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“Relax with great food in fantastic company”

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The Sanctuary Thailand
Ranked #22 of 91 Hotels in Ko Pha Ngan
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 28 August 2010

I thought i'd write this review to update the review page and because i nearly didnt go to the Sanctuary because of some bad reviews. Not sure what those people where expecting who thought it was too basic. The true beauty of the resort is the open flow of the cabins and bungalows high up on the hill and amonst the trees. The restauant is well staffed, they appear happy and its a great healthy menu. I used the spa everyday and had great treatments by the beautiul ladies. The yoga and pilates is very professional with individual guidence when needed. I spoke with the manager this morning on my departure, who wished me well and thanked me for my stay, he seemed like a nice bloke and nothing of what a couple of the reviews labled him as. If you are looking to relax, have some great spa treatment, do some yoga, be with nature with great beach views and hang out with friendly people this is the place. If your looking for ritzy 5 star accommadation with other boring tourists stay by your pool in Samui.

  • Stayed: August 2010, travelled solo
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Thank Jem000
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 26 August 2010

I have just returned from my third visit to the Sanctuary

I used to be one of those people who would never ever go on the same holiday twice... There is so much of the world to explore why an earth would a person ever go back to saame place again. Well I have now been to the Sanc three times... heres why?

It is just wonderful to be able to go on holiday and come back feeling lighter, refreshed and healthier...

The sanc and the detox centre have become my home away from home. From the moment I stepped off the boat I was greeted by staff members who remembered my name

Moon who runs the detox centre is just one of the most wonderful human beings I have ever met. He makes the detox so easy and he and his staff are always on hand to encourage, inform and they are always smiling... just wonderful

The place is constantly improving and I noticed a few improvements since my last visit 18 months ago.

I stayed in the lovely sanctuary gardens aircon-tastic room. And loved it.

The restaurant is just amazing and the vibe so postive and friendly. I am just amazed that some people think it is clichy and unfriendly. Sure there are people who stay there for a long time and have developed friendships and they obviously hang around together in the restaurant. The assertion that these people are unfriendly and make others feel unwelcome is the antithesis of my experience. It would suggest that any one finding this place unfriendly should need to take a look at themselves coz for me it is easily the friendliest place I have ever visited (and I travel a lot).

It was exactly as I expected from my previous visits. Although each visit is different because of the people you meet and fast with but Same Same but different --- good.

This time I met some wonderful people... a bloke from France who had an awakening (I know a bit weird but good entertainment value), a cheeky little teacher for Streatham, a moody (but nice) script editor, a lovely accountant, an energetic events planner and various other wonderful fasters to keep me company on my journey...

lots of swimming and spa treatments... and of course the staff at the Sanc including the dude of dudes who runs the place... plus the great massage therapist Zenia.. what a healer....

I loved the Sanc this time so much... it was the best of the three and that is saying a lot...

I cant wait until next time...

if you want a holiday that will return you home to comments from your friends and family along the lines of "WOW you look fantastic"... if you want to return home feeling rested and healed instead of bloated and tired... then get yourself to the Sanc...

  • Stayed: August 2010, travelled solo
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Thank PauilF
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 August 2010

I have just returned from my first ever trip to Thailand … and it was brilliant. Thanks a lot to Trip Advisor for that. Lovely people, lots of smiles and I discovered the most amazing place in the world. Well that’s how it seems to me anyway. The Sanctuary… though not only there but the whole three lovely beaches that make up this amazing part of Thailand

The Sanctuary is a hub for sure and I am guessing that the rest of the places on the bays would not be there if not for the Sanctuary. Ill start there – Sanctuary has amazing food and healthy drinks; it’s inspiring. They also have many lovely rooms, the 1 I stayed in cost 1,500 B ( # 9) and was all I could ask for, lovely views from my hammock, hot shower, comfy bed. There are many others, some much more expensive …. I saw the Star house and will definitely come back with my girlfriend to stay there (it’s got a hot bath on the balcony). After a week I decided that my tour of Thailand had ended and I wanted to stay here … perhaps forever... so I moved to a neighbouring Thai style resort to save some money but I still found myself visiting the Sanctuary all the time.

They also have many things to do, I tried Yoga for the first time and, while I was sore for a few days, I feel great after a week of it. I went to the 1030 class for beginners and it was perfect and has a great teacher... There are also dance workshops and things but I was not ready for that... this time anyway. I am not really a spa type of guy but did appreciate a neck and shoulder massage every few days. Perfect for me. They also offer detox programs but I am not too sure about that my self. Although those I met who were doing it thought it was the best thing they ever did … again, maybe on my agenda for next year.

What I think I liked best is that because they have rooms from 200 B to lots of Baht you get a really cool mix of people there. It’s nice and very stimulating. The staff are good, friendly and enjoy to meet & chat with people which was great.

