With a frozen watermelon popsicle in hand, I am lazily stretched out on a daybed by the pool. Even though I am also clutching a paperback, it really is more of a decoy so I can discreetly peer over the tome to people-watch — ears pricked for juicy snippets of conversation.
It turns out this trick from Olivia and Paula, the snarky Gen Z characters played by Sydney Sweeney and Brittany O’Grady in the Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning HBO series The White Lotus works like a charm.
After all, the tableau of sun worshipping guests at The Surin in Phuket certainly makes it feel like I am living a real life version of this hit satire about wealthy vacation goers at the fictitiously named luxury resort.
With a stylish hexagonal swimming pool overlooking the azure Pansea Beach, this is undoubtedly the location to see and be seen at this resort. I spot dead ringers for the show’s wealthy millennial holidaymakers Harper and Daphne, played by Aubrey Plaza and Meaghann Fahy respectively, among the svelte women togged in chic floppy hats, oversized sunnies, and body conscious beachwear.
Later, while tucking into a crisp fish burger at the poolside eatery, a mother at the next table begins imploring her children to put their devices away. It reminds me of an almost identical scene in the first season of the series set in Hawaii, where Connie Britton’s Nicole, the matriarch of the slightly dysfunctional but loving Mossbacher family, does exactly the same thing at the dining table.
Of course, the genius of writer Mark White’s satirical whodunit series is that its character depictions often hit just a little too close to the mark — but gently enough that it allows viewers to have a little laugh at their own foibles.
Seeking The White Lotus-worthy resorts
With rumours swirling about the third season of The White Lotus set to be filmed in the Land of Smiles — and backed up by multiple industry sources claiming that the show’s crew had sent scouts to their resorts in Thailand — it is no surprise that there is intense curiosity about where to go to vacay like the frivolous rich.
In the name of research — and to get a headstart on jet-setting before the dramedy launches — I spent the last few months sneaking in getaways to the country’s sun-drenched beach resorts to uncover the most lavish boltholes worthy of travellers seeking their own White Lotus-esque vacay.
An obvious choice would be any of the Four Seasons plush resorts in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, and the Golden Triangle, since the previous seasons were set in Four Seasons locations in Maui and Taormina. But where is the challenge in that?
So I inquire about Aman, which Daphne blithely namedrops in the show. With a stunning infinity pool, spacious Thai-style villas, and impeccable service, this could be the ideal stand-in for The White Lotus. But its Phuket outpost Amanpuri is closed* for its seasonal refurbishment — could this be a hint that there is ongoing filming?
*[Editor’s note: Amanpuri has since re-opened following its refurbishment.]
“I spent the last few months in Thailand’s to uncover the most lavish boltholes worthy of travellers seeking their own White Lotus-esque vacay.”
Secluded luxury at The Surin
We will only find out when the show drops, but since a change of plans is necessary, I pick The Surin, which actually shares the same secluded beachfront as Amanpuri for maximum private beach vibes. (Tip: Take a barefoot stroll along the picturesque beach at sunset together with other pampered guests for an unbeatable moment of communal preening and photo taking.)
With timeless suites and cottages designed by Ed Tuttle in a soothing colour palette of grey and white, the standalone hideouts perfectly complement the verdant greenery on the estate. Those who might prefer a private pool will enjoy the newly launched pool villas, which feature a more contemporary Thai-inspired design with wood panelled interiors and local decor.
I am most delighted with my own Tanya-at-the-spa moment when my therapist uses a Thai massage-style pressure point technique to get rid of the tense knots in my shoulders and neck. Just like Jennifer Coolidge’s kooky heiress character, Tanya McQuoid, after a healing session at the spa, I practically float out of the spa, too.
Romance galore at Conrad Koh Samui
On another trip, I jet to the indulgent Conrad Koh Samui, which is strategically positioned to offer panoramic views of the endless Gulf of Thailand — the perfect idyllic backdrop to welcome a fresh batch of The White Lotus guests.
While the coveted Pineapple Suite in Season One might have been a little too over-decorated for some guests, even the pickiest, most entitled guest will be hard pressed to nitpick about this hotel’s sleek villas. All 81 villas have private pools, bathtubs large enough for two, and expansive sea views for good measure.
For something truly memorable, the hotel can arrange for a private beachfront chef-curated BBQ dinner with elaborate set-ups complete with twinkling fairy lights and a campfire to toast marshmallows for dessert.
We reckon many of The White Lotus husbands, including overbearing Shane Patton, aloof Ethan, and manipulative Cameron, would have benefitted from having this romantic option during their White Lotus stays. Husbands, take note, especially if you are seeking to impress your better halves.
Then, to top this all off, send for a private floating breakfast in the comfort of your own villa pool the next morning. This is one frivolously gratifying indulgence that has yet to make it into the series, but with its photogenic appeal, you might as well score some bragging rights. I certainly had no qualms wading into my pool at 8am just for that Insta-perfect shot.
Island-hopping at Pimalai Koh Lanta
Finally, I could not miss the secret island getaway vibes of Pimalai Resort, located on the island of Koh Lanta. It is about two hours from Krabi airport, and during certain times of the year, guests can even take an exclusive speedboat transfer right to the resort’s beachfront jetty, just like how guests rock up to their hotels in the show. Upon arrival, there are — you guessed it — a bevy of cheerily waving staff at the ready to whisk guests to their luxe digs.
My expansive one bedroom Hillside Ocean View Private Pool Villa comes with a separate living area, outdoor dining space, and kitchenette, which immediately made me think of the blowout ragers depicted by The White Lotus’ more questionable characters. Of course, this is real life, so there is no misbehaving, just cosy tete-a-tetes and plenty of room service in good company.
Best of all are Pimalai’s well-curated selection of island-hopping cruises on their luxury speedboats to nearby caves and islands for snorkelling, freediving, or simply even more sun worshipping. After all, The White Lotus guests always get their fair share of swanky aquatic activities while on vacation.
The waters here are as clear and warm as the Sicilian waters depicted in the show’s second season, and right on cue, as the sun starts to set, the sundowners start flowing too. As the sky turned a fiery orange-pink, all of us, even the slightly inebriated ones, paused to savour this beautiful sight.
Out here on calm, beautiful waters, one thing is certain — there is no need for a show to remind us of our good fortune in life.