Settling into my soft leather swivel chair aboard the Gulfstream private jet, I sipped Moët & Chandon and nibbled canapés, enjoying the start of what Burgess had billed as a five-day “billionaire’s tour of Thailand.” With stays planned aboard the 178-foot (54-meter) Proteksan Talisman Maiton and the 240-foot (73-meter) Lürssen Titania—whose combined weekly charter rates top $760,000 even in the winter low season—the moniker seemed to fit.
With a dry season between November and April that promises calm or moderate seas, and average temperatures around 85 degrees Fahrenheit, Southeast Asia has long been a playground for marine-based tourism. Yet only relatively recently have the golden beaches, tea-warm waters and verdant islands of the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea become winter alternatives to the Caribbean for charter clients seeking a more remote superyacht experience.
“The cruising is just amazing with great weather, breathtaking scenery and none of the crowds you find in the Med or the Caribbean,” says Robert Smith, captain of Talisman Maiton, which was built in 2006 and refitted in 2016. “With all the diving, snorkeling, kayaking and trekking ashore, I would say it appeals to more adventurous charter clients, or those with young families. You’re never far away from dry land, and we do a lot of beach setups with Champagne and canapés in the evenings when we’re the only boat for miles around.”
Given the balmy equatorial climate, Talisman Maiton’s many alfresco dining areas make her an ideal vessel for cruising Thailand. The open sundeck with its sheltered hot tub proved especially popular for cocktails during our two days on board. The only occasions when we spent any appreciable time inside were when we retired to our staterooms at night. In fact, it wasn’t until the end of the charter that I discovered the yacht has a gym on the lower deck (with the array of water toys available, it never occurred to me to have another workout).
Thailand has another ace up its sleeve that is perennially popular with visitors regardless of age or background: its cuisine. Visruta Imprapari, our Thai chef aboard Talisman Maiton, drew heavily on the vibrant flavors and exotic ingredients of her homeland: pungent lemongrass, searing chilies, plump seafood. Memorable dishes included spicy green papaya salad, and golden prawn cakes garnished with a sweet plum sauce. Accompanied by a fragrantly crisp sauvignon blanc, dishes such as these are typical of Thai culture in general: generous, refreshing and relaxed.
Asian cuisine was also on the menu aboard Titania, which originally launched as Apoise in 2006. Jesse Plumb, the Australian chef, was introduced to Thai food at age 6 when his aunt served Thai beef salad at a dinner party in Sydney.
“My taste buds were blown away by the mixture of sweet and sour, salty and spicy, and I’ve been hooked on Asian food ever since,” he says. “Everyone loves Thai food, but the flavors and textures all depend on having just the right ingredients, and I’ve been amazed by the quality and freshness of the produce available in this part of the world.”
Despite a common focus on fine wine and dining, the charter experience aboard Talisman Maiton and Titania is substantially different. Each yacht accommodates 12 guests, but at close to 1,900 gross tons, Titania is more than twice the volume of Talisman Maiton, with space for two master-size suites, an elevator, a beach club with a sauna and bar that converts into a night club, and an impressive stable of water toys. She also has one of the tallest inflatable slides found on a superyacht that runs more than 40 feet from the sundeck to sea level. This difference in size means that the atmosphere aboard the smaller yacht is arguably more intimate and the crew a tad less formal, although the service on both yachts is impeccable.
Our itinerary in Thailand aboard Talisman Maiton included an unusual stopover. Just weeks before our arrival, a catastrophic fire had swept through a village of sea nomads living on an island a few hours west of Phuket. More than 270 people were left homeless when their bamboo-and-palm-leaf huts burned to the ground. At the owner’s request, Talisman Maiton had already run one relief mission and we returned for a second time, bringing fresh water, rice, first-aid kits, textbooks, pens and pencils.
“It’s great to be able to help out in some way,” Smith says. “Our Thai friends told us that bringing out much-needed supplies would be more appreciated than a cash contribution.”
Encouraging charter clients to discover the attractions of Thailand is the task of Jean-Marc Poullet, who runs the Burgess operations in Asia from his base in Singapore. He has lived in the region for more than 25 years and cruised the local waters extensively aboard his own 108-foot motoryacht. He believes Phuket is the epicenter of the charter action.
“It’s in the middle of some fabulous cruising grounds from Langkawi [Malaysia] all the way up to Myanmar and offers world-class accommodation, entertainment, golf courses, spas and restaurants,” he says. “But until you get a person on a yacht, it’s very hard to communicate what it’s all about, and no amount of generic marketing can make up for that firsthand experience.”
Burgess has set up partnerships with high-end brands to help spread the word. One is the high-end Anantara resort in Phuket. Clients can book a seven-day vacation that includes five nights on a superyacht and two nights in a six-bedroom luxury residence. Created by renowned Indonesian designer Jaya Ibrahim, the hilltop residences—which come with butlers and chefs—are modern interpretations of classic Asian architecture with high hardwood ceilings, private infinity pools and floor-to-ceiling windows for views over the Andaman Sea.
“There’s no doubt that Anantara can help us to create awareness,” Poullet says, as we sit on the rooftop deck sipping a glass of rare Japanese whiskey while watching the sun set over a perfectly placid sea. “But then it’s up to us to provide a fantastic experience for our charter clients on the water.”
For more information: burgessyachts.com
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue.