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“I left there disappointed” 2 of 5 bubbles
Review of The Sanctuary Thailand

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The Sanctuary Thailand
Ranked #21 of 89 Hotels in Ko Pha Ngan
Certificate of Excellence
Bristol, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
8 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“I left there disappointed”
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 5 April 2010

I was really excited to go to The Sanctuary for a detox, after having read lots of good things about it, but I left there after 2 days disappointed and more than a little bit baffled. The place is a mass of contradictions. It appears to be very laidback and "chilled out" but I felt uncomfortable the entire time, mostly due to the cliques who have made themselves at home there. Overhearing their conversations left me feeling like a very unwelcome house guest rather than a paying customer. It's billed as basic accommodation yet it's extremely overpriced. Although I'd been forewarned of this I naively hoped that the 'vibe' and the amazing level of service would explain the pricing, but it didn't. Moon in the detox centre was great but I had lots of questions and no-one was around to answer them. Ever. No matter what time of day.

I'm sure this place will suit some people - maybe those with lower expectations than mine? But I would never go back to the Sanctuary and I wouldn't recommend it to any of my friends.

  • Stayed May 2009, travelled solo
    • 1 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 2 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 1 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 1 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 1 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
1 Thank OneYearAway
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4 of 5 bubbles
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English first
Brighton, England
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 19 March 2010

We loved The Sanctuary. Neither my partner, nor I had ever been to Thailand, so we weren't sure what to expect. We were told to get rucksacs (great advice), as getting there involved hopping into and out of ferries and taxi boats. We were dropped off on the beach and pointed in the direction of the only bar/restaurant in sight. This was just that and exactly what we were hoping for, ie, palm trees, a few strewn coconuts and very few people occupying a picturesque beach. We were greeted with a complimentary ‘healthy ginger tea’ each (an acquired taste but very good for us, apparently!) and shown to our room, up a narrow path into the trees/jungle. No air con (though there was a fan which did the trick), but we weren't worried, as it was very pretty, authentic and had an outstanding view of the bay from the balcony. Even the adjacent toilet/washroom (which was round!!) was different and made for an interesting experience (especially having a shower whilst the frogs were on the ledge mating!!). The staff were friendly and accommodating (though don’t expect fast service in the restaurant – at best it’s sporadic, but we just took that on board. Best advice here is to go with the flow!). The food was delicious and the atmosphere entirely chilled out. In fact, it felt a bit like we'd stepped back into the 70s, (other than seeing a couple of guests using lap tops in the bar/restaurant...) Not a bad thing, as we totally relaxed and forgot about work...

In the evenings we either stayed in the bar/restaurant, or ventured over the cliff-steps to some of the other bars/restaurants built onto the rocks - WOW. No other words, just WOW. You need to be fit and a TORCH is a MUST – thankfully my partner took one, as I was foolish and left mine at home thinking “it’ll be fine”. Seriously, you need a torch!

When we checked out, despite heading to the next part of our adventure which we were excited about, we were genuinely sad to leave. No where else that we travelled on Koh Phangan, Koh Tao or Koh Samui, had quite the same effect. This was our first destination in Thailand and as we suspected after our four days with The Sanctuary, nothing else would come up to scratch! Next time we come to Thailand, we'll be staying at the Sanctuary and we are already looking forward to it!

  • Stayed February 2010, travelled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank Jossy5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Ireland
1 review
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 7 March 2010

this resort well worth seeking out ,tends to be booked out so book early,we got the ocean view villa and boy is it cool.the views superb
lots of room for four adults.warning a steep climb everyday but then thats your excercise.
food is really good and large portions, a little more expensive than other thai restaurants but it it is an island and im sure it costs more to get it landed there
Mike and the crew work hard and the place seems to run itself
facilities are modern and list of spa menu really good
i got a really nice massage on the breach WOW
Go there soon

  • Stayed February 2010, travelled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank auntymary
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Edinburgh
Level Contributor
63 reviews
27 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 47 helpful votes
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 4 March 2010

The three beaches grouped together within walking distance from the Sanctuary is possibly the best location in Ko Phangan. The bars and restaurants that dot the cliffs and beaches are fantastic and food amazing.

