Friday, January 30, 2015


Many of us were on Koh Phangan in decades past for the full moon parties where travellers stamped and swayed to techno on a densely crowded beach. You stayed in a bungalow, slept on the beach or just kept dancing...

Now, waiting in the beachside lounge near Koh Samui airport, we were among the new visitors to Koh Phangan: those seeking quiet and luxury. Our speedboat took us round the southern point where the full moon happenings still happen, then along the rocky Eastern coast to the little known north eastern corner.  Here Ananatara Rasananda lies hidden away on a powdery white beach in the bay of Tong Nai Pan Noi.
If you really want to party at the full moon, you can take a private taxi over the jungle clad mountains to Haad Rin. But it's hard to leave this little soothing paradise. At Anantara Rasananda you get high on a relaxing beach and dive holiday with the pleasant diversion of a charming Thai village with boutiques, massage parlours, hairdressers and restaurants, friendly people and sleepy dogs. All this only 5 minutes walk from your quiet hideaway...

We felt we were getting the best of both worlds.

Hidden away in lush gardens

On a pristine beach on the north west tip - far from the parties
Back at Anantara Rasananda you can dine with your feet in the sand, watching the waves, or resplendent on your own sala. Do the real pool bar thing sipping a mojito, or retire to your own plunge pool.

All accommodation has plunge pools - and some of the villas and suites perched right on the beach have steps down from your pool onto the sand where you can lounge on your own reserved sunbeds under a red shade. The rest of the accommodations are hidden away in a shiny green garden with canals crowded with plump goldfish under sky high coconut palms. Perfect for those who love the deep verdant depths of a jungle. But for those who love the light, beach and the sound of the sea, every extra cent paid for the beach accommodations is worth it.

This is really what you call "on the beach" with clean sand and the sound of waves

Suites & villas

We began our stay in a garden suite. I loved the walk there under the palms and through the jewelled green of the garden jungle. Our own high-walled garden with its artistically weather beaten green door and its plunge pool carried on the emerald lushness.  It was deeply shady, which we enjoyed in the heat, but not a good option for those who like the sun. Above us a pool suite with balcony (but no garden) seemed to get more sun.

The layout of the suites is all the same. A generous bedroom with shiny dark timber floors, double bed and sofa, dressing room, bathroom with shower (not bath), double vanities and a somewhat transparent wall through which you can view the garden. Since you are visible from outside, that explains the tall bamboo walls of the garden, and the shut gate – staff ring outside if they want to come in. The ocean pool suites represent a big (and advisable) upgrade with their pools and decks facing the beach.

Villas (Ocean Pool Villas and Lagoon Pool Villas) have the same bedroom as the suites – but have a grander presence with a covered sala overlooking the view. Also they have a very spacious and  rather quirky extension – a marble garden bathroom. To counter mosquitoes that may find their way in there is mosquito netting over the bath – a place to romantically lie among rose petals and gaze at the shiny green leaves of the banana palms through the veils. There is also a shower, separate toilet and dressing room in the bathroom area.

The top accommodation is the Ocean Pool Villa – where you feel really close to the joys of nature and the eternal magnificence of the ocean. Just a few wooden steps down to the soft sands of the beach.

We moved to an Ocean Pool Villa and dined on our sala in a rainstorm. A magnificent opportunity to enjoy pumpkin risotto and the world’s best cheesecake totally drenched in passion fruit while rain drummed on our sala’s thatched roof, lightning flashed over the sea, waves rolled onto the pale wet beach, and the air was full of ozone. November is a rainy month on Koh Samui and Koh Phangan but warm rain makes a welcome break from the heavy stillness of tropical heat.

For those very keen on privacy, the Lagoon Pool Villas are more in demand. People do walk up the beach in a modest trickle – usually couples holding hands. There is some beach vegetation giving a certain amount of privacy for the Ocean Pool Villa, but the romantics just might look up and see lucky you reclining on your sala.


To have a spa in a hotel in Thailand presents a challenge. Just outside the door of Ananatara the little local spas start offering manicure, pedicure and massages from only 300 baht per hour.

But the spa at Anantara competes magnificently – if not with price, with quality. Built up a cliff amidst shiny green vegetation and running water – the spa has giddy wooden stairs down to the change rooms and up to the treatment suites which are rustic and open to the rainforest and its magical sounds, yet charming and elegant. The massage was one of the best I have ever had – and we are spoilt at Select Collection with our own highly trained masseurs in hourse.


