Peace Blue Naiharn Resort opened their doors last weekend, rolling out the red carpet on their beautiful new naturist resort/hotel near Rawai on Phuket Island in Thailand. This is the biggest and boldest endeavor yet that represents a serious presence in Southeast Asia to provide a year-round escape for those of us who simply can’t manage to keep our clothes on for the six months we call winter in the northern hemisphere. IT’S ABOUT TIME!
Despite repeated visits to various regions of Asia, I still have a very limited understanding of why nudity is such a taboo matter in this part of the world, where clothing seems unnecessary during even the coolest of days. Throw in the copious presence of palm trees and innumerable sandy beaches with water as warm as my hot tub, and I find myself crying aloud – Really? Nudity is illegal here? What a waste of so many naked opportunities.
But alas, it seems a few entrepreneurial folks in Thailand are seeking to put their country on the map as the naturist capital of the Far East, and apparently it’s starting to take hold. In addition to Chan Resort Pattaya and Oriental Village Chiang Mai, several new enterprises have entered the market with ever-improving amenities and locations that provide the opportunity for a bit of sight-seeing should you have the urge to put your clothes on.
I have yet to visit Chan Resort in Pattaya, but hoping I might manage a day visit during an upcoming trip to Pattaya, (a city that seems to have the reputation of being the Jersey Shore of Southeast Asia) located on a side street just two kilometers from the (non-naturist) beach. Perhaps it is my aversion to over-crowded tourist meccas that inspired me to book at the new Phuan Naturist Village, instead, which is located in a relatively rural area outside of Pattaya. This is the most recent entry into the Asian naturist hospitality game, notably run by three sisters who, somewhat uncommonly, have fully embraced the naturist lifestyle even when they’re “at work.” I’ve booked a bungalow for my stay which looks like it may well be a bit rustic, but it reportedly has a private bath and AC. That seems more than adequate amenities for a nakation to me.
The little naturist hotel called Barefoot Resort in the northern part of Bangkok seems to be getting good reviews, aside from the fact that it’s difficult to get to, and thus, not terribly convenient for taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of Thailand’s megopolis. It’s on my bucket list, if only as a gesture of support for their pioneering efforts of providing a clothing-optional stay in Bangkok, but given its proximity to airports and train stations, I’ve yet to find a way to work that into a viable itinerary.
A couple years ago, we did pay a springtime visit to the quirky, but lovely, Oriental Village resort about 45 minutes outside of Chiang Mai. The middle-aged French guy who runs the place is… well… a middle-aged French guy, giving the place a decidedly French-Asian edge on the market. He was kind enough to pick us up at the airport (for a fee, of course) and was happy to share his perspectives on naturism in Thailand, which might be summarized with “You should come to my place.” What hadn’t occurred to me is that Chiang Mai (A great city, by the way) is far enough north to have a distinctively cooler climate that I had associated with Southeast Asia. It’s worth paying attention to that and the timing of the burning of nearby rice-fields when planning your stay, as either factor could cast a shadow on the perfect nakation.
Which brings us back to Peace Blue Resort, the new edition of Lemon Tree Resort, a place I’ve come to refer to as “my branch office in Asia.” Patty and Golf opened Lemon Tree as a naturist destination by converting an existing property on a quiet street near the southern tip of Phuket, within (a significant) walking distance of Naiharn and Rawai beaches. At this writing, the owners are moving their base of operations from the smallish Lemon Tree property (where the lease has expired without the opportunity to renew) to the brand new Peace Blue Resort featuring condo like luxury units with private pools as well as beautifully appointed hotel rooms overlooking a sizable pool complex. I will be in a better position to offer a candid review after my much-anticipated visit in the coming weeks, but if the photos of the soft-opening are any indication, this will quickly become a premiere naturist destination outside of Europe.
From my humble perspective, what sets Peace Blue apart from other naturist endeavors is the owner’s business plan, or more aptly, the fact that she has one! Patty left her managerial job in the mainstream hospitality sector to open the original Lemon Tree with her husband Golf, bringing an unusual background of expertise to the table, with the explicit purpose of meeting the demand of naturists – like me – who are looking for a place to get naked and warm when it’s snowing at home. Patty and Golf are not naturists themselves, but have embraced the naturist community, not only as a friendly and fervent clientele, but as friends who they “welcome home” at the beginning of each visit. (I’ve been to Lemon Tree three times now, and will visit the new Peace Blue in December.) In doing so, Patty reports that they are maintaining a relatively high occupancy rate even in rainy season when nearby properties are sitting essentially empty. With a steady stream of European customers, and a few random Americans such as myself, it seems they are at the tip of the naturist travel iceberg, and I suspect mid-winter bookings will soon become a precious commodity. If you time it right, the resort will have organized a boat-trip from nearby Rawai beach to a secluded beach where, sure enough, naturism is possible. And for the price of a single massage at any American establishment, you could enjoy a daily massage right in your room in Thailand. (I might mention, by the way, that while neither inappropriate nor intentionally sexual, every Thai massage I’ve had to date is a bit more intimate than anything I’ve experienced in Europe or the US. To be specific, while they don’t touch the genitalia, they come awfully close. Helps to know that going in, I think!)
For those who have not traveled much in Asia, the drive from the airport to just about anyplace can be quite a culture-shock. In the case of Peace Blue, the airport is located on the northern end of Phuket and the resort is near the very southern tip of the island, which requires a 90-minute drive down the clogged arteries of this tropical island crowded with resorts, scooters, and so many people living amidst a labyrinth of road construction draped in seemingly thousands of power lines. With all the fuss in the West about low emissions and electric cars, I always find myself a bit overwhelmed at sheer number of fossil fuel burning contraptions that over-populate the roadways of Asia. But not to worry, for about $30, Patty will have a driver waiting for you at the airport to get you to the front door of their naturist haven – well worth the investment unless you have a particular fondness for sitting in traffic that would make rush hour on Long Island seem like a peaceful drive in the country.
Finally, I should give a shout-out to the Thailand Naturist Association, leading the pack amidst Asian countries for promoting naturism as a wholesome and holistic, family-oriented activity. (See my previous blog posts called “Naked in Thailand? Why Yes!” or “Thailand Launches a Naturist Publication!” I’d like to think that the pioneers of naturist travel in Thailand will help others realize that even if nudity is not an inherent part of the indigenous culture, a few targeted properties catering to naturists could be a real boon to the economy. It’s most certainly a trend I’m willing to support with my naked tourist dollars.