Something Special: Thailand's Dazzling Candelit Hotel

John O'Ceallaigh, The Daily Telegraph, August 16, 2013

Time your visit to Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Thailand correctly, and you’re guaranteed an arrival that will make an indelible impression.

By the Strait of Malacca in the coastal town of Krabi, the resort’s Welcome Pavilion is illuminated each night by a shimmering display of 2,000 candles. The Welcome Pavilion is the closest the resort has to a lobby and it is here that guests will first arrive. Darkness falls on the region by 6.30pm each evening throughout the year and at 6pm every day a number of the resort’s staff set about lighting the wax candles that envelop the pavilion. The process takes about half an hour and the candles burn for a further two hours.

The area is designed to resemble a Thai temple and features a still pond and a domed centrepiece made of solid wood. Once they reach the canopied area, guests are provided with a welcome drink of lemongrass with ginger, cold towels and, for females, a garland of flowers. After being greeted by the manager, new arrivals are then introduced to their butler, who completes the check-in process. For all its charm (and perhaps contributing to it), the pavilion lacks the traditional desk and computer screen travellers are faced with when entering most resorts – instead guests are taken to their villa where the check-in process is completed and the holiday commences.

For more on properties that make an exceptional first impression, see our gallery of hotels with incredible lobbies . Other hotels that make an immediate impact due to their distinctive architectural features include the new Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort in China, which is shaped like a giant horseshoe embedded in a lake bed, and the ‘cave-scraping’ Songjiang Hotel near Shanghai, which has been carved into the face of an abandoned quarry .