12 reasons why Soneva Kiri is the best resort in Thailand

Inspiring-Lifetime-Experiences-Soneva-Kiri

In my travel assignments to date, I had the privilege to enjoy many resorts, each extolling to impart the “ultimate” experience. At Soneva Kiri, I can finally attest I found that one resort that “rules them all”. Located on the secluded island of Koh Kood, Soneva Kiri offers an unparalleled level of luxurious and memorable experience, cocooning its guests with impeccable service that any stay feels too short, however long.

In this blog, I am pleased to list twelve reasons why this resort, in my humble opinion, is the best resort in Thailand. So before the accolades sounded like hyperbole, do join me as I regale my beautiful memories.

Reason no. 1 – The exceedingly beautiful resort

This award-winning luxury resort is located on Thailand’s 4th largest but least populated island, Koh Kood and is surrounded by lush, tropical rainforest and white sand beaches. The resort can be reached by about a 90 min flight via the resort’s private plane directly from Suvarnabhumi Airport. The other alternatives (which I strongly don’t recommend) would be a domestic flight on a commercial airline or a 3-4 hours drive from Bangkok to Trat followed by a 40 min boat ride to Koh Kood.

The acronym SLOW LIFE (Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences) is central to the Soneva philosophy. It aims to create memorable and enlightening experiences that soothe guests’ mental wellness. These philosophy and values are what distinguish Soneva from other high-end hotel brands.

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The 36 resort villas (including 11 private residences) nestled among lush forest, are among the largest sized hotel rooms anywhere in the world.

 

Reason no. 2 – Get transferred to the resort like a celebrity

The Soneva experience begins when you disembarked at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport, where you can check in at the exclusive Soneva Kiri Counter, escorted through immigration and transferred directly to the resort aeroplane on the tarmac. After about a 90min flight to Koh Mai Si, the resort private airport island, we were met and greeted by our personal butler and chauffeured on a buggy to an awaiting speed boat which sped us to the resort within minutes. On the returning leg of the trip, guests are similarly escorted through priority immigration lanes to catch their departing flight.

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The resort private aeroplane, a Cessna Caravan. The comfortable cabin has room for nine passengers and two crew.

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Our flight taking off from Suvarnabhumi International Airport. It’s like sitting in a luxurious car as you taxi down the runway and lift off with full view of the airport.

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In-flight snacks of sun-dried organic banana and toasted walnuts with bottled chilled water.

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As the plane flew at low altitude, you can see and feel the clouds up close. Certainly a refreshing change from what we see from jetliner.

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Touch down at Koh Mai Si. This little private island, located just a few kilometres opposite Koh Kood, is essentially an air strip and arrival/departure point for the resort guests.

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Beautiful hand-carved airport signboard. Set you in the mood right away.

The resort speed boat, waiting to whisk us over to Koh Kood, just a few minutes across.

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The resort chic speedboat. The “No Shoes, No News” philosophy starts here. Our butler will keep our footwear in a dedicated cloth sack (to be placed at our villa after checking in). Chilled wet towel and a fruit drink were presented as we sped toward to the resort. Once on the island, walk barefooted, relax, feel the earth and rediscover life.

Reason no.3 – Truly impeccable service

The amazing staff at Soneva Kiri. Warm, welcoming, helpful and sincere. The resort founder’s philosophy of treating staff right, so that a happy staff will in turn serve guests well certainly bore fruit. Throughout our stay, we felt nothing but positive vibes from the staff. Individual staff, from top management to rank and file, all conveyed a sense of earnest service. You can’t help but feel you are in really great hands.

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Traditional Thai welcome all ready for any arriving guests. Resort GM, guest officers, butlers, chefs! The resort takes pride in delivering a premium “Robinson Crusoe” experience, with each villa guests being assigned a personal butler designated as Mr. or Ms. Friday.

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It rained and the skies were overcast when we arrived but the warmness from the resort staff were palpable nonetheless.

Reason no.4 – Out of this world accommodation

Soneva Kiri has 24 resort villas and 11 private residences. The spectacular villas are mammoth in scale and among the world’s most spacious hotel accommodations. True to Soneva’s signature rustic theme but chic eco-friendly stance, the villas feature huge indoor and outdoor living areas, with air-conditioned bedrooms, fringed by by private pools. The en-suite bathrooms, both semi- indoor and outdoor are wonderfully laid out with jacuzzi tub. The interior clever underlying theme is that of a traveller suitcase e.g the hidden TV is housed in a mock suitcase.

Our gorgeous Beach Pool Villa Suite, at 403 sq.m (4332 sq.ft) will certainly please anyone. So much space beautifully designed and furnished with creature comforts.

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The villa with its own free-form swimming pool, sun deck and outdoor rest pavilion, with direct access to the beach.

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Plenty of cosy areas to chill out and savour the island tranquillity. It can’t get any better than this.

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Chess game, anyone? With so much to do and explore at the resort, I seriously think it became more of a room decor item.

