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Rose petals and romance in a superb villa

Romance for Three at a Valentine Paradise

Tuesday, February 12, 2008
SOME may say that honeymoons are ideal for two. I disagree.

Three is definitely not a crowd, especially if the third person happens to be a butler from a Banyan Tree Phuket villa.

That delightful setting is where I had my first honeymoon, with my second bride.

When I married for the first time, we were so poor we had to re-use the wedding ring from her first marriage. There was no honeymoon.

That's modern romance. Practical considerations come before everything else. Money always matters, but love is paramount and overwhelming.

And if the chance doesn't come immediately for a loving escape, there's always the opportunity to make amends later.

When it comes to making up for lost romantic interludes, the Banyan Tree Phuket does it dreamily.

My honeymoon? We three shared it all. Me, the bride . . . and the butler.

In keeping with the Thai way, she was female, very efficient and on duty around the clock.

Memories still swirl in my mind and it's hard to separate imagination from reality. This place mingles them together so superbly, in ways I have never experienced.

At Banyan Tree Phuket, the ultimate romantic fantasy destination has been created for real-life couples, even though it has a no-nonsense name: the DoublePool Villa.

From the discreet and unpretentious stonework exterior, where classic bicycles lean on either side of a simple entrance, a castle made of dreams awaits.

The door opens on a distant vision of bird of paradise blooms and the lagoon. This entrance becomes even more spectacular later, after nightfall, when we return to the villa from a Hers and His spa massage.

The long timber floor of the open-air corridor is strewn with red rose petals and lit by candles.

We sigh deep, foolish sighs and follow the blossom trail down the aisle.

In the bathroom, so large and elegant it would be possible to throw a wedding reception there, we find a black marble bath filled with more petals, a bottle of champagne chilling, and a large rose sculpted in black and white chocolate.

More blossoms have been carefully placed to line each side of the entrance to the bedroom. The huge bed, topped in white satin, has been covered with scarlet petals. A pair of loving swans, folded from towelling, kiss at the foot of the bed.

Around three sides, ambient spotlights flood the pool and give the bedroom a surreal feeling. In a perfect dream lit only by candles, we are afloat on a sea of love.

MORNING comes. By night, Banyan Tree Phuket is a fairyland of subtly-lit rolling pathways. By day, the whole complex seems to take on the character of a timeless village set in botanical gardens.

Every shade of green can be seen. Beauty comes with each curve in the track. Gardeners in green sweep and clean.

Phuket's blue skies are stunning during the high season, yet the vistas become even more remarkable when clouds roll above and are reflected in the lagoons.

An eccentric friend comes to Phuket each year in the monsoon season to sit and watch the thunderstorms. Now I understand why. These skyscapes can be awe-inspiring, and so much more romantic.

Villa transport is by electric cart or bicycle. I cycled to the main pool, which meanders just like the pathways, then to beautiful Bangtao beach.

There is a choice of elegant restaurants - Tamarind, Watercourt, the new French Vietnamese named Tre, and others - but we choose to eat in. This is, after all, our honeymoon.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner, our butler organises each meal with charm and grace. We simply have to press a button on the mobile telephone and she answers, ready.

I spy her reflection in the glass once, hesitating behind me and a little reluctant to interrupt because this is our moment. She knows what to do and when to do it.

Perhaps she even understands me . . .

The villa itself is almost a living, breathing organism. The spine flows from the entrance to the living room heart that overlooks a patio and the spa and pool, stretching off towards the lagoon, with the spacious sala nearby.

Off the living area are the lungs - two air-conditioned zones that house the bathroom and bedroom on one side and the entertainment-work area on the other, a room with an impossibly big daybed and a television to match.

At night, the drapes and the lighting make the whole villa extremely theatrical. It's as though we are on stage, in pools of light, playing to an audience.

Yet except for a few golfers and caddies on the Laguna Phuket Golf Club fairway beyond the lagoon, we never see another soul.

Birds sing, fish jump, a white cat wanders past in the night. The air is still, faintly breezy, or alight with the magic of a passing electrical storm.

We swim and eat, enjoying a place where great thought has clearly gone into making every detail just right. The villa is simply flawless.

The three of us have a great time.

WHEN IT comes to what's best for us all, I have come to an obvious and unshakeable conclusion.

Either my bride and I never leave this villa, or when we go, the butler comes with us.

That way, the honeymoon, along with the honey mood, will last forever.

The author was a guest of the Banyan Tree.

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