There are a lot of luxury Thai hotels, so it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. Here’s how…
In our line of work we deal with a fairly diverse spectrum of luxury holidays, especially including the luxury Thai hotels. So much so, in fact, the term ‘luxury holiday’ can lose its potency when I write it too many times. I could say the same of ‘white sand beaches’, for example. I’m not getting snobbish…well, I don’t think I am, it just takes a great deal to get that wow factor these days. This is of course a testament to the high standards we all expect and rightly receive, but then places emerge that do nothing less than utterly astound. The sorts of places that defy convention and in doing so take luxury travel to new heights.
With the release of our brand spanking new Kenwood Travel Thailand brochure, we’ve delved into luxury Thai hotels of late and surfaced with some absolute gems, from fantastic affordable luxury options to the exquisite high-end. And so, with appetites appropriately whet for more we ventured further into the world of Thailand’s super-luxury resorts. At the very top end of Thailand’s 5-star hotels, it’s much more than white sands telling you you’re in paradise.
Luxury Thai Hotels: Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
The name of The Ritz-Carlton is associated the world over with superb service and ultra-luxury accommodations. Basically the Ritz-Carlton can be relied upon to be brilliant. So how does one step up from brilliance? Well, welcome to the exclusively dizzy heights of the Ritz-Carlton Reserve.
Phulay Bay in Krabi is one of only two such Reserves – the other is in Puerto Rico; another four are planned in Mexico, Turks and Caicos, Morocco and Oman – so already you get an idea of just how exclusive these retreats can be. The philosophy is simple – more than provide you a luxury room to sleep in, Ritz-Carlton Reserves such as Phulay Bay offer a complete, immersive experience: a personalised escape in a barely-trodden and breathtaking corner of the world.
This particular corner of Krabi, Thailand, is just that. This staggeringly beautiful patch of one of Thailand’s must-see destinations gives visitors a wholly new and very natural experience of the region. Phulay Bay is tucked into an exotic and pretty little inlet from the Andaman Sea, surrounded by hidden beaches, coral reefs, rainforests where caves and waterfalls can be discovered. The westerly view out to sea is spectacular, as limestone karsts and numerous Thai islands further out dot a jagged horizon.
It feels as if you’ve entered into an old Thai seaside village, where traditional pitched-roof pavilions and thatched private villas, cottages and hidden cabanas, embedded within the lush jungle, appear through the leaves and undergrowth surrounded by flickering candles. Inside, however, one finds an incomparable level of luxury and quality of amenities, where old-world-inspired décor is given the contemporary heave-ho with bold and majestic effect. It’s a place that begs to be explored and has that wow factor at every turn. Explore further beyond the resort borders you will find deep caves in the cliffside to kayak through, pure jungle experiences on foot or even by elephant, and nearby island – Koh Hong – a real hidden secret of the Andaman Sea accessible by boat.
Luxury Thai Hotels: The Naka Island, Phuket
Phuket is Thailand’s tourism hotspot, but the hottest parts aren’t perhaps as easy to find. In fact, you may need to leave Phuket’s spectacular shores altogether. Multiple award-winning The Naka Island is a boutique resort, which indeed overlooks Phuket, but there’s a whole channel of water in between the two. As the only resort on Koh Naka Yai in the middle of Phang Nga Bay, looking out to ‘James Bond Island’, this is amongst the most exclusive hotels in the world.
Compared with the classic opulence of Phulay Bay, The Naka Island from the inside is surprisingly simple. Clean, crisp furnishings and minimalist design adorn its gorgeous thatched villas, but zero is spared when it comes to quality or taste. If Phulay Bay hinted at the feel of an older Thailand then The Naka Island is the Thai luxury style of today: contemporary and ultra-cool. You wouldn’t notice this on first glance of The Naka Island’s private villas, however, as the importance of being an eco-friendly resort that preserves the nature around it is paramount. Indeed the more unkempt feel to The Naka Island’s tropical gardens adds to the occasion.
This sharp, slick feel continues outside where dining areas are sunken into the freshwater infinity pool, chaise longues perch on top of the shallow tropical pond, the spa occupies its own singular island surrounded by calming moats and outdoor spa and massage pools. The expansive resort is exquisitely enticing, and to get around guests are granted a bike – outside of their villa.
The biggest boast of this resort is surely the Royal Horizon Pool Villa, a gated, 1,600-square-meter villa that must be seen to be believed. Its enormous infinity pool wraps around two daybeds to form an island, looking out at the islands. The pool deck features a sunken dining area, and guests can enjoy the outdoor bathtub and open-air bathroom. Which is almost certainly something you can’t do at home.
Phulay Bay and The Naka Island are the sorts of places that take luxury to new heights, with an individuality, character and location that are just that little bit different. Did I mention they also have some lovely white sand beaches? Oh, well, they do.
Both of these properties will be featured for the Sunday Times Travel Magazine, November edition, out October 4, 2013.