Anonymous review of The Racha
Sudarampai 'Pam' Chiang
Mermaids have always fascinated me, I once confessed to Mr Smith. Sometimes I wonder if, with my intense love of the ocean, I might actually be one (or at least a related species). Perhaps that’s why, for our first holiday in many years, he’s chosen to take me to the Racha, located on its very own secluded island just off Phuket in Thailand.
The island sun is beating down on our white BMW 520d as we head south to Chalong Pier in Phuket. This is the location of the Racha’s office and the place where we are to leave the mainland and catch a speedboat to the resort. I’ve been warned that, since it’s December, the journey across may be quite, well, rough. My one previous experience on a dive boat was absolutely horrendous – by the end of it, I couldn’t have been less like a mermaid, curled up on the deck feeling sick and sorry for myself (although if mermaids are green, at least I had that part right).
I am contemplating this memory in the moments before stepping aboard. Thankfully our host has a pill for me that should help with any feelings of seasickness during the 35-minute transfer. Its effects are soon felt and the whole world seems to be floating around me. I’m then asked to choose a fragrance for our villa. In my enlightened state, it seems like an odd request, but then scent is so subjective – what works for one person might make another turn up their nose, quite literally. Given a choice of lemongrass, jasmine and lavender, I go for the latter.
Perhaps it is the medication, the tamarind lollies provided on board the boat, or my excitement at getting so close to our destination, but the ride isn’t too bad. In fact, I even nod off for a while and am only woken by the change in the engine sound of the speedboat as it slows down. As I open my eyes, the first thing I see is Mr Smith, my prince, on a boat, just like in The Little Mermaid. I smile to myself before taking a peek outside to check on the colour of the water and the quality of the sea. What can I say? I’m a picky mermaid. It is perfect – icy blue and so clear I can see the sand five metres below the surface.
When we jump onto the white sandy beach, someone is already waiting to lead us to our beachside palace. We pass the gym, spa, a couple of restaurants, a cosy library with a few computers (although why would anyone want to know what was going on in the real world?), three swimming pools and a tennis court. Our Grand Deluxe Villa is spacious with a stylish, minimal white-on-white fit-out. It even has a spirit-lifting view of the sparkling blue Andaman Sea.
For me, the bathroom in any room I stay at is very important and the Racha doesn’t disappoint. There’s a deep tub and separate shower, as well as a rain shower out in the courtyard. Is there anything better than bathing au naturel in the tropics? What impressed music-obsessed Mr Smith, however, was the Bose iPod dock sitting right near the bed. He can DJ while I bathe.
If adventure is your middle name, then the Racha should definitely be on your dream destinations list. The resort offers all-terrain vehicle tours around the island, cycling, hiking, windsurfing and sailing. To satisfy my inner mermaid, however, I decide to go snorkelling. While Mr Smith basks on the sand, Long Island iced tea in hand, I head to a reef on the other side of the island with one of the guides. The water is deep – between five and eight metres – and the current quite strong, but there is a huge array of corals and fish to be seen. When I’m back on shore, I’ve still got the urge, so I drag Mr Smith to the front beach. Here, the sea is calmer but still a living aquarium. I spot rainbow-hued parrot fish, and a moray eel comes out from its rocky hiding spot to say hello.
All that underwater activity has caused my stomach to groan. There are a few dining options to choose from at the Racha, but the Sunset Beach Restaurant, a casual affair that serves a barbecue buffet each night, sounds like the best way to counter all my cravings. I’m not disappointed – there’s a choice of grilled seafood, Thai dishes and Western options. Mr Smith and I are highly amused by the resort’s choice of entertainment at the restaurant. Anyone who’s been to Thailand will know of the country’s great affection for a cheesy cover band, and there’s one rocking out for the punters tonight. They crank out hit after hit, from Elvis to Beyoncé and Michael Jackson, and as we tuck into our meals, we play a spirited game of ‘guess the next song’. It’s not quite the romantic meal by moonlight we’d anticipated but it was definitely memorable – and fun.
With the night still young, we head to Ice Bar for a cocktail. It’s a really chic spot and here the music is more what we’d anticipated – a Café del Mar-style soundtrack playing in the background. We choose an overstuffed sofa to lounge by candlelight and the bartender makes me a very moreish Cosmopolitan. Really, what more do you need to unwind?
Even after just a couple of days, this little mermaid feels like she’s had the holiday she’s been longing for – relaxing, peaceful and fun. But, unlike at the end of the movie, I actually get to go home with my prince.