Monday, 18 July 2011

Anantara Si Kao Resort and Spa -- somewhere near Krabi Thailand

Si Kao is about an hour south of Krabi, which in turn is a couple of hours from Phuket. Down there floating around the south-west Andaman Sea somewhere.

Dugongs - thriving on land at Si Kao
The name intrigued me. Si Kao is the Thai word for 'white'. So was it named for the white sands? Or -- a bit more laterally -- is it a play on the word 'sea cow' which is I believe one of the names for the endangered dugongs, those weird blubbery down-in-the-mouth looking things that call this area home? No one seems to know. 'Just a name' seems to be the consensus.

Si Kao is all about the magnificent picture postcard outlook across the waters of the Andaman to the signature knobbly limestone karst upthrusts in the middle distance that characterise this bay. The waterfront is lined with dugong statues and seafood restaurants, many looking more like a tent city than fine dining on the Riviera. But excellent local seafood and beaming acquiescent smiles even though you may not be fully understood.

Just beyond this, over a mangrove-lined river, an imposing entrance opens up to the Anantara Si Kao Resort and Spa. The drab olive buildings lend it a sympathetic edge with its surroundings. It almost blends in too well with the abundantly growing palms, casuarinas and frangipanis on the property.

Choices, choices, choices. Go for a swim in the bath-water-warm ocean to the west. Lie on a hammock near the bar and Beach House facing the islands. Swim in the pool (surrounded by dugong figurines). Play at the Dugong kids club. Excursions to the Emerald Cave at Koh Morakut or other parts of the Chao Mai National Park. Ride a bike into town. Enjoy a Spa at the Anantara Spa.

After an easy cycle along the foreshore, and a refreshing swim (collecting amazing conical shells all the while) we chose the latter. Aaaaaaah ... Khun Zu gives me one of the best treatments I've experienced over the years, with a blend of Harmony oils (bergamot, lavender, ylang ylang and mandarin) that is at once both soothing and uplifting. It started with her taking what felt like a full 15 minutes just to position me on the bed correctly ... making sure the limbs are all perfectly aligned in order to get the muscles and tendons sorted out. I don't remember getting that sort of attention at any other spa.

She also asked me regularly 'Is the pressure OK, Mr Lloyd?' Gee, I wish some of my former bosses had asked me that question from time to time, jing jing.

They also offer an extensive range of wellness and holistic programs with specialist consultants, some of these 'journeys' lasting up to 5 days.

Then -- magic! -- sunset over the islands. It's time for a mojito and a gentle sway in the hammock, coming down from the massage with a radiant inner and outer glow. There are any number of swinging chairs and lounges to chill in, too. There are books on the shelf here that could keep you busy for 100 summers.

The white-on-white wood airy Beach House seems like a touch of Hua Hin here ... especially with its elevated outdoor deck. The Acqua Italian eatery is fine in style yet casual in atmosphere, and we enjoy a table on the decking outside in a perfectly balmy evening, with the slightest rustle of breeze in the coconut trees adjacent. Fine white wines accompany the freshest seafood. This sort of setting would suit a honeymoon perfectly; or could easily lead to one!

Speaking of which, over dinner, the hotel's genial general manager, Morten, tells us that the location scouts for Hangover 2 had come to the Anantara checking it out for suitability for the wedding reception scenes. As it had been the off-season, of course he asked them to use their imagination and visualize the usual cerulean waters and mirror-like ocean. He accompanied them to some of the islands, such as Koh Morakut, and the sea that day was so bumpy and they were so shaken about by the choppy water.

Coming off the boat, the producer shook his hand and said: 'We probably won't use you for the movie, but I will never forget this day.'

Fortunately, even though it was 'wet' season, the forecast -- provided thoughtfully by room maid Pin -- was sunny, and continued to be for the next several days. As I slipped into the comfortable bed a little later, I felt the same way as that producer: I would never forget this wonderful day.

I fell immediately into a deep sleep and dreamed of -- aaaaaarrgh! -- dugongs.

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