Je ne sais quoi
If you know this French phrase, and have stayed at The Racha before, you’ll fully agree with me that this resort tucked away on an island off Phuket does have that sort of indescribable attractiveness about it, summed up in that one single phrase.
From the get-go, the service rendered by the staff at The Racha has been impeccable. Thanks to Shawn Poon, Mr Daniel Lim (MD of The Racha) and Mr Gerard Tan (GM of The Racha), we managed to secure last minute reservations at this lovely resort a week-and-a-half before our arrival from Singapore. Our emails were answered swiftly within a matter of hours and our queries met with adequate explanations. Due to prior work commitments, we were able to fly into Phuket on the night of 18th Feb 2012 (Saturday) and as such, The Racha made arrangements for us to stay at the Millenium Patong for a night before our speed boat out to The Racha the next day. After 3 days of to-fro emails, we were good to go!
Despite the pouring rain when we arrived in Phuket, we were greeted with beautiful sunshine the next day as we got ready to be picked up by the transport provided by The Racha to ferry us to Chalong Pier for our speedboat. Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication amongst the staff at The Racha, our transport failed to turn up at the scheduled time of 12:30 pm. Instead, we only found out about this glitch when we called up The Racha’s mainland reception after twenty minutes of waiting in vain. (This is probably one of two gripes I may have about this otherwise beautiful place and its people; I will expound on the second later.) We managed to find our own transport to The Racha’s reception at Chalong pier, which the establishment took the initiative to pick up the cabby fare. After some cold towels and refreshing welcome drinks, we bundled up into the speed boat which brought us to Racha Yai Island.
After 30 minutes of smooth travel across the waters, we reached the jetty and was greeted with more sunshine AND tonnes of tourists dotting the lovely beach just in front of the resort. So here’s my second grouse of this otherwise perfect trip – the many tourists on day-trips to Racha Yai island robs the resort of its exclusivity and taints the sandy white beach that is Batok Bay. Of course, there was no misrepresentation here – I knew fully well that the beach was open to public and was semi-prepared mentally for this. Yet, the visual display of sunburned bodies, some topless, scattered across the beach on mismatched deck chairs was a rude shock to my aesthetic nature. I must admit, this sight was the reason I stayed away from the beach that day and chose to lounge by the pool with my travel buddies instead. I needed time getting used to this.
As we were travelling in a group of 3 girls and 2 guys, we were happy to have adjoining Deluxe villas prepared for us. We were welcomed to the resort by Bandid (the front desk manager I presume) and more cool towels and chilled punch to take away some of the tropical heat. Our luggage was brought up to the villas without hesitation and we ascended up the slopes to our villas with ipod in hand. Our rooms were warmly lit and the white sheets nicely pressed. It was evident in the layout of the room that the establishment paid a lot of attention to detail – down to the little frog sitting on the bedside table. A lovely bottle of red was left in the boys’ room, courtesy of Gerard, the GM. Despite the initial grouses, our day was on its way to a lovely start.
Eager to visit the famed infinity pool, we got changed and headed straight for the pool about 100 metres from our villa. A pity the sky got rather cloudy and we didn’t get much of a tan. But the pool was rather quiet and we managed to get 5 deck chairs to lounge on, in front of the Earth café. Wifi was a little patchy but then again, the whole purpose of the trip was to get away from work and social dalliances back in the city! We visited the Fire Grill (which is actually the Earth café transformed at night) and I must praise the restaurant for its lamb chops which were done to perfection (although there was a bit of trepidation when the waiter didn’t understand that I wanted my lamb MEDIUM and repeatedly asked me if I’ll like medium well or medium rare). Having met some fellow Singaporeans earlier, we followed up with some after dinner drinks to the Ice Bar. The caiprioska and capirinha, amongst other lovely drinks like the lemongrass martini, were mixed very well! There were some cosy couches placed in the alfresco area which we didn’t have a chance to enjoy due to our large group size.
