Plan your next island escape at the dreamy Soneva Kiri in Thailand
Dazzling white sand beaches by day and blazing starlit skies at night
What does luxury mean to the discerning traveller? The Soneva group has been consistently redefining the concept over the last two decades. Soneva Kiri, located on Koh Kood, an island in the easternmost part of Thailand, is one of the most magical resorts in the world. Here, Soneva has completely upturned our usual notions of seven-star luxury by creating a refuge in the wilderness, an island within an island.
The deck of the Six Bedroom Sunset Ocean View Pool Reserve
The journey to Kiri is a slow unfolding of expectations, the culmination of which will leave you breathless. For starters, our little eight-seater Cessna Caravan gently rocked and rolled its way across the Gulf of Thailand, to alight at Soneva Kiri’s private airstrip on the adjoining Koh Mai Si. From here, the resort is a quick speedboat ride away.
Nestled among the bamboo-fringed jungle pathways on Koh Kood are 63 gorgeous villas, from the single-bedroom kind to the massive Six Bedroom Sunset Ocean View Pool Reserve. Most of them have private access to the beach. We stayed in a One Bedroom Sunset Ocean View Pool Villa Suite, where the pool, a thing of beauty, curved around the villa. So large is the resort that guests get their own buggies to motor around.
One Bedroom Sunset Ocean View Pool Villa Suite
At Kiri, a concerted effort has been made to welcome a wide spectrum of guests, and there is something for everyone: privacy and romance for couples, and activities galore for families. For children, particularly, Soneva Kiri is paradise: free ice cream round-the-clock, a room filled only with chocolates, a complimentary set of beach toys, water slides…need I say more? Plus, Soneva Kiri’s versions of the kids’ club, the Den and Eco Den, put every other family resort to shame. Eco Den, in particular, is a marvel of engineering—built on stilts under the lush jungle canopy, a winding pathway leads to rooms dedicated to music, art and games at the top. To exit, just use the built-in slide. My inner child felt like Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and Captain Hook might be around the corner.
The chocolate room
There are a variety of dining experiences on offer, both in terms of cuisine as well as location. The award-winning Benz’s, located outside the resort on the edge of a mangrove, offers a fusion of traditional and contemporary Thai cooking. Or try Treepod, for a meal that is literally elevated to new heights, where you’re seated in the trees and the food is served by waiters on zip lines. But most meals are in the Dining Room—a vast complex of interconnected open-air spaces serving international cuisine. And wine is taken very seriously at Soneva Kiri,
which has a temperature controlled wine cellar.
A sun-baked common area
Three experiences at Soneva Kiri really stood out for me. As city dwellers, we rarely get to appreciate our environment in its pristine form. At Soneva, stargazing is taken to the next level; it has its own observatory, where you can gaze at the starstudded night sky. Plus, falling asleep to the sounds of the jungle and waves washing over the stones was a beautiful, almost disconcerting experience.
The second, which is shared by Kiri’s sister resorts in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani, is Cinema Paradiso, where classic movies are screened nightly, with popcorn and candy.
Lastly, my favourite: North Beach, a pristine, isolated beach exposed by the retreating tide; it is Kiri’s very own private stretch of sand on a separate island, accessible only by speedboat. Here, Soneva’s core concept of “no news, no shoes” reaches its pinnacle. But it would be wrong to mistake North Beach as only a beach; it is an experience. It has its own restaurant and bar, serving the right kind of fare for a day by the sea. A few metres from the beach is a large freshwater pool, teeming with fish, with crystal-clear water fringed by mangroves inviting you to dive right in. I am sure that if after many years, someone were to ask me to recount my most blissful day, North Beach would come to mind, ever so perfect, ever so Soneva.