It’s hard to believe that just 12 miles south of Phuket and 30 minutes away by speed boat from Chalong pier there is a place where exhaustion and worry cannot follow you. The Racha, or the Raya in Malay language, hosted five of us for two days and a night. This is our story.
The first stage of the tale begins as soon as we stepped into The Racha ‘on-shore’ office just a short distance from Chalong pier. A warm smile, impeccable manners, and the friendly greetings of the guest relations officer gave a good first impression. Aromatic cold towels and a fruit punch was given to each of us then the group was left to start the process of relaxing. Here I should mention that ‘the group’ consisted of three younger persons and two slightly more mature and better behaved adults.
Our preliminary unwinding process was interrupted three times: firstly, to select the scent we would like in our rooms and bathrooms, Lemongrass, Lavender or Jasmine (I chose Lemongrass). Secondly, to register at the hotel, even though we were not there yet, and thirdly, to be ushered towards the boat for the sea trip to Racha Island.
A bus took us out to the end of the pier where the resort’s speedboat was waiting for our arrival. Altogether about a dozen people were on this trip and once everyone was safely aboard with lifejackets donned, we set off on our mid-week adventure. The skies were overcast (it was raining in most of Phuket) so it was not too hot and the cool wind in our hair was very refreshing. Fortunately, despite the rain ashore, the sea was not rough and the trip passed easily and comfortably. As the shores and beaches of Phuket receded, so the Island of Racha grew until only 30 minutes later, we were stepping onto the pontoon at the resort’s beach. A precarious moment for a landlubber like me but soon over with, despite my infantile melodramatics.
We boarded the resort bus to take us to the hotel and already I was beginning to realize that my time here would be just splendiferous. We passed through coconut groves where buffalos and all kinds of birds abound. On to the hotel where once again we each received a cold towel and a fruit punch. Key cards were issued together with iPods. (Yes, iPods – just to ensure you have something to listen to) then our host led us to our rooms. We were allocated a deluxe connecting villa that was already air-conditioned and scented with – you guessed it, Lemongrass. Time to sit and think for while – then off for a bit of exploring.
Koh Racha Yai has five beautiful bays, Patok, Siam, Thur, Khonkae and Lah, all of which can be reached in minutes by walking. The Racha Resort, the only hotel on the island, is set on Patok Beach at the head of a beautiful bay on the western side. It has 70 villas categorized into six different types: Deluxe, Grand Deluxe, Grand Deluxe Pool, Grand Pool Suites and the Lighthouse – a five story villa with 360 degree views from Phang Nga Bay to Phuket to Koh Rok Nok all the way round to Koh Phi Phi. Outstanding!
Our tour began at the Anumba Spa which offers a wide range of treatments and activities such as yoga and meditation. Their signature Marine Gateway Deluxe package was very tempting but there were lots more to see so it would have to wait until next time. Walking, unwillingly, away from the spa we came across a white building which houses the Earth Café on the ground floor and a very comprehensive library upstairs (just in case you don’t like iPods). The Earth Café is the venue for the international breakfast and at the other end of the day, one of three locations to enjoy western and Thai cuisine for diner, the other two being the Fire Grill and Sunset Beach. Close by the former is the Ice Bar for cocktails and karaoke after the sun goes down.
Lingering by the poolside made me realize that I was indeed lucky to be in such a place as this but, moving on past Sunset Beach restaurant and the diving school led us to Gerardo’s Gelato. To hell with the diet! Sitting on the silky soft sand of the beach, licking our home made ice cream, we were not privy to a glorious sunset but we were able to savour a few rays breaking through the overcast; enough to make us realize that a clear sky would give the beholder a truly exceptional sun and seascape set in such a beautiful west facing bay.
In the evening we were privileged to have dinner with the General Manager, Mr Gerard Tan, in the Sunset Restaurant. The superb Thai fare was helped along by some songs from a band from the Philippines, the members of which joined us in the Ice Bar later. Their talents contrasted despairingly (for me) with my attempts at Karaoke. Even Gerard Tan could sing better. In fact, the two songs he rendered late on were very good indeed. We had a wonderful night but our cozy beds were waiting and I was asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow.
Beep beep blooming beep, 05:30 already! Certainly did not want to get up but I said I would so – no choice. Time to watch the sunrise at Ao Thur beach, about 10 minutes mountain bike ride from the hotel. Arriving at first light, my senses were as sharp as I have ever known them. It was a very peaceful morning and the sound of the waves lapping on the beach blended with the wind sighing through the trees. As the sky lightened and the shimmering sun rose over the sea it felt glorious to be alive.
Our spirits uplifted, we eventually turned our backs on the rising sun and headed off for breakfast, and what a breakfast it was. The Canadian chef, recognizing we had just come back from somewhere, and he himself having just finished a game of tennis, made sure our fuel tanks were well replenished.
All too soon the scheduled departure time was approaching but there was time for one last walk around so up to the viewpoint then down to some of the beaches for a few more photographs. On the way we saw two Sea Hawks perched almost within touching distance; amazing proximity for such wild birds and I realized Racha is a natural paradise for anyone with an interest in nature with plenty. It was with a sad heart that we embarked on our speedboat for the trip back to Chalong. Although we had photographs and sea shells to remind us of our time there, the greatest memory will forever be in our hearts.
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