Unspoilt By Progress
Thailand’s fourth largest island is also its least populated, and home to one of the most intrinsically Thai holiday experiences the country has to offer
It’s only just over an hour by private plane south-east of Bangkok, but unspoilt Koh Kood is a world away from the conventional Thailand tourist trail – here barefoot tropical chic sits happily alongside modern luxuries. Melding into the island’s dream-like ambience of untamed jungle, pristine beaches and local fisherman quietly going about their business, is Soneva Kiri Resort & Residences, a retreat of the ultimate serene and secluded variety.
As we found to our delight, Soneva Kiri doesn’t just welcome guests to immerse themselves in its quiet luxurious surroundings, it also offers inspiration to explore the character imbued throughout its integral environmental approach, authentic Thai experiences and mouth-watering organic food. This exclusive resort comprises 36 vast pool villas on beach level, hillsides or cliff tops, all with sweeping views overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. Like all of the others, our villa had impossibly stylish furnishings, personal electric buggies and came complete with impeccable service courtesy of private butlers. It was all a case of ancient, peaceful Siam meeting modern intelligent sophistication at our own one-of-a-kind island hideaway.
Our villa’s beautifully designed interiors were made from high-quality sustainable materials – everything about it seemed to blend seamlessly into the outstanding beauty of the island. But this was by no means just a Back-to-Nature experience, replete as it was with all the refinements of modern life alongside our private pool and open-air bathroom with rain shower and shower dome; air conditioning and of course, the ever-essential WiFi.
Exploring elsewhere around the resort brought its unusually subtle juxtaposition of nature with modern life into focus. There’s the open-air Cinema Paradiso for movies under the stars, a home-made chocolate and ice cream parlour, and a state-of-the-art Observatory for exploring glimmering galaxies through a powerful telescope, far from the obscuring lights of civilisation.
We spent a fascinating evening at the Observatory with one of the resort’s visiting astronomers, who guided us through constellations, Jupiter’s moons and the halo of Saturn’s translucent ring – an unexpected thrill, but one that somehow fitted the glorious awe of the natural world so uppermost throughout Soneva Kiri. As well as star gazing we got closer to nature in different ways; with Ayurvedic uplifting sensory treatments at the resort’s Six Senses Spa, romantic walks along the island’s trails through beaches and jungle, and snorkeling on nearby reefs.
One aspect of dining here was also an adventure in itself – Treepod Dining, where we relaxed in a comfortable bamboo pod as it was gently hoisted up into the tropical foliage of the ancient rainforest. If that wasn’t enough, our dinner was served high up there by an acrobatic waiter on a zip line; an experience to treasure. We reached Soneva Kiri by domestic flight from Bangkok to Trat, followed by a short boat ride to Koh Kood, but the resort can also be reached by a 70-minute flight on its own private plane direct from Suvarnabhumi Airport. Whatever the route, they’re both enticingly short journeys to become immersed in a natural wonder that’s far distant from everyday life.