Breakfast was a generous buffet with plenty of tropical fruit, cereals, and cooking stations for pancakes, eggs etc. You can choose to sit under cover on a deck or on the beach under the palms. Our favourite spot was a bench facing the sea, perched on a sandbank a little above the beach – so it was basically on the beach. With little lights on the table when night comes, the comfort, the fresh sea air and the sound of the waves, it was entrancing, mesmerizing…hard to leave.

Beach dining

Beachside pool

Pool bar

Once a week monks from the local monsastry come to eat breakfast and chant - what can one say except enchantingly

There is only one restaurant at Anantara, but no extra charge for in-room dining. 

And now for something different

For a local Thai flavour, there are over a dozen small restaurants in the nice little village, some also on the beach. One in the cute main street was owned by French people - very elegant. And one (Again and Again) is celebrated for the sweetness of the Thai women who own it and the ambition to serve organic food and fresh juices and smoothies. She has been much venerated on Trip Advisor, but sadly she told us she had just returned from a visit to Bangkok to find her juicer (and her coffee machine) broken.

Of course the village is where the other staple elements of a Thai holiday blossom in low price versions. Not the same standard as the hotel's superb spa treatments but certainly affordable and full of local colour...

A choice of massage parlours in the village / from 300 baht per hour
Now back to Anantara - another world....

In a nutshell - Anantara Rasananda

Barefoot luxury – you can really dine with feet in the sand. Hidden away on a lovely beach in a cute village in the quiet north-east corner of Koh Phangan, all accommodations have plunge pools. Not the top luxury version that Anantara offers in the Maldives for example, but very good value luxury for those who take a beach villa or suite. Beach villas and beach suites are really on the beach with salas, open sea views  and steps into the sand. But you should know that the modest trickle of people wandering on the beach can glimpse you on your sala. Garden suites are enclosed in shiny vegetation deep under the tall palms and less desirable in the rainy season.

How to get to Anantara Rasananda

10 minutes by car from Samui international airport to the beachside boat lounge of Ananatara (showers and snacks available), and then a 40 mins speedboat journey to a beach near the hotel.


Select Collection is always on the lookout for new properties to feature in our illustrious Collection of top properties worldwide, and our staff travels a lot to assess new ones and experience featured resorts so as to be better able to create perfect journeys. Anantara Rasananda is a new property for us. We already feature Anantara Kihavah in the Maldives - Click here. - and Anantara Layan in Phuket.

A few more images of Ananatara Rasananda

Main pool
Lagoon villa with thatched sala
Orchids hanging off coconut palms
(c) Images Aleah L Stanbridge Photography & Select Collection.

Friday, January 16, 2015


We return to one of the most luxurious resorts on the celebrity isle of Koh Samui. The simplest room type is a remarkable villa...

Banyan Tree has claimed one of the most beautiful coves on Koh Samui.  The water is that radiant turquoise you expect but don't always find on your tropical holiday. It glitters invitingly, washing against smooth rocks and a stretch of sandy beach.  Green grass stretches into the valley and a popular beach restaurant called Sands lies right there to enjoy the water views.

On the steep sides of the horse shoe shaped cove 88 sturdy imposing villas stand out in the greenery between mature coconut palms and glossy undergrowth. The villas are magnificent.
All have sparkling private pools built so close to the sliding doors of the bedroom and lounge that you could tumble out of bed into the pool.

All categories are pure luxury. In other words even the starting price guarantees top quality, at least 130sqm of space, extensive deck, daybeds and private pool.

Stretching beside the generous sparkling pool the villa reaches from entrance patio in a line from lounge through bedroom to bathroom and shower. Step into your lounge with a long sofa that could sleep two giants head to tail within view of a giant tv. Here you feel the Banyan Tree spirit of oriental features, authentic hand worked detail and earthy tones. A strong distictive presence.

Then step into your bedroom also with a tall cone shaped ceiling and a view from bed over the pool to coconut palms and sea beyond - a heavenly place to watch the sunrise.

Next into the richly moody bathroom with black marble basins, and bath with a view.
Then still heading in a straight line step into your glass shower with attractive natural details - pebbles set into the floor.

Finally, if you have a royal villa, you also find a tower at the end with a sala and one of those round sofas where a couple can lounge together and eat some tropical fruit from the room or sip a glass of champagne. This extra space brings the total area to a generous 155 sqm.

