“ Address: Phuket / Khao Lak / Phang Nga / Thailand „
Introduction to Khao Lak -
I have already reviewed the Peninsula hotel where I went on my honeymoon, but now I am going to review the outstanding Sarojin, I warn you this is going to be very long, the Sarojin isn't a hotel you can write a brief review about, that would simply be an insult, it is truly out of this world. We stayed at the Sarojin for 7 nights after 3 at the Peninsula in Bangkok, a perfect combination. I had done plenty of research into hotels in Thailand and the different areas of Thailand.
The Sarojin is located in Khao Lak, a small beach resort in Thailand around 80 km from the lively town of Phuket and its International airport in the Phang Nga province.
The region was hit in 2004 by a Tsunami which destroyed all of the nearby coastal towns and economies and caused a huge loss of life. In December 2007 it was the three year anniversary since the disaster and Khao Lak is once again the thriving area it once was. The area is far more secluded than many of the more commercialised areas of Thailand and boasts some of the most beautiful areas in the world. Khao Lak is great for backpackers, upmarket tourists, scuba divers (The Similian islands are one of the top ten places to scuba dive in the world) and adventure seekers with all its hills, jungles and wildlife.
The Trip to the hotel -
As we set off from Phuket Airport we new that 60 minutes or so later we were going to be in pure bliss. I had looked at the Sarojin's website everyday for about 4 months before our holiday because I simply was so excited. It was 'Asia's leading boutique hotel' in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and 'Most Romantic hotel in the world' for the year in 2007.
As we drove through Khao Lak town you couldn't help but notice there was a high level of poverty, but everyone seemed to be happy, but who could blame them, they are living in paradise, hot weather, beautiful scenery and some of the cleanest and clearest waters anywhere in the world.
As we exited Khao Lak town we turned a bend and saw an elephant...yes...an elephant right by the edge of the road. Now you have to understand this is the first elephant I have ever seen. I wasn't expecting it at all but there it was, my lady has seen many elephants so wasn't as amazed but as I shouted with delight which probably embarrassed my lady no end I knew I was going to love this holiday!
We approached a set of hotels that looked very tightly packed together; we had booked the Sarojin thinking it was secluded; luckily the driver kept on going. We travelled for about another 2 miles until we pulled into a smaller road that appeared to lead off the beaten track, it turned out however to be the road that ran parallel to the beach, you wouldn't have realised you were anywhere near the sea though because you are still in lush greenery which is one of the best things about Khao Lak and Thailand, so many different environments in one area.
The Arrival -
As we arrived at the Sarojin's entrance and a security guard came out of his watch hut to open a security gate we couldn't help but feel we had made the right choice. The minibus pulled into a small entrance area as 3 Sarojin employees greeted us with smiles from ear to ear. They presented my wife with a lovely bouquet of roses and guided us through to the reception. The reception is very nicely decorated; it has an open plan feel which makes you feel like you are very much outside, and as though the hotel is part of the surroundings. There are couches that are very deep and comfortable and also some small coffee tables. After a few minutes ofletting us rest a Sarojin employee approached and offered to take us to our room.
As we left the reception I was amazed at how close everything was together, I was pleased to see I wouldn't have to walk 2 miles to the restaurant or pool, the layout is perfect. As we approached the door to our room we were blown away by the beuty of the gardens, lush with vegetation and flowers, amazing for a country where temperatures were reaching 40 degrees C. As we opened our door a gasp filled our mouths...
The Rooms -
There are three types of room at the Sarojin, a garden residence (95 sq. Meters), a pool residence (120 sq. Meters) and the Sarojin suites (150 sq. Meters), with a total of 56 residences. All of the garden and pool rooms are located on the bottom floor and the suites above on the first floor.
We resided in a garden residence which was beautiful. As you walk into the room there is a king size bed in front of you, although I am pretty sure it was bigger than king size. There are a few chairs to sit on and side tables. There is also a table with a TV, DVD player and snacks which are replenished daily. Behind the bed is a working area with phone, diary and the safe. There is then a separator that stretches the whole length of the room apart from a gap at each side. Behind that is a 2 person sink that is actually one large marble one, very stunning and unlike any I've ever seen before.
There is then a pebble floored section which provides the feel of an outside area for the bathroom. It is all open plan and boasts a two person bath tub, a massive rain shower (30cm diameter) and a normal shower. The toilet is quite strange, there are only 3 sides to it, the 4th is completely open, and this may prove a problem for couples who aren't comfortable at making...noises...in front of their partner.
There are all the typical amenities such as hairdryer, phone, towels replenished daily, a small welcome kit inviting you to various events and maps of the local area for you to adventure in.
Outside you also have your very own sala which is a wooden veranda type structure with open sides and lounging cushions, ideal to sit on and watch the world go by, we enjoyed many a sit, even when the tropical rains hit, very private and romantic. The rates vary but the cheapest you can expect to pay for a garden residence is £180+ a night.
