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“A good break but probably not really for the "clean living"”

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The Sanctuary Thailand
Ranked #22 of 91 Hotels in Ko Pha Ngan
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 26 September 2010

I have very mixed feelings about The Sanctuary. On the one hand I met some amazing people and had some very positive experiences. I enjoyed my detox and also eating new foods like raw foods from their cleansing menu. For a vegetarian menu there is an amazing lot of variety (they also do fish btw). It was a great kick start to my new healthy living plan.

The Thai staff are lovely as is Moon at the Wellness centre. The other 'staff' tend to be healers, yogi or practioners of some sort and the majority of them are pretty decent people. The Manager Mike was a great guy and I really liked him. I remember reading reviews on trip advisor before I left talking about how cliquey this place was and I also agree with this, however, it comes from this group of healers or teachers rather than guests and they are great once you get to know them. I think that if I was offering advice to the Sanctuary I would tell them that this group needs to be broken up a bit and practice meeting guests (which would also help them sell their various services!).

The spa was quite good although there are better elsewhere in Thailand. The rooms are fairly rustic but in a nice "Hey I'm chilling out in Thailand on the beach way".

I guess what I struggled with was the fact that it is not really as clean living as I thought it was going to be. As one reviewer states there are a lot of smokers of the non-tobacco kind there but this wasn't an issue for me personally - I mean its Thailand for Godsakes. But on Friday night there is a massive party on the beach at the bar next to the Sanctuary which is exceedingly loud. The Sanctuary cannot control this and they kindly supply earplugs. The problem, however, is that it is a heavily drug fuelled party - e, acid, mushrooms etc. So you get staff (ex-pat staff) lecturing you during the day about clean living and then at night they get into the chemicals and are still high for the next few days talking bollocks to you! It seems hypocritical. A lot of guests I spoke to commented on this so I wasn't the only one who felt this way.

One Saturday morning a fellow guest came back from the party complete tripping and out of it - it put me off my breakfast to say the least! Again, the Sanctuary can't control what their guests do...but for me it did wreck my stay.

So would I go the Sanctuary again? Hmmm, hard to say. It was a beautiful part of the world and might go back for a few days but not on or near a Friday.

I guess you will have to make your own decision. I hope this review helps you manage your expectations and if you go, you will go with an informed decision of whether this sort of thing is for you and whether you can handle it.

  • Stayed: September 2010, travelled solo
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1  Thank Natgazz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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426 - 432 of 554 reviews

Reviewed 18 September 2010

Having just spent 6 nights at the Centara Resort, Haad Yuan on Koh Phangan I decided a change of scenery (and pace) was needed for my final 5 nights on the island. My destination was to be Thong Nai Pan Yai on the Northeast coast of Koh Phangan. The trip North from Haad Yuan to Thong Nai Pan involves taking a short long-tail water taxi ride to Haad Thian, then a ferry the rest of the way. Getting as far as Haad Thian wasn't a problem. The friendly people at The Sanctuary sold me a ticket for the ferry North and promptly put a flag out on the beach to signal to the once-a-day ferry that there was someone to pick up. Well the ferry captain never saw the flag and I was marooned at Haad Thian .... and so I became the Inadvertent Visitor!

I'd have to stay the night in Haad Thian then continue my journey the next day. Although there are several accommodation options in Haad Thian, I decided to see if there was room at the Sanctuary. There was and as they say, the rest was history! That first night I was made to feel so welcome by Michael, his staff and fellow visitors that I decided to stay there my final 5 days in Koh Phangan.

The accommodation options range from a dorm to luxury self-contained houses. Mine was very comfortable bungalow with a hot shower en-suite and fan. Those who like their creature comforts might like to shell out a bit more for air-con. Yes I could have found a cheaper room on a white sandy beach elsewhere on the island but The Sanctuary is a destination and those who choose to stay do so for a variety of reasons, and cheap room rates would not be at the top of their priority list. Having said that if you're a budget conscious traveller try the dorm, it's very comfortable (by all accounts). Also, don't be afraid to haggle over the room rates, you might be pleasantly surprised.

