I don’t much hold with gushing reviews of any hotel property as I figure they’re too skewed. However, the Layana Resort & Spa at Koh Lanta compels me to go into rhapsodies, for the absurdly simple reason that, being an adults-only resort where little people below 18-years of age are not allowed (it should be noted that it’s not the children I object to; it’s the parents!) it is also a wedding-group and incentive-group free property, with NO meeting room on the premises! Now that alone, in this day and age of stumbling over corporate honchos uttering war cries and running madly around the swimming pool disrupting the peace for miles around, makes it worthy enough to raise a toast to the bold vision of the MBK Group that owns the Layana.
Spread over 18-rai, this 10-year old property on Lanta Yai’s Phra-Ae beach was bought over by the MBK Hotel and Tourism Co in 2011. The Layana has consistently won several awards and accolades for itself since then. The name is taken from Sanskrit and means, “pause in time” and that is something the resort faithfully delivers to its guests – a tranquil pause away from the madding crowds and the daily humdrum of life.
A small, nonetheless discreetly luxurious, open-air lobby overlooking a carefully trimmed verdant expanse greets guests on arrival. Golf carts take you along winding paths to your room. The resort has a total of 51-rooms, split over 11 buildings housing four units each. Sadly, there are no handicapped rooms here.
Room categories are divided into the Garden Pavilion; Ocean Deluxe Suite; Beach Suite and the La Maison. Most of the units fall into the Garden Pavilion category, comprising a huge room with French windows, daybed and ceiling fan, apart from the usuals of minibar, electronic safe, LCD TV, DVD player, fancy coffee machine and, most conveniently, the light switches embedded in the bed panel. The balcony is equally spacious and comes with a clothes string so other guests are spared the ugly sight of swim wear hanging out to dry over the railings. The room service menu is quaintly rolled up like an old parchment scroll and placed on the bedside table. The bathrooms are large too, with a separate shower cubicle and sunken bath tub overlooking the gardens. Fragrant bath salts are a subtle touch of luxury, as opposed to the usual bath gel. The Layana also offers a pillow menu of Classic Polyester, Micro Fibre, Ultra Soft Micro Fibre, Duckdown and Hypoallergenic pillows.
The Beach Suite stands at 69 sq mts and, most sensibly, has the bed facing the sea. The colour palette here is beige, offset by stone flooring and furnishings in the colours of the sea such as jade green and turquoise. Here, the bathrooms have two separate sink counters, sunken bathtub and outdoor rain showers.
The Ocean Suite at 88 sq mts includes a double bed, daybed and walk-in closet. Other amenities include an iPod docking station and an Espresso coffee machine. The bathroom here is pretty much on the same pattern as the Beach Suite. What sets this category apart is the upstairs area, a cosy haven of romance and seclusion, where a canopied daybed area (thoughtfully provided with a mosquito net) overlooks the sea. There is also a writing desk and minibar – in case inspiration strikes a budding poet!
La Maison stands at a whopping 265 sq mts and, at THB 65,000 per night, comes complete with 24-hour butler service and in-villa chef. One bedroom is on the ground floor, where pretty much everything is outdoor – the WC, shower cubicle, rain shower and Jacuzzi.
A flight of stairs winds its way to a living and dining area overlooking the private pool. Yet another upper level accommodates a daybed and study area, which leads to the master bedroom. The décor here is all black and beige, with tiger stripe print cushions complementing the wooden flooring. While the washbasins are inside, with the same colour palette, the shower and bathtub are outside, where the wooden doors can be closed and the slats turned up for privacy.
F&B selections at the Layana include Tides, the 100-cover, all-day dining outlet with surprisingly reasonable prices; Sundowner Bar and Sands Bar. A fan-cooled lounge is just off Tides; an area that does not serve food but is used mainly to relax, use the wifi, or have a coffee. Wisely, all the outlets are beach-facing. Tides is the only actual restaurant and features a different food theme promotion every night, such as barbeque, sushi and Royal Thai apart from the a la carte menu of course. Every Saturday, guests are treated to a barbeque where the dining set-up is on the beach, with fire dancers et al. This involves an extremely lavish spread with a fantastic array of tiger prawns, lobster, crab, salmon and the meats, besides, pasta, garlic rice, soups and a sampling of desserts. There is also the Last Supper to feel uber special: The night before a guest checks out, he/she is given a feel-good moment with a specially reserved and decorated table with exclusively selected tableware.