Unfortunately the Sanctuary doesnt live up to that level. You pay top dollar for a basic room that doesnt get cleaned and with no breakfast included. If this was cheap backpacker accommodation it would be ok, but these are Thailand 5 Star prices.

I think the main people who visit here are in high powered marketing jobs back home and enjoy paying top dollar to live like backpackers. Why not just backpack and stay in low cost accommodation?

Everything costs a huge amount of money here and they dont accept credit cards only cash so you have to carry hundreds of pounds even if your are only staying a couple of days.

We moved after one day across the hill to the Centara hotel ( as did a number of people) 5 Star accommodation and one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in for cheaper than this place. You can still pop along to the Sanctuary if you want to be ripped off for over priced detox and yoga.

If anyone works out how they get so many people here, please let me know.........

  • Stayed February 2010, travelled as a couple
    • 1 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 1 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
4 Thank DirkBigler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
SanctuaryThailand, Owner at The Sanctuary Thailand, responded to this review, 7 March 2010
As the owner I am always upset at negative feedback; in response to this email. We do not have a star rating as our rooms are priced from 450 to 5,000 Thai Baht per night and we offer levels of accommodation to suit all budgets, including the dorm which is 200 Baht a night., so we are for sure not a five star !
Cleaning and servicing of rooms in the lower price section is every other day so I am unsure of what to say and can not understand the customers feedback when they left after one day ?
As for detoxing and yoga; 99 % of our customers enjoy our programs and come from all walks of life to experience what we offer here. Our prices are realistic and no-one is under any duress to do our programs / classes, I am unsure how many yoga teachers or detoxes they tried in one day with us, we have four excellent yoga teachers who work here for far less then they do in the West and I support them and their work in every way., including their price structure.
I am sorry the Sanctuary did not suit these customers and I am happy that they found what they were looking for over on the next beach, this resort is about as removed from the Sanctuary ideals as possible so I kind of understand why this vibe here did not appeal to them as it does to the 99 percent who choose this holiday venue every year and love it !
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
York, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
26 reviews
22 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 46 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 27 February 2010

The Sanctuary is a misnomer.

Banish any mental associations you might have with either a quasi-religious retreat or a luxury resort. Think "commercial commune". I choose the word commune quite carefully because it captures the real sense that as a guest you are subordinate to the existing structure of the Sanctuary. That means both the social structure (in terms of the entrenched cliques) but also the events structure such as the video evenings and open mic nights that dominate the restaurant and bar area and the loud all night party that happens one night per week.

There are distinct groups of stereotypes that broadly define the Sanctuary:

The "Alternatives" - all of the Yoga teachers, Shamanic healers, past life therapists, chakra rebalancers, and washed out hippies; they lie at the heart of the Sanctuary.

The "Gym Bunnies" - what Bret Easton Ellis famously termed "hard bodies" in American Psycho; beautiful people with beautiful bodies and beautiful tans that really obviously want to sleep with each other.

The "Bridget Jones Detoxers" - pairs of overweight and perfect weight 31 year old women on fasting and detox programmes.

The "Street Poets" - well, they might not actually be street poets but they look so overtly hip and alternative that they probably are street poets.

The "Gap Year Newbies" - skinny pre-university girls with blond hair and strappy tops who talk excitedly in groups and cast eager glances at the Street Poets.

The "Ghosts" - ultra-pasty professional couples (such as my wife and I) with decidely average physiques, who would look infinitely more comfortable in Tuscany or the Dordogne if only we were ten years older and had a bit more money; the Ghosts are here by accident expecting something slightly different; none of the other groups notice us which gives us a strange sense of freedom in the Sanctuary.

Hopefully that gives you a flavour of the place.

If I focus on the basics for a moment, though. There is a wide range of accommodation at the Sanctuary which is partly why the reviews are so mixed, I suspect. We paid 1,000B per night for a fan bungalow. We had an outside bathroom with a squat toilet and a cold shower with intermittent water supply. The safe was broken which the staff told us about in advance to their credit. We had bats and geckos in the room at different points so if you are squeamish then be forewarned. I feel the room was overpriced for Ko Phangan. I would have probably been happy to pay 200-400B per night for something that basic particularly given that breakfast was not included.

