Friday, January 30, 2015

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO KOH PHANGAN

Many of us were on Koh Phangan in decades past for the full moon parties where travellers stamped and swayed to techno on a densely crowded beach. You stayed in a bungalow, slept on the beach or just kept dancing...


Now, waiting in the beachside lounge near Koh Samui airport, we were among the new visitors to Koh Phangan: those seeking quiet and luxury. Our speedboat took us round the southern point where the full moon happenings still happen, then along the rocky Eastern coast to the little known north eastern corner.  Here Ananatara Rasananda lies hidden away on a powdery white beach in the bay of Tong Nai Pan Noi.
                                                                                                                                                                   
If you really want to party at the full moon, you can take a private taxi over the jungle clad mountains to Haad Rin. But it's hard to leave this little soothing paradise. At Anantara Rasananda you get high on a relaxing beach and dive holiday with the pleasant diversion of a charming Thai village with boutiques, massage parlours, hairdressers and restaurants, friendly people and sleepy dogs. All this only 5 minutes walk from your quiet hideaway...

We felt we were getting the best of both worlds.


Hidden away in lush gardens


On a pristine beach on the north west tip - far from the parties
Back at Anantara Rasananda you can dine with your feet in the sand, watching the waves, or resplendent on your own sala. Do the real pool bar thing sipping a mojito, or retire to your own plunge pool.

All accommodation has plunge pools - and some of the villas and suites perched right on the beach have steps down from your pool onto the sand where you can lounge on your own reserved sunbeds under a red shade. The rest of the accommodations are hidden away in a shiny green garden with canals crowded with plump goldfish under sky high coconut palms. Perfect for those who love the deep verdant depths of a jungle. But for those who love the light, beach and the sound of the sea, every extra cent paid for the beach accommodations is worth it.


This is really what you call "on the beach" with clean sand and the sound of waves

Suites & villas

We began our stay in a garden suite. I loved the walk there under the palms and through the jewelled green of the garden jungle. Our own high-walled garden with its artistically weather beaten green door and its plunge pool carried on the emerald lushness.  It was deeply shady, which we enjoyed in the heat, but not a good option for those who like the sun. Above us a pool suite with balcony (but no garden) seemed to get more sun.




The layout of the suites is all the same. A generous bedroom with shiny dark timber floors, double bed and sofa, dressing room, bathroom with shower (not bath), double vanities and a somewhat transparent wall through which you can view the garden. Since you are visible from outside, that explains the tall bamboo walls of the garden, and the shut gate – staff ring outside if they want to come in. The ocean pool suites represent a big (and advisable) upgrade with their pools and decks facing the beach.

Villas (Ocean Pool Villas and Lagoon Pool Villas) have the same bedroom as the suites – but have a grander presence with a covered sala overlooking the view. Also they have a very spacious and  rather quirky extension – a marble garden bathroom. To counter mosquitoes that may find their way in there is mosquito netting over the bath – a place to romantically lie among rose petals and gaze at the shiny green leaves of the banana palms through the veils. There is also a shower, separate toilet and dressing room in the bathroom area.

The top accommodation is the Ocean Pool Villa – where you feel really close to the joys of nature and the eternal magnificence of the ocean. Just a few wooden steps down to the soft sands of the beach.






We moved to an Ocean Pool Villa and dined on our sala in a rainstorm. A magnificent opportunity to enjoy pumpkin risotto and the world’s best cheesecake totally drenched in passion fruit while rain drummed on our sala’s thatched roof, lightning flashed over the sea, waves rolled onto the pale wet beach, and the air was full of ozone. November is a rainy month on Koh Samui and Koh Phangan but warm rain makes a welcome break from the heavy stillness of tropical heat.

For those very keen on privacy, the Lagoon Pool Villas are more in demand. People do walk up the beach in a modest trickle – usually couples holding hands. There is some beach vegetation giving a certain amount of privacy for the Ocean Pool Villa, but the romantics just might look up and see lucky you reclining on your sala.

Spa

To have a spa in a hotel in Thailand presents a challenge. Just outside the door of Ananatara the little local spas start offering manicure, pedicure and massages from only 300 baht per hour.

But the spa at Anantara competes magnificently – if not with price, with quality. Built up a cliff amidst shiny green vegetation and running water – the spa has giddy wooden stairs down to the change rooms and up to the treatment suites which are rustic and open to the rainforest and its magical sounds, yet charming and elegant. The massage was one of the best I have ever had – and we are spoilt at Select Collection with our own highly trained masseurs in hourse.



Dining

Breakfast was a generous buffet with plenty of tropical fruit, cereals, and cooking stations for pancakes, eggs etc. You can choose to sit under cover on a deck or on the beach under the palms. Our favourite spot was a bench facing the sea, perched on a sandbank a little above the beach – so it was basically on the beach. With little lights on the table when night comes, the comfort, the fresh sea air and the sound of the waves, it was entrancing, mesmerizing…hard to leave.


Beach dining



Beachside pool

Pool bar

Once a week monks from the local monsastry come to eat breakfast and chant - what can one say except enchantingly


There is only one restaurant at Anantara, but no extra charge for in-room dining. 



And now for something different

For a local Thai flavour, there are over a dozen small restaurants in the nice little village, some also on the beach. One in the cute main street was owned by French people - very elegant. And one (Again and Again) is celebrated for the sweetness of the Thai women who own it and the ambition to serve organic food and fresh juices and smoothies. She has been much venerated on Trip Advisor, but sadly she told us she had just returned from a visit to Bangkok to find her juicer (and her coffee machine) broken.




Of course the village is where the other staple elements of a Thai holiday blossom in low price versions. Not the same standard as the hotel's superb spa treatments but certainly affordable and full of local colour...





A choice of massage parlours in the village / from 300 baht per hour
Now back to Anantara - another world....

In a nutshell - Anantara Rasananda

Barefoot luxury – you can really dine with feet in the sand. Hidden away on a lovely beach in a cute village in the quiet north-east corner of Koh Phangan, all accommodations have plunge pools. Not the top luxury version that Anantara offers in the Maldives for example, but very good value luxury for those who take a beach villa or suite. Beach villas and beach suites are really on the beach with salas, open sea views  and steps into the sand. But you should know that the modest trickle of people wandering on the beach can glimpse you on your sala. Garden suites are enclosed in shiny vegetation deep under the tall palms and less desirable in the rainy season.

How to get to Anantara Rasananda

10 minutes by car from Samui international airport to the beachside boat lounge of Ananatara (showers and snacks available), and then a 40 mins speedboat journey to a beach near the hotel.


Background

Select Collection is always on the lookout for new properties to feature in our illustrious Collection of top properties worldwide, and our staff travels a lot to assess new ones and experience featured resorts so as to be better able to create perfect journeys. Anantara Rasananda is a new property for us. We already feature Anantara Kihavah in the Maldives - Click here. - and Anantara Layan in Phuket.



A few more images of Ananatara Rasananda


Main pool
Lagoon villa with thatched sala
Orchids hanging off coconut palms
(c) Images Aleah L Stanbridge Photography & Select Collection.

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