Samui Wining & Dining
Extremely Vital

13From restaurant and spa through to accommodation, Prana Beach Resorts & Spa is taking the healthy route.

Long pipes sprouting buds of green. Shoots appearing from miniscule pots of earth scarcely bigger than thimbles. High overhead there’s a makeshift awning protecting them from the heat of the sun. This small hydroponics project is a fledgling concern but is already extremely doing well. As Prana Beach Resorts & Spa’s Assistant General Manager, Wendy Phay, explained. “We found we needed the overhead protection for the plants but the hot temperatures mean they thrive. From seed to table takes about five days,” she says. “Quicker than you’d think.”

Indeed. But what’s just as extraordinary, and pleasing, is that these seeds aren’t part of a hydroponics farm in a private garden but are right there, next to the restaurant and in full view of the diners. And it’s not a gimmick either. The plants are all an integral part of Prana Beach Resorts & Spa, a relatively new addition to Samui’s ever-expanding list of hotels.

Prana is the Sanskrit word for vital energy and breath. It stands for the life-sustaining force in living things, whether they be mammal, plant, fish – or human. For a resort to name itself after a life-force is a particularly bold move. What the owners are hoping to do is thoroughly recharge your batteries whilst you stay here.

In days gone, by nobody really thought that staying at a hotel should be a rejuvenating experience. Everyone took it for granted that holidays tended to be sluggish. You turned up at the resort, ate the kind of food that tended to bloat you and then settled into a kind of daze as the carbohydrates took their toll on your waistline. True; it was both a rest and a break from your normal routine. But did it leave you feeling refreshed?

These days, there’s a growing trend to provide holidays that are revitalizing. And Prana Beach Resorts & Spa certainly follows that concept. It aims to give you a good time, certainly – but without your energies dropping to near coma levels. It’s all about bringing energy to your mind and body, rather than draining it from you.

The most obvious way to do this starts with food. As Wendy tells us, “When I was asked to market a vegetarian restaurant, I was rather unsure about it. Some people still have the idea that vegetarian means ‘rabbit food’. Would many people want to come to a restaurant where there’s no fish or meat on the menu?” She found that they did and the restaurant, simply called Amala, has been doing rather well.

Wendy was pleasantly surprised by the results. People came and liked the food and then told others about it. You can eat heartily here without feeling over-full. “It’s called ‘vegetarian with a twist’,” says Wendy, “because it’s not the usual kind of food you’d expect in a restaurant.” The food is colourful and has been designed with health in mind. Healthy here certainly doesn’t mean boring. The tastes are light but satisfying. Even die-hard meat-eaters enjoy coming here and don’t miss their usual fare. Wendy says the feedback has been very positive.

Although new, Amala is now competing very successfully with the more traditional restaurants on Samui. It’s also very stylish. Choose a table inside the large sala or on the open-air decking outside. If you come here for lunch, then you’re welcome to use the swimming pool, too.

And guests can also enjoy the spa, which overlooks the sea, where skilled therapists soothe away your cares using a variety of treatments that, again, are designed to maximise revitalization and leaving you with a lot more energy than when you went in.

As you’d probably expect by now, the accommodation also reflects the same spirit of well-being. The rooms are on the generous side, especially the bathrooms, which seem to have as much space as in a spa. The Prana Suite is tucked away from the resort, half-hidden by greenery and has its own private terrace, complete with sofa and is ideal for a honeymoon break. Best of all, it comes with its own private Jacuzzi which faces the sea.

But the most striking feature about the rooms is that there are only thirteen of them. There’s never a crowded feel to the resort. The staff get to know the guests, who are made to feel thoroughly at home. “When guests leave,” says Wendy, “they comment that it’s like leaving their family. They appreciate the personal service.”

Coming to a country like Thailand can be a disorienting experience if you’re doing it for the first time. Staying somewhere like Prana Beach Resorts & Spa takes the edge off that. The sheer intimacy of the resort guarantees that you don’t feel like a faceless statistic.

The setting is on the north coast, with views of Koh Pha-Ngan just a few kilometers away. And as the resort opens itself to the sea, one of the many pleasures here is that the beach is just a hop away from the restaurant decking. It certainly adds to the spacious feel that the resort has. The setting is in Bangrak, on the beach road between Fisherman’s Village and Big Buddha and, so far, has missed out on any major development. It’s quiet here but without a totally isolated feel.

And the resort has been built to follow ecological guidelines. The wooden decking, which has a pleasing café-au-lait colour is, in fact, re-cycled wood, carefully collected and used again, rather than burned. Plans are afoot to install solar-cell technology and there will also be composting and re-cycling of wastewater. This is all in line with new and healthier trends in tourism. It’s vital on a small island like Samui, where the habitat has seen so much development.


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