The stretch of Andaman Sea coastline known as Khao Lak is not yet among Thailand’s top tourism destinations, but it certainly seems headed that way, thanks in part to the pioneering role of the Sarojin Boutique Beach Resort. Set to open the day after the devastating tsunami hit in December 2004, the owners and dedicated staff regrouped immediately and began winning an unbroken string of prestigious annual awards beginning with its first year of operation.
Khao Lak is located on the Thai mainland just north of the very popular island of Phuket; in fact, Sarojin is even closer to the region’s convenient international airport than many of the tourism hotspots in the south of Phuket. Khao Lak shares some of Phuket’s leading attractions — such as Phang Nga Bay’s stunning limestone formations, hidden lagoons and “James Bond Island” — while boasting plenty of its own: uncrowded white sand beaches, primary rainforest, and world class snorkeling and SCUBA diving in the Similan and Surin Islands. Sarojin staff have designed some unique soft adventures — including a “Little Amazon” cruise and swimming with elephants, taking advantage of the resort’s spectacular surroundings — as well as insightful excursions offering rare glimpses into rural Thai life and culture.
Not that any guest could be blamed for staying put on the resort’s grounds, among whose features are secluded and protected beachfront, an inviting infinity swimming pool, and rooms that can at times be difficult to leave. There are three types of residences: spacious suites, pool residences — highlighted by private plunge pools — and garden residences. All are accessed by crossing brooks of fresh water, and each contains a Thai sala (platform) for lounging in a floral setting. Particularly distinctive are the bathrooms, which are nearly equal in size to the bedroom and living areas, and distinguished by their outdoor feel: the Sarojin has figured out how showering and luxuriating in an oversized bathtub can be accomplished in an open-air atmosphere, without the annoyance and messiness of falling leaves.
Sarojin’s innovative Pathways Spa also incorporates indoor and outdoor elements in its treatment rooms, where guests are pampered with such specialties as the four-handed massage, in addition to the classic Thai body massage, for couples as well as individuals. Indeed, the Sarojin is especially noted for creating the dream romantic idyll for couples: resort manager Dawid has crafted a menu of extraordinary experiences for two, including a jungle waterfall dinner illuminated by hundreds of candles, and the day-long “shipwreck” picnic on a remote sandbank representing the epitome of sun-drenched intimacy. (The same boat that whisks you there, the Lady Sarojin, can also be chartered for a sunset cruise.) The Sarojin — named for a mythical noblewoman who personifies the art of hospitality — enjoys a well-deserved reputation for creating the ideal backdrop, complete with all desired props and supporting cast, for the perfect marriage proposal. Needless to say, the resort has also become a favorite venue for weddings — and, of course, honeymoons.
All this is not to say that the Sarojin can not be family-friendly: its suites and adjoining residences can easily accommodate parents vacationing with children, and many of the off-site activities are suitable family fun. But a certain degree of calmness is guaranteed by the resort’s policy of not accommodating children under 10.
The resultant tranquility is perhaps most appreciated at mealtimes, in the Sarojin’s two fine restaurants, offering choices of Western and Thai cuisine. The resort justifiably takes pride in its award-winning wine cellar — a mark of sophistication that is rare in southern Thailand, if not the country as a whole.
Whether one seeks adventure, relaxation or the romantic escape of a lifetime, the Sarojin, with its commitment to excellence and service reflected in a ratio averaging four staff members to every residence, is poised to deliver.
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Published rates: $175-925 (approximate conversion from prices quoted in Thai baht; promotions/packages often available)
Text by Buzzy Gordon, who was hosted by the Sarojin for purposes of review. Photos courtesy of the Sarojin.