I have always had a fascination with Thailand and when it was my turn to choose where to go for our holiday this year, picking the destination was easy. Thailand is a feast for the senses and it captures your heart and your imagination with amazing tastes, smells, warmth, humility, friendliness and spiritual peace. The Thai people are beautiful inside and out. They are gentle, respectful and always smiling. Thai food is colourful, tasty and healthy.
THE SAROJIN – KHAO LAK
Our first stop was Khao Lak, ideally located an hour north of Phuket on the west coast of Thailand and our hotel was The Sarojin – a family run boutique, beach property with a reputation for excellence in customer care. We felt very much at home throughout our week-long stay, with each member of staff looking after us very well. We were so tired for the first few days that we mostly slept and chilled out. I didn’t even have the energy to read. However, we were soon ready to try out one or two of the organized guest activities.
The first one was a trip on a long-tail boat to Phang Nga Bay, one of the jewels of the Andaman Sea with beaches of sugar white sand, which blend into turquoise water. It is such a stunning sight to see the towering limestone islands jut dramatically out of the bay’s waters, their reflections mirrored in the glassy sea below. Amongst them all lies the famous James Bond island from the film “Man with the Golden Gun”. It was all a bit crazy with hundreds of international tourists taking ‘selfies’ with the island in the background.
We took a trip on a canoe with our personal guide who glided us along sheer limestone walls and through secret sea caves. Upon entering the cave, I was in awe of not only the beauty but the silence of this place, far from the maddening noise of the touristy hotspots. It was a dreamlike experience lying back, letting the sky float above with just the gentle lapping of the water and a far distant cry of a wild bird.
Later that evening, we dined at the famous Sarojin BBQ on the beach with flames dancing, stars glowing and the feeling of bare feet sinking in the warm sand. There was an amazing array of food and a two-piece band playing soft music at the water’s edge. The evening came to a close with the lighting and flying of a Thai spirit balloon, which Thai tradition believes will carry your wishes to the gods.
Another memorable experience was our private Thai cookery class, located by a hidden waterfall. In the morning, our chef brought us to the market to pick the food and later we spent a few glorious hours in the sunshine. I kept giggling, as while cooking we took the odd sip of wine ‘Keith Floyd’ style. Naturally Marc got some extra brownie points by showing off his professional chopping technique! After each course, we sat down at a linen covered table to enjoy the fruits of our efforts. I am now totally convinced that food tastes better in the great outdoors!
The Sarojin is a story of not just how a luxury resort came to be. It is an inspirational story about persistence, patience and even tragedy. Due to open on New Years Eve in December 2004, the entire property was devastated by the Tsunami just days beforehand. We spoke with several staff members who survived that terrible event and it was so sad to see their eyes fill up with tears as they spoke of loved ones lost on that terrible day. The owners, staff and local people rallied together to rebuild The Sarojin and to assist in the recovery of area. To this day, the resort and its guests greatly support the wider Khao Lak community.
Fore more info visit: www.sarojin.com
ELEPHANT HILLS TENTED CAMP – KHAO SOK
The next part of our holiday took us to a most enchanting place where nature shows you how to reconnect with yourself and find balance in your mind and body. Elephant Hills is in Khao Sok, which is the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world. We checked into our tent, which was hidden deep in the heart of the jungle. Following a lovely Thai buffet lunch, we were driven to the elephant sanctuary where we got up close and personal with these amazing creatures. Our tasks for the afternoon were to give them a shower and to feed them. The elephants seemed to love the attention and each of them had their own personality and sense of humour. That night, we were entertained by the chorus of the jungle, singing out in all its glory.
The next day, we were brought by boat to our next destination – a floating tented camp on Cheow Lam Lake in one of Thailand’s most beautiful nature reserves in Khao Sok National Park. Other than our fellow tourists, there was no sign of other civilization for miles and miles. We went on a guided trek in the jungle and we stopped here and there to look at various flora, fauna and traces of wildlife. We entered a massive cave. It was dark, damp and more than a bit spooky but I kept up with the group, despite slipping down a slope and cutting my elbow. Our guide told me in broken English with a twinkle in his eye that all I would need is whiskey to make me feel better! The cave was the size of a football pitch and as we walked with our torches, we saw giant spiders, snakes and bats. I was relieved when we returned to the bright light of day.
The following morning, Marc went off canoeing with the group while I remained in our floating tent to finish reading a book that I had started. It was one of those lovely books with a wonderful ending so I felt totally unembarrassed letting the tears flow. It was idyllic to sit there in my outdoor armchair feeling free and happy in the world. The other great thing about Elephant Hills was that there was no internet coverage. I had the best two nights sleep of the entire holiday because there was no chance to have a sneak peak at the mobile phone during the night!
THE SIX SENSES – KOH SAMUI
A short flight from Phuket to the idyllic island of Koh Samui and a car transfer brought us to The Six Senses Resort. This is a stunning, rustic romantic hideaway with breathtaking views of the Gulf of Siam and its surrounding islands. In true Thai tradition, we were warmly welcomed and made to feel quite special indeed. Part of this trip was our hope to be inspired to bring back new ideas to Harvey’s Point. The first thing we noticed was that each guest has a GEM – a ‘Guest Experience Maker’. Now this may seem a bit over the top and perhaps it is, but it certainly shows that the management cares about their customers.
It was here that Marc and I celebrated twenty years of married bliss on Valentine’s night with a special dinner under the stars in the resort’s signature restaurant ‘Dining on the Rocks’. We were treated to bubbles and a five-course gourmet feast with romantic music in the background and the sound of the sea below us.
To be honest, the rest of our holiday was spent just relaxing and so we stayed off the tourist trail. Marc sunbathed and his tan deepened while I read all my ‘to be read on holiday’ books under the shade of a big tree. The book that impressed me most was written by our neighbour, Keith Corcoran from Laghey. His book ‘Journey in Wonder’ tells his story of adventure and self-discovery during a trip which brought him to the Great Plains of North America, to the mighty Himalayan mountains and the mysteries of India. In many ways, I felt that I was travelling that journey with him. With his great gift for storytelling, Keith reflects on the wisdom and kindness of the people he met in his travels and during that time, he found a new sense of spirituality and happiness within himself. In this busy world, each of us has our own ‘journey in wonder’ to explore, to enjoy and to cherish.
Our trip to Thailand was wonderful and the memories will stay in our hearts forever. We have returned home relaxed, refreshed and ready to resume the hectic pace of everyday life. There is of course nothing nicer than coming home to the hugs, kisses and squeals of delight from our three darling children, Carl, James and Christina. It’s true what they say that the best part of going away is coming home ☺
For more info visit: www.sixsenses.com