Photo of the day: The view from our villa @ Paradise Koh Yao. Photo credit: Aaron.
Exploring cities have been really fun and exciting, but we wanted to plan a little 3-day getaway during this part of our trip before heading to vibrant mega-cities. It also gave us a chance to celebrate our anniversary/valentine’s day/Aaron’s birthday.
The resort we choose was Paradise Ko Yao. It is a boutique resort, which was on the northern tip of Ko Yao Noi, a small island right in between Phuket and Krabi. It is more remote compared to a lot of the super-busy luxury resorts on the Andaman coast, resulting in a lot of people complaining on TripAdvisor about how inaccessible it was, but we kind of liked that. The resort tries really hard to employ mostly people from the island and it’s slogan is “Back to nature in comfort”, so it really allows you to feel away from the cities and back into nature.
Looking like a local can often cause some confusion. At the beginning of our transfer to this resort, the driver to the marina did not think to ask us whether we were waiting to be picked up, because we “looked like the same type of people”. Eventually, we figured it out. It was a windy day today and the 1 hour speedboat ride felt like forever. I am usually a big fan of boat rides but I just wanted this crazy bumpy ride to stop. Those negative thoughts immediately left my head when I disembarked on this lovely, secluded resort and got to see our gorgeous villa with the amazing views.
The food here was surprisingly good. I was expecting to pay for overpriced, mediocre food but the food were quite tasty, although probably not as authentic as the street food you would get in Phuket Town. We did realize that their Thai food is better than their western options, so we mainly ordered Thai food after the first few meals. There are only 2 restaurants at this resort, and we only ate at the one with the Thai food options but we felt there were enough options to keep us happy.
The service has been the best I’ve seen in Thailand so far. Everyone was smiling and polite. I guess you really can’t be grumpy on such a beautiful island. Language could be a problem at times, like when we tried to tell them the wifi was not working in our room, but for the most part, we were understood and it is probably better for us that we disconnect a little bit, so we can truly enjoy this paradise.
The spa experience was spectacular. Again, I was just expecting to pay an overinflated price for the same service but this was so much more. We were given voucher for 30 minute free back and feet massage on the beach but it can also be applied towards a select number of 60-minute massages at the spa. We decided to get a 60-minute stress relief massage recommended by the lady at reception, who felt we both needed some deep tissue massage for our tight muscles. She even demonstrated the different strengths on our neck/shoulder to allow us to make a more informed decision. The experience started with a quick rinse where they poured coconut shell-ful of cold water on us. Then a steam bath in an cave-like chamber. We came out and took a dip in the cold plunge pool with waterfall right outside this chamber. Then we drank some tea changed out of our suits into a cute sarong they provided. They even made us fill out a medical consultation form – first on this trip! Next we took a walk into the jungle into a covered hut to get our 60 minute of amazingly effective massage. It ended with another hot towel and tea, then it was all smiles and wai’ing to send us off.
In terms of activities, we mainly beach-bummed and enjoyed the views on lounge chairs in front of our plunge pool, but there were excursions that you could take to go to other islands, to go biking around the island or to go to the village. We were quite content just being at the resort. We took a free yoga class one morning (we were each given one voucher) and it was a really nice way to start the day, especially with the sunrise and beach as the backdrop. We also did some kayaking and it was probably one of the best kayaking experiences I’ve had. I saw some people complaining about needing to pay for rentals but it was only 300 THB (~$12 CAD) for half a day, so it really reasonable. The turquoise green water, sunny skies and ocean breeze made the experience amazing but the best part was finding an isolated bay and just parking our kayaking on the untouched beach and taking a dip in the ocean. I was saying how in a few years a resort will likely pop up here and it will become Maya Bay #2. Coincidently, when we were leaving this hidden treasure, we already heard something that sounds like they are starting to cut down the trees. Maybe it wouldn’t even take a few years.
P.S. I finished Karma for Today’s Travelers given to us by Phra KK in Chiang Mai. It is a practical and easy read for those who are interested in an introduction to Buddhism.
Don’t expect any grand cruise boat or super resort entertainment here, but what we found more impressive was the fact that the performers were actually the regular staff who worked here. For example, the receptionist, Joe, who checked us in, did a fire show performance one night! We were more than impressed.
There were quite a few reviews complaining about the price of this resort. I found that you got what you paid for. The standard rooms are actually very reasonably priced. And if you wanted a more special experience, you can pay more for an ocean view, private pool, private jacuzzi or all of the above at a much more reasonable price than at a 5-star luxury resort, which can definitely start at $1000+ per night. The additional cost of activities, spa, food etc. is most definitely high for Thai standards but pretty much North American prices. You really have the option to spend little or a lot by taking on upgrades, not taking advantage of the happy hours, signing up for classes and excursions, and choosing to eat at the fancier restaurant etc.
We really enjoyed our time at Paradise Koh Yao and were really sad to leave. We basically stayed at our villa for as long as we can, enjoying the views until housekeeping came to clean out the place. We were also offered the spa showers to use if we needed it after we checked out of our room. After enjoying our last Thai meal at the restaurant, we were on the boat again, back to Phuket, this time a much more pleasant ride.