The restaurant menu is extremely extensive. I was happy with the food and I thought the prices were reasonable especially for the dishes using imported ingredients. My wife felt that some of the European food was bland but I feel that you have to make some allowances for Thai chefs cooking in their "second language"... and why go to Thailand to eat European food, anyway?

Drinking water is free which is commendable.

The staff are a mixture. I felt that they were generally extremely friendly but occasionally looked overworked and distant. We did find that the meals took about 45 minutes to arrive. I think this is simply because they have a very small kitchen staff. I would relax your expectations to avoid disappointment.

The wifi is very expensive (400B for 100 minutes, minimum bundle) so be forewarned.

The laundry service is a 36 hour turnaround and there is no ironing service available so, again, be forewarned.

The Sanctuary does not take bookings. I suspect this policy is employed consciously or unconsciously to leverage the scarcity principle (i.e. we don't take booking = we're very popular) to fuel demand. We called ahead a few hours before we arrived to check availability and I would recommend doing the same to avoid expense (200B per person for a one-way transfer by taxi-boat from Haad Rin) and disappointment. I agree that the policy is a pain but equally there is no cancellation policy and once you have got a room you can stay as long as you want or leave as soon as you want.

There is a huge variety of classes and alternative therapies available at the Sanctuary. My wife and I took Yoga classes from a visiting Australian Yoga teacher and I have to say that he was excellent.

Did I enjoy staying at the Sanctuary? I'm not sure, really. I found it fascinating, certainly. I think a social anthropologist could spend a year there and not get bored. I did find the pervading morality of the Sanctuary somewhat disasteful, though. Do not let the pile of shoes in front of the reception mislead you. The Sanctuary embraces a "progressive" Western rather than traditional Thai morality. Partial nudity (e.g. topless bathing), excessive and overt displays of affections, and people smoking Marijuana are all in easy view. I would not take issue with any of that if I was on holiday in Holland but is it really right in Thailand? I think if I was Thai I would be disgusted. I guess I ultimately just left feeling disappointed and a little ashmed to be European.

I commend the Sanctuary as a business. It has found a niche (geographically and metaphorically) and it is servicing that niche extremely successfully. I can see why people love it; and, equally, I can see why people hate it. I ultimately felt a detached sense of curiosity about it...

  • Stayed February 2010, travelled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
14 Thank Peter R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Berlin
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 21 February 2010

This is a lovely place on the beach with a blend of 2 weeks holiday makers (that pay the full price),habitual travellers, expat hippies, (temporary) health freaks, yoga teachers and lots of other lovely people (who worked out to stay for a reasonable budget), mostly 20-40 years old. People hugging each other seems to be the standard, and if you are not into hugging nobody will bother you with it. The Thai staff is super friendly! To avoid "look of death" by the European managers only order at the bar and do not hang out there! To be accepted in the community (if you want that...) you need: "cool" clothes (its a fashion show), be beautiful, single, casual. If you miss one of these items, you need to be (very) patient.
All other accommodation and restaurants on this beach seem to be influenced by the health consciousness of the people that are attracted by the Sanctuary. Smoothies, brown rice, lassies, muesli and porridge seem to be standard on every menu. But the most healthy options and by far largest menu (400 items) can be had at the Sanctuary. Their restaurant
is superbly built into the rocks with an unbeatable atmosphere and the best spot on this beach.
Everything a modern traveller wants is available including "fast" internet (2B/min with your own laptop and 3B/min using their computers) and slow/unreliable wifi (400B/100min), yoga (all kind of variations 300B), massage (550B/1 hour or 300B/for a massage in public), dorms till "penthouse" acc. (250-4000B), single kayak (100B/1hr; (60B for a double at Hat Yuan beach! around the corner)), medium sized shop (at nextdoor love lip), food (50-400B). Most people we talked to were not impressd with the quality of the teacher training at the Sanctuary and told us you can take a 5-10min walk to http://www.thebloominglotus.net/
As you can see prices are pretty steep at the Santuary (for Thailand), so you pay for the atmosphere, variety, hygiene, quality and last but not least the fact that so many short stay travellers come that have no clue about Thai prices. The restaurants/bungalows around are often full (as well as the Sanctuary) and they serve the same Thai food/rooms with a 20-70% discount. The more the Sanctuary puts up the prices the higher the prices at the acc/rest close to it get, as travellers are coming in droves. Try to arrive after the fridaynight party in case you are a light sleeper between 10PM and 10AM.
Other recommended restaurants: Beam (great french fries) and Bamboo.
Thai massage at other end of the beach (250B) with the thai older Ladies is only for the fainthearted as they make sure!!! you have the more expensive oil massage (350B) next time.
Mobile Phone: DTAC and AIS GSM seem to have reception on Had Tien beach, so when getting a Thai Simcard opt for a company that uses one of these providers.
Going to Had Rin costs 200B one way either by 4WD (bumpy road) or boat (bumpy boatride if there are waves and many laptops have not survived the trip so bring a bin bag or the like!). In Had Rin you find pharmacies, banks, massage, 7-11, shopping, etc. There you can also rent a motorbike for 200B per day and explore the island and maybe stop off in Thongsala for the Tesco Lotus shopping (50-70% discount on everything compared to the Had Tien "shops").

