With a sublime maze of pools, 18 chamber-style treatment rooms and dimly lit corridors doused in ochre red, The Barai pays homage to the Khmer temples of Angkor, but with hints of a Japanese garden and Arabian harem. Set over 2 hectares, it’s easy to get lost, but eventually all paths lead to the Tranquility Court, a serene courtyard dotted with 100-year-old tamarind trees and a 30-meter lap pool. Designed by local architect Lek Bunnag (who worked with Bill Bensley on the Four Season’s Chiang Mai and Langkawi), when it opened in March last year, The Barai raised the bar for spa design in Thailand.
More indulgent than inventive, the eight guest suites attached to The Barai each take in a huge 126 square meters, with terrazzo floors, rich wood trimmings and a roof in the shape of ocean waves. Just as remarkable are the villa butlers. The first time I checked into The Barai was for the U.S. edition of Travel + Leisure's It List. Putting the staff to the test, I asked my butler, Apple, for a glass of dry, chilled, New World white wine, ASAP. Less than three minutes later she was back with bottle Chilean Sauvignon Blanc poised delicately on a tray.
Also impressive is the breakfast at McFarlane House, a 19th-century building transformed into a breezy restaurant and bar by the beach. Think free-range eggs with wilted spinach and Brie with sun-cured beef.
The quality of The Barai’s spa treatments is a little hit and miss. My aromatherapy massage seemed straight out of a textbook; the therapists regurgitating a pattern rather than feeling. However, the indigo compress- a Thai massage followed by Hmong style poultice to draw toxins out of the skin - was superb.
When The Barai first opened, it offered an intimate spa getaway, with a daily massage and a personal in-house yoga instructor included in the rate. Both, unfortunately, have been scrapped; the yoga is now in group classes. Also, charging an extra US$20 a day for a slow and haphazard Internet connection is mean for any hotel, let alone one asking these room rates.
Doubles from US$1,025 including breakfast, mini-bar, evening drinks and snacks.With a sublime maze of pools, 18 chamber-style treatment rooms and dimly lit corridors doused in ochre red, The Barai pays homage to the Khmer temples of Angkor, but with hints of a Japanese garden and Arabian harem.