I feel like I’m in a Bond film! Ok, I’m not wearing heels or an evening gown, nor am I trained in hand-to-hand combat, but I am aboard a private speedboat that is bouncing across the sea towards a secluded Thai island. This feeling lasts approximately seven minutes, until when, in my eagerness to take in my surroundings, I stick my head too far out over the side and am drenched with the splashback from a wave we just crested. That never happens to Bond girls!
My husband and I are en route to the Santhiya Resort on Koh Phangan for a few days of rest and relaxation following a big wedding season. One of the most envy-inducing components of my job is hearing about honeymoon plans, so I try as often as I can to reward myself with a little break of our own!
This is our second trip to Santhiya, having stayed here last year. The minute we step off the boat, it is like coming home. Everything feels so familiar, from the chime of a gong to herald our arrival to the large balcony we are seated on as we wait to check in. Staff bring us cold towels (handy for getting that seawater off my face!) and chilled watermelon juice as we sit enjoying the ocean breeze and incredible views over the South China Sea. I feel the relaxation begin immediately.
The resort is built into a steep hillside so we are taken to our room on one of Santhiya’s adorable wooden trucks. Sitting on the bench seats, we’re afforded views of the beautifully landscaped gardens all the way down to the sea. Orchids and tropical plants abound everywhere and every staff member we pass greets us with a wai and a warm Sawasdee.
We have chosen a supreme deluxe room for a bit of luxury! These rooms are located at the very top of the resort above the Saaitara pool. The room is large, with a king size bed taking centre-stage. My favourite feature is the big egg-shaped bath. It sits directly below windows that look into the bedroom, allowing you to sit in the bath without losing the breathtaking view that lies beyond the bed. Sadly, it will remain unused for our visit as I eschew it in favour of the pool and, in the evening, the daybed that sits on our balcony.
With fond memories of the main swimming pool, we trot down to reserve a sun lounge. The main pool is set over two levels with a shallow pool cascading over boulders into a lagoon of varying depths. Standing in the pool against the infinity edge and looking out towards the horizon proves to be rather hypnotic and it’s how I begin most mornings before getting out to read beneath the trees.
When the heat proves too much, it’s back into the pool to sit under the waterfall and cool off. (Poolside cocktails may also contribute to the cooling down!). When I finish my book earlier than anticipated, I pop into the Santhiya library to borrow one from the many left by previous guests.
Santhiya has two restaurants on-site, but for most meals we take the narrow sandy path along the shore to the next beach. There are plenty of beachside restaurants, most offering great local food at reasonable prices. I became somewhat addicted to the Pad Thai at the restaurant closest to the resort, while my husband loved the fact that he could run straight out of the ocean to lay back on the sand with an ice-cold beer in hand.
In the evening, these restaurants cater well to the tourist market through happy hour specials and live entertainment, whether that’s fire twirlers, lantern releases or live bands. We ate most evenings at Beach Club, where the manager had a joke and story for every occasion, most involving coconuts. He was entertainment enough himself!
One of the seemingly hidden attractions of Santhiya is the Saaitara pool. It sits at the top of the resort, so that may explain why some guests don’t make the journey up there, although the fact that many rooms have private pools could also have something to do with it! (Honeymooners may want to book one of the stunning pool suites for a little extra luxury).
A shallow infinity pool is set alongside a deeper lap pool, with rooms on the lower floor having direct access into the water. The highlight for me are the wooden fishing boats that lie in the shallow pool, cleverly hiding sunbeds. Once afternoon rolls around, this is where you frequently find us – books in one hand, a G & T in the other and a commanding view of the entire resort in front of us.
While there are plenty of attractions on Koh Phangan (the island is renowned for its Full Moon Parties), we didn’t venture out for many of them. Beachside massage huts abound and if you’re anything like me, falling asleep to the sound of waves as someone works out all the knots in your back may prove to be amusement enough. Our days followed a pattern of relaxation and indulgence, with the most strenuous activity undertaken being a daily walk along the beach or up the hill to our accommodation.
I have to say, while the facilities and views at Santhiya are magnificent, it is the service that made us return. Staff go out of their way to make your experience special, whether that’s by saying hello, leaving notes and flowers in your room or remembering how you like your omelettes (on that note, the breakfast buffet does not disappoint!). It is clear that management have made service a priority and we are made to feel welcome each and every time we speak with staff.
We reluctantly climbed aboard the speedboat to Koh Samui a few days later, feeling rested and relaxed, but knowing we’d be coming back to Santhiya – hopefully sooner rather than later. You see, there’s a little wooden sunbed that’s begging me to return….
Ms Chinoiserie Says: I think I’ve just discovered heaven on earth! Lush tropical forests, a crystal clear bay and a private beach set the perfect backdrop for romance!
About Koren Harvey: “I love standing with a groom waiting for his bride to arrive and watching the emotions well up in his eyes. I love seeing the joy on a bride’s face when she catches sight of her husband-to-be. I love what I do. Being a celebrant is the best job in the world.”