I have to admit I wasn’t sure how Koh Phangan was going to top Koh Samui.
While Koh Samui has a reputation for luxury resorts Koh Phangan is often linked to its raucous full moon parties and backpacker-style hotels…which I discovered all lie on the southern side of Koh Phangan. On the northern side: Pure, unadulterated paradise. White, powdery beaches. Clear, turquoise waters. Lush, verdant jungles. A natural beauty unlike any other.
As much as I loved all of the pampering on Koh Samui, I had the feeling that I had been missing out on a truer, more genuine part of Thailand that I had been craving.
I found that Thailand at Panviman Resort Koh Phangan.
Panviman Resort straddles two, secluded coves in the quiet Thong Nai Pan Bay. The unique location means that nearly every room has a slightly different and incredible view of the bay. At the resort’s stunning Pan Sea Restaurant where a daily, complimentary breakfast is served, there is a 180-degree panorama of both coves.
The view from the restaurant is so out-of-this-world gorgeous that Thailand’s tourism bureau has a video live stream running 24/7 from its balcony!
Panviman has neatly tucked all of its manmade structures into the jungle vegetation that covers the island. I, personally, appreciate their commitment to not mar the natural beauty that makes Koh Phangan so special. (The resort also practices eco-conscious initiatives and has been recognized for its green efforts.)
After checking in and meeting some of its staff in the open-air lobby, we were led down a series of staircases to our private pool villa. Along the way we were greeted by the calls of tropical birds and the sight of butterflies drifting from flower to flower. It seemed as though all of the island’s original inhabitants were very at home in the resort.
From the hand-carved wooden bed to the fanciful mosquito netting and silk pillows, I loved all of the authentic Thai touches in our room. The beautiful craftsmanship gave me a sense of Thailand’s history and its natural resources. Panviman is all about sourcing locally. The room also included a minibar, television, umbrellas, robes, slippers, sandals, beach bag and a pleasant-smelling mosquito repellant that worked like a charm.
The best part of the room? The bathtub overlooking the bay. I was happy to take full advantage of this situation every day, while Bryce stuck to the waterfall shower.
The generously-sized private pool was perched on the edge of the resort, so we could watch all the goings-on at the beach and still remain hidden behind palm fronds. Every once in a while we would see a person on the beach point out our room to someone else and we would duck our heads and laugh. I think they were trying to figure out if the pool was for real! I might have delighted–just a little bit–in staying in that villa.
We spent so much time luxuriating in the pool and watching the activity on the beach: Fishermen bringing in their catch, kayakers paddling around the bay and scuba divers taking off on adventures. (Koh Phangan has some of the most well-known scuba diving spots in the Gulf of Thailand.) Oh, and the sunsets from that pool! What I would give to be back there this evening for one more.
Of course, Panviman has a slew of sun loungers and umbrellas on the beach–if you can manage to drag yourself away from the comforts of your room. There is also a dreamy infinity pool surrounded by palm trees for the whole resort.
Thank goodness our private pool was also big enough to swim laps, since my muscles were atrophying from all of the relaxation thus far!
Even with the natural beauty and fantastic amenities, the highlight of our stay was making friends with the charming staff at Panviman Resort. Nearly every member is local and most of them boast more than ten years working at the hotel.
One of those staff members was our Thai cooking class chef who taught us the secrets behind making spicy papaya salad and green coconut curry–two of my absolute favorite Thai dishes. She did not speak more than 10 words of English (and we speak even less Thai), but we understood everything thanks to her enthusiastic coaching.
The finished results were so delicious my culinary confidence went through the roof. I’ve yet to try repeating my results at home, but I have everything I need: Copies of the recipes, a Panviman apron and my cooking class graduation certificate.
Two more of our favorite Panviman staffers were the General Manager, who goes by Captain Jack, and the Resident Manager Ta.
Captain Jack and Ta hosted us for a special dinner on our first night at the Pan Sea Restaurant where we ate like kings: Seared duck breast, grilled lobster linguine and chocolate cake. Over dinner they told us the history of the resort and why staff members stay so long. Panviman’s approach is that if they focus on staff members’ happiness first that their contentment will show in their work and resort guests, in turn, will benefit. It’s this holistic approach to customer service that makes Panviman such a unique find.
On our second day, Captain Jack and Ta let me tour the resort’s most sought-after room–the Presidential Suite–or as they call it, “Batman’s Cave”–because it is built into stone. Every inch of this room shows off the rich teakwood that the country is known for, as well as unobstructed views of the bay. Just outside the room is a private, oceanfront jacuzzi where you can’t help but imagine honeymooners sharing a bottle of champagne. Wow!
I personally love the authentic Thai style of our room and the Presidential Suite, but Panviman also offers modern-style villas for guests who prefer a cleaner aesthetic. These rooms certainly have all of the bells and whistles, including jacuzzi tubs with disco lights. Captain Jack said many of their repeat guests specifically request these rooms.
On our second night we had dinner at Panviman’s Stone Beach Restaurant. We watched the sun set while sipping tropical cocktails and enjoying a Thai feast. After the sun’s last rays disappeared, a local dance troupe put on a fantastic show for us. The traditional dances and costumes stirred memories of one of my favorite childhood movies The King and I.
It was magical.
We ate most of our meals at Panviman, but I think it is important to note that the beach and the charming village behind the beach is packed with fantastic options. Nearly every restaurant we visited on the island had a barefoot policy–it’s encouraged to leave your sandals at the door. Talk about a laid-back atmosphere!
Our last day at Panviman was also our last day in Thailand, so it was especially bittersweet. We swam as much as we could in the bay and ate every meal with some sand between our toes. We were really determined to squeeze out every last ounce of relaxation Thailand had left to offer us.
If we had more than three days we may have tried seeing the famous Bottle Beach–accessible only by boat–visiting the island’s elephant sanctuary or the resort’s Viman Spa. (I have some major regrets I didn’t take the time for an oceanfront massage!)
I suppose I shall simply have to return…or try Panviman’s Resort in Chiang Mai.
Considering that Panviman Resort’s rooms begin at $100 a night (including breakfast), I believe that this is truly an affordable luxury. The Panviman staff cater to guests’ every needs, including providing their high-speed boat as pickup from the Koh Samui Airport so you arrive in style. This is the hotel I’d recommend to my friends who are looking for the complete Thai island experience. Moreover, Captain Jack said he can offer Bakersfield Blonde readers some special offers if you contact him directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*This post was sponsored by the Panviman Resort Koh Phangan. All opinions are my own. Thank you to companies like the Panviman Resort who keep Bakersfield Blonde traveling!