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The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.
British Airways travel presenter, Heidi Fuller-love, visits a small scale luxury retreat with a big heart and a lavish amount of extras, including private beach and superb spa, on one of Thailand’s most exclusive islands.
Whisking me through bustling Bang La On, Khao Lak’s main town, the resort’s chauffeur, who picked me up from the airport an hour earlier, drops me at the door of The Sarojin, a luxurious hideaway set on a lush strip of land overlooking the Andaman sea.
Named for the hospitable daughter of a prominent Thai nobleman, the Sarojin’s three-pronged leitmotif is hospitality, comfort and ease. As soon as I step into the cool lobby I’m taken in charge: my fiery thirst is extinguished with a chilled fruit cocktail; my dusty face mopped with a cool cloth, and my bags dispatched to my Garden Residence room.
I flew overnight from London to Bangkok and managed to hop on an early flight to Khao Lak, so I’ve arrived very early. ‘No worries,’ the staff tell me and I’m led across a broad sweeping lawn, dotted with lotus ponds to have breakfast in the Ficus restaurant. Still dazed from my long flight, I wiggle my white toes in summer sandals and gaze out over the moat-style waterway surrounding the restaurant, and wonder if I’m dreaming.
A few fizzing flutes of champagne later, I’m led to my room. Cool and spacious, with hand carved furnishings and elegant silk fittings, the room’s crowning glory is an open air bathroom stocked with JUKU toiletries, where I luxuriate for an hour in the couples’ size bathtub, before making myself a snack from the deli-bar-fridge, which is packed with meat, cheese and wine.
Spread out amongst seven, two storey buildings scattered amongst extensive, tree-planted grounds, The Sarojin’s 56 rooms and suites are blissfully secluded, and my private alfresco sundeck will be put to good use over the next few days.That afternoon, however, I head for the resort’s private beach, where I slough off jet lag in the sparkling Andaman sea, then enjoy a sunset cocktail as I laze in one of the hotels sunloungers.
After a good night’s sleep amongst silk cushions in my king size bed, I’m up early the next day for my first outing. The Sarojin organises some unique activities in and around Khao Lak, including a boat trip to Phang Nga bay, the local limestone wonderland that is like a scaled-down version of Vietnam’s Ha Long bay.
Picking up our longtail boat near Phang Nga town, we churn across the bay in a longtail boat looking out for the rare dugongs that live in the waters of this nature reserve. At Ko Tapu, better known as Bond island, I join lines of tourist taking photos of the needle-shaped limestone rock beneath which Sean Connery frolicked with Ursula Andress in the film, The Man with the Golden Gun.
We have lunch at Koh Panyee a picturesque floating village built on stilts inhabited by some 300 Muslim families, and then we head for a floating dock where we hop into a canoe and glide over the knotted roots of the mangrove swamps to explore the sea-sculpted limestone caves for which this region is famous. Back at the canoe dock, I’m treated to the Sarojin touch: a damp cloth and a cool glass of champagne as I disembark.
After a long, hot day in the boat, The Sarojin’s infinity pool, surrounded by individual sundecks, is a blissful retreat. Later that evening I head for the beach to dine at The Edge, the Sarojin’s candlelit restaurant, where I sup on rich kaeng hang-le spicy pork stew and delicious pandanum-flavoured khanom chan sticky rice as I watch the lights flickering on boats fishing on the Andaman sea opposite.
On my last day I take a cooking class with a twist. Organised by The Sarojin, the ‘Street Food, Cook for Kids’ activity involves visiting a local market to buy food with a local guide, then returning to The Camillian Social Center, a day care centre for disabled children and tsunami survivors. to cook the kids a meal. I spend all morning at the centre, learning to cook Thai staples, including sticky rice and green curry, with the help of the kids, then eating with them. It’s a wonderful experience and it seems to reflect The Sarojin, this little resort with a big heart on the edge of the Andaman sea.