Paying 1,200 Thai baht to arrive at an island hideaway by speedboat, sweeping glamorously into a tropical bay with a welcoming committee lined up on the sand, suddenly seemed very reasonable; 1,200 baht works out at just £16, after all.

Paying 1,200 Thai baht to arrive at an island hideaway by speedboat, sweeping glamorously into a tropical bay with a welcoming committee lined up on the sand, suddenly seemed very reasonable; 1,200 baht works out at just £16, after all. The elegant American couple dressed all in white linen with their cherub-like toddler jumped into the warm waves and waded up onto a beach lined with palms and pines. Note to self - two of those beach-side margaritas would have paid for the trip.

We had taken the backpackers' ferry from Ao Nang to the little port of Saladan on Koh Lanta in Thailand's Andaman Sea. Bumping along the dirt track in the back of a pick-up truck taxi, we pulled up parched and dusty at the entrance, which was almost Zen-like in its tranquillity.

Costa Lanta looks as though it has stepped straight out of the pages of Wallpaper* magazine. The rooms, or "units", are grey concrete blocks scattered among the pine trees and linked by gravel and wooden walkways. The infinity pool, a long, dark oblong, is lined on one side by wooden sun-loungers to catch the morning sun, while loungers under the trees bordering the beach are bathed in the afternoon rays. At one end of the pool there are two massage pavilions.

The restaurant is a towering open-air structure of soaring columns; its black-tiled floor is scattered with wood and metal-legged tables, and low-backed white leather high chairs flank the concrete bar. The delicious Thai food is served to an ambient soundtrack. Guests waft around in Allegra Hicks kaftans, hiding behind Gucci shades.

I would have worried that we were letting the side down wafting-wise (especially after our less than stylish entrance) - if it hadn't been for the children-and-animals reality check. Children never stay cherub-like for long, and this is a tropical island, complete with frogs in the bathroom, geckos scampering across the walls and enormous flying beetles committing hara-kiri at night.

LOCATION

Costa Lanta, 212 Moo 1, Saladan, Lanta Yai Island, Krabi, Thailand (00 66 75 618 092; www.costalanta.com).

The hotel is set back from Klong Dao beach at the island's secluded northern end, but this is not the the best stretch of sand. Koh Lanta is a narrow 25km-long island with resorts and bungalow operations on the beaches along the west coast. The further south (that is, the further from the tiny port of Saladan) you go, the less developed the beaches become.

Time to international airport: Krabi airport is served by domestic airlines from Bangkok. The flight takes an hour and twenty minutes.

Transfers: the hotel can arrange a private speedboat trip from Krabi, including transfers from the airport to the port. From the port to the hotel takes one hour. Ferries run regularly from Krabi and Ao Nang to Saladan, take two hours and cost around 200 baht (£2.50).

COMFORTABLE?

There are 18 one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units scattered beneath the trees. The rooms are divided into Deluxe Sea View, Superior Sea View, Superior Garden View and Standard Garden View - but the only difference is the view itself. Two walls of the open-box bungalows are formed by huge wooden doors that concertina back. The low-slung bed with white cotton sheets and piles of pillows sits on a polished concrete floor. The rooms are simple and elegant. A billowing mosquito net suspended from the ceiling creates a mini Bedouin-tent feel at night, and apart from the bed, the rooms contain just a wooden shelf and CD player. The semi open-air bathroom is down a couple of steps, and water flows over a shelf into an oblong concrete sink. The shower has a huge rain shower head.

Freebies: mineral water, a bowl of fruit, toiletries.

Keeping in touch: the rooms have telephones but no outside line. Fax and internet service is available at reception.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Doubles in low season - until 31 October, cost from 2,250 baht (£30) for a Standard Garden View room including breakfast

I'm not paying that: the Lanta Sand Resort (00 66 75 684 034) has bungalows from around 400 baht (£5) excluding breakfast.

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