By: Marcela Swenson
On the second leg of our honeymoon, my husband, Noah and I were enjoying our two-night stay at Rayavadee, a beautiful resort on the Andaman Coast of Thailand.
The second morning, we went to the rock climbing shop, Hot Rocks, located in “Downtown Railay” to meet our guide, Psi. He fitted us with shoes and assured us that the tight fit was better for gripping the wall with our toes.
At the rock climbing site, the 9am sun was already doing its best to dissuade us from doing anything but lay on the beach. Psi nimbly scaled the first wall in order to hook up the lead rope to the anchor at the summit of the wall. I was next and the porous limestone wall helped me make easy work of the first portion of the wall. Having Psi’s weight on the other end of the rope to counterbalance mine was advantageous when lunging for grips I thought were out of reach. Things got tricky near the top when footholds became scarcer but Psi helped direct me to a crack in the wall with a good grip and before I knew it, I had reached the top!
Noah didn’t fare as well as it quickly became evident how much body weight factored into rock climbing. Psi was close to a foot shorter and weighed 50 pounds less than Noah, making it difficult for Psi to belay him (and comical to watch his attempt!) Whether Noah made it to the summit or not is not important; the point is that for once he made me look strong and athletic and what more could I ask for on my honeymoon?
We attempted four more walls that day. Some were easier than the first, most were harder and some looked impossible. The last climb of the day was by far the longest and most difficult of the day, if only for the endurance required and the intensified heat.
I took the climb slowly, allowing my arms the opportunity to rest when I could, and heeding Psi’s advice to use my legs to push me up, not my arms to pull up my body. At last I reached the summit and climbed into a cave for refuge from the sun. I hadn’t noticed while climbing but I had developed some pretty sweet blisters on my fingers that I would show off like badges of honor for the remainder of our honeymoon. The view of the peninsula and ocean was worth every drip of sweat and quiver in my muscles, and I was in no hurry to come back to Earth.
Physically exhausted and sticky with sweat, our only thought was to shower, eat and sleep. Walking back to our pavilion seemed like a chore, but the instant we walked into the air-conditioned living room we were in Heaven. The outdoor shower was the best and most deserved I’d ever taken in my life, and afterwards we laid out in the sun chairs, unable to do anything else but talk about how much excruciating fun rock climbing was. Hot Rocks Climbing School, $50 1/2 day climb.
We rewarded our hard work with a dip in the free form infinity pool. We learned during our tour the day before that the pool was severely damaged and flooded with sand in the 2005 tsunami and had to be reconstructed. From the edge of the pool we watched as locals took advantage of the low tide and played beach soccer. The cool water gave our muscles the relief we were looking for so we decided to abuse our arms even further.
Noah and I borrowed a complimentary sea kayak (catamarans were available but we felt that was too ambitious), and ventured toward the “Happy Islands” off the Phranang shore. I was saddened to find that previous visitors to the isle had brought snacks and drinks with them but left the wrappers and bottles behind, so I turned into a conservationist and picked up whatever trash I could find. We were baffled that someone would visit paradise and not try to preserve its beauty.
That evening I went to the spa to relieve the pain I had inflicted on my body that morning while Noah stayed behind to explore on his own. Inside the tranquil Rayavadee Spa, I met my masseuse, Koond, who was to give me the Rayavadee Signature Massage. My room had its own bathroom and shower, a massage table that was cleverly perched on a monkey sculpture, and the sound of trickling water from a fountain in the corner.
Koond began with a footbath using salt scrub and lime, making my feet feel like a very relaxed margarita. The next portion of the massage began with me lying on my stomach on the massage table. As I placed my head in the open space for the face, I noticed that instead of staring at the floor or Koond’s feet, I was looking at a turquoise bowl of water with floating lilies. Rayavadee hadn’t overlooked the details thus far, why should they start now?
Koond began the signature massage by rubbing warm oil on my calves and then putting additional pressure on them with a pouch of herbs wrapped in linen and soaked in almond oil. Koond moved the pouch in a circular motion over my calves, back and arms, and then went over every muscle again with her hands, using her unbelievably strong thumbs to methodically work out every knot in my shoulders.
As the massage neared the end and I didn’t think it could get any better, Koond gathered my hair together at the crown of my head and gently pulled. It was the simplest thing but it felt indescribably good, like a release of energy running out of the top of my head. It was the most relaxing massage experience I could remember having, and I was tempted to schedule another massage for the following morning.
When I emerged from my happy coma, Koond had a cup of tea waiting for me in the spa foyer. It was made from soaking ginger, lemon grass and banana leaf in hot water; it was delicious with a hint of spice from the ginger. I had mentioned earlier that my favorite Thai dish was pad woon sen so she presented me with a hand written recipe for the dish so I could make my own when I returned home; the staff truly goes above and beyond expectations. Rayavadee Spa, Signature Massage $102/75 minutes, $144/105 minutes.
Back at our pavilion, Noah and I decided to treat ourselves to room service on the patio outside of our pavilion. We ordered almost entirely off the menu and of course, the staff was happy to accommodate. The fried prawn and cucumber cakes from our first night were too good to pass up so we ordered them in addition to pad woon sen and a curry dish.
Room service was the perfect way to cap off our vacation at Rayavadee. Our food was delicious (although the curry was spicier than I could handle) and we were able to reflect on everything we had done in such a short time. After dinner, I wanted to go to the beach one last time so we took our camera and watched the crabs scurry around the sand. We ended our night watching The Man With the Golden Gun (because the movie took place in this region) on DVD which Noah had selected from Rayavadee’s free DVD library.
The next morning we put our luggage outside of the pavilion to be picked up for our departure and we finally took advantage of the breakfast buffet at the Raya dining room. The beautifully arranged exotic fruits were cut into interesting shapes and the condiment assortment was particularly impressive with items like black sesame seed paste and a variety of honeys hailing from different regions of the country.
GOODBYE FOR NOW
Following breakfast, we checked our email at the complimentary computers in the library until a staff member informed us that the boat had arrived to take us away. We said goodbye to Claudine and the rest of the staff and assured them that since we had celebrated our honeymoon there, we’d have no choice but to return several times in the future. We boarded the boat and this time, sadly, it was our turn to see the farewell crew waved goodbye to us as we left the beautiful peninsula.
We returned to Bangkok and went on to experience cities in Cambodia and Laos and loved our experiences there. However, none of our other destinations could show us hospitality like we felt in Thailand. We felt at home in the land of a thousand smiles and were already looking forward to our next visit even before we left the country.
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Note: This trip was sponsored in part by Rayavadee Spa .