The highlights of our second day most definitely were the trip to the Anumba Spa and the welcome drinks and canapés in the evening. After a late night of drinks, we woke up rather late and had only 15 minutes to grab breakfast! The spread was lovely – I am a fan of plain greek yoghurt but the strawberry one at The Racha was really yummy! Bits of real strawberry pickled the yoghurt and I was sold. We decided to get spa massage packages for us all – the boys enjoyed the men’s spa package whilst the girls got pampered with the Marine Getaway spa package. I love how the spa is beautifully illuminated by natural light and the designers stayed away from dusty heavy curtains that most other spas are fond of, in keeping with the environmental concept of the place. The spa manager, Joy, made sure we were all well taken care of and for this I’m grateful. Our spa session began with a steam session, followed by a lovely yoghurt scrub that smelled of everything delicious and yummy. As I washed off the scrub, I felt surrounded by this lovely scent of walnut, avocado, yoghurt, granola mixed with a little bit of lemongrass. I felt positively yummy enough to eat! The massage was equally good – my therapist paid attention to the tense upper and lower back muscles of mine and extra kneading done to ease the tension in these areas. All without my asking!
By the time it was done, I was ready for bed … at 4 pm! After a quick shuteye, I finally got up to meet the rest by the pool and was glad I did! There was a canapés+drinks reception atop the roof above the library hosted by the GM Mr Gerard Tan – just the kind I love. Set against a natural backdrop of a lovely sunset, there were conversations abound. The guests at this resort are truly international – there were Koreans, Australians, Austrians, a lovely couple from Lincolnshire, Bulgarians, Russian, Americans, Germans and of course, our group of Singaporeans! Being the ever wonderful host, Gerard the GM made an effort to get to know and mingle with each and every group present. Kudos to Mark the chef who kept re-filling our canapé table with more yummies. We finished off the evening thereafter with a seafood dinner by the barbeque restaurant out by the beach which was pretty good. The tiger prawns were HUGE and were really fresh. I must really recommend the tiger prawn vermicelli which was positively delish!
That evening, we were invited over to the GM villa for after dinner drinks. There, we got to meet more of the staff on a more intimate level – there was the birthday boy who turned 42 (in charge of housekeeping), Joy the spa manager, Oh or Ho the financial controller, and the head of engineering. The lovely evening was peppered with conversations and laughter, any tension easily eased by a glass of Johnny Walker on the rocks or a tall glass of white wine. The manner in which Gerard interacted with his staff deserved much respect – there were just the right proportions of respect, deference to the boss and mutual trust. The staff felt comfortable enough to be themselves and unwind after a long day in the home of the boss – a rare gem of a boss for the employed. It must be extremely trying to manage a place so detached from any other form of infrastructure, such as water and electricity – a luxury that the hotels on the mainland take for granted – and I must say, combined with the passion of the owner (Mr Daniel Lim), the team at The Racha have done a splendid job under the guidance of Gerard. If you should be tracking (which I did prior to this trip), the reviews of this resort have only started pouring in after 2007, the year when Mr Gerard Tan took over the reins of this solitary but solid stallion of an establishment.
We couldn’t bear to leave the place, which I eventually had to yesterday. But not before snorkeling out at Batok beach and enjoying the warm kisses of the sun’s rays on my back. I left The Racha with more than a tan and a positive glow; I left the island with my heart back in villa 346, back with the Anumba Spa and the lovely staff of The Racha. Indeed this trip gave me more than I’d expected – my body was refreshed, my mind completely recharged with thoughts of those amazing conversations I had with my travel buddies and new friends made at the resort and my soul willing the body to return back to this mortal paradise … Thank you to Mr Daniel Lim, Mr Gerard Tan, Bandid, Joy, Oh/Ho and to the many resort staff who made this trip so memorable and pleasant.
It’s the je ne sais quoi feeling. (:
- Doc Janice
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