With a new direct flight from Dubai to Phuket, Emirates Holidays invites our harried CEO Amy Mowafi to switch to airplane mode and escape on a romantic getaway with her long-suffering husband...
My husband and I never officially went on honeymoon. I was too caught up in my career (an affliction I still suffer from but have since learned to control). After the inevitable craziness of the wedding, I didn’t feel there was time for an imposed romantic frolic. In the intervening decade, however, we have been on more awesome adventures than I can count - I just didn’t account for having two kids in tow. Not that it’s ever affected our destination choices - mostly wholly impractical but exceedingly more fun for it - our luggage full of wet wipes, phones unlocked and loaded with games, and 7293 pairs of pants in case of poop-related emergencies. But what we haven’t done, this whole time, not once, is a romantic getaway. All the more problematic when you consider that both the kids still sleep with us in a giant bed I had specially built. So the siren call of Emirates Holidays proposing we get whisked away to Phuket was impossible to resist. The airline now has a direct Cairo-Dubai-Phuket route (no pesky stop over in Bangkok) making it an easy-to-get-to dreamy destination for Egyptian honeymooners...or those looking to rekindle their passion.
No irony was involved in the making of this picture.
Phuket has never actually been on my bucket-list, having always conjured up images of hard-partying creatures in their early twenties swayed by scenes from The Beach (a movie that was clearly as much a curse as it was a blessing for tourism in Phuket). Turns out my imagination is stuck somewhere in my own 20s and the island has long since experienced a ravishing rebirth, re-emerging as a luxury destination brimming with haute-hideaways. The particular patch of paradise we stayed at is nestled on the northern tip of the island. Camouflaged within a lush lagoon, the Anantara Mai Khao (pictured in main image) sees each guest ensconced within their own private pool villa (slide open the glass doors of your bedroom and literally slip right into your pool before swimming into the submerged bath). Balmy tropical days can be spent floating around the resort (for the gram obviously - they have an in-house photographer), biking around the resort (you’ll find your bicycle parked neatly by your front door), or eating your way through the resort. Wander down to their beautiful beach front and settle in for some sumptuous seafood at ‘Sea.Fire.Salt’ - one of the most famous dining destinations on the island where the executive chef is known for personally fishing for your feast. Stroll back to your villa for a much needed siesta before making your way to the ‘Tree House’ for a delightful Thai afternoon tea experience - a smorgasbord of the sweetest delicacies served up in a beautiful birdcage while you lounge high above the palms.
Of course whether you’re a fresh faced honeymooner or a veteran of the institution of marriage - the idea of doing nothing but chilling on a blissful resort is quite often never as blissful as the reality. There will come a moment one sweltering afternoon in the sun, when the sound of his snoring on the lounger next to you threatens to destroy your future. This is the optimal moment to start exploring the rest of the island...
A long long time ago - for our second date ever - my husband organized a private Moroccan cooking class at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. It's a lovely story, but came before insta-stories existed, so it hardly counts. Emirates Holidays invited us to redo our date - this time on the edge of Phuket’s lush tropical forests, in a magnificent mansion dating back to 1903. The Blue Elephant Phuket (pictured below) is iconic across Asia, the go-to for the most tantalising Thai cuisine, hosting the bold, beautiful and powerful.
Chef Prair, our delightful teacher for the morning (she studied architecture as well as the culinary arts and dreams up buildings inspired by pineapples) leads us into the beautiful pungent bustle of the market in the heart of Phuket Old Town to handpick the ingredients for our lunch. The old town was once the beating centre of the island’s tin-mining wealth dominated by 13 all powerful and prolific Chinese families (I am possibly the only nerdy tourist who has actually gone into their museum to find this stuff out - and indeed the guard at the entrance was beside himself with excitement when we turned up, personally showing us every single artifact, ergo if you need a lesson on the various types of traditional Thai dress through the ages, I’m your girl). Anyway the point being that today, this part of town is quirky, quixotic, colorful and well worth a wander. Back at the Blue Elephant we spend the morning cooking up a spicy storm in their kitchens, before digging in to our handiwork on the stunning terrace. All the while Chef Prair did a magnificent job of pretending not to notice as my husband and I yelled at each other in Arabic about who’s job it was to make sure that in our absence, the kids’ actually got picked up from school (certainly not as sexy as the conversation we had the last time we did a cooking-class date).
