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“Welcome to Fantasy Island.”
I was sure I heard the General Manager of the Layana Resort say this as he slipped a garland of fragrant jasmine around my neck and handed me my first cocktail of the day.
It had been a long haul to finally arrive at this idyllic spot. Awake at 4:00am, the plane departed from Yangon, Myanmar at 7:00am, with a layover of four hours in Bangkok Airport. Our connecting flight landed us into Krabi at 3:00pm. Upon entering the Baggage Claim area, we were immediately handed the always appreciated cool towel by a nice gentleman wearing a Layana Resort jacket. How he knew us, I don’t know, but I was so happy to be found. The towel was not only ice cold but scented with jasmine – a small taste of the treats that would be coming our way over the next few days.
The other holiday makers were being herded into buses or looking around quizzically for taxis; we were lounging in our own private car that quickly set off for the hour drive toward Koh Lanta pier. As we approached the water, there were about 50 cars waiting to board the next ferry. How wrong I was to assume that we would join the end of the line. We pulled right in front of them all and were led to a private water taxi which sped off leaving the mainland behind.
How much more luxurious could this introduction be? Well, in my opinion, anywhere in the world you arrive by boat has that added je ne sais quoi. And by boat, I mean we literally stepped out into the warm Andaman Sea, up the beach to be met by the General Manager who welcomed us to Koh Lanta and The Layana Resort otherwise known as Fantasy Island.
After enjoying our welcome cocktail, we were shown up to our lovely room on the second floor where our luggage had miraculously arrived before us. Our windows looked out onto the immaculately groomed grounds and pool and if we lounged on the terrace we could see the sea. We unpacked as quickly as humanly possible and headed down to take advantage of the last moments of that Hour called Happy when all drinks were half price from 5 – 7pm every night. After ten days in Burma drinking only Myanmar Beer, we were more than ready for our first of the many Mojitos that would be consumed in the next few days.
We then were treated to a divine dinner at the Tides Restaurant by the gracious GM. The choice of the evening was the Ala Carte menu or a Selection of Curries from all over the world. This was no Las Vegas $5 all-you-can-eat buffet but a refined tour through the machinations that make up curries around South East Asia. My taste-buds hadn’t been so excited since leaving London. Needless to say, I was exhausted after the full travel day we had and retired to our nice comfy bed immediately after dinner.
Waking up deliciously late with the sun streaming through the windows, I strolled down to the breakfast room in my bathing suit, cover-up and flip-flops. The day was spent sauntering from beach to pool to lunch to beach to pool to drinks to, well you get the picture. We only moved about 50 yards at lunch time to the Sands Bar, The Layana’s more casual dining area.
I had the all-time resort favorite – a Club Sandwich and Thai Papaya Salad with a Mojito chaser. (I don’t know anyone who ever orders a Club Sandwich except at a hotel!) Big wicker seats with huge orange pillows invite you to settle in for a respite from the sun. The afternoon hours slipped away as I got down to reading the tome that I lugged throughout Myanmar waiting for this exact moment.
Over the next few days, the hotel arranged a Four Island Tour with snorkeling on their private boat, including a picnic lunch and wonderful guides. You can find more to do on the island here. They also suggested we go along to see the local Thai Boxing tournament at a nearby Koh Lanta stadium. Locals and tourists alike cheered on the athletes and cringed every time a punch flew. By the end, we were almost as sweaty as the boxers, jumping up and down with excitement as the winner was announced.
The pièce-de-résistance of the four days at the Layana had to be the New Year’s Eve celebrations. You just can’t go wrong with a Pirates of the Andaman Sea theme and the whole staff put on a fabulous show. Cocktails flowed and a wonderful dinner was served to soak it all up. A spectacle of Fire-Throwers initiated the festivities and, as we sat down to eat, the General Manager greeted every guest. At our table were couples who has been coming to the hotel for five or six years in a row and each one said that after they discovered the Layana there was no need to go anywhere else. Another couple we met that night were on their honeymoon and had checked out of the Layana to go to another resort and after one night returned as the Layana was so much better.
As the clock was heading to midnight, fireworks could be seen up and down the coast. We set alight our individual floating lanterns – waving our 2013 worries good-bye and hoping our wishes would come true for 2014. I can’t tell you what I wished for or that would be bad luck. One thing I know is that I will be coming back to the Layana very soon and that is a wish that I know will come true!
NB: A few of the images above were provided by the Layana Resort as the Cypriot and I were way too relaxed to even lift the camera to our eye. The Layana was very gracious to let us stay four nights instead of the usual five-night minimum during such a busy time and to treat us to at dinner at their Tides Restaurant.
Layana Resort & Spa
272 Moo 3 Saladan
Tel: + 66 (0) 75 607 100