The Pimalai Story
The name ‘Pimalai’ is derived from the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit and appropriately means ‘A little Patch of Heaven’. The Pimalai Resort & Spa story begins 40 years ago when the late and much respected Anurat Tiyaphorn, fell in love with this patch of land on Koh Lanta. An avid sailor, it was initially the bay that attracted him, yet he was simultaneously struck by the stretch of tropical rainforest right next to the beach.
He could not get enough of Koh Lanta, and while spending his holidays swimming there, would turn around and gaze back, absorbing the beauty of the setting and mountainous areas of the island, completely captivated by its natural beauty. As a developer he started dreaming about building something here, which could be called “a heaven on earth.” Initially, Anurat had no plans for a resort, he just wanted his own personal sailing facility and a spot from which he could enjoy water sports. However, he soon realised that if he were to keep the property for his exclusive use only, he would not be contributing anything to the country or the surrounding community.
That in mind, over a period of 30 years, with the support of his family and friends, the Pimalai estate was developed, ensuring that the environment remains virtually untouched until today. It remains a proudly owned Thai family business, with General Manager Franck de Lestapis there from the resort’s inception and still overseeing every detail of its success today.
My Pimalai story on the other hand starts with a transfer from the Banhuahin pier and a turn in to reception, where I am given a warm welcome, scented wet towel to freshen up and garland of flowers placed gently around my neck before being advised that I will be staying on the hillside in one of the pool villas. Did they say heaven?
One of the things that is immediately noticeable on arrival is the contemporary Thai architectural style blended with all the modern amenities and touches. How the elevated position of many of the rooms and restaurants allows an excellent view of the Kan Tiang bay. The warmth and desire to help of all the staff members and the fact that despite excellent occupancies, they make you feel like you’re the most important person in the world.
The Food and Drink
There are four restaurants at Pimalai, with three specialising in different kinds of cuisines, as well as relaxing bars from which to take in the views of the bay. I had dinner at Spice n’ Rice Thai Restaurant which was excellent, opting to be closer to the villa on my second night with a light vegetarian platter at The Seven Seas Restaurant and Bar. There is also the Banyan Tree Poolside Cafe for a more westernised menu and the Raktalay Beach Bar and Restaurant for casual dining. Breakfast at The Seven Seas awarded me views across the infinity pool to the bay.
The Hillside Villa
I was hosted in one of their hillside villas, with a private pool, large lounge and kitchenette to the one side. On the other a spacious bedroom, bathroom and dressing room. All around decks with loungers and a sala with a daybed to relax on. It was beyond heavenly to climb straight into that pool, even before unpacking, and enjoy the views from the warm waters. Serious spoiling! Who said luxury and ecotourism weren’t a match. I slept sweetly in a protected forest with the sound of waves beyond. On arrival, a chilled lemongrass iced tea, fruit and homemade biscuits and the most wonderful woman from housekeeping to show me through the Villa and tell me more about all the resort has on offer.
Given that you are tucked up in the trees on the hillside, there are golf carts available around the clock to transport you back and forth, although I mostly opted to walk between the two properties.
In summary there are 64 Deluxe rooms with garden or partial sea view, 4 Bayfront Deluxe rooms with a sea view which are located at the beach, 7 Pavilion Suites with separate living room and an outdoor shower, 7 Beach Villas with separate living room and private pools and 39 Pool Villa at 204 m² each with a separate living room, kitchenette, sala and private pool.
Activities and Experiences
As a five star resort with generous grounds, a beach and bay, you’ll always be spoilt for choice when it comes to activities on offer. There are two large pools, an infinity pool with Jacuzzi at the pavilion, as well as the large pool with 180 degree views of the bay up at the villa estate. Although the Beach Villas and Pool Villas do have their own private plunge pools you won’t want to miss swimming in these too, especially if doing lengths is your thing.
With my welcome note was program of weekly leisure activities that could be booked, most complimentary. Ranging from Bicycle Tours, Cooking Classes, Thai Martial Arts and Yoga, Towel Folding Lessons (I so wanted to do this), Cocktail making lessons and movies in the library.
There is 900m of beach for your enjoyment, with loungers and umbrellas as well as somebody to take your drinks order, if you so wish. There’s even a wide selection of books, newspapers, DVDs and CDs on offer in the lounge and if you just want to escape to some time at the pool or the beach, you will be left alone to do so.
Other activities include a trip out snorkelling at Koh Rok, which I did. Scuba diving, PADI courses and you may be lucky enough to have your visit coincide with their Clown Fish Release. The fitness centre has the high-quality equipment, yoga studio and a tennis court.
The Pimalai Spa
All that activity may be good for the body, especially on a long stay where indulging in the good life is irresistible, but a must do is a treatment at the Pimalai Spa where they offer massages, body wraps, treatments and beauty care.
I was treated to a Pimalai Signature massage in one of their quaint straw roofed Thai Salas set among the lush vegetation, bamboos and trees of the valley that houses the Spa. My therapist was amazing! A true gift from the pamper gods in the most tranquil of settings. Bear in mind that between 10am and 3pm daily, they run special offers.
Pimalai is centred around the idea that peace with nature leads to peace on the estate. This in mind every detail from its location, to the construction of the resort facilities, was planned and executed with the goal of complementing, not competing with the original environment.
I chatted with the GM Franck who is ever present and actually even gave me a lift down to the lower property on the one day, and was touched by the relaxed way that his presence brings confidence to the rest of the Pimalai team. Having been there from the beginning I can only imagine how proud he must be of what they’ve created together in the past 16 years. Not surprising that guests stay from 5 to 10 nights and more, with many return visits.
As one of the managers, Nurse said to me on our morning together – “If we do good to nature, nature will do good to us”. And that I think sums up how life should be lived.
Standing on the deck overlooking the azure waters, golden strip of sand and lush trees below and above me, I can completely understand why Anurat fell in love with this cove, and thankfully he did, as under his family and extraordinary resort team’s care it remains protected, nurtured and is exactly a ‘little patch of heaven’ for all to share.
“If we do good to nature, nature will do good to us”
They say there’s a reason Pimalai is Koh Lanta’s best-kept secret. Tucked away in the lush greenery of Koh Lanta, it is only reachable by resort private boat from the mainland’s Banhuahin pier. The trip was especially thrilling for me as I seeing the scenic little islands that surround Koh Lanta for the very first time as we moved from the major tourist area, past fishing villages and over the glistening waters of the Andaman Sea. This trip takes about an hour.
My flight was from Bangkok into Krabi and it is recommended that you arrive reasonably early to make it to the resort before lunchtime. There are also direct flights from Singapore to Krabi three times a week, which is a wonderful way to connect for South Africans. The transfer from the airport to the Pier, takes about 50 minutes.
How to book your stay
Have a look at the rates sheet and take note of the low season specials. I was there in October which is said to be the rainiest time of the year, yet besides a daily shower, the weather was hot and humid and I couldn’t have wanted for more.
Do remember that if you book through Green Pearls, you’ll be offered a complimentary room upgrade, subject to availability, although even the entry level rooms are lovely and you get to enjoy all the facilities of the resort during your stay, whichever room you are in.
As always in Thailand, the free wifi was amazing.
Looking back, one of my favourite moments at the resort was going down to the beach after dinner on the first night, putting my feet in the water and taking in the sounds of distant villages, all alone, reconnecting with the world.
Disclaimer: I was hosted by Green Pearls and Pimalai Resort & Spa accommodated me on a B&B, Spa Treatment and activities basis. I am most grateful. Most of the pics supplied.