The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand
Hotel Review: The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand
If you're looking for an abode to call your own during your stay in Thailand, it can seem a little more than overwhelming. Thankfully Danielle Norton has done the "hard" work for us, reviewing a 'calm' hotel that doesn't accept guests under 10 years of age. Where The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Phang Nga Province, Thailand. One hour’s drive north of Phuket Airport. What to expect You can find us by the pool in a cabana at The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.From the moment we are collected from the airport by Sarojin staff, until the day we leave, we are treated like treasured guests. The driver pulls over, one minute into our hour-long drive, to offer us a chilled towel and a refreshment from the esky on the front seat. We connect to the car’s wi-fi and he offers us an iPad to use on the journey.   This introduction is indicative of our entire stay at the Sarojin. As the original Lady Sarojin used to say, “excellence and nothing less”. The service at this resort is next-level and we love that every time we sit down, either poolside, in the foyer or waiting for a driver at the front of the property, an icy glass of water appears.   The Sarojin property is a paragon of meditative tropical resort gardens that encourage relaxation and deep contemplation. At night, hundreds of flickering lights glow in the ponds, bobbing like boats on a river, their reflections doubling their efforts. By day, the infinity pool and jacuzzi, surrounded by floating pavilions, glistens invitingly.   The communal spaces of the resort are designed with peace and privacy in mind. In the Pandanus Room library there are a wide range of reading materials; from novels to daily newspapers from around the world. Specific titles can be arranged on request.   A hotel that offers an ‘imagineer’ to create your special experiences is one for which I had high expectations. Staff can organise any type of romantic gesture you can come up with. Dinner on a candlelit beach is one thing but a ‘message in a bottle’ scenario for a special proposal during a couple’s beach stroll, or an engagement ring in a teapot while enjoying afternoon tea underneath a private waterfall, is quite another. The romance of this resort makes it an idyllic setting for honeymooners and loved-up couples. Fabulous food Dine out on the good stuff at The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.The Ficus restaurant hosts an all-day à la carte breakfast on the central resort lake, in the shade of the ancient tree after which it is named. Hundreds of water lilies float on the water’s surface and the sun shimmers; when the complimentary sparkling wine is served with our morning croissants, it feels like the most beautiful place on Earth.   The Edge restaurant and the Beach Bar look out onto a magnificent white sand beach. The degustation menu is a delicious parade of fragrant curries and delicate flavours: a brilliant way to try every dish on the menu in small portions.   Coupled with the golden light of the early evening and a cocktail, it’s the perfect end to a day in paradise. The restaurant seems casual but the service is exquisite, and the views over the Andaman Sea are spectacular, particularly the light show created by the setting sun. The accommodation The impressive accommodation inside The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.Our room has a garden view and a luxurious outdoor ‘sala’ under which we can bask on the day bed, reading or zoning out to our hearts’ content. Inside, the king-size bed with its mountain of pillows is sumptuous, hence the availability of the aforementioned all-day breakfast.   The rooms open onto an opulent, airy bathroom, lined with smooth pebbles to give the illusion of the outdoors in the wet area where there is a choice of showerheads and a huge oval bath, big enough for two. The spacious bathroom is almost as big as the 95 square metre room. If, like me, you prefer more privacy you can request curtain dividers between bedroom and bathroom.   The resort has 28 garden residences, 14 pool residences and eight jacuzzi pool suites and six one-bedroom spa suites which are like apartments with a generous lounge area leading out to the jacuzzi on the private balcony. These alternate with pool rooms, enabling a two bedroom configuration for families or larger groups via connecting doors. We loved The incredible spa bath inside the The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.The moment we set foot on the boardwalk leading from the resort’s main path to the Pathways Spa, tranquil notes of music waft around us and we breathe in deeply. Staff are eager to help us exchange our shoes for soft white spa slippers and usher us to a daybed where we sink into the soft cushions and contemplate life, looking at the leafy palm fronds in the gardens and listening to the trickling of water in the adjacent pond. A cleansing ginger tea is delivered along with a cold towel. Spa therapist, Nang, offers us four choices of oils. I opt for the romantic blend, a mixture of geranium, lavender and patchouli, keeping in tune with the theme of this honeymooner’s paradise. Nang calls it the ‘lucky oil’ and I feel very lucky indeed as I succumb to her skilled massage techniques.   The treatment room is designed to feel like the surrounding ecosystem; the floors are timber and one side of the pavilion is open to the garden. It’s soothing and rejuvenating and reminds me of the ‘forest bathing’ trend. Birds chirrup in the encircling jungle garden and the sound of waves lapping against the shore lulls me into a state of complete relaxation and surrender to the moment.   The spa menu options are plentiful. We choose the oriental-style massage – a combination of Swedish relaxation and Thai stretching techniques. Afterwards, a state of calm has infiltrated my entire being. Things to note Some of the scenery at the The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.The nearby Similan Islands has some of the best dive and snorkelling sites in the world. Sadly, when we visited they were still closed (May–October) for regeneration of the coral. Check on the state of these closures before booking.   The resort restricts children under 10. Because it is a place of peace and calm, kids must be old enough to respect this and maintain it.   A garden view room including breakfast costs from $670 per night for two people.   For more information and to book, visit Sarojin, Khao Lak.
