Located along a ‘rustic’ road which gives no hint of the exciting surprises in store for guests, The Mangosteen (named after the delicious purple Thai fruit) is a lush oasis of tranquility in Rawai. Graciously welcomed by Rose von Keller, co-owner with her husband Hajo, we’re soon appreciating the delights of this boutique resort. Our villa is perfection: a high-ceilinged, spacious suite with soft lighting. Orchid blossoms welcome us into an opulent living space with an enormous four-poster bed and luxurious sofa. Thoughtful details include a well-stocked bar, a bowl of fresh fruit and superfine bathrobes and towels. On the balcony – surprise, surprise – an alfresco Jacuzzi.
Established 14 years ago, The Mangosteen enjoys an undulating hilltop setting, with an abundance of palms, leafy trees and colourful shrubs. In this tropical garden setting, Hajo has wisely retained existing trees, as well as adding colourful plumerias, bougainvilleas, tabernaemontanas and adeniums. Reaching the restaurant and adjacent swimming pool involves a walk along glazed terracotta brick paths – an impressive design feature – flanked by lush greenery, a pleasant stroll which discreetly links all 42 of the individual villas.
The Mangosteen’s buildings, created by Hajo in consultation with celebrated designer John Underwood, share a stunning and unique structural feature: an octagonal motif which ensures all-round views. The figure is present everywhere: in poolside parasols and thatched salas, in the villas and reception area (itself surrounded by an octagonal fish pond with koi carp), in the centrally sited restaurant, even in the spa. Hajo’s preference for natural materials is evident everywhere: wooden doors, internal floors and beams, earth tones of orange, green and cream, the use of natural brick outdoors, and polished granite in bathrooms.
Pause for a moment as you meander, and you can enjoy panoramic views of ultramarine seas, Lone, Bon, Racha and Coral islands and of yachts moored at Chalong Bay. At night, the whole resort, with its undulating pathways, twinkling lights and lanterns, assumes an almost magical aura.
If you want to explore the neighbourhood, nearby attractions include Nai Harn Beach, inexpensive shopping and sunset views at Promthep Cape, as well as Rawai’s beachside restaurants and busy bars. Buddhist landmarks include the gleaming presence of the Mingmonkol statue, 45 metres high and clearly visible from the resort, and the celebrated temple at Chalong. Other local features worth a visit are Kata Viewpoint, the Seashell Museum, bustling Bangla Road in Patong, the Botanical Gardens, Cape Panwa’s aquarium, Muay Thai boxing and the spectacular shows at FantaSea and Siam Niramit, which celebrate the past history and present culture of Thailand. Boat excursions to Racha and Phi Phi islands leave from Chalong Pier. The airport is an hour’s drive away; Phuket Town with its shops, markets and Sino- Portuguese architecture is a mere 30 minutes.
The hilltop restaurant at The Mangosteen specialises in both traditional Thai cuisine and international food. A circular outdoor terrace with panoramic views seats 40 guests, while the covered area can accommodate a further 30 diners. The starters, mostly with a Thai provenance, are imaginatively conceived; for example, a selection of grilled, marinated beef dishes, deepfried shrimp with noodles, fishcakes with curry sauce, wrapped shrimps, and prawns with a spicy peanut dip. Thai names, pictures of dishes and ingredients are helpfully included in the menu listings.
The extensive selection of main course dishes – 27 in all largely features locally sourced ingredients. Andaman specialities include curried blue crab baked in its shell, and white snapper with Thai herbs and pandanus leaves. Tiger prawns come either deep fried or grilled. An exotic touch is provided by snowfish fillets given a Thai inflection by sour green mango salad and cashews. Traditional curries feature prominently: yellow curry comes with sea bass fillets, or chicken and potatoes; pork, beef or chicken red curry is cooked in coconut milk. Authentic green curry with eggplant is inevitably included, as is tom yam, a spicy sour soup flavoured with galangal and lemongrass, and phad thai, a classic confection of noodles, egg and shrimps in a tamarind sauce. Other dishes feature duck breast with black soybeans, sautéed pork, and sliced beef with garlic and chili. For the vegetarian, there is phad pak ruam, a selection of stir-fried mixed vegetables. The restaurant uses only healthy rice-bran oil in its stir-fry dishes, and Spanish olive oil in its western cuisine. No stone is left unturned in the pursuit of a varied, healthy and appetising menu.
