A special guest post by a girl named Bird.
All too quickly and flippantly the word “undiscovered” is attached to the words “Thai island” and the hearts of numerous beach-loving travellers start beating a little quicker. For this reason I’d quickly like to state that Ko Racha Yai, a small island found 12 miles off the southeast coast of Phuket, is not at all undiscovered – the island’s persistently busy main beach, Siam Bay is testament to this – yet for the beauty it holds it certainly warrants the terms “lesser known” and “well kept secret” and with that a few skipped heartbeats.
I stumbled across Ko Racha and the five star resort The Racha, which dominates the Siam Bay side of the island, as I researched luxury hotels near Phuket for my boyfriend’s birthday. He had two requests; a little extravagance and a lot of clear blue water and stark white sand. Thankfully Ko Racha catered for the latter exceptionally well thanks to its lone position out in the middle of the Andaman Sea. In fact, in the six weeks we beach and island hopped around Thailand, this was far and away the whitest, softest sand we dug our toes in to and the warmest, clearest water we bathed in. As for the luxury the birthday boy was after? It has to be said that The Racha provided more than a little.
The luxuries of The Racha
The Racha itself is a huge resort climbing up away from the public beach most of the day-tripping tourists from Phuket land and stay. Siam Bay is therefore somewhat sadly overcrowded with long, military precise lines of parasols and loungers, the owners of which vie for business in an impressive number of languages as the tourists arrive, all slightly in awe of the beach.
Guests of The Racha can enjoy views over these parasols from their private beachfront loungers but if the beach traffic is still too much then retreating into the resort, which is a hillside maze of bright white buildings and bungalows, there are also two impressive swimming pools to take a quick or longer dip in.
you are invited to choose a scent for the room’s toiletries and candles
The reasons why The Racha earned its five star status can be found in the accommodation, which ranges from Deluxe Villas to Private Pool Villas and The Lighthouse, a one-off four bedroom, five-storey lighthouse grandly overlooking the rest of the resort, the beach and the island. Though sitting at the bottom of the range, the Deluxe Villas are far from basic with more space and comfort than most London studio flats. Every morning, we had the tough decision of whether to use the indoor or the outdoor shower and thanks to a misunderstanding when we checked in a beautiful petal filled, candle lit bath had already been run for us “honeymooners”. There were also a number of extras thrown in which set The Racha apart: you are invited to choose a scent for the room’s toiletries and candles, and we were greeted by a complimentary bottle of (surprisingly good) wine, received fresh fruit every day and enjoyed a nightly turn down service complete with personal notes and thoughtful quotes.
Things to do in Ko Racha
The Racha also provides complimentary use of a variety of sports equipment and we took full advantage of this by going on daily mountain bike excursions to explore the other side of the island to the slightly quieter but longer beach of Ter Bay. As well as hosting the same white sand and clear blue seas, there are more accommodation options for varying budgets here. It is very easy to go off the beaten track on Ko Racha as the island’s main road is just that; an only partially concreted dirt track. There is a jungle trek, which takes you up and around one peninsula of the island, to satisfy any adrenaline junkies on wheels or on foot.
Our favourite activity on Ko Racha, by far, was snorkeling. Thanks to the crystal blue waters and rocky sides to the bay the marine life we saw while snorkeling was astonishingly close and colourful. It bettered some of the deepwater scuba dives we’ve done in Thailand and had we had more time, we would have done some diving, which is also a popular activity on the island.
By night we indulged in the dining that was on offer at The Racha’s three restaurants, which were seafood, Western and Asian focused respectively, before sipping huge holiday style cocktails as we listened to the waves crashing in the dark at the beachfront bar. Food and drink wasn’t cheap at The Racha (main dishes were priced from about £20 upwards) but it was of a high standard and served with the typically warm Thai smiles, which greeted us throughout the resort. The breakfast that is included in the room rate is certainly worth getting up and walking downhill for, though sitting outside overlooking the beach came with unexpected entertainment as Indian Minor birds swooped in to hungrily clean unattended plates or even your own when your back was turned.
Ko Racha is a small island and the majority of visitors don’t stay on the island, so it becomes eerily quiet at night. Though mountain biking, walking, kayaking, snorkeling and quad-biking are available from The Racha (and possibly other hotels), the island isn’t vast and there are only so many corners and beaches to explore. Aside from maybe only a couple of handfuls of other places to stay, there are even fewer places to eat or drink so this is not an island for somebody looking for an extended stay packed with activity and diversity by both day and night. Yet for those of you who are searching for little more than the perfect beach, and don’t mind sharing it with others, Ko Racha is the ideal destination. Furthermore if you’d like to experience this in luxury The Racha is the resort I would recommend.
Ko Racha is a 40 minute speed boat ride from Chalong Pier, Phuket.
About this week’s guest writer
Bird is a Londoner turned wanderer who blogs about her travels at As The Bird Flies. After many years of squeezing in short trips around her City job and secret life as a hyperlocal London blogger (Go Shepherd’s Bush!), she waved goodbye to it all in October 2011 to take the scenic route through Southeast Asia to Australia to meet her Australian boyfriend’s mother for Christmas. “As the Bird flies…” documents Bird’s travels past, present and future and aims to provide personal insight as well as useful information about the places she goes and the things she does. Bird is currently in Sydney recovering from the aforementioned meeting with the in-laws and is planning where to fly to next…