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Beyond the tourist touts, sleazy bars and backpacker crowds, we reveal the peaceful and party-free parts of the island. JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa Where is it? North-west coast, adjacent to the Sirinath Marine National Park, 15 minutes by car from Phuket international airport.   Flanking tranquil Mai Khao Beach, the JW Marriott Phuket offers traditional Thai pavilions and terraces with wraparound balconies sprawled across a tropical oasis.   In 2011 Condé Nast Traveller readers voted it one of the top 20 resorts in Asia. Highly recommended is the award-winning Mandara Spa’s signature treatment, the Javanese Lulur ritual (a spice scrub, yoghurt-milk bath and floral oil massage).   There are 252 rooms and 13 suites; add six restaurants, including the theatrical Kabuki Japanese dining room, five ‘chill lounges’ plus three enormous pools to the mix, and there’s already enough to indulge guests for days.   But it’s the unique in-house activities, particularly for kids in the tricky ‘tweens’ that sets the resort apart from others: circus acrobat and trapeze instruction, traditional dancing, batik painting and Thai cooking classes to name a few. Details Rates start from $194 per night for a Deluxe Garden View room. 231 Moo 3, Mai Khao, Talang; jwmarriottphuketresort.com Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa Where is it? The blissfully undeveloped north-west coast, 20 minutes by car from Phuket international airport.   The Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa is nestled amongst vibrant gardens on the edge of a palm-fringed 17-kilometre stretch of sand. Its contemporary design is both minimal and luxurious, but in no sense precious. [caption id="attachment_3753" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Tranquil: Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa.[/caption] The palate of blues and warm oranges complement the local woods, marble and glass used throughout the resort. Surrendering to relaxation, spa pampering and healthy eating is the resort’s mantra.   That’s easy in the Ocean Front Pool Villas. Under curved sea turtle carapace roofs are spacious dwellings with up-to-the-minute mod cons opening onto private sun decks with jet-enforced plunge pools.   With revived chakras, head barefoot to the sandy-floored poolside bar at sunset before dining aloft in the breezy Takieng restaurant to savour sour and salty Thai delicacies including Yum Pla Duk Foo (crispy sea bass with spicy green mango salad). Details Rates start from $153 per night for a Deluxe Guest Room through to $468 per night for an Ocean Front Pool Villa. 555, Moo 3, Mai Khao, Talang; renaissancephuket.com The Racha Where is it? On Racha Yai, a tiny island just off Phuket’s southern tip. It’s a 35-minute speedboat ride from Chalong Bay, which is a 50-minute drive from Phuket international airport.   The Racha is a boho-licious playground set on the shores of a pristine beach lapped by luminescent waters. The 85 white-washed low-rise villas have crisp contemporary furnishings and dark wood accents – and some have private plunge pools. [caption id="attachment_3752" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Lobby (and sea) view: The Racha, Phuket.[/caption] The vibe here is one of pared down eco-chic for those seeking a remote island paradise and outdoor adventure. There are ample facilities including tennis and basketball courts, a yoga studio, gymnasium and a dive centre offering explorations off the island’s coral reef fringe teeming with marine life.   Wind down in the Anumba Spa, immerse yourself in the beachside pool’s underwater music, and watch movies under the stars. This fantasy island sways to a tranquil beat. Details Rates start from $266 per night for a Deluxe Villa. 42/12-13 Moo 5, Rawai, Muang, Koh Racha Yai; theracha.com Cape Panwa Hotel Where is it? South-eastern tip of Phuket, approximately one hour by car from Phuket international airport.   Tucked away on a former coconut plantation, the all-white Cape Panwa Hotel exudes a colonial charm. Sea facing suites and pool villas are settled amongst nodding palms and verdant greenery along the silky soft sands of Cape Panwa Beach. The protected alcove is great for swimming, windsurfing, catamaraning and canoeing, whilst snorkelling and scuba diving expeditions are scheduled daily to the reefs off nearby Coral Island. [caption id="attachment_3754" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Island high: Cape Panwa Hotel, Phuket.[/caption] With 11 dining and drinking venues, two swimming pools, fitness centre, day spa, badminton, table tennis and more, there’s plenty to satisfy families.   Not to be missed is a beachfront Thai feast in the fairytale-like Sino-Portuguese mansion. 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Its ultra modern treetop villas with glass façades cantilever down a hillside providing endless panoramas of the Andaman Sea.   Discreetly integrated amongst lush vegetation, each is equipped with private pools and an outdoor bath and shower.   The resort’s calling card is the accessible private beach at its base, and the picture-postcard outlook is best experienced from the comfort of the rooftop spa or during sunset tipples in the Meka Sky Bar.   Though cocooned in a peaceful valley, The Naka is just twenty minutes by car to Phuket Town (if you can peel yourself away from the Olympic-sized infinity pool, and fresh market produce served in any three of the resort’s restaurants). Details Still in its ‘soft opening’ stage, the resort is scheduled to be completed by mid 2014.   The one-bedroom pool villas start from $955 per night (the two and three bedroom villas are not yet available). 1/18, 1/20 Moo 6 Kamala, Kathu; thenakaphuket.com