Having lived on the plains & hills of north India most of my life, I’d always wanted to experience living on a beach, where I could fall asleep and wake up to the sound of the ocean. A holiday in Goa is the closest I got, before I moved to Singapore 4 years back and went on my first holiday to the Phuket archipelago, also my first to Thailand. It was a short weekend trip, but on my way back itself, I had decided to return; to spend more time exploring the islands around Phuket and visit other parts of Thailand. It’s less than two hours by flight from Singapore to Phuket and so my affair with Thailand began. Since then, I have managed to fill up a whole passport booklet with Thai immigration stamps! Phuket has become like my second home. I have driven all across Phuket and seen most of its 39 smaller islands, and other places like Phang Nga, Ko Samui, Ko Lanta, Ko Racha, Ko Similan, Ko Phangan – Full Moon party island, and Bangkok – Thailand’s largest city & capital, which is great for shopping & street food. ‘Ko or Koh‘ is the Thai word for island and Yai & Noi /Nui are classifications based on size; Yai means big and Noi means small. The islands of Phuket have featured in many films across the world, the famous hollywood ones being ‘The Beach’ & ‘Tomorrow never dies’. In fact, there a small island named ‘James Bond’ island in Phang Nga, after a James bond movie.
Phuket is great for a short weekend holiday, but for me, its more of a entry-point to get to the nearby less inhabited islands, for snorkeling & photography. The islands are like small exotic worlds of paradise in the turquoise blue waters. They’re mostly covered with forest & huge limestone cliffs like the ones in Phi Phi ( pronounced as ‘Pee Pee’), & Phang Nga, and some with beautiful powdery white sand beaches. Ko Lanta is still undeveloped and looks more like a Thai village, Similan Islands, an archipelago of nine islands, is a national park and Ko Racha also called Ko Raya, is picturesque with romantic secluded beaches and clear blue sparkling water. My very first snorkeling experience was at Maya bay near Phi Phi, and that first glimpse into the underwater world of beautiful multi-colored corals & marine life, is etched in my memory. In fact I loved it so much, that I bought a mini aquarium after I got back!
Out of all the islands, I found Racha Yai the most beautiful, pristine and romantic. Off the south-eastern coast of Phuket, it comprises of a pair of islands – Racha Yai the larger & Racha Noi, the smaller island. Travelers visit these tiny islands mostly on day trips, for snorkeling, diving & fishing. It takes 45 minutes by a speed boat from the pier at Chalong Bay to reach the islands. Half or full day tours and boat transfers from Phuket to the surrounding islands can be booked through any hotel or tourist agent. All kinds of accommodation is available in most of the popular islands.
Racha Noi which resulted from a coral reef build up, is uninhabited and has no beaches but is good for diving. Racha Yai with its beautiful contrast of emerald-green waters & stark white sand is just blissful! An ideal tranquil place away from the world, where the only distraction is the inviting blue ocean. For all the beautiful memories I’ve made here, Racha will always have a special place in my heart; it’s my little piece of paradise. 🙂
Racha Yai is so small that you can walk all across the island on foot. Most of the island is a forest with only 2 beaches and very limited accommodation. The water has a greenish tinge and shines like a bright sparkling emerald. The visibility under water is very good most of the year. A floating jetty connects to the island, but most tourists who come for diving, stay on their boats so the beaches are usually empty.
There are very few resorts here ( more info) and one of them is the luxury boutique resort – The Racha, on the beautiful Siam bay beach surrounded by cliffs on both sides. A five-star eco-resort which boasts of environmentally sustainable tourism; and I must say it’s quite impressive. I skipped a heart beat when I saw the resort for the first time; it was divine! I recommend this island resort for that perfect romantic honeymoon holiday, beach wedding or an anniversary celebration.
The minimal chic architecture of The Racha in white, almost merges with the natural beauty of the island; as if complimenting each other. The white walls adorned with colorful realistic paintings of tropical flowers by local artists look simple yet attractive. All villas are private & spacious with an exquisite view. Designed elegantly in a contemporary minimal style with all modern amenities, like wi-fi & a iPod docked on Bose speakers with an assorted collection of music. The food at the resort, the restaurant & the view are all awesome! Apart from snorkeling & swimming, there is a spa, a club, a bar, a fishing area and ATVs & snorkeling equipment can also be hired from the resort to explore the island.
Some villas have a private jacuzzi or an infinity pool where the bath area opens out to a tropical garden area with the pool/ jacuzzi, and an open rain shower. So every morning there is a tough choice, between the indoor and outdoor rain shower! Attention to tiny details like the choice of aroma for the villa & toiletries, and sweet gestures by the staff like the hand-written notes left on the made-up bed, are some of the things that add to the special experience. My whole stay at The Racha was like a utopian dream, difficult to describe in words; simply marvelous! It’s been one of my most memorable holidays so far!