After an extremely stressful year for my husband, me, and our high school age son, we really needed a total break, and planned this Khao Lak vacation in order to do absolutely nothing. Our stay at the Orchid was just what we needed.
The beach was perfect - the water was warm and you could just stroll in. Sometimes it was flat, sometimes wavy (there were people boogi-boarding). Notably NO things like jetskis or other stuff like that. Some people might miss that sort of thing, but we were SO grateful. It was a nice quiet place, nothing but the sea breeze and waves to make noise, and the beach just went on forever. There always seemed to be a recliner/chair when we needed it. The place was fully booked but didn't feel crowded at all.
Everyone was super nice, wonderful, even the guests! I think everyone was looking for the same thing we were - peace and quiet and relaxation. It is a family resort, but there were mostly couples (from northern Europe). Many of the families had teens like us. The handful of families with tiny little kids were well-behaved, really fun to watch at the pool (hilarious in fact), and not pesky at all - there is an adults only pool but we never even bothered going there cos the main pool was perfect. The great thing was, our 15-year-old son - we were worried he would be bored after a while, but he had the time of his life - at the beach, at the pool, touring with us, and he MADE FRIENDS with 4 other kids around the same age - so they ended up hanging out together. I saw other sets of kids making friends with each other. It was a real "family" resort in this sense.
Because our son was out of our hair most of the time, my husband and I were able to have a romantic vacation after all, and it's been a much-needed recharge for a couple of tired middle-aged worker bees.
I've stayed in resorts all over Asia, Europe, and the US (incl. Hawaii), and I've never experienced a resort with just the right balance that appeals to our sensibilities. There's nothing particularly Thai about it, but perhaps this level of mellow, laid back yet at the same time "deluxe" and extremely clean atmosphere can only be achieved by a Thai crew with a Thai aesthetic. It's a quietly elegant place that on the surface seems really just a simple affair, but you get to appreciate the level of care and beauty when you get up close and personal - in terms of the room, the grounds, the food, the service, the food, oh did I forget the food? The food was great.
So - the food. It's not cheap, but not overpriced either, and it was consistently good. Of course if you compare to what you'd pay in Khao Lak town or Takua Pa or elsewhere local for the same exact thing, it costs up to 2x as much in the resort. However, the quality of the food in the resort is also up to 2x better, tastier, everything. We did comparisons all week and towards the end we stopped eating "outside" altogether to avoid disappointment. In the end, there was the food bill, but really it was totally reasonable. The only thing missing was they didn't have Thai breakfast - but the buffet breakfast that comes with the room is GREAT, and they have the best french toast we've ever had. We were pleasantly surprised by the flavourfulness of the coffee - truly good coffee, probably the best brewed coffee I've ever had in Asia.
We had planned to stay 5 days, 4 nights. But I fell ill (bad cold) for a couple days and felt rather cheated out of my vacation. So we voted as a family to extend our stay and luckily the staff were able to accommodate us and we didn't even have to move rooms. We ended up 7 days, and still felt unable to bear leaving. The staff seemed genuinely sad to see us go - I think they do get a bit attached to the guests after seeing them all day for a week (since people apparently tend to stay long). We posed for pictures with them as we were waiting for our airport transfer. Next time we plan to stay 2 whole weeks instead of 1, and really explore the area.
On the language issue - not a big deal at all. The staff speak just enough English to deal with the technicalities of your stay. Even the cleaning lady and guy. But there's also a German translator on site (there were a couple locally-based German nationals offering tourist services). They (the Thai staff) understand more than they speak, so don't think you can talk about them behind their back haha. That said, I found their level of fluency a blessing in that it prevented them from being too chatty with you (I've had the experience of hotel staff in other places, like the Philippines, start to get overly chummy and then have the service mysteriously decline the chummier they get). They were also quite nice, sweet, friendly (and very Thai in this sense) but not to the level of being smarmy. It was superficial of course - it's their job, but they seemed to take the quality of their service seriously and personally, and they never lapsed in their professionalism. I never observed anyone (even the gardeners) looking bored on the job and acting like they wanted to be elsewhere instead of resentfully serving overprivileged tourists. This is perhaps the thing I most appreciate (comparing to other places/countries I've stayed). The service is not like this in Phuket itself - it might be a distinctly Khao Lak thing.
When we were leaving, we had to check out at noon but our flight out was not til the night, so they held our luggage while we enjoyed the resort til our flight transfer left at 6 pm, and right before we left they let us use their concierge room so we could shower and get dressed. We were willing to just use the lobby restrooms and maybe just rinse off at the pool shower. But the head receptionist would have none of it. She looked at us like she was insulted that we would think they'd stand for letting their beloved guests rough it.
All in all, I can't say enough good things about this place. It's our new favourite place in the world. My son was so taken with it that he declared this is where he will propose to his girlfriend - of course he is only 15 and doesn't even have a real girlfriend yet, but he believes that when he does, this is where he will take her to pop the question. It's not a "fancy" upscale resort (only 3-star, I think), but if it can inspire this kind of romanticism from a cynical 15 year old boy, you get a sense of what kind of place it is.