I was exhausted. I’d taken an overnight bus journey from Goa to Mumbai to catch a flight from India to Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, followed by an early morning flight to Koh Samui in Thailand and finally a boat trip to a neighbouring island. Luckily, I had arrived at The Sanctuary Thailand, my paradise home-from-home and one of my favourite places in the world. Read on for my review of The Sanctuary Thailand, as part of my round-up of the most beautiful yoga resorts in the world.
About the Sanctuary Thailand
Described by the Guardian newspaper as a novel balance between hedonistic and healthy, The Sanctuary Thailand was founded by a British couple in 1991.
On your arrival at the Sanctuary you are greeted with a warm smile and their signature, refreshingly piquant, iced ginger drink: perfect after a long, hot journey. Unfortunately I turned up without my luggage, as my airline had mistakenly flown it to Bangkok. The Sanctuary’s General Manager Mike Doyle and his friendly staff came to the rescue, liaising with the airline to help track it down and even sending his boat driver to personally fetch it for me. I was so grateful and happy to be reunited with my belongings and was touched at how far they were willing to go to help me.
Accommodation options at the Sanctuary Thailand
Accommodation options include totally divine jungle bungalows, cheap and cheerful dorm rooms and everything in between. It offers a range of bungalows and dorms to suit any budget. When I first stayed here in December 2011, I stayed in one of the high end bungalows, which was truly lovely. Set into the rocks of the lush green jungle surroundings it was beautifully furnished with polished floorboards, carefully selected décor and a veranda with one of my favourite ever inventions, the hammock. And being in the jungle I would occasionally be paid a visit by a lizard or a bat, which just adds to the fun. This time, being a frugal backpacker, I stayed in the dorms which offer good value and a great way to meet other guests.
Yoga at the Sanctuary
Every day there are three different yoga classes and a Pilates class on offer, including yin yang vinyasa flow and gentle hatha. In the evening is a complimentary meditation class which could be a guided visualized journey or a dynamic dance to shake away the thoughts and worries of the day and replace them with a calm, happy energy.
There is a full programme of workshops and courses. On Sunday afternoons the resort’s team holds a gathering where you can meet the current resident healers and learn more about the week’s activities. You can try everything from transformational breathing to astrology, yoga massage, qi gong, holistic stress relief, chakra healing and a host of other creative ways to develop yourself in an informal group environment.
Alternatively, you can choose to indulge in a one-to-one session of your choice. There is also an on-site spa if you fancy pampering yourself with massage or beauty treatments. In short, there are plenty of ways to treat your body, mind and spirit here.
More things to do at the Sanctuary
There’s plenty to do at The Sanctuary Thailand too, with a varying schedule of courses and workshops, which you can find out about in the peaceful Tea Temple building. There are also daily yoga classes and a free daily meditation session in the evenings.
Talking of treats, one of my other favourite things about the Sanctuary is the food. A comprehensive menu of vegetarian, fish and seafood dishes spans Thai, Mexican, Indian, Italian, snacks, burgers, specially created healthy salads and blended fruit juices. For those looking instead for a total cleanse the Sanctuary offers a popular detox and fasting programme at its wellness centre. Here, you will be guided through the process, in a supportive environment, with supplements and smoothies to ensure you receive the nutrients you need.
You can enjoy a drink or choose from the extensive menu of delicious vegetarian and fish cuisine from all over the world, while taking in a relaxing view of the beach, sea and jungle. You can also opt for one of the detox programmes offered at the Sanctuary Thailand to cleanse and revitalise your body.
A sociable resort
It’s a sociable resort, too: in the evenings there are weekly movie screenings on the beach and open mic nights. Just spend a little time here and you will meet people from all over the world, some on holiday, some on longer travels, and all with a story to tell.
Here you always receive a warm welcome and the opportunity to meet like minded and friendly people from all over the world, who have landed on the relatively remote shore of Haad Tien to experience this special place, set in lush jungle surroundings.
Nightlife at the Sanctuary
There are also weekly parties for those who are so inclined. Quiet, that is, except for the weekends when the local bar hosts its weekly parties. Here, the residents move to thumping trance beats, as the sun peeks over the horizon and yawns into one of the bay’s spectacular sunrises. No alcohol binges or crazy stunts here, just a bunch of contented people. Even in paradise there’s a time to let your hair down and dance in a new day.
How to get to The Sanctuary Thailand
Most people come to Koh Phangan to experience the notorious Full Moon parties at Haad Rin. But only a short boat ride around the East coast of the island takes you to Haad Tien bay – a world away from the day glo-wearing, whisky bucket-swigging, kerosene-soaked flaming skipping rope-jumping (or missing and heading to the hospital for burns treatment) monthly lunar antics.
Haad Tien is a small, naturally beautiful beach, only accessible by boat, that feels like a panacea for all the hedonistic carnage; a true escape. Yoga, massages and lounging in hammocks is the order of the day. Enjoying a lazy lunch with friends old and new. Or perhaps a wander over to one of the equally lovely neighbouring bays. With just a few low key resorts nestled into the jungle backdrop, it is peaceful, calm and quiet.
Pros and cons about The Sanctuary Thailand
The one downside of The Sanctuary is that there is no ATM on the bay and they don’t accept card payments, so if you are running low on cash you need to take a boat to the nearest town. However, the fact that the resort is slightly off the beaten track is also one of its strengths – it feels like a secret waiting to be discovered.
The Sanctuary’s website says that more than half of its guests are return visitors to the bay, which is testament to how many people fall in love with the place. Some even decide to stay for good. The name says it all – this is a special place to relax, rejuvenate and escape everyday life for a while on one of Thailand’s beautiful shores.
This is the perfect place to come, by yourself or with friends, to unwind from your normal daily life and meet a host of other people doing exactly the same thing. Some people love it so much they stay here long term and you can see why.
Next, find out more unique things to do in Thailand and its best beaches, here.