There are many other small resorts and restaurants so there is great choice available. There are other yoga classes, massage places & a cool bistro etc so it is great. All I am sure inspired by what the Sanctuary has managed to do which is to make a place that’s really cool, got lots of nice people- go out of your way to meet them – its worth it. I read on another review about the different groups of people here and its pretty close really I met a diverse bunch of people while there. The Sanctuary, brilliant for most anyway. Perhaps a few people come and don’t get it - their loss I think. I will definitely be back

Larry Gogan

  • Stayed: July 2010, travelled solo
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Thank LarCardiff
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 August 2010

The Sanctuary

I have spent a lot of time in this area of Thailand over the years and The Sanctuary is somewhere I have always had a curiosity about. Whenever I passed it on a boat or we pulled in to drop someone off there, I got a vaguely intimidating sense about the place. Like it was somewhere I would feel uncomfortable going into on my own. I always thought that was a bit unlikely as this area of Thailand is great for solo backpackers. But I always got the sense that it was a bit “too cool for school”. And yes, from experience, there is definitely a resident clique installed at the bar area.

In April, whilst the European flights were grounded due to the volcanic ash I had the opportunity to visit the place in a group. There were 7 of us in total, 6 girls and one guy. We did not fast or cleanse there. Although one of the girls had recently completed a fast there and spoke really highly of the place.

The trip there left me a tad tired. We had only decided late in the day to go, got the last fast boat to KP, a tuktuk up a distressing steep hill to Haad Rin, and a negotiated long tail out to the sanctuary.

Yes, I can agree that the lady on the reception was not that friendly. I thought she was probably worn out with all of the shenanigans that must be involved in running the front desk of such a place. We checked out a few of the rooms. It was already dark and some were up a precipitous cliff. But very sympathetically done. We saw one house with a bedroom upstairs and a huge living area deck type space overlooking the jungle and the sea and a circular bathroom outside. Am not a fan of going outside in the middle of a dark tropical night for a pee, know that some people don’t mind, however its not for me. And another standard small bungalow with a double bed and a fan just about squeezed inside. It would have been way too hot. In the end we agreed on one of the air con bungalows in the gardens near the Tea Temple.

As many people have said, I do think the place is horrendously overpriced. I do understand the limitations of running a business, and more so in a remote location. But this was taking it a bit too far. 3 of us decided to share the bungalow to ease the cost. But it was still around £20/£25 a night each i.e. £60-£75 per night– I think one of the girls negotiated. It was a nice enough bungalow, with air con, double bed and a kind of double futon in the sitting/dining room. The bathroom had a built in rock and a hot shower. Hot showers aren’t a must for me in Thailand though. The bungalow was clean and cleaned every day. The bed was comfortable with nice crisp sheets. But TBH I would expect that for the price.

The electricity would go on and off though, something about the generator. It happened one day at dusk and we waited for ages. Then decided to get ober to the restaurant before it got too dark. I don’t think they were aware that the generator had gone down in that area. I think we were the only occupied bungalow. So it was a good job we told them.

Staff transferred our bags, I don't remember them being unfriendly but I don't remember them being great either, so I can't comment on the surliness factor in the restaurant.

One of our friends negotiated quite strongly and got a good deal on the bungalow which is up the stairs at cliff side of the bar. Our other friends stayed up in the jungle and were a little unhappy about it. And one stayed in the dorm which at 200 baht a night is the best value in the place.

The food in the restaurant is great, pescetarian, huge portions. I remember there is a bit of a wait but if you go before you are ravenously hungry its not a problem. And it is a little on the pricey side for Thailand. But then the Sanctuary is a “destination” and can get away with it. Can't comment on the booze or the prices at the bar as none of us had a drink there.

There is a definite clique there as others have mentioned, which is why I introduced this review by noting the intimidating sense that I got of the place from the water. A lot of smoking, tobacco etc. And a definite exclusive air to it all i.e. you aren’t invited. As I was in a group and having a great time with my friends it didn’t bother me so much. But I can totally understand why it would make people feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. One of the girls in our group really didn’t like it, at all, it gave her a feeling of dark energy, and made her want to leave asap.

Away from the bar though there was a different feeling about the place. Not an entirely different feeling, but less intense and forbidding.

The Tea Temple was a nice place to sit in and when I was there served these AMAZING, TO-DIE-FOR raw vegan chocolate balls. I tried to get the recipe but it was sworn to secrecy.

I didn't do the yoga at the Sanctuary so I can't comment - see below - I did yoga at Why Nam. I didn’t use the Wellness centre at all - again was overpriced. There is an AMAZING Thai massage to be had at the other end of the beach. Big Mama and her two buddies charge I think around 300/400 baht. She is a genuine healer (of sorts). She worked on a foot injury I had and she worked on a specific problem the guy had which I won’t go into as it's a little personal. He wasn’t even aware he had the problem and she fixed it!!!! She’s AMAZING.

We did Ashtanga yoga in the next bay along, Why Nam Beach, every morning. The teachers are INCREDIBLE. They have a great lineage and are Ashtanga devotees and I am privileged to say I have worked with them. The shala is more of a deck overlooking the Sea and such a wonderful place to practice in. One of the teachers at the Sanctuary practised there in the morning, 2nd series, amazing practise.

