The Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort is nestled in a quiet hide-away spot on Ao Nang, among Krabi’s undeniably breathtaking natural beauty. Palm trees and green, manicured lawns abound at this resort that is located amid rainforests at the foot of the Naga Mountain. According to local lore, Phokeethra was a powerful Naga serpent who linked together the earth and the heavens. Legend has it that there is a peninsula shaped by the tail of this serpent, within which the Sofitel is located and hence, the hotel takes its name from the mythological Naga.
The Sofitel has effortlessly married French colonial style with traditional Thai architecture to produce an edifice of soaring arches and high vaulted ceilings. The entire ambience spells discreet, refined luxury. The large lobby is open-air, interspersed with foliage. Wooden flooring and teak (yes!) ceiling fans that rotate gently in the warm air offset the old-fashioned canopied beds that form the seating arrangements, from whence one can gaze out to a simmering expanse of sea. A signature butler service escorts guests to the room after the check-in formalities have been completed.
Accommodation includes 276 rooms and suites, divided in the following categories: Superior, Deluxe, Junior Suite, Prestige Suite, Opera Suite and a Presidential suite. Given that this was the high season period and also that the focus of the hotel is honeymooners and families, the resort was running to over 80% occupancy and hence, it was not possible to inspect all room categories. The Junior Suite was quite lavish in itself, where one enters a foyer area to find a high wooden TV cabinet serving as the partition between the bedroom and living space. Very spacious room indeed, done up in shades of grey and cloud blue, with a large balcony. This particular category of suite comes equipped with an espresso maker and Hermes toiletries.
The Superior rooms are very large too, at 45-sqm. A comfortable queen-size bed and polished wooden flooring is offset beautifully by a colourful, round red rug. Dark panelled woods play a huge role at the Sofitel Krabi and so here too, there is a teak ceiling fan, TV cabinet and wooden armoire. French windows lead to a balcony overlooking the pool. The bathroom is roomy, with separate shower cubicle and bath tub area.
F&B options include the all-day dining Maya restaurant with 150-covers; Koh Poda, the swimming pool bar for light refreshments; Ristorante Venezia, the 80-cover Italian outlet; White Lotus, the 80 cover Indian and Thai restaurant; Café Vienna for coffees and home-made bakery items in the lobby, adjoining the library Hemingway and the Explorer Lobby Bar.
Convention facilities include the Phokeethra Grand Ballroom which is the largest capacity hall in Krabi and can accommodate 350-pax cocktail style. The hotel also has an air-conditioned marquee that can take 950-pax.
Recreational facilities include a gift shop with souvenirs and jewellery at lobby level; a couple of internet stations along with a printer for complimentary guest use at Hemingway; the largest swimming pool in Krabi at 7000-sq mts; a kids pool and a kiddie play area and activity centre where children are kept busy with umbrella and fabric painting and cookie decoration classes. For the adults, there are cooking classes, yoga, pool and tennis table, Tai Chi, meditation classes and mountain bike tours available. The Fitness Centre is open 24-hours and has all essential equipment, along with separate steam and sauna facilities for men and women. Several hammocks are strung around randomly in the garden area; very restful and you can just enjoy an afternoon snooze and a book, if you so choose. Hemingway is a haven of seclusion; a library that more resembles a Gentlemen’s room of some old club.
The resort also has a 9-hole golf course adjacent to it, designed to test a player’s accuracy. Avid golfers will enjoy the particular and exciting challenges it offers, with a unique landscape that wends its way through lakes and streams and climbs a hillside slope.
As one of the perceived drawbacks is that the hotel is not actually on the beach (one has to cross the road) the Sofitel makes up for this by organising various island tours on a daily basis, such as Hong island, Phi Phi, the four-island tour and suchlike.
I took the Hong island tour one sunny morning at 9am, about 20-minutes away by the hotel speedboat. Unfortunately, being high season the beach is packed with tourists, all of whom no doubt had similar thoughts of getting away from the madding crowds! Nonetheless, it is quite scenic, with clear jade green waters and soft almost-white sand, although one has to step nimbly to avoid those broken coral bits. I must say the Sofitel does itself completely proud on these excursions. Before we set off, each guest was handed a kit bag of a double straw mat and bottles of water. Once on the island, a hotel rep explains that we have a choice between taking a walk to see some monitor lizards and other fauna, go snorkelling or else, just laze on the beach. Around noon, we all meet to collect our picnic boxes based on what we have pre-ordered the previous evening. The hotel staff come around with cups of coffee, fruit platters and chocolates and we all feel most pampered and special as the other sunbathers look at us in envy. We leave at 2.30, to be back at the hotel by 3pm. A very pleasant and well organised outing indeed.
And this brings me to a well-rounded end to a lazy day; a treatment at the So Spa. The spa here uses a combination of the French L’Occitane and the Thai Ytsara brand products. The same soothing, traditional Thai style is replicated here, of the vaulted ceiling, teak wood flooring and ceiling fans. There is a relaxing area where guests can choose to spend some time after or before their treatments. A total of 12 treatment rooms, with six of them being couple rooms, each one has a private Jacuzzi and steam area. The spa also organises outdoor massages in the spectacularly beautiful sala right in the middle of the pool – talk about romance!
I opt for a 60-minute aroma oil massage. The therapist begins by asking me to inhale the fragrance of lavender oil, to relax and calm my senses. She then uses an oil from the Ytsara brand, which is a mix of lemongrass and sweet mineral oils, for my massage. The treatment incorporates the Balinese and Thai techniques along with the firm, assured strokes of the Swedish method. The therapist is skilful and the atmosphere calm and pleasant, with apt music; nothing high-pitched or alien to the ears, just some soothing piano. I totally unwind and surrender myself blissfully to my efficient masseuse.
According to the general manager, Christian Schlegel, there are major refurbishment and renovation plans in store for 2015. Hemingway and Café Vienna will be converted into a club lounge, while the rooms will get soft touches such as amenity boxes, flat screen TV’s and some paintings and bric-a-brac to enhance the colonial feel. However, the hotel will remain open for business as usual.
In terms of corrections, pest control should improve and the shower drainage system needs some attention to it. Further, the Sofitel should consider placing towel racks in the balconies, so that guests are not subjected to the sight of swim wear and other laundry being hung out to dry over adjacent balcony railings. Front office and housekeeping staff deserve a pat on the back for their attitude.
Krabi is easily accessible by air as well as rail. 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, take a songtaew from the 7Eleven for a mere THB50 per head, to Ao Nang beach. If you would like to be spared the hassle, fly into Krabi’s small but efficient airport (approximately 90-minutes from Bangkok.) Krabi is also close to the islands of Phuket, Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe.
THE SOFITEL KRABI PHOKEETHRA GOLF & SPA RESORT
TEL: +66 75627800
FAX: +66 75627899