ECO-LUXE ESCAPE: Living the Thai Life
Ko Kood, Thailand
$1,400 and up
I’ve been told the villas at Soneva Kiri on the northwest side of Koh Kood are tucked into jungle and rainforest. So during the one-hour flight on the resort’s Cessna Grand Caravan from Bangkok, I figure we’ll be landing among dark canopies with monkeys swinging from limb to limb. The thought gains momentum as we land on a lush sister island and board a boat.
“Five minutes from here to the resort,” says the captain. It’s late afternoon when we idle up to Soneva Kiri’s dock. In front of me is Thailand’s fourth largest, but least populated, island. The place is thick with trees. No scrambling monkeys, but a welcome mat I will never forget towers above all.
At the end of the dock, I walk straight into the mouth of a monster — a 50-foot-high bridge designed to look like a dragon. It’s the materials that stop me. The bridge is made entirely of bamboo. Huge bamboo. The supports must be 8 inches in diameter and 20 feet long. All of it is built by Thai rice farmers. I’m starting to buy into this eco-concept, but I haven’t even scratched the surface.
4:30 p.m. I’m led to a concept villa. It looks like some workers just chopped down some trees in the forest, shaved the bark and started constructing. Outside, the pool water filters through a reed bed, all powered by solar panels and a wind turbine.
5:15 p.m. My villa is just across the resort property — not quite as far off the eco scale as the concept villa, but the doorknobs, lamps, even the bowls are a mix of woods. The floors and wall panels are flattened bamboo. I fold away the wraparound windows and doors, giving the room open air on three sides with the ambient sounds of birds. And a voice.
5:30 p.m. “Hello,” says a sweet young woman. “My name is Taeko.” She is the Ms. Friday for my villa. This is new to me, having what is essentially a butler. All I really want to do is step around her and into the infinity pool. Or stand in the outdoor shower, which is framed in vegetation. This is my idea of true indulgence.
6:30 p.m. I retreat to Benz’s Restaurant. A bear would feel at home in here. Wood, wood, everywhere. Even the timber poles are made of reclaimed driftwood. The chef, Khun Benz, has prepared Mieng Kham, a Thai leaf appetizer with palm sugar, peanuts, ginger and a shrimp sauce. (Tomorrow, at breakfast in another resort restaurant, all the ingredients will be written on dried leaves in front of me, and the honey will arrive on a full honeycomb suspended above a split bamboo stalk.) Sustainable and wholesome are buzzwords in this place. Add one more: fun.
8:30 p.m. I’ve entered what will become my favorite free-time room. It’s a display space for the resort’s daily chocolate experiments, open for guests to sample as often as we want. Yes, I want to sleep in the passion-fruit chocolate. I’d take a bath in the lemongrass chocolate. “What’s this?” I ask, chewing one that tastes as strange as it is sweet. The answer: “Raspberry vinegar chocolate.” I’ll take two more.
11:00 p.m. After a mojito sorbet chaser at the resort’s ice-cream parlor, I stroll back to my villa. The windows are open to the jungle. Tomorrow I’ll snorkel. But tonight I’ll sleep with nature spilling over me, and with a sweet taste resting in my mouth.
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This article first appeared in Twenty of the World's Greatest Escapes, in the January/February 2012 issues of ISLANDS.