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The villa shower and wash up area. So spacious, we burn extra calories by just walking around the room. Awesomeness !

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The outdoor jacuzzi bath tub for us to luxuriate among nature. Sea salt and bubble bath are provided, of course.

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The villa clothes room. The size alone is bigger than most city hotels rooms. And we are talking just twin-share here.

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Outdoor sheltered lounge with all that cosy cushions and a coffee-making machine. We could hold a party right here!

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With the view of the bay and jetty, we could simply gear up here and snorkel out to the resort house reef.

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The resort sits on an enormous 102 acres plot of land (that translates into about 102 football fields !). So each villa is provided with its own electric buggy for ease of commute.  The staff takes care of the buggy recharging without you having to lift a finger.

Reason no.5 – Epicurean adventure at Benz Restaurant

“The finest cuisine is prepared with heart and soul. Each bite tells a story – a connection to the land, to personal memories, to emotion and history. Sense this connection in the exquisite flavours and aromas of Benz’s.” So goes the restaurant caption on the resort website. Perfectly described and certainly a highlight of our stay.

The restaurant chef, Khun Benz was discovered by resort founders Sonu and Eva, many years ago in Phang-Nga. Chef Khun Benz was the natural choice to helm this open Thai kitchen, using ingredients grown here on Koh Kood and neighbouring Koh Chang.  This open air lantern-lit diner on stilts was accessed via a 5-minute speed boat ride through a mangrove swamp.

The Benz’s Restaurant, nestled among mangrove swamp of Klong Yai Kee. Exotic and secluded. Reservation is advised to dine here, which was arranged by our butler.

Khun Benz, the amazing chef that’s the namesake of this restaurant. Friendly and affable chef indeed!

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Open concept kitchen to witness culinary magic being performed in the kitchen.

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Lovely welcome drink flavoured with pandanus and tinted with Butterfly Pea flower. When lime is squeezed into it and it will turn a pinkish red hue. So lovely!

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Northern Thai appetizer Miang Kham, mainly consists of raw fresh Piper sarmentosum (Cha phlu) leaves. Accompanying roasted coconut shavings, dried shrimps, chopped ginger, onion, chili padi, etc, are placed on a leaf which has been spread with a dollop of sweet savoury sauce. The texture and contrasting flavours when chewing it are simply amazing!

One of 8 courses for the evening, local organically grown vegetable salad with shrimps. 

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Panfried free-range chicken on a bed of poached asparagus. Whatever the chef called it, it’s simply divine.

Reason no. 6 – One-of-a-kind Tree Pod dining experience

“The free spirited nature of childhood was the resort inspiration for the Treepod. That desire to climb high up into a leafy canopy and find shelter amidst a simple wooden construction where imagination soared and dreams were born”.  So captioned in the resort website. Truly a unique dining experience not available anywhere else in the world. Reservation must be made in advance for this dining experience which comes at a premium.  And when your personal waiter delivers your meals via the zip-line, you know you are in for one-of-a-kind treat.

Our bamboo dining pod being lowered to us at the start of the Treepod breakfast. Unbelievable way to start a new day meal!

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Our personal waiter ensuring the pod is safely secured. Look at the rainforest background, just so lush and relaxing.

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Waiting for our meal to be delivered, we could simply enjoy the visual feast of the Gulf of Thailand right in front of us.

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Freshly prepared meal and all you need to feel on top of the world.

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Our waiter zipping over our order of fresh watermelon juices. It can’t get more mind-boggling than this !

Reason no.7 – Beach side dining at private beach

This is dining option is what I would describe as “laissez faire” dining.  There’s nothing better than enjoying a meal, at our choosing either at the beach restaurant or at the beach side, surrounded by Mother Nature’s sights and sounds. And what better, at Soneva Kiri North Beach, a private beach, which is a rarity these days.  Relax on sunbeds along the white sandy beach, enjoying light snacks and cocktails or even filet mignon.

There is even complimentary non-motorised water sports, including stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and snorkelling, just to name a few. The North Beach is accessible in just three minutes by boat, less than 10 minutes by kayak or 20 minutes by swimming. That we can choose too.

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Great service in a casual beach side ambience and feel the sand beneath your feet.

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Cosy, peaceful setting. You don’t get disturbed by anyone other than your waiters serving your orders. It’s a private beach.

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Nicely prepared sea bass fillet on a bed of poached asparagus.

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My order of a Angus Ribeye, cooked perfectly medium rare as ordered.

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That’s what I call Satay with a Style. Just love the accompanying peanut sauce.

Reason no. 8 – Reconnect with beautiful nature

Being located on a secluded island with low population ensures we get to enjoy the beautiful nature of Koh Kood, which has some of the most vibrant natural ecology in the whole of Thailand. The amount of different ecosystems present and relatively untouched environment means that the island supports a large diversity of life. It’s like living in a huge garden. There are more than 100 different species of butterflies on the island of Koh Kood alone! For botany enthusiasts, there is even a botany survey prepared by their resident ecologist.

