‘Phuket Sandbox’ is a tourism stimulation program that allows travelers to visit Phuket without having to undergo quarantine, but they must stay in Phuket province for at least seven nights before being allowed to visit other destinations in Thailand. Over 100,000 tourists have taken advantage of the program, distinguishing Phuket as one of the first destinations in Southeast Asia to welcome back tourists.
But only a lucky few get to experience Smiling Albino’s ‘outside of the box’ sandbox.
We recently hosted an ultra-exclusive family adventure in Phuket which truly defined an “outside-the-box sandbox” experience. The guests were a discerning family of six including adult children, well traveled and looking to experience the island beyond the bright lights and mass market amenities. They needed to be wowed the Smiling Albino way. Their interests were nature, engaging locals, jewelry, fashion, commerce, privacy, authenticity and elegance.
Here’s the result of how it played out…
The family was met at the airport by our top veteran Phuket guide and our special host (an accomplished artist with vast and broad knowledge of the region, particularly Phuket) and whisked off in style by a small fleet of luxury vans coordinated by our logistics team who worked off-stage nearby during the entire trip.
After a couple of days to settle into their villa, the trip really took off. The adventures planned by Smiling Albino included everything from a big game fishing expedition aboard a deep sea fishing yacht with a special catered lunch on nearby Racha Island, to an exclusive jungle nature hike led by a local botanist expert in a national park, accessible via an ethical elephant sanctuary. A day of private sea kayaking from a chartered crewed yacht in a less-visited area in Koh Phang Nga Bay, but still in Phuket province (to meet the strict sandbox requirements) was highlighted by a private secluded full-on beach lunch complete with tables and chairs and decorated in flowers and natural materials by a prominent Phuket stylist.
A planned helicopter flight to nearby Trang Province to enjoy a jungle hike far from the crowds and then a heli-hop to Libong Island to explore the mangroves and get up close to some endangered dugongs, hosted by the island’s headman and top dugong conservationist, had to be saved for next time as last minute travel plans changed.
On the eighth day our guests were free to travel to Bangkok where they had time for one night. We made the most of it with a private canal cruise going back in time, exploring the centuries-old communities and orchards in Thonburi, before contrasting it with stops in contemporary riverside art galleries. We endeavored to fulfill as many of our guests’ varied interests as possible in the short time available without feeling rushed. One night in Bangkok began with a private after hours dusk visit to one of Bangkok’s most revered temples, hosted by the head abbot, before enjoying a private dinner in Jim Thompson’s Museum home with specially chosen Bangkok luminaries as dining guests. Oh yes, we also had custom silk outfits tailored for the family ahead of time to wear to dinner!
The next day the family was hosted by one of Bangkok’s renown objets d’art creators to explore Bangkok’s top art and cultural heritage sites before being hosted to a lunch spread in their theatrical showroom catered by Blue Elephant. Not a bad 36 hours in the city.
To toot our own horn a bit more, if only to give our dear readers a clearer picture of just how cool, diverse, and authentic Phuket really can be, several months earlier, within days of Phuket opening up, we were honored to host a group of US travel journalists who enjoyed a unique Smiling Albino crafted sandbox adventure. We set about distilling the essence of Phuket, found in the spaces in between the images we’re all familiar with. Our mission was to show the world that there is much more to Phuket than sun, sand and sea. We put together a full itinerary of exceptional cuisine, contemporary art and theater, local craft boutiques, farm-to-table initiatives and a whole lot more!
Our ‘beyond the beach’ themed trip had our inquisitive journalists experiencing many firsts. We hope we’ve whet your whistle, but don’t take Phuket’s transformation just on our word, here are a few great articles about their Phuket experiences for further reading: Travel + Leisure, InsideHook, Conde Nast Traveller.
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