We went to the beach on the other side, Haad Yuan, a MUCH nicer beach, with great, great swimming and lovely water and even a bit of surf! Very unusual. The water there was so enjoyable - I stayed in it for hours. I much preferred this beach to the beach at the sanctuary, which is quite stony. It is a massive climb to get there and a rickety wooden bridge, which when you have a foot injury, is a little on the traumatic side to get to.

I didn’t sunbathe on the beach at the Sanctuary at all. By the time I got back from yoga, showered, breakfast etc all the beds were “reserved” by towels. And there was a bit of smoking going on there too.

We were lucky that one of our friends had previous experience of the place and told us about Big Mama, and the Ashtanga and the other beach.

We stayed maybe three nights (not a Friday) and left in the end because some of the girls REALLY didn’t like the vibe. I didn’t mind it too much. Though I wouldn’t have liked it if I was there on my own AT ALL.

I think it might be a good place to do a fast/cleanse though I have no experience of it there. If I was going to that area to fast though I personally probably wouldn’t choose the Sanctuary because my experience of it wasn’t that great.

Oh and there were a lot of mossies. Even at the beach and especially in the more jungly areas. Am very glad we didn’t take the House with the deck area. I would have been eaten alive.

Would I recommend it? I would tell people about my experience of it and let them make up their own minds. But in a yes or no - probably no. If they want to experience the Sanctuary that's one thing, but they could have much cheaper accom on a better beach for less.

I don’t think I would go back. Its definitely overpriced compared to what else is available on the island, better quality accom for less on better beaches. There is accom on Why Nam if you want to be able to access the ashtanga there. And there is no question that there are cliques at the Bar. I have been there now, done it. I love the swimming around KP so would probably stay at Haad Yuan or Thong Nai Pan Noi where I have stayed many times in the past.

  • Stayed: April 2010, travelled with friends
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1  Thank tandiweLondon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 August 2010

The Sanctuary is a fantastic spot, we are a travel weary family (never thought it could happen) and we wanted to find somewhere that was close to an international airport (samui) yet far away enough to feel like we were in a remote location. Sanctuary was perfect. The location is beautiful, the staff were also super friendly, helpful and generous with their time.

The resort was a perfect balance between bungalow spartan living and more resort style accommodation, the lack of phone and other luxuries are essential to helping us city types to unwind, and get into the groove... which is what i believe is what the purpose of a holiday should be.

We had originally planned to stay for only one week, and then go on and explore the island, but once we had arrived, we all got so settled in and deeply relaxed that we couldn't bear the thought of moving on. we ended up staying almost 7 weeks.

it was a perfect cure for two years in hong kong! we arrived sick, grey, stressed and uptight, we left feeling refreshed, healthy, happy... reborn.

my two girls (4&6) also had a fantastic time, swimming, swimming,and swimming, hanging out with the staff, drinking blueberry lassis, more swimming, and there were enough other families passing through and kids of staff that girls had plenty of playmates.

Most of the other guests we met, were return visitors, many returning every year for some sun and a quick detox.

we too, will be joining their ranks and returning next year. for the beautiful setting, the friendly staff, the great food, the healthy living, and of course crispin's truly, truly awesome mojitos!

  • Stayed: June 2010, travelled with family
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1  Thank tim_in_boston
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 August 2010

From the flashy website I thought we were arriving in a serene paradise with a detox/spa feel. From the moment we were shown to our room things seemed all wrong. Firstly walking up a hill to a little tarzan style treehouse with the most basic facilities was not worth the $55US per night that we paid for. Having no phone in our room when we both got dysentery from the water at the sanctuary meant we were trapped in our room a whole day without being able to even have water sent up to us. Trying to eat at the restaurant with smoke wafting in your face from the people puffing away at the other table is also not what I expected from a so called "health retreat" .. The restaurant food was the only good quality thing about this place

  • Stayed: August 2010, travelled as a couple
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Thank FionaElizabethL
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 August 2010

The place has an very unique location, gorgeous views and the whole concept of the Sanctuary is very nice. It's the place to stay if you don't want to have access to anything but nature. The cabanas are very nice. We arrived late at night and I remember having a hard time with the reception person. Luckily there was only one cabana left and we were impressed of the way the cabanas are built in the mountain. The bathroom is outside, right next to the cabana. You can hear every single noise ... in a good sense.
I don't usually write reviews to complain, but I have to mention that the service is very bad. We had the same problems as most people complain about. Most of the employees have a very bad attitude (very unlike Thai people). We thought it might be the western influence, because this is very uncommon in Thailand... We didn't feel like in Thailand (the smile country) except for the location and views.
We go every year to Thailand and bring people with us ... we would love to come here, but we still have a lot of "but's" in our thoughts...
I would recommend this hotel to my friends but I would make very clear not to expect a cheap hotel and good service as every other place in Thailand.
I write this review mostly to the management the see if they make the appropriate changes in their staff or training... Hope it helps!
In good health and spirit! Namaste.

  • Stayed: August 2009, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank MonicaAngel
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

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:
#9 Spa Hotel in Ko Pha Ngan
#15 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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