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An Untouched Paradise

Indeed we did, as the driver took me and my partner through kilometres of unspoilt tropical terrain, virgin rain forests, padi fields accompanied by clusters of farm houses throughout our three-hour drive from Phuket airport.
I had not even heard of the name Si Kao, a county in southern Thailand’s Trang province, before the trip. A check with several guide books, including Dorling Kindersley’s Eyewitness guide on Thailand, gave little information on the place and the resort.

I was convinced, therefore, by the brochure’s promise that we would be exploring an undiscovered corner of Thailand. We were told too that a host of authentic natural and cultural wonders would await us in the next few days.

One possible reason for the lack of literature is the fact that the resort opened only in December 2008 as Anantara’s newest destination in Thailand. The brochure also claimed that the resort on the secluded Chang Lang Beach, just an hour’s drive from Krabi and about three hours from Pulau Langkawi in Malaysia by sea, is the country’s “best-kept secret”.

“Si Kao” in Thai means the colour white, and phonetically it also sounds like “sea cow”, a dolphin-like sea creature better known to the Thais as dugongs. They are spotted mainly in areas around the Andaman Sea near the county, hence its name.

There are a total of 138 deluxe rooms and 8 suites at the resort in Si Kao. Most face a stunning still view of the Andaman Sea and two rock-like islands, Koh Mook and Koh Meng, the resort’s landmarks.

A handwritten note to me from the resort general manager Mark Hehir read: “Discover 1,000 ways to do absolutely nothing here in paradise!”

How true. The resort’s programme for guests listed 1,001 things you can do, Mondays to Sundays, from a host of sporting activities such as yoga, kite flying and beach volleyball to arts and crafts, including batik painting, mask and necklace making to trips out at sea on kayak expeditions to the Emerald Cave and snorkeling at Anantara’s private day resort at Koh Kradan nearby.

The bubbly assistant director of sales at the resort, Piyawat Kaewsanit said the Anantara Si Kao property is ideal for honeymooners because the place is quiet and far away from the crowd.

Just to create the mood perhaps, we saw in one of the resort’s two pool suites, red flower petals formed two heart shapes overlapping each other on the silky white bed spread of the king-sized bed in the bedroom. And on the breakfast table at the Leelawadee restaurant where we ate earlier we even found watermelons cut into heart-shaped slices!

“We are also promoting the resort as a wedding venue where couples can exchange their vows at our beach or poolside apart from special packages for honeymooners,” added Miss Piyawat.

Trang’s town centre is at least 45 minutes away by the resort’s free shuttle bus. There were both early morning and evening trips there by courtesy of the resort that came with a guide as well.

The early morning trip leaves as early as 7 am for breakfast with Chinese dim sum and the famous barbeque pork at Chinese restaurants set up by the many Chinese inhabitants who have lived there since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The evening trip leaving at about 6.30 pm is for dinner and to visit the night market there.

Throughout the three days we spent at the resort, we played table-tennis and badminton, attended a yoga session, spent a day sea snorkeling at Koh Kradan where the sand is silky white and the sea crystal clean and clear, we also indulged ourselves in the Anantara’s signature massage and spa treatment.

For those who like fine dining, I strongly recommend the Acqua, where Australian-born award-winning chef Kelly Brennan created for us the best Italian seafood we ever had!

At the end of our stay, we took home too, the romantic story behind the two rock islands, Koh Mook and Koh Meng, which faced our room day and night.

Once upon a time, according to legends, there lived a beautiful princess called Mook (pearl in Thai language) and her love called Meng, a young and handsome common folk. But Mook’s royal parents objected to their relationship. Determined to be together, they eloped by sea and went on board a ship which encountered a storm. The ship capsized and the two rock islands appeared afterwards. People then named the bigger rock island Mook, as it looks like her lying down face up, and the smaller but longer islands in two parts, Meng. The tragic love story adds to the romantic ambience of this honeymooners destination.

Next, the resort’s driver drove us back to Phuket for a two-night stay at the Anantara Phuket Resort & Spa, another hide-away which is ideal for lovers and honeymooners.

Besides its secluded location, accommodation at the resort is made up of villas only, all with high walls and built on stilt-like structures above ground.

There are a total of 83 villas to be exact, each with its own private pool, allowing couples absolute comfort and privacy. However, only one, the Similian Suite comes with two bedrooms to accommodate up to two couples or families with children.

Also opened last year, it is located on Phuket’s north-east coast at the serene Mai Khao Beach, which is the area’s longest. It is also close to the green forests of Sirinath National Park.

The villa resort is just 15 minutes away from the airport and about three quarters of an hour’s drive from Phuket town, as well as the bustling beach of Patong further down south.

Like the resort in Si Kao, the environment is relatively untouched, offering the visitor a world away from the everyday. You can see Phuket through fresh eyes, not one crowded with Westerners and their bikini-clad babes drinking beers in road-side bars and local stalls selling anything from snacks and toiletries to souvenir T-shirts and beach wear.

The resort’s director of sales and marketing Narelle McDougall said its selling point would be its location, which is in Phuket and yet far away from the more crowded beaches in the south.

“So we thought it is an ideal destination for couples, especially honeymooners, whom we are targeting,” she added. Indeed, the high-standard of hospitality would make any newly-wed couple feel special immediately upon stepping into the reception area, a single-storey building built in contemporary Southern Thai Style.

The pretty and polite hostess who spoke perfect English introduced herself first before driving us to our villa just minutes away on an electric-driven buggy.

Like the resort in Si Kao, the gardens at this villa resort were designed by the renowned architect and landscape guru Bill Bensley.

Few would not be wowed by the interior of each of the villas. All feature an expansive bedroom, dressing room, indoor bathroom and of course, outdoor private pool separated from the bedroom by a wooden sliding door. Raise the curtains, slide the doors open and you can plunge straight into the meter-deep terrazzo tub pool.

There are plenty of other sporting facilities available at the resort, including a public pool with a sun deck, three tennis courts and a fitness studio. Water sports available at the private beach there include windsurfing, sailing and kayaking. Others facilities are a library, a spa, gift shop and boutique and the Turtle Club for children.

We found all the F&B outlets in the resort excellent, especially The Tree House, on top of its signature restaurant, La Sala. The Tree House, a bar, is so called because of the spiral staircase winding round an old Banyan tree leading to it.

The view from the lofty height is breathtaking with a good view of the villas in the compound as well as a glimpse of the Andaman Sea on a clear day.

For dinner on our second and last night there, we tried dining by design at our own villa with recommendations of mainly Thai dishes from the chief waiter at La Sala which also serves Italian and Sicilian specialities for their dine-in guests.

Later in the evening, two restaurant staff came and set up the dinner table complete with white table cloth for us at the appointed time, agreeing to return three hours later to pack up after we ate. We ended up having the most romantic, candle-lit dinner of our lives at the open air living sala by the pool in our villa all alone. The experience of the food and wine we had under the candlelight and the moon-lit sky and the conversations we shared during the meal will last us a long long time I am sure.

Need I say more? For romantics who like the sun and want to be alone with your special one, Anantara’s resort and spa in Si Kao and Phuket are the places to go.

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