The pool residences are very similar to the garden residences but they have their own private plunge pool, we decided against it because it was quite a bit more expensive and there is a perfectly wonderful pool about 20 metres away. These cost around £250+ a night.
The Sarojin suites have a terrace area and their own whirlpool, which I am sure, is lovely and a living room area. However, for two people they are probably far too big, unless you have the spare cash, expect to pay around £400 off peak and £500 on peak a night.
The pool is an infinity pool and is beautiful. It is set amongst the gardens and is around 25m x 25m. Considering the small number of guests there is very rarely more than 4 people in the pool so you don't have to worry about finding a space by it or fighting for a section of the pool. There are also wooden salas built into the pool so water surrounds you as you sit on them, this is very relaxing and a pure joy. There is a lifeguard ever present who is more than welcome to bring you fresh towels and water from his small area in one of the corners of the pool area.
The hotel has two restaurants, the 'Ficus' which is located in the centre of the resort and sits next to a very large ficus tree, hence the name, and 'The Edge' which is located on the beach. The Ficus offers dishes from all over the world, we ate there once and I had a pizza and a chocolate soufflé which was absolutely perfect. The service was good although I did have a spot of trouble ordering a piece of garlic bread which didn't actually turn up in the end, but is a trivial thing. The Edge provides food from fresh catches from the local villages all cooked in an open aired restaurant, ideal at night as you listen to the wave's crash. You can expect to pay around £40 -£50 for a two person meal, quite reasonable.
The Sarojin has its own beach area which is lovely. The sea water isn't as clear as it once was, the sediment is still settling from the tsunami but it is very warm and lovely to swim in. The Sarojin provide plenty of sun loungers on the beach and are situated just far away from the hotel so you forget it is there. There are also free kayaks to take out onto the water and a private jetty. The jetty leads out to the Sarojin's own private speed boat which is used to take visitors on there planned trips. The sand is pure white and if you only walk 100m either way you will struggle to find anyone else, very private and romantic, although at night very dark, so take the free torch the hotel provides.
About 30 metres up the beach is a small swing made from one of the trees that fell during the tsunami, it is a very romantic spot, and there are loads of hermit crabs, i love hermit crabs.
Thailand is full of exciting things to do and unless you have some sort of guide you are going to see very little of what's on offer. The Sarojin has an activity folder which holds all of their trips and the prices, you can go snorkelling at the Similian islands on the Lady Sarojin (speed boat), elephant trekking, white water rafting, biking, walking, cave exploring and loads of other exciting things. This however is where I have to add a negative point, you can easily expect to pay over £100 per person for one of their trips, I understand they are 'more private' but when you can get nearly the same trip for a third of the price it can seem a bit pricey. We went elephant trekking and on a river canoe and we paid £30 each, Sarojin were asking for around £100 each so I would advise looking into the local shops rather than just jumping right in to the Sarojin's trips.
Facilities and services -
The Sarojin has a small library / shop which offers some beautiful pieces made by the local population, there is also a large book and DVD collection which you can hire out whenever you want as long as you return them by the time you leave. We found it nice to grab a film after our evening meal and watch it in our room, very relaxing.
They also have bikes that are available to hire free which are actually very decent with good suspension for those off road bike rides. There is also a shuttle bus which runs around every 2 hours to the local town of Khao lak, we often did this for our meals in the evening, there are some very nice restaurants and you can have a meal for around £10 each including a drink.
If you are a honeymoon couple they will provide you with a few nice extras, you will have a bottle of champagne waiting for you on arrival, a floral display made with rose petals on your bed saying 'Happy Honeymoon', a nice touch.
The Sarojin also had one of the best Spa's in Thailand which offer around 40 different massages ranging from 30 minutes to 3 hours. The massage tables are located around 20 metres fom the sea although you can't actaully see it beacuse you are behind an abundance of trees, i find this greatly added to the effect and was extremely relaxing to listen to. The prices of these can range from £15 to £100, however as a honeymoon couple you will recieve a complimentary 30 minute Thai massage, I would advise asking for medium strength, those Thai girls are stronger than they look. You will also receive a private meal on your sala which for me was the highlight. At around 4 o clock your private chef for the night begins setting up his own barbeque kitchen out the front of your room, at around 7 (or whenever you ask) he will arrive and start cooking your dinner, they arrange your private sala to be like a little restaurant with small tea lights and candles. He then cooks 4 courses for you (that you choose earlier in the day) with meats, fish, vegetables, soups anything you want; it is truly out of this world.
They also provide you with an activity list which has a list of daily events they hold, some good ones to take advantage of our are their 2 hour free scuba lesson in the pool which I thoroughly enjoyed, and cocktails with the owners on Tuesday evening, all complimentary.
Overall there isn't a place on Earth that I would have rather been for my honeymoon, the staff are extremely friendly and both booking in and out, were a joy and very quick. Although the prices are very high at the end of the day you are paying for privacy away from the rest of the resorts and service which is second to none, I would recommend the Sarojin to anyone.