Thai locals tell you that Koh Lanta Yai is how Samui and Phuket used to be 25 years ago and while it’s grown up a bit since we started coming here more than a dozen years ago, its natural beauty and culturally diverse charm remain intact. That sense of local community is reinforced on the drive and ferry rides from Krabi International Airport as we pass tin-roofed hamlets sandwiched between slender rubber tree forests, small local shops and roadside stalls selling succulently sculpted pineapples.
One of 52 islands cast adrift in the Andaman Sea and part of Thailand’s popular Krabi province, the life force on Lanta is governed by ‘sabai sabai’ loosely translated as ‘going with the flow’. This gets no argument from us.
The voluptuous curve of Kan Tiang Bay nestles in the protective embrace of two small headlands, the sky a water-colourist’s dream palette. Driftwood beach bars are seemingly washed up all along the island’s west coast and the Why Not Bar on Kan Tiang Bay is a long-time favourite growing organically from the sand. Bob Marley posters lend a 1960s vibe while ta live band really rocks the joint playing covers and inviting visitors to take the mic. Strolling past a couple of rotisser-ied newcomers pegged out in the sun, I realize that the yacht moored in the bay has been there for days. No-one’s sighted the owners and conjecture has them holed up in one of Pimalai’s luxurious pool villas. No doubt they’re keeping an eye on their floating asset while submerged in the infinity pool suspended 65m above.
“The demand for a fabulous holiday experience is growing and everyone wants to stay in a pool villa,” says Franck de Lestapis, Pimalai Resort & Spa’s charming French-born general manager whose guests include honeymooners, baby boomers, corporate high flyers and celebrity sightings. No detail has been spared by Bangkok’s Habita Architects in creating classic Thai style villas with a contemporary touch. Wow Factors abound include a 50m pool perched 65m up on the hill while down at the waterline, the resort occupies almost 1km of pristine beachfront
A natural oasis that harnesses all the tropical elements, Pimalai’s spa is set in a small private compound where exquisitely decorated massage salas open onto a textural symphony of bamboo, pebbles, lushly verdant gardens and filtered light. Lying on traditional Thai massage tables, tense muscles are kneaded into submission. Fingers delineate face and form accompanied by the sound of water, the slow turn of an overhead fan and silence. A spa here allows for time to reflect, to deflect distractions and surrender to treatments of choice which, for couple-dom heaven, is Asian Aromatherapy.
Back at Pimalai villas’ lofty perches where private indigo-tiled plunge pools overlook Ba Kan Tiang Bay, sunlight streams across pristine white canopied beds. As day prepares itself for another dramatic exit, the sun flares across the bay creating a ‘spa-tacular’ vision of heaven and earth, sky and sea. Pools of lantern light illuminate sandy footsteps as people stroll to dine at beachfront restaurants like Same Same But Different which is exactly how you’ll feel after vacationing here…..
Koh Lanta is easily accessed on a 2 hour road and ferry trip from Krabi International Airport or 3-4 hour road trip south of Phuket.
Pimalai Resort & Spa member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World www.pimalai.com
For general information www.tourismthailand.org
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