One last remark about the restaurant at the Sanctuary (and for astmatic people like me). It was very contradictory to see that almost everything is devoted to giving people the option of eating and living healthy. At the same time lots of people are smoking in the restaurant and others are forced to inhale their smoke.... Even if you finaly find a smoke free area, a bit later someone comes and sits 3 meters away and starts smoking... (the restaurant has a relatively low roof, is very large and is only open on 2 sides) If the manager reads this I would ask them to consider a smoke free policy in the restaurant (even in most of Europe's unhealthy restaurants smoking is not allowed). My personal impression is that (at the moment) the spirituality / detox is only skindeep as the (created) ambience seems to attract a majority of people that like to enjoy a hedonistic lifestyle.
I would also recommend to rename this place from Santuary Resort to Hedonistic Resort :-)

  • Stayed January 2010, travelled with friends
    • 2 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
5 Thank monao-yoga
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London
1 review
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 9 February 2010

The Sanctuary really is a beautiful oasis of calm in an increasingly crazy island. I first came to Thailand 15 years ago when there wasn't a tarmac road in Koh Samui or Koh Phanang. Things are obviously rather different now, but The Sanctuary - mainly due to being so wonderfully tucked away - is far away from the shops and madness. Every other guest I met there had an intesting story and the staff are kind and helpful. Mike and Moon run a great set-up that guarantees you a bit of how Thailand used to be before the crowds arrived. Yes the beach isn't quite a soft and sandy as some others but the location is rugged and beautiful and arriving by boat on the beach is fabulous (road there is incredibly bumpy - take the boat if you can). There are also many different yoga and pilates classes with great instructors - the yoga platform is up the hill overlooking the jungle, and heavenly massages of all types. Leave your attitude on the boat and enjoy a wonderfully relaxing stay in the very special place. I'll definitely be going back!

  • Stayed January 2010, travelled with friends
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank RaeFoggo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about The Sanctuary Thailand

Property: The Sanctuary Thailand
Address: Had Tien Bay, Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand (Formerly The Sanctuary Island Resort)
Phone Number:
Region: Thailand > Surat Thani Province > Ko Pha Ngan
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Kitchenette Restaurant Spa Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#6 Spa Hotel in Ko Pha Ngan
#13 On the Beach Hotel in Ko Pha Ngan
Number of rooms: 21
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Established in 1991 The Sanctuary is a unique beach front resort offering beautiful houses, comfortable bungalows and budget dorm beds & boasts a 300 + vegetarian and seafood menu & bakery. Offering a diverse Spa menu & Detox fasting center, day trips, Kayaking, snorkelling and our gym to encourage you out of your beach front hammock. An eclectic mix of guests ensures a special beach holiday. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
The Sanctuary Island Hotel Koh Phangan
The Sanctuary Island Spa

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