Drinking espresso before departure and trying to wipe away all traces of the fried chicken we devoured the night before, we didn’t really feel like prime candidates for a wellness retreat last weekend. Checking into the Banyan Tree Krabi wellness sanctuary, read on to find out why it wasn’t a problem and why we found what is probably the most comfortable wellness retreat in Thailand, even if you like fast food.
Krabi has seen some revival in recent months, with many locals flocking to the quiet beach town that sits on the outskirts between the islands of Phuket, Koh Lanta, Koh Yao Noi and Yai, and Koh Phi Phi. Yet beyond being a gateway to other seaside paradises, Krabi also proves a worthy destination in its own right.
White-sand beaches, impressive rock formations, and a plethora of gorgeous luxury resorts make this a popular, less-common vacation destination. Today, with the recent opening of the Banyan Tree Krabi at the end of 2020, it is also on our map not only for a secluded and intimate getaway, but also for a restful wellness trip in a modern and conscious way. Here’s how.
[All images courtesy of the Banyan Tree Krabi]
About the Wellness Sanctuary
The Wellbeing Sanctuary program is available at Banyan Tree Krabi and Banyan Tree Samui. It goes beyond the usual resort experience, with a few added perks and quirks.
At Banyan Tree Krabi, it starts with the pre-arrival process. Before leaving, guests are asked to complete a wellness questionnaire. Unlike many we’ve done before, this one asked for details about interpersonal relationships, creativity and how we felt connected to nature – beyond the usual guilty questioning about alcohol consumption, sports and sleep. This made us curious from the start, as we would later find out that the wellness philosophy at Banyan Tree Krabi is not only centered on the physical, but also on the mental. It is made up of eight key pillars of well-being: Sleep and Rest, Food Awareness, Bonding and Connection, Physical Vitality, Cultivation of the Mind, Learning and Growth, Harmony with Nature, and Sustained Practices. This 360 approach to wellness is accessible and easy to understand, and therefore quite commendable.
Suites and Villas
72 luxurious suites and villas make up the Banyan Tree Krabi resort, and guests of the Wellness Sanctuary can stay in an adapted Wellness Suite. Specifically designed to enhance relaxation with acoustics, layout and a true mega bed that sucks you in, it’s easy to see how and why. There was no typical office nook, but rather a strong emphasis on the private garden seating areas outside, the sprawling views of Koh Hong and Koh Yao Noi just ahead, and a nudge towards a slower lifestyle.
Greeted by fresh coconut water and various wellness amenities, the wellness suite really nailed the details of its mission. Most mornings we dragged the yoga mat from the bedroom to the patio by the private pool, where the morning sun gave new meaning to our sun salutation. Afternoons were filled with plant-based snacks that were on the complimentary nutrition tray, and the daily fruit smoothie became our true midday highlight. Each evening, a nighttime rest ritual welcomed us back to the suite, whether it was a do-it-yourself herbal tea to sleep better or a fragrant herbal inhaler to soothe. The stand-alone tub is aesthetically pleasing and located under hidden speakers playing meditative music every night, and comes with not one but three bath products. We applauded the bath salts, bath foam, and bath oil, as it’s quite a rare find, even in luxury hotels. We applauded this in the ‘grammable bathrobes, in particular.
Speaking of grammable, Banyan Tree Krabi has two main restaurants: Naga Kitchen and Saffron. You probably recognize the latter, as it’s Banyan Tree’s fine (and much-loved) Thai restaurant. Naga Kitchen is more casual and suitable for all-day dining, and it’s also where breakfast is served. The little green heart emojis here indicate items on the “wellness menu,” directing Wellbeing Sanctuary customers to healthier, often plant-based options. These were surprisingly refreshing, filling and delicious. From vegan spaghetti bolognese to plant-based samosas, we didn’t once crave fried chicken, and even inquired about the fantastic dressing that came with the salad. Again, no one forced these choices on us, just suggested that we “watch out for green hearts” on the menu at all meals. The encore was kind and welcoming.
Beyond Naga Kitchen and Saffron, guests can also choose to dine at the private Bird’s Nest tables outside, which, as the name suggests, offer a very photogenic setting. Bar Kredkaew, which we weren’t able to visit (avoiding booze and all), is also open for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail.
Facilities and activities
The Banyan Tree Krabi has a large main pool on its beachfront, though most guests prefer to use their private in-villa pools unless they’re lounging on the beach, kayaking, or paddleboarding.
For Wellbeing Sanctuary customers, all of these options are also available, with a few additional additions. The wellness activity schedule includes activities like beach walks, basic yoga, and tai chi in the morning, as well as more physical activities like Thai boxing, pilates, and water exercise. We particularly liked the idea of the thoughtful appreciation class, as well as the breath meditation, healthy cooking classes, and learning how to make your own herbal facial compress. The list is creative and varied, and caters to both regulars and newbies.
Spa activities and treatments are recommended during consultations with the Spa Manager, an extremely friendly and bubbly lady who uses an insightful chart drawn from the pre-arrival questionnaire to make suggestions. She reiterates that the Wellbeing Sanctuary program is not a medical program and that every meal, activity and treatment should be comfortable and organic, and tailored to each individual’s record. “If you suddenly have a craving for meat for breakfast, no one will stop you because it’s your personal journey,” says Bussayawan Chanchai. Needless to say, we had the occasional slice of bacon for breakfast, but paired it with a bowl of fruit.
It’s a little ironic that a wellness vacation can often feel overwhelming, even stressful, because you know you’re about to make some pretty big changes to your lifestyle. Nonetheless, we were impressed with the ease with which we could undertake the Wellbeing Sanctiary program and the openness of the staff to our own interpretation of wellbeing. What Banyan Tree Krabi truly understands is that wellness is a deeply personal phenomenon. He manages to tap into both a physical and emotional understanding of well-being, as well as the notion that it can be entirely different for each individual. It’s very appealing, because it almost feels like a secret between you and the experience.
Brain-boosting music in the evenings, daily-changing incense in the suite, and thoughtfully positioned yoga mat and singing bowl create the breeding ground for interesting inner conversation. As refreshed as the mind feels when you take a 45 minute drive to the airport, it also feels deeply inspired, connected and at peace.
By flipping through the Wellness Booklet given to us at the end and completing the Reflection Journal given to us, we donate to the Banyan Tree Krabi Wellness Sanctuary five green heart emojis.
The Wellbeing Sanctuary program at Banyan Tree Krabi includes a stay in a Wellness Suite, various spa treatments, the Rainforest Hydrotherapy experience, a daily balanced breakfast and nutrition tray, and access to activities free wellness. Discounts on spa, restaurants and activities are also applicable. Find out more via the website.