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A beautiful dragonfly resting on a coffee plant branch, shot just steps from our villa entrance.

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Gorgeous fresh-bloomed Torch Ginger plant flower, just stone’s throw from our villa.

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Pair of dainty damselflies in productive mode, shot near the resort water treatment pond.

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A barn Swallow checking and greeting us at the resort jetty.

A Black-crested Bulbul shot just outside our villa. Amazing how blessed we were to be living among so much natural beauty.

Reason no. 9 – Beautiful resort house reef

From top side beauty, Koh Kood is equally blessed with beauty beneath the surface. Arrangement can be made with resort to sail to the most amazing nearby snorkelling destinations in the Gulf of Thailand like Koh Kyak, Koh Thong Lang and Koh Rang where rock formations teem with marine life and coral gardens. But if you rather stay close to the resort, then the house reef is a pretty site with healthy eco-system with thriving colonies of fish, sponges, corals and giant clams!

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Lovely view of the bay right in front of our villa #05. We could either gear up and snorkel from the beach or drive 1 min to resort jetty and swim from there. Either way, it was a great experience.

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A Garfish or Needle fish swimming around the resort jetty. There is a school of them (about 40-50) that’s quite an amazing sight. Garfish are migratory in nature and could be at this resort due to abundant eelgrass where they spawn their eggs.

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A beautiful Feather Duster Worm filtering food from the water at the house reef .

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A pair of Feather Duster Worms displaying their colourful crown of feeding appendages in the current.

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A tridacna (giant clam) looking healthy among reef. In fact, just within a small radius of 2-3m, I spotted at least 3-4 giant clams of various sizes and species. These together with other marine life in the reef showed the healthy state of the local marine eco-system.

Reason no. 10 – Fabulous spa therapy with Six Senses Spa

What’s a premium resort without a premium spa treatment facility? And at Soneva Kiri, we get to be pampered at the internationally renowned Six Senses Spa. With a wide range of spa therapies like mud massages, Thai herbal baths, silk facials, warm oils of Ayurveda and a rich selection of wellness rituals await our choosing.  Paradise never feels so right indeed.

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The private spa treatment studio . My favourite traditional Thai massage was spot on the second the masseur kneads her trained fingers into my back. The rest of the session was simply a span of blurred memory as I drifted to heaven.

Reason No. 11 – See the universe at The Observatory

Here, the secluded Koh Kood with low light pollution enables us to peep into the mysterious heaven with its state-of-the-art observatory.  Guests became astronomers as they go on a starry journey identifying constellations, counting the moons of Jupiter and peering at the graceful halo of Saturn’s translucent ring. Nothing really tops this experience, really.

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Photo credit – Soneva Kiri Resort

Our fascination with the night sky answered by the powerful telescope. Truly a star activity at the resort. Pardon the pun.

Reason no. 12 – Enjoy movies under the stars

Cinema Paradiso marries three passions close to our heart – classical beauty and elegance, immersion in nature and relaxed indulgence…a luxury that lets its hair down and kicks off its shoes.” as so aptly described on the resort web page.  Gourmet comfort foods, choice of creative cocktails accompany the movie screened nightly in the open-air “theatre”, over the waters of the reservoir lagoon.

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Photo credit – Soneva Kiri Resort

Outdoor movie will never feel the same way after this. Just hope for great weather.

Tips for visitors

Ideal time to visit 

There is 3 distinct seasons in tropical Thailand weather : (a) Cool, dry season between November and February (which is the most ideal period to visit this part of Thailand), (b) Hot, dry season from March to June and (c) Rainy season from July to October. Day temperatures are generally north of 30 degrees centigrade throughout the year. The two periods April to May and September to October wraps visitors with very high humidity level. The southwest monsoons arrive between May and October bringing erratic and cloudy conditions, as well as lower room rates.

How to get to Soneva Kiri 

Soneva Kiri is reached by a 70-90 minute flight from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport on the resort’s private plane. Flight schedule while fixed may be subject to change. To get the best rate and minimise on the hassle, check Jetabout Holidays website or contact them to get the best deal not available anywhere.

Type of villa to choose

When selecting a villa, you should be mindful whether if you prefer to be in midst of jungle and shade (cliff or bay view pool villa suite) or in full tropical sunshine (ocean front/pool villa suite). Be advised that the Ocean front or Beach pool villa suites are not exactly ocean front and are not located right on Soneva Kiri’s idyllic beach. As the villas are nestled among lush greenery, there may be encounters with ants or flies. But we don’t recall being affected by insects as the resort was really maintained.

Conclusion

I like to thank readers for coming along this blog and hope it will help in their quest for an extraordinary experience that will last a lifetime. There is a limit to what this article can convey as experience and satisfaction are both personal and subjective. The only thing left is to visit Soneva Kiri or Soneva resorts elsewhere, to affirm my stated views are no hyperbole. Have a wanderlust journey ahead!

 

P.S – Pictures used in this article are all rights reserved and copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography and Jetabout Holidays (unless otherwise stated).

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