The Sanctuary in Koh Phangan has been recommended to me by a number of travellers. They all agreed that I must come here, so I did. The Sanctuary is a beach resort focusing on yoga teaching, meditation, spa and wellbeing. They also offer fasting courses (not for me!), detoxing and colonic irrigation, that type of thing. The resort is quite big with bungalows and yoga halls being built into the mountainous jungle, which starts literally 10 metres from the beach.
When I arrived, it was a particularly hot day (they all are these days!), and it was around the hottest time of the day that I had to get myself sorted out with a room. The Sanctuary offers a wide range of rooms, with prices from 150 Baht (£3) for a bed in a dorm room, to pure luxury for 4000 Baht (£80). I decided to check out a room for 250 Baht. The lady at reception gave me a map (!) and a key and instructions to go right to the end of the road on the map, which would be a 5 minute walk. As soon as I turned in the direction she had indicated, I had to climb up a set of wooden stairs. Then I had to navigate a narrow pathway up the hill through the jungle, climbing across roots, stepping around trees, getting lost a few times. There were numerous bamboo huts as well as yoga and meditation halls built into the hill like birds' nests. After 10 minutes of steep uphill climb, I arrived at the hill-top and found a gorgeous hall made of wood and bamboo. The hall was equipped for yoga classes, with one side open to reveal breathtaking views over the mountains and the sea. On top of the hall I found my room, which was tiny, hot, dark, with a mattress on the floor and no fan or electricity. No thank you!
I arrived back down at reception, sweating and steaming. My hat was drenched in sweat, my face was bright red, with sweat rivers running into my eyes. I felt a slight wave of anger wash over me as I looked at the bikini-clad diners looking all refreshed from swimming in the sea, enjoying their healthy chilled fruit shakes. I am now in a little bamboo hut half-way into the jungle, with a lovely view. Like most houses in rural Asia, I share my house with a gecko. I like geckos, because they eat insects and they make a funny noise which starts with a warm up call that sounds like a broken car engine (tak tak tak tak) and then they launch into a series of loud and passionate ‘geckk-koh' calls. They sound very funny to me. My gecko's favourite spot is obviously not very far away, because when I am asleep and he calls, it sounds like he is sitting on my pillow, right next to my head. He wakes me up about 4 times a night, but I always smile when he does, because he sounds so cute.
So this yoga-health-new age farm here... it's a special place. The clientele consists to 80% of women. The women are all lean but toned, with very good posture and a certain feminine elegance about them. They wear their long hair scraped back into a pony-tail, and big sun-glasses to emphasise the fragile waif look. It's the ethereal beauty type you immediately recognise as yoga fanatics. Most of them look gorgeous, but more than a few have obviously overdone it with the fasting and are nothing but skin and bones. Not a good look, especially for the ladies over 45, I must say. Matters are made worse by these extra-hungry ladies, who are obviously so proud of their emaciated bodies, that they put as much of it as possible on display at all times. I feel like I am dining with Gandhi.
In this place there are only two things that count: all the girls want yoga; and all the guys want girls. It is so embarrassingly obvious that the slightly flabby yet cock-sure romeos with gelled hair and hairy chests are not after yoga classes or meditation. They are acting all kissy-kissy and "hello darling" with the ladies; whilst the ladies obviously just want to talk about yoga amongst themselves. Very funny to watch!
On my first day here I noticed some yogis with particularly stupid grins and floppy movements emerging from a direction where I suspected the marijuana den. I am not really into marijuana these days, but I was curious. So I walked up yet another steep staircase to the secret destination. This staircase was different to the one I had taken before. It was leading into the jungle, but the stairs were inlaid with a pattern of flowers formed from sea-shells. Very pretty. When I arrived at the top of the stairs, after navigating myself around another floppy and happy-looking stoner, I arrived at the Spa... and it all made sense. I decided to go for it and get myself pampered with a Thai massage. Apparently they have some old ladies with bony fingers that really know how to hurt you.
Those travellers were not lying to me when they said that I had to get myself a massage at the Sanctuary. This was good! The massage room was candle-lit, smelt of flowers and incense, there was soft clinky-clonky spa music, and in the background you could faintly hear the sounds of the jungle in the evening. Every now and then I could hear a frog in the woods doing a cheeky fart noise, which made me giggle. Apart from that it was sheer bliss.
When I left the spa, climbing down the sea-shell-decorated stairs, I had a stupid grin on my face. My neck, which is usually slightly stiff from my whip-lash injury, felt like rubber. All my muscles were so soft that I felt like I was made of jelly. I almost couldn't walk up the pathway to my jungle hut because my knees were so wobbly with relaxation. I must have looked like a right old stoner.
So, it's good here. I like it.
Published on 10/7/09