Few meals are complete without the accompaniment of fine wine, and The Mangosteen possesses an underground wine cellar – yet another original touch. Open daily upon request, it can accommodate a private party of two to eight guests. The wine list is carefully chosen with 13 whites and 17 reds, as well as a ‘Sommelier’s Collection’ for the ultra discerning. Seated in the alfresco restaurant, Hajo recommends a glass of Gran Monte, an award-winning Thai wine. Surprisingly good…
In keeping with the resort’s ‘something for everyone’ image, there are special buffets on Mondays and Thursdays. ‘Five Tastes of Asia’ proposes a gastronomic journey taking diners from Thailand to Vietnam, China, Japan and India. The delectable dishes are tastefully presented, clearly labeled and come with appropriate dipping sauces. Both hot and cold offerings, they include seaweed salad, sushi, spring rolls, tempura prawns, bamboo soup, beef teriyaki, grilled chicken with lemongrass, steamed snapper and pork spare ribs. The vegetarian kadai curry is especially popular. On Mondays, another themed buffet, ‘Thai Food Lovers’ Night’, features intensely flavoured local dishes and delicacies. Both buffets and à-la-carte dishes are competitively priced, as are the alcoholic beverages. There is even a happy hour from 3pm to 6.30pm – two drinks for the price of one.
A central feature of the resort is the large, freeform, saltwater pool. High above the surrounding landscape, and a substantial feat of engineering, it seems to follow you wherever you go. Bridges add a picturesque note. Open all day, every day, whether you fancy a drink at the poolside bar or a dip at midnight, it’ll be there waiting for you.
The resort features the first-ever Ayurveda spa in Phuket with a resident Ayurveda-qualified doctor available for free consultations. The word combines ‘ayur’ meaning ‘life’ and ‘veda’ meaning ‘knowledge’. More than 5,000 years old, it’s an Indian holistic science, engaging mind, body and spirit. It treats not just the disease (as western medicine tends to do) but the whole patient.
All ingredients used in Mangosteen treatments are authentic and naturally sourced. Facilities are comprehensive: four private treatment areas, including two specialist Ayurveda rooms, two steam saunas and a spacious yet private Jacuzzi. Detox, weight reduction and more specific therapies aimed to alleviate back pain, headaches and other ailments, are available. They range from two-day programmes to a fourweek package, including Yoga and the Dosha balancing Satvik vegan meal, custom prepared at the restaurant. ‘Chakra Balancing’ and ‘Dosha Purifying’ constitute two of the most popular treatments.
‘Doshas’ or energies, govern the creation, maintenance and destruction of bodily tissues. Each of us has a unique combination of these doshas (rather like mediaevalhumours), which determine our basic constitution or ‘prakruti’. Individual treatments can be tailored to meet the particular requirements of guests. In our case, Dr Subhash Shanbhag, who trained in India, spent a long time patiently considering our needs. For me, he recommended a revitalizing treatment, a traditional Indian massage, expertly performed and suited to my dosha type.
It employs “warm herbal oils and long rhythmic massage strokes to loosen accumulated toxins in the tissues”, followed by the application of poultices containing herbal powders such as galangal, sandalwood and dry ginger, previously fried with rock salt, coconut and lemon juice. Tied in cloth boluses, and soaked in hot oil, this mixture relieves stiffness in joints and muscles and claims to break down toxins in the digestive system and improves metabolism. The treatment, which finishes with a steam sauna and hot shower, takes a deeply pleasurable 90 minutes. I come away feeling relaxed and refreshed; definitely recommended.
Famous for its relaxed ambience, The Mangosteen will look after your every holiday wish and whim. Villas range from family Jacuzzi Suites (two bedrooms) to Superior Garden Villas. To complete the picture, the resort features multilingual friendly staff, a children’s pool, 24-hour and in-room service, valet parking, a fitness room/gym, a safety deposit box, porter, laundry and Wi-Fi facilities. There is even a souvenir/ gift shop. Few stones are left unturned at The Mangosteen, so little wonder that it was awarded five stars in 2005 as a boutique resort or that, time and again, guests return to luxuriate in its charms.
Mangosteen Resort and Spa
99/4 Moo 7, Rawai, Phuket
Tel: +66 76 289399
Mangosteen 'Zap', a tiered medley of seafood, green, red and yellow curries with meats, spicy minced pork along with noodles and crispy vegetables for two people.