Now one cannot lay claim to a Thai experience without trying one’s hand (or indeed feet) at Muay Thai - or literally Thai boxing. Having spent a good year discovering the joys of regular exercise (seriously who knew?!) I was so up for incorporating a little training session into the holiday. I imagined us sweating lightly in an easy private class for the tourists from Egypt. So I was rather alarmed to find our car screeching to a halt on the side of a main road where a dozen chiseled pros where practicing in a sprawling sweltering open air facility - a flurry of fists, elbows, knees and chins causing a thoroughly intimidating melody of thumps. Neither I nor my shiny Oysho leggings belong here, but neither I nor my shiny Oysho leggings have had so much fun training, ever. Two very intense, very sweaty exhilarating hours later, I am a little bruised, but a lot pleased with myself. And I declare that I shall be taking up Thai boxing the moment I land back in Cairo. I also promise the kick-ass (literally) girl boss who owns the facility - and made me a banana smoothie - that I will tell everyone to go visit ‘Phuketing Muay Thai’ if ever on the island.
After the battering comes the pampering. We are in Thailand, so naturally we must partake in an authentic Thai massage. The Anantara does of course have the most sumptuous spa which one is basically obliged to wile away hours at. And peppered across many of Phuket’s beaches, one will find open air massage huts where ten dollars will get you a good hour’s worth of serious unwinding to the sound of real-life lapping waves - not the slightly creepy soundtrack waves of most spas. However, for something extra special make your way to Phuket’s famed Oasis Spa for a life-altering (I’m only being slightly hyperbolic here) two hour couple’s massage. Nestled within the park-like Laguna Resort on a stunning stretch of white sandy beach front, this is exactly the kind of exotic spa escape one fantasizes about while answering the 7326th email of the day on a Tuesday afternoon in February. I am left feeling all the ‘r’ words - rested, rejuvenated, replenished but also very resentful of all the other massages that had fooled me into believing they were the real deal. My husband spends most of the session snoring.
Of course no trip to Phuket would be complete without a compulsory cruise to the famed James Bond Island (that of giant grassy rocks in the middle of the Andaman sea fame, pictured above). Or more pressingly a trip to Koh Phi Phi the iconic island imprinted into the imaginations of many a pre-millennial by Leo Di Caprio. My husband and I did neither. The idea of hoards of tourists descending upon landmarks inspired by the silver screen - and thus facing inevitable disappointment because much like Instagram, IT’S NOT REAL - gives me anxiety. Instead we rented a sweet little speed boat, and off we went in search of adventure and paradise lost (or maybe we asked the concierge). And it was glorious. The whole area is dotted with these soaring stunning rock formations jutting out of the sea and the ‘deserted’ islands are more than one can count. We anchored up by the prettiest looking one and settled in for a rustic feast of freshly caught BBQ fish and shrimp, washed down with a glass of chilled white wine. And not a soul in sight. Except for the couple 10 meters down the beach doing the exact same thing but it looked private on the gram. For a few fleeting hours my husband and I were even very lovely to each other in the manner of ‘romance’.
Pay no heed to the people in background of this picture. This is a deserted island. Look, there are coconuts.
And then, just like that, it was time to go home, because after four whole working days away from the office, I suspected the world was about to fall apart.
There was one last taste of the good life, though, on the quick stop over in Dubai from Phuket. The Emirates Business Class Lounge in DXB has long been one of my favorites in the world - if only for the entire corner dedicated to freshly-made healthy meals and snacks. I have actually never partaken in said healthy options because all the gourmet ice-cream and iced-coffees and Indian/Chinese/Mediterranean delicacies are impossible to resist. But knowing I COULD have avocado on toast and a herbal tea if I wanted makes me feel good.
So little ones, the moral of the story here is love is the answer. But also a tailor made picture-perfect Emirates Holidays romantic getaway in Phuket will do wonders for your shiny brand new marriage - or that relationship that has been going on for more snores than you can count.
Find out more about Emirates Tailor Made Holidays at www.emiratesholidays.com)