight face as he weighed up the merits of buckwheat – ‘too grainy?’ – over contour – ‘too firm?’.
Mon, pillow dispenser and personification of patience, lowered her eyes with a smile.
‘Our accommodation would stretch even the most Botoxed face into a long-forgotten smile,’ writes Fiona. Pictured is a garden pool villa
According to Fiona, the restaurant at Sala (pictured) is so renowned that weekenders from Bangkok fly down just to photograph the food
The hotel’s spa. While there, Fiona bathes her feet in rose petals – ‘a spa ceremony for which both I and my tootsies were wholly unworthy’, she writes
Next, heaven help us, soap. Orange and cinnamon? Lemongrass? Basil? Lime? Cue four more samples for our delectation and a display of theatrical sniffing not seen since a festive trip to Jo Malone.
We’ll take them all, I said, itching to get beyond reception before the children actually got used to being asked for their opinions.
No problem, smiled Mon. An assortment of five bars would be sent to our villa along with body lotions to match.
Of course they would. The service at Sala – flawless just like its family villas – would silence even the most demanding diva.
‘Sala Resort and Spa is the epitome of understated style,’ Fiona writes of the experience
A ‘deluxe balcony’ at the resort. ‘The service at Sala would silence even the most demanding diva,’ says Fiona
Our accommodation – not so much a villa as a trio of luxurious, spacious modern apartments with high ceilings and glamorous outdoor bathrooms clustered around a private pool with garden, swing, outdoor kitchen and bar area – would stretch even the most Botoxed face into a long-forgotten smile.
As would the introductory tray of cocktails and tapas so large you really ought to skip dinner. But you won’t, because unless you have lost all appetite for life, you will be helpless in the face of the divine menu devised by executive chef Tony Wrigley, a Salford man, never happier than when welcoming fellow Brits to his second home.
And what a home it is.
Fiona observes that ‘double day beds artfully line the infinity pools’ at the Sala Resort and Spa
Set on 12 kilometres (7.4 miles) of sandy Mai Khao beach – the longest in Phuket – Sala Resort and Spa is the epitome of understated style.
Rows of sleek, low-rise dwellings fan out from grassy paths towards the sea. Double day beds artfully line the infinity pools. Lanterns hang from frangipani trees. Yoga classes dot the lawn. The restaurant is so renowned that weekenders from Bangkok fly down just to photograph the food.
But this is still Thailand, land of smiles. And as such, style is never allowed to descend into pretension.
The resort is set on 12km (7.4 miles) of sandy Mai Khao beach – the longest in Phuket (pictured)
‘Rows of sleek, low rise dwellings fan out from grassy paths towards the sea,’ Fiona writes of the resort’s villas. Pictured is a two-bedroom presidential pool villa
At check-in, the Hardcastles are presented with options for pillows and soap. Pictured is a one-bedroom pool villa suite
As proud of its mind-altering massages as it is of its muddy mangrove swamps, the staff at Sala see no contradiction in bathing your feet in rose petals (a spa ceremony for which both I and my tootsies were wholly unworthy) while keeping them firmly on the ground.
Day trips showcasing ‘Forgotten Phuket’ and Thai traditions are a case in point. It’s all very well tucking into Andaman lobster and the lunch of a lifetime, but a few hours spent with the good people of Samchong fishing village – built on stilts and reached by long-tail boat – gave me a new appreciation of the food on my plate. And quite what a skill catching any of it is.
It also awakened in our daughters a taste for tie-dye – welcomed into a waterfront shop, they were soon standing over an enormous pot, happily stirring and twisting simple fabrics with the locals, Brandy Melville momentarily forgotten.
From the resort, visitors can embark on day trips that showcase ‘Forgotten Phuket’ and Thai traditions
A floating breakfast at the hotel. On the final night of the trip, Fiona and her family enjoy a ‘loosen-the-waistband-forever BBQ’ cooked in their villa
Our son, having bonded with boys in the mudflats over a shared fascination with snails, discovered a new favourite hat. The fishermen, delighted with a potential recruit, crowned him with one of their own. Who knew he could pull off conical bamboo?
Back to the mothership and an in-villa cooking lesson – a stark reminder, if any were needed, that our days in Tony’s hands were numbered.
Could I ever do justice to his yam neau yang, a mouth-watering salad of barbecued Australian beef sirloin, sliced thinly and tossed with onions, tomatoes, celery and a chilli lime dressing? Could I heck. But it was fun trying.
Our final night had come far too soon but what better way to spend it than a loosen-the-waistband-forever BBQ cooked in our villa – followed by an outdoor screening of the film of our choice.
After the usual family tussle – Star Wars? A rom-com? Seriously, Paddington 2 again? – we opted for the latest Mission Impossible.
Which, I now realise, pretty much sums up our chances of ever having a more unforgettable holiday.