Crammed into the claustrophobic seaside pool deck like Springfield kids at Martin Prince’s ill-fated pool party, guests at the 180-room Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa sprawled elbow to elbow on precious few lounge chairs, jockeying for space to scorch flesh red on an uncharacteristically sun-drenched afternoon during Phuket’s monsoon season. Wispy casuarina trees lining pretty, peachy Mai Khao Beach cast no shade on this grizzly scene of paradisaical preening, the pool’s motley cast of characters split evenly between those breaking the three-month, pre-vacation starvation diet with a burger and fries and 2pm cocktails, and those snacking on a burger and fries and 2pm cocktail before a post-snack snack.
There’s something uniquely humbling, or perhaps the word is depressing, about the pool at a mid-range luxury beach resort such as this one. For it is here, moreso than at the daily breakfast buffet binge or the lobby common areas, heads buried in phones, where the privileged—and in the scope of human life, everyone with the means for leisure travel is privileged—get a clear-eyed view of those sharing their rung on the privilege ladder. The pool is your lot’s catwalk, its inglorious stage, and you’re a part of the show, too, whether you like it or not.
Now, quick, it looks like that tattooed manatee flanked by the skinny Russian model is done basting himself and now trudging towards the beach bar’s toilet. Grab their chairs, go!
The only thing out of place for this Thai beach resort, really, was an unattended stand at one end of the pool, upon which staff placed a bottle of Chalong Bay Thai rum next to a small wooden crate, “Support Local Craft Brewer” painted on one side in black, containing bottles of Chalawan Pale Ale. Brewed at Full Moon Brewworks, which is located in Patong and claims to be Phuket’s only craft brewery, the pale ale is one of three bottled beers from Full Moon that are available at the resort; the others, Chatri IPA and Bussaba Ex-Weisse, were brewed in collaboration with Australia’s Stockade Brew Co.
At 210 baht (about US$6.30 at the time of publication), the Full Moon brews are just 30 baht (US$0.90) more than the resort’s “local beer” selections (Chang, Leo, Singha), and 80 baht cheaper than bottles of Vedett Extra White, Corona, and Coopers Pale Ale. We actually have a soft spot for those “local beers” and don’t mind them at all, but you can probably guess which bottles we took back to our Airbnb condo next door. It’s worth noting, too, that a few bottles from Deschutes Brewery and Rogue Ales (320 baht) are available at the resort’s Doppio coffee shop, a testament to the ever-expanding reach of the Bangkok-based importers and distributors at Beervana International.
At the Renaissance beachside pool we anticipated a vaudevillian spectacle of muscled flashpackers flexing tribal tats, paunchy patrons with pinkish sags, and sad selfie junkies, all serenaded by de rigueur electronica circa 2004. We did not, however, expect a choice between bottles of Full Moon/Stockade Chatri IPA and Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA. In Phuket, paradise indeed lies in the eye of the beholder.