The restaurant/bar was the centre of attraction in the evenings. The food was delicious with good portion sizes. All dishes were vegetarian, although there was a seafood menu to choose from. I particularly liked the Thai & Malay dishes but if you have a craving for a pizza it was there too. My strong recommendation is that you make an effort to mingle and meet fellow guests and staff while you're at The sanctuary, the ideal time to do this is in the evenings over a meal and a beer. I did so on my first 'Inadvertent' night and my experience was such that I stayed on!

Because my visit to The Sanctuary was acidental I had no plans to do a detox, and I didn't! I did however partake in meditation, yoga, massages and two excellent sessions with therapists. I'll spare you the details but I found those two sessions to be hugely beneficial. The rest of my time was spent lazing on the beach, reading, swimming, jungle walks, numerous siestas and socializing. Very very relaxing.

As with so many first-time visitors, I'm already planning my next visit and a detox is on the agenda but the main reason I'll be back is because of the friendly welcoming atmosphere and the oppertunity to be somewhere quite special doing something quite special. I highly recommend The Sanctuary.

  • Stayed: September 2010, travelled solo
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Thank fredn100
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 September 2010

We actually live in Thailand, so we are quite familiar with what's good and what's not

I booked for my wife a 9 night, 7 day full detox plan at the so called Sanctuary, a wellness centre.

There is nothing wellness of sanctuary about this place whatsoever.

Here is her experience, Day one. turn up tired after a flight, and 2 boat trips to get to them. Discover the main chap who speaks English has decided at the last minute to go on vacation. Hmmm. no one speaks English now. No intro from staff, no meet and greet, no weigh in, no blood pressure taken. Just showed to her room. Lots of people, but that will be great as she wants to do a full detox with others. Soon discovers that only 3 others are doing the detox, the rest of the 2-30 odd people are partying. First night in restaurant everyone is drunk, smoking pot, staff are lounging around also smoking. The music starts at 9 at goes on till 2am.

Next night, same again, except everyones stoned and dancing on the beach which is 10 meters from the bungalows. Room is also infested with ants, its filthy dirty and no one was on duty to help/clean/move her to somewhere else.

Next morning she swiftly tells them what she thinks, gets on a boat and goes to another spa.

So. if you are 20, smoke and like to drink and party every night then this is the joint. If not, trust me, do not go there, you will be so disappointed, will waste 30,000 bht and will not be refreshed one bit.

As se was leaving so where another couple, they could not take it anymore

My wife has now checked into Samui Detox and she tells me its 100000% better, but its 50% more expensive. I suppose you get what you pay for.

As most people here reviewing are from overseas it is a complete waste of your time and hard earned cash going to the Sanctuary.

TRUST ME, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

ITS FOR YOUNGSTERS ONLY,

AND YOU WILL NOT GET WELL HERE!

  • Stayed: September 2010, travelled solo
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9  Thank HolidayMad007
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
SanctuaryThailand, General Manager at The Sanctuary Thailand, responded to this reviewResponded 9 September 2010

Hi , I’m Mike, the manager of Sanctuary.

Firstly I am truly sorry that your visit with us was so disappointing for you.

I want to thank you for helping me see my shortcoming in that I do not explain clearly on our web site about us.

We are a rustic beach front resort, boutique in nature ,off the beaten track, rather remote with a real jungle/forest feel to our rooms and halls and open restaurant so despite being extremely popular with certain people I can now see that, for a small few, we are too rustic and remote. I apologise for not expressing that clearly on our web site.

As I look at the trip advisor negative reviews and their frequency and compare to the number of guests we would have in that month period I can see that this reflects 0.2 % negative reviews out of the approximate 500 people per month who come and visit with us . I can truly say that 90%+ of those who come here love it and return when possible.. they just don’t write reviews .

What I certainly don’t want is to disappoint you or create expectations that we can not meet. I am now amending our web site to reflect clearly our rusticness and uniqueness in the hope that this small % of people who don’t like what we offer can see this before booking.

Sincerely , Mike Doyle

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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
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
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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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