[This story first appeared in Koktail Magazine Issue 3.]
City slickers like to ask if the barefoot policy is mandatory when they arrive on the jetty at Soneva Kiri. It’s not. However, as the general manager aptly puts it, “It’s nice to be earthed!”
Situated on Koh Kood, Soneva Kiri is the famed Thailand chapter of Sonu and Eva Shivdasani’s ultra-luxury eco-resort empire. The “no news, no shoes” policy and personal butlers called Fridays are just some of the idiosyncrasies associated with the Soneva brand. Soneva Kiri also exists on its own time zone, which is one hour ahead of Bangkok.
The resort feels as if it's been built in symbiosis with its natural environment, rather than imposed on it. The villas and various facilities, such as the spa, tennis court, cinema, eco centre, and all the restaurants, are well spaced out from each other by the jungle and require personal electric-powered buggies to get from one to the other—unless you’re in for a nice walk or jog.
Starting at US$720 a night for a 1 Bedroom Bayview Pool Villa Suite (not including the private plane trip) and scaling to upwards of US$6,000 a night for the 5 Bedroom Beach Pool Reserve, each of Soneva Kiri’s 33 villas comes equipped with a private pool, outdoor bathroom in addition to indoors, and those iconic yellow cushioned daybeds and sun loungers. On the pricier end of the spectrum, multi-bedroom villas impress with their water slides, tree houses, meeting rooms, walk-in wine cellars, personal gyms, steam rooms, and in-villa spa facilities.
As an eco resort, you won’t find single-use plastics anywhere on the premises. Soneva also filters its own drinking water and generates its own electricity. Eco-curious guests can take a tour of Soneva’s eco centre and farm to learn more about its self-sufficiency and impressive sustainability practices.
Despite visiting months prior to the scrapping of test-and-go in May, there were a pleasant number of guests besides ourselves at the luxury resort, enough to keep the stay from feeling eerie but limited enough to justify the exclusivity. Which is why we were surprised to find that we were nearly unable to book the Treepod attraction.
The Treepod is Soneva’s photo-op hot spot. It’s a special table, built like a bird’s nest, that’s hoisted up high in the trees overlooking an incredible view of the ocean. There is only one Treepod on the whole resort, and it seats a maximum of four. You can book the Treepod for any meal you wish, given slots are available. Food is served by a ziplining staff, and reservations can come with epic drone photography service for you and your party.
For those who can’t get enough of nature and require more intimate experiences with the environment, we highly recommend requesting the guided waterfall tour, which will take you outside the resort and inbound to natural landmarks such as the 500-year-old giant Makka tree, the Big Sai tree, and some of Koh Kood’s most scenic waterfalls. At another time, you can also book a morning session of snorkeling just off of the tiny Koh Raet, the highlight of which are the sunken animal statues.
After an eventful day of hiking or swimming, it would be time for a filling feast at one of Soneva’s many restaurants. In this author’s opinion, the best dining experience that Soneva Kiri has to offer is Krua Mae Tuk, a gourmet Thai dinner spot located on a pier. You have to take a boat there through a meandering mangrove swamp or drive through the jungle if the water isn’t high enough for passage. Krua Mae Tuk is of course helmed by chef Tuk, who is a master of Thai cuisine, particularly that of the southern region. The “no menu” concept at Krua Mae Tuk means that chef Tuk flexes her creativity each night, coming up with unique courses as well as sharing plates for guests. While the food here is enriching and memorable, it is anything but intimidating and pretentious. Mae Tuk sticks to the classics and does them so well.
Alternative dining options at Soneva Kiri include sophisticated Japanese-Peruvian fusion fare at The View, where the sunset was absolutely ridiculous; easy-going international cuisine at The Dining Room; tapas and ice cream at So Chilled; beachside bites at South Beach; and many more. It is also said that you haven’t really been to Soneva Kiri if you don’t visit the So Guilty Chocolate Room, a destination within a destination.
Assuming that you’d be at Soneva with special company, the Observatory or Cinema Paradiso, where you can gaze at heavenly bodies through a telescope or watch an iconic film under the stars, respectively, are memorable nighttime attractions to enjoy together before you hit the sack.
To book a stay, contact email@example.com or 082-208-8888.
For more information, visit soneva.com.