Recreational options include the swimming pool with outdoor Jacuzzi, a fitness room with all the basics, or else the virtually private beach with the jade green sea spreading out to infinity before you. The resort also offers activities such as Thai boxing, cooking, fruit carving, yoga, Hobie Cats and kayaking (free of charge.) The internet zone is in the spa area, with two computers and a printer meant for complimentary use. There are two speedboats: the Layana I for excursions, Layana II for guest pick-ups and the Layana III, a longtail boat also meant for excursions. Apart from this, the resort offers the Sundowner Cruise, with finger food and drinks.
The Linger Longer Spa is at split level and comprises six treatment rooms, four of which are couple rooms, with outdoor showers. One exclusive room comes with a Jacuzzi. A neat touch is to hang a spray of orchid flowers outside a room that is occupied. There is a relaxing area with individually curtained off daybeds, where guests can relax after their treatment with a cup of herbal tea and listen to the soothing sound of flowing water.
What really sets the Layana spa apart from its competition is the Salt Inhalation chamber. Halotherapy (Halo is the Greek word for ‘salt) is a radical new spa therapy and has been in vogue in Europe since the last three or four years now. It helps unclog sinuses and is beneficial for colds, asthma, sleep patterns such as insomnia and snoring, as also clears skin pores,eczema and such-like.
Stefan Heintze, the general manager, kindly offers the use of his salt cave to me and I step into the chamber eagerly. It is a small room with salt-encrusted walls and mounds of soft, natural salt on the floor; it is like walking on sand on the beach. The room is lit with white lighting and has soft music playing. There are two recliners with foot stools and blankets, although the temperature in the room is controlled. The treatment involves 45-minutes in this chamber, where pure salt granules are blown gently through a whizz-tech machine….you breath this in without tangible effects but the salt is absorbed into your system.
The spa uses Anne Semonin products for face and body therapies. However, post my Salt Inhalation round, I opted to try the signature massage, which is a 90-minute calming treatment with the oil of your choice; I chose the rosemary-lavender, although I would like to try the ginger-black pepper next time for sore muscles. While a massage is a massage, the strokes here are very different; the therapist works on both legs and arms simultaneously so, while being vigorous, it is somehow strangely relaxing too. The masseuse is well skilled and I soon succumb to her ministrations.
The Layana staff are well trained and pleasant for the main; Housekeeping, spa and F&B deserve a word of praise at their guest handling abilities. An annual maintenance is carried out at the Layana during low season when wings are closed off one by one for refurbishments and touch-ups. I was particularly pleased to see discreet signs asking guests not to reserve beach chairs before breakfast; rather stern, but laudable, as some guests can be awfully inconsiderate as I found to my dismay at one of the hotels on Koh Samui, where the pool staff were helpless to intervene and the GM, quite literally, took a walk!
There are various travel options of getting to Koh Lanta. If you have the time and an adventurous spirit, I would recommend taking the comfortable overnight train from Bangkok to Surat Thani (THB 750, 2nd class AC sleeper.) An additional THB 250 gets you the combo bus/van ticket that takes you to Krabi town. From there, you need to make the approximately two hour ferry crossing to Koh Lanta. If you would like to be spared the hassle, fly into Krabi’s small but efficient airport (approximately 90-minutes from Bangkok) and then do the ferry crossing to Lanta (THB 450 per head.) If price is no issue, co-ordinate with the Layana to have its speedboat pick you up from Krabi. Koh Lanta is 45-minutes away from Koh Phi Phi and on the Phuket radar as well.
LAYANA RESORT & SPA
TEL: +66 75607100
FAX: +66 75607199