In Royal villas (as in the family Sanctuary villas) you also have a Jacuzzi – jet pool. This was not just a fancy extra – it was a vital part of our enjoyment. In the evenings – the only time we were at the villa it lured us into it's quickly warmed therapeutic jets of water. Perfect place to enjoy an evening drink.

Our pool in the Royal Banyan villa, with the enjoyable jet pool to the left
Gleaming black bathrooms

Palmy view

"With our little efforts we help save the environment for our children" - note on the door of out bathroom

We also looked over an opening category Deluxe villa. Very similar - equally Posh with ample decking and pool. Just lacking the Jacuzzi and the sala in the tower.  Total for this category is 130 sqm – impressive for an opening villa type.

A different view from the bath in Deluxe Villa B15 - lower down close to the beach
If it's view was less far reaching than those higher up the slopes,  the villa we inspected made up for it with closeness to the beach. It was only 5 mins walk whereas the high up villas require a buggy. Besides you felt delightfully cosy somehow sunk into the tropical vegetation with peeps between the palms at the sea.

Highest up and most private with the best views are villas called Horizon Hillcrest villas. Also usually high up are the Sanctuary villas - with a second bedroom. These are Family villas with a generous 168 sqm and a jet pool.   

As part of your splendid privacy in the villas, you have a lockable gate on the private road. When you order a buggy you can relax on the sofa and wait for a phone call from your gate phone.
This is a very posh world ...


Edge is the lunch and breakfast restaurant. Start the day with a double feast – combining lavish buffet with a la carte and a feast for the eyes. 

The Edge lies in the main building high up on the right arm of the horseshoe bay. By the wide picture  windows, on  the shady verandah or on the open terrace in the sun you have views to mesmerize. High up on the other side of the bay Saffron is the signature restaurant serving Thai cuisine.

Sands is the beach restaurant. Tables spill out from inside, to the covered veranda and then on to a platform, getting closer and closer to the sea. But you can eat even closer than that. The sands are well equipped with cocoon like beach sofas, some in private tents…and here too you can eat in the caressing sea breeze watching the water lap onto the sandy beach.

We ate at Sands a few times enjoying the ambience and the food.  In the evening of the 12th full moon of the year (6 November) it was magical. The name SANDS stood on the beach lit with fire. Tables were out on the sands decked for a special dinner. The last full moon of the year is much celebrated in Thailand.

While they stampede to full moon parties on Koh Phangan, on Koh Samui the people make floats (krathongs) with greenery and waxy tropical flowers and release them onto floating water to take away the old bad luck and renew good fortune. At Banyan Tree we were invited to join the float making and to send off our float from a launch platform on the beach when darkness came.

Villa Host Obby arranges that we  make kranthongs to wish in good luck and do away with all the bad luck of the past

Meanwhile on the lake in Chaweng many thousands were apparently launching their krathongs. Then just before deadline they began launching lanterns into the sky, seen from our airport transfer to our 10 pm flight from Koh Samui's international airport..

A large krathong in hte Banyan Tree lobby where we were making our own small ones

Facilities & activities

Infinity pool

Reflecting ponds by the spa

Apart from the stunning infinity pool there is a kids pool with sofas for adult comfort, hydroptherapy spa, gym, kids club,  group activities (we joined tai chi and yoga), watersports, excursions like snorkling and temple visits. There are free shuttles to Lamai in the daytime and Chaweng at night where local restaurants, clubs and shops abound.

In a nutshel

An impressive and exclusive resort built round a horse shoe bay with private sandy beach and turquoise water.  Spacious imposing villas with separate living rooms and large sparkling pools stand on the steep slope among coconut palms. You get around by buggy. Spa, nice infinity pool, beach restaurant, family pool, bar, and two restaurants with great views. 

Many perfect details - these are arrival amenities

How to get to Banyan Tree Samui

20 minutes by car from Koh Samui international airport.

More about Banyan Tree Samui on the Select Collection website.

Images by Aleah L Stanbridge Photography and Select Collection

Thursday, January 15, 2015


"All burned out business people should go to Kamalaya for a week to recharge," writes one of our Norwegian customers from Kamalaya wellness sanctuary on Koh Samui.

"Our stay at Kamalaya is magical - amazing. I have not been off the resort.  I never thought that it would be so good..."

After this these resourceful Norwegians extended their stay. We understand why...

See our blog on our experiences at Kamalaya....and the problem of leaving heaven.

Lily ponds and lush tropical gardens are just part of the magic in your path to relaxation and wellbeing

See our full Kamalaya blog.

Image by Aleah L Stanbridge Photography & Select Collection