We spotted the welcoming committee as our limo slunk through the gates past the security guards and rolled gently toward the tall curtain wall of the majestic Barai Spa. Two butlers dressed in their claret fisherman’s pants and blouses. The yellow uniform belonged to the Spa Manager who had come to establish how we wished to customise our little slice of paradise on the Gulf of Thailand. After everyone had waid to us several times we were allowed to walk the three or four steps to the waiting electric golf-cart. Our luggage was loaded onto a second cart while we were whisked away. Only later did we discover that our bags had been unpacked and the contents neatly folded into drawers in the separate his ‘n hers washing and dressing rooms.
We arrived at the gates of the Barai Suites and dismounted. Entering a shaded garden, passing our private pool, watching the diamonds of light flickering on the surface as the twin fountains cast their magical spell, we ascended the steps and entered a vast cool chamber. This was our lounge. It would make a huge hotel room on it’s own but it was just an accessory. We notice the twin Thai massage beds at one side and the pyjamas which have already been placed for us. Moving on through the full length sliding doors into the bed chamber, we see the biggest bed we have encountered. We don’t have a tape measure but if we lie across it, facing each other, our heads just meet in the middle. Through an archway is a sunken bath big enough for a party. Through yet another set of sliding doors we find the washing and dressing rooms with their shell-shaped washbasins and copious mirrors. Piles of fresh white towels are everywhere I look, more arrive later in the evening along with a large jug of iced water. At the end of the corridor is the WC opposite the enormous shower which doubles as a steam chamber.
I come to my senses as I realise I’m being asked a question. “What time would you like us to prepare your bath and steam room?” “What fragrance would you like?” We settled on eight o’clock after an early dinner, and lavender, we were a little jet-lagged. The mini bar is complimentary, the welcome Champagne on ice is “compliments of the management”, “we hope you enjoy your stay.”
Some time later, I am lying on a sunbed close to the beach, in the dappled shade of some palm trees, watching the sky change as a tropical squall comes racing in across the gulf. The wind begins to lift my towel around my legs, sand is pinging at my face. I sit up and hold out my arms as the first drops of rain burst around me scattering little rings of droplets like miniature cluster bombs. I’m entranced by it all but then I realise my towel is going to get wet, so I arise slowly and begin to gather things. From nowhere comes a banshee wail “Noooooo, Mister Andrew, let me do that for you.” Now I’m old fashioned and don’t find it easy to let ladies do chores for me but I catch a look in her eye and I think there is a tear. I back down instantly. She really wants to do this for me.
The storm passes quickly enough and without asking, my reading station is reassembled and our butler Jan leads me back out. A few minutes later she is back with a bowl of chilled fresh local fruit. The pineapples have a slightly creamy, coconuty flavour, gorgeous. The dragon fruit is sweet and has a soft floral flavour that somehow reminds me of visiting my grandmother. Then there is the aloe vera. This plant has a million uses but the ripe flesh, chilled is simply divine. The most refreshing thing I’ve found to eat on this Earth.
A pattern is emerging in which it becomes apparent that Jan can read my mind. She knows what I want just before I do. Iced lemon tea with the sugar syrup on the side. I am joined by my partner who has been gently swimming lengths of the exquisitely beautiful tranquility court pool. She tells me about it. “Nice here isn’t it?” I opine. She laughs. “How many nights do we have?” I ask. “Only Two!” I protest, “That’s not enough.” Ten minutes later we have decided to cancel this winter’s skiing trip to Cervinia so we can extend our stay to the full week.
In the evening we mooch around the corner, a voyage of about thirty yards, to McFarland House. The frame of this simple colonial style villa is made from massive teak beams. It is open sided which means you catch the scent of the cypress trees when the breeze blows and sip your chilled white wine to the music of the cicada. We while away a couple of hours drinking the complimentary Sauvignon Blanc and dine on the numerous “canapés” the amazingly attentive waiting staff bring. The supply is endless. Just for curiosity we order a few items from the Thai Tapas menu. Wonderfully succulent scallops, twice fried pork with lime leaves, tuna tartare, whatever we order arrives fresh and garnished with all the wonderful herbs we know from this most friendly and fertile region.
Staying at the Barai in one of the suites – there are only eight, four with pools and four upstairs with balconies – includes an hour of therapy each day per person. We stayed a week, working our way through the menu. Vichy shower, body scrubs, aroma massage, Thai massage, facials, scalp and foot massage. All the therapists were very skillful and sensitive. The Barai Spa architecture is simply stunning and very cleverly designed to disorientate the visitor. As you walk behind your butler who delivers you to therapy appointments, you turn this way and that on stepping stoned paths, passing sculpted sand beds and delightful little glimpses of fountains and urns in hidden places. The beauty distracts you to the point where you expect to meet some kind of mythical beast but you are surely lost exactly as intended. No matter, your butler is always waiting at the end of your therapy to lead you back to a lounger, or romantic dinner on the beach or some other pleasure filled moment.
As a resort, Hyatt Regency Hua Hin is extremely well planned. There is a wonderful freeform swimming pool complex surrounded by immaculately tended tropical gardens filled with fountains and lawns, a discretely hidden children’s playground (though no under 16s are allowed in The Barai), a good gym and then there’s Talai Thai restaurant. We had a private cooking lesson there, the complimentary chef’s apron still takes pride of place on my kitchen wall back home. I sigh every time I see it. The time between visits is so long.
Hua Hin is 200km around the gulf from Bangkok. A journey of around 3 hours by car or train. It is the home of King Bumibol’s summer palace so it is very much a royal town. Like most of Thailand it is full of noise and vibrant colour. Unlike Pataya it is not full of perma-tanned European retirees and there are no drug-fueled full moon parties. Instead the bay is illuminated at night by the vivid green lights of the squid fishermen’s lures. There are things to do, like visiting a vineyard and riding elephants, ocean kayaking, yachts for hire, markets to browse around but when you’re in The Barai who cares about all that? Who would leave paradise for mundane outings?
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