By: Marcela Swenson
The 5am wake up call came too early, but fortunately it wasn’t too early to get a “takeaway” breakfast from the restaurant, Cy-an. Before we hopped in our cab, the staff gave us a boxed breakfast filled with some of our favorite pastries from their buffet, fruit and orange juice. A speedy trip on the highway and we were back at Suvarnabhumi Airport and ready for our cheap, one-hour flight from Bangkok to Krabi. Krabi serves as a hub to some of the most beautiful beach locales on Thailand’s Andaman coast including Phi Phi island, and our next destination, the Phranang Peninsula.
After our short flight we were transported from the bustling city to the tropics. Our destination was , an exclusive resort and member of . Chirawan, one of their employees, greeted us at the airport with a warm smile. Also joining us was Claudine, the resort’s group communications and activities manager. We were escorted to their van and offered a chilled washcloth tightly wound in a spiral, our first hint that Rayavadee was all about the small details.
The van took us to a beach where we boarded a boat and again were given another spiral washcloth. Claudine shared details about the resort as our boat sped towards the peninsula. Rayavadee was the first establishment in the area and therefore was able to situate itself on three separate beaches and give hotel guests many options for relaxation. As we approached the peninsula, we could see other resorts on the beach, but our boat was heading towards a grove of trees. Rayavadee was right in front of us, but Claudine informed us that the hotel was designed to not distract from the natural beauty of the setting and thus, you can’t even see it until you reach the shore.
We set foot on Nammao Beach and were greeted by smiling staff, a traditional flower garland, a tropical drink, and yes, another signature spiral washcloth. We skipped the traditional check-in desk routine and instead were seated at a couch to undergo that process. Chirawan gave us a map and showed us the infinity pool, tennis courts, spa, and restaurants and then escorted us down a winding brick path, through the trees and past the karst cliffs to our pavilion, which was literally a stone’s throw from Phranang Beach.
DELIGHT IS IN THE DETAILS
I was constantly impressed by the attention to detail in our pavilion. From the adorable bird-themed foot bath outside, to the hidden ice chest in the bureau; from the fresh fruit and flowers delivered daily to the indoor couch swing hanging from the ceiling, every square inch had been taken into consideration. Each aspect of this pavilion, and the resort in general, was meticulously crafted to fit perfectly in this little paradise.
SURPRISES AT PHRANANG BEACH
Having been in Thailand for two days now, we were ready to experience its world famous beaches. We threw on our swimsuits and walked the few yards from our pavilion and into a postcard-perfect setting. The sand on Phranang Beach was clean, white and powdery, the water was turquoise and warm, and the steep cliffs on either side of the beach were overwhelming in their beauty. We were in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, I had no doubt.
On one end of the beach was a cave with what looked like several small children wearing brightly colored shirts. I mused that perhaps one of the services the Rayavadee staff provided was story hour or cave exploration for young children. After getting closer we could see that the colorful objects weren’t children, but were in fact phalluses — hundreds upon hundreds of hand carved phalluses strewn about the cave in every imaginable size, shape, and color. It was quite an unexpected surprise and we were overcome with laughter and disbelief.
We later got the explanation for the cave’s contents from Claudine. Local legend has it that a princess was shipwrecked on the peninsula and took refuge in the cave. It is believed her spirit now resides in the cave and fishermen and locals looking to acquire more fish or babies pay their respects by bringing her a “lingam.” This also helped explain the meaning behind the name Rayavadee, which means “land of the princess” in Thai.
Having substantially improved our tans, we began to work up an appetite. We chose The Grotto to be our first dining experience at the resort because of its ocean views and, as the name suggests, its location inside a gorgeous grotto. It was one of the most stunning restaurants Mother Nature could have created. With a variety of tapas to choose from, we selected seared ahi tuna, hummus and pommes frites. Although each dish hailed from a different part of the culinary spectrum, all were wonderfully prepared and quickly consumed.
We retreated to the gazebo in front of our pavilion to digest both our food and our surroundings. It was the perfect setting for one-on-one honeymooner time, the sound of the waves crashing around us and a parade of monkeys climbing down the nearby trees. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Nammao Beach for the daily activity at Raya Lounge.
Every day the staff provides a different activity for guests during teatime from 4pm to 5pm. They offer different themes each day such as how to arrange flowers, carve fruit, or create flower garlands. That day, we received a hand massage demonstration. While the masseuse worked her magic from my hands all the way up to my elbows, the staff brought out tea, finger sandwiches and mini quiches. The tiny snacks were tasty and reason enough to attend the teatime activities every day.
TOUR OF RAYAVADEE
Now that our hands were properly pampered, we planned a way to abuse them the next day. We met up with Claudine who arranged to have us attempt rock climbing the following morning. Then she offered to take Noah and me on a tour of the property and she gave us some insight about the 15-year-old resort.
Spread across the 26-acre property are 98 pavilions, four unbelievable beachfront villas, and nearly 400 employees to maintain it all. Although it is an exclusive resort, guests get a lot for their money, not just accommodations in paradise. Daily-guided hikes to points of interest on the peninsula are complimentary, as are opportunities to learn about the surrounding flora during garden walks led by knowledgeable staff. Other activities throughout the week like the weekly seafood BBQs offer a chance for guests to mingle with other guests and staff.
Speaking of the staff, they were all top notch. They always offered a big smile and a hello, and were friendly, respectful and helpful at all times. The all-star of the group was Claudine who knew every guest and staff member by name, what they had done that day, and what they were doing the next. We’d also seen her greeting guests as they arrived on the boat and standing at the dock waving goodbye to others as their stay ended. She’s a woman who wears many hats, one of which is making people feel like a guest, not a customer.
DINNER AT KRUA PHRANANG
That night we got gussied up for dinner at Krua Phranang, Rayavadee’s traditional Thai restaurant overlooking Phranang beach. The ambiance alone was a feast for our senses; gold leaf accented walls, dripping wax from candelabras, and the sound of water lapping at the beach below were the makings of our romantic dinner. The highlight of the meal was the fried prawn and cucumber cakes served with a homemade sweet chili sauce. We toasted to our honeymoon with a complimentary bottle of champagne, courtesy of Claudine. Immediately after eating, jet lag set in and we were ready to take a nap at the dinner table. We fought back sleep long enough to make it back to our gigantic bed and quickly proceeded to fall asleep to gentle ocean sounds.
NEXT WEEK: Our adventures in rock climbing, kayaking, and an extreme massage in Thailand!
Marcela Swenson’s Bio:
I have a hard time staying in one place for too long. My international travels began when I went to Colombia at 2 months old and I’ve been obsessed with traveling the world since. Sometime during high school I decided I wanted to travel the world for a living. So far I’ve only gotten the traveling part down, now I’m just waiting for someone to pay me. So far I’ve been to 18 countries, traveling mostly on a frayed shoestring budget. When I’m traveling you can find me in streets, alleyways, or on front stoops with my beloved iBook, searching for a free wireless signal (I haven’t paid for Internet access in over a year, both abroad and at home). When I’m home I can be found hosting karaoke at numerous bars around Los Angeles.
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