Thailand is one of the most visited countries in the world, and not least among the Southeast Asian nation’s many attractions are its numerous tropical islands, boasting pristine beaches on turquoise waters in idyllic settings — along with a wide range of lodging options to fit every traveller’s budget. And while each island has its own particular charm, in the end it comes down to choosing whether you want a heavily touristed one, with lots of nightlife options, or a more tranquil place, with that get-away-from-it-all feel.
For those electing the latter option, and wanting to splurge, it is hard to beat Anantara Rasananda Koh Phangan Luxury Villas, in the Gulf of Siam. Koh Phangan (the word koh is island in Thai) is the sister island of the larger — and busier — Koh Samui.
The VIP Anantara Rasananda experience begins immediately upon landing at the Koh Samui airport, after a brief domestic flight from Bangkok. Guests are met by a chauffeur and driven to a satellite reception office on the waterfront for check-in, prior to boarding the resort’s private speedboat for a swift transfer to the property. The journey across the open sea is made more pleasant when the crew serves champagne.
Upon arrival at the hotel’s private pier, guests are escorted to their villa, designed in traditional Thai style. The king-sized bed in the massive master bedroom spells out its own WELCOME in flowers and leaves, while a delicious snack is also laid out on a small table in front of the couch.
Tailor-made, indefatigable hosting
Also on hand to greet guests are villa hosts, a helpful Anantara Rasananda employee assigned to make sure your entire stay is personalized, hassle-free and as enjoyable as possible. Your villa host will accompany you from check-in to check-out, and be on hand to make dining and spa reservations, arrange excursions, and in general take care of your every need and want.
There are two categories of accommodation in the villas, most of which are tw0-story affairs divided into suites, complemented by five standalone villas. The 59 suites are further sub-characterized by four different kinds of layout, depending on whether they are on the ground or second floor.
Regardless of configuration, each one of the resort’s 64 guest units boasts a private deck and plunge pool, for intimate sunbathing and cooling off. And suites as well as villas afford plenty of room in which to spread out, as even the smallest quarters boast at least 850 square feet.
Naturally, every guest unit is equipped with all the concomitant expected amenities — and then some. Standard are “blissful dreams” king-sized mattresses, user-friendly climate control, laptop-sized electronic safes for valuables, espresso machines and and mini-refrigerators. Large flat screen televisions provide not only multi-channel and multi-lingual programming, but also include premium extras Netflix and Apple TV. Of course, free high-speed WiFi extends to all guest rooms, as well as public areas.
Bathrooms are equally luxurious, with dual sinks and shower heads, as well as hair dryers, make-up mirrors, sheet-sized towels, plush bathrobes and bamboo slippers. Some even connect to alcoves with an outdoor shower. Straw beach baskets are stuffed with flip-flops and colored beach towels for draping on the chaises longues, positioned on both the individual sundecks and the unspoilt beach.
Relaxing grounds and a near-private beach
Every unit is just steps away from the resort’s immaculate white-sand beach, which extends along a virtually secluded cove. Equally accessible are the two adjoining communal swimming pools, one for families and the other adults-only. Niches with whirlpool jets line the sides of the pool, and one corner beckons with its swim-up bar — EDGE2O, which also serves snacks on land in-between mealtimes.
For those preferring their relaxation or recreation indoors, there is a cozy and comfortably furnished library, filled with books in several languages. Just outside the property’s main gate is a small but adequately equipped fitness room.
A highlight of any stay at Anantara Rasananda is a visit to the spa, which has to be among the most beautiful I have ever seen. One enters by crossing on immense paving stones over streams stocked with plump, colorful koi, then ascending the slope of a verdant hill to treatment rooms or the saunas. After a pampering massage rooted in your choice of Western or Thai styles, a slightly higher climb reveals a stunning panoramic view of the sea and green surroundings.
Dining is another of the resort’s pleasures, beginning every day with the complimentary breakfast, comprising a lavish buffet, complete with sweet tropical fruits and juices, plus individually ordered hot dishes. There are also two on-site restaurants: Yukinoya, which serves Japanese food (actually, the only Japanese eatery on the island), and The Bistro, featuring continental and Thai cuisine. I can unreservedly recommend the latter’s menu of Southern Thai dishes.
In addition, there is a surprisingly broad selection of restaurants and bars located in the village just a few minutes’ walk from the resort. And since Thailand has recently decriminalized cannabis, even for recreational use, don’t be surprised to see the infamous weed on sale in nearly every storefront.
Finally, guests may even enjoy restaurant cuisine in the privacy of their own suites or villas, by simply ordering a complete meal delivered to your door. Or, for the ultimate in romance, elect the Dining by Design option, and work with the chef and sommelier to craft your ideal meal, to be served at your own private, candlelit table set up on the beach.
Published rates: Starting prices for a suite or villa range from approximately $205 per night in low season to $350 in high season, including breakfast. Discounts are available to members of the Anantara Discovery loyalty program. You can also look for discounted rates at agoda (a great hotel booking site for properties in Asia), or Booking.com.
Text and photos by Buzzy Gordon, who was a guest of the hotel for purposes of review.