Without compromise - Luxury Travel Magazine
|By: Kelly Allen, Issue 49 Summer 2012|
|THIS LUXE THAI RETREAT IS COMMITTED TO SUPPORTING BOTH THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE LOCAL COMMUNITY. KELLY ALLEN EXPERIENCES A RESPONSIBLE RESORT WITH NO COMPROMISES WHATSOEVER TO GUEST COMFORT.|
|At Bangkok’s international airport we were met by a representative from Soneva Kiri, the remote Thai island resort to which we were headed. We were escorted through security and on to Thai Airways first class lounge where our family group was assigned a comfortable, private room. Here we waited to board the luxurious eight-seater Cessna Grand Caravan plane for the one-hour flight to Koh Kood island, the home of Soneva Kiri Resort. The plane ride was beautiful, every seat a window seat. I was glad I had my camera as we flew over the rice fields outside Bangkok and over small islands fringed in every shade of blue.|
Waiting for us on the tiny landing strip was our “Ms Friday”, Chompoo. Throughout our stay, Chompoo was there for us any time we needed anything - from organising a dinner reservation to bringing over some DVDs or even unpacking a suitcase. And though our children are older, I suspect she is wonderful with kids as she has nannied in America and her English is perfect. After a five-minute ride on a speed boat we arrived at Soneva Kiri and had a delicious lunch followed by my children’s favorite part of the resort - the 24-hour chocolate room and ice cream parlour. The chocolate room is full of premium hand made chocolates sourced from cocoa plantations in south Thailand. There are truffles, fondues, macaroons, mousses - anything you can imagine made of chocolate. The ice cream parlour section has over 60 handmade ice creams, sorbets and gelatos with exotic flavours like coconut coriander, chocolate banana, white peach and even whisky flavor. We visited the chocolate and ice cream room at least three times a day during our stay.
The meals at Soneva Kiri are just as delectable, with choices from Thai to western to Japanese to beach barbecues. Everyone in the family was always happy.
Our villa was very impressive: a five-bedroom (six including the butler’s room) timber villa which felt like a huge treehouse at approximately 1,800 square metres in size. There were indoor/ outdoor ensuites for each bedroom, a large pool with a water slide (another of the children’s favourites), a beautiful fitness room, a billiards table and plenty of places to hang out and relax. The resort’s motto is “No news, no shoes”, a philosphy we all enthusiastically embraced. There were several flat screen TVs throughout the villa but, because they don’t access standard channels, we were able to avoid the news channels and instead watch family movies together. And how often can you go to a beautiful resort and not have to pack shoes? We even turned up to dinner in the resort’s top notch restaurants barefoot...A practice encouraged by the staff. There’s free Wi-Fi if you really can’t unplug and a few computers in the resort library - which also has a
huge number of interesting books and a large DVD collection.
Soneva Kiri is part of the Six Senses group, a resort brand that distinguishes itself by offering a kind of luxury it has named intelligent luxury, best explained by a philosophy it calls S.L.O.W. L.I.F.E. which stands for “sustainable, local, organic, wellness, learning, inspiring, fun, experiences”.
Throughout the resort you’ll find furnishings crafted from local, renewable and sustainable resources. There’s a fruit and vegetable garden and a zero emissions suite called the Eco Villa constructed entirely from locally sourced, non-toxic building materials. It has rainwater harvesting storage and filtration. Energy to the villa is produced using hybrid wind turbine, solar PV and micro hydro applications. It also has a natural swimming pool that uses plants to clean the water.
The Soneva Kiri social and environmental responsibility philosophy is to give back to the local community and to not only comply with, but where possible improve on the Thai environmental requirements. Half a percent of the resort’s revenue goes back into the local community and it has provided playground equipment to local schools, medical equipment to hospitals and organized activities like reforestation and beach cleaning events. As a matter of course it prefers to use locally sourced products and suppliers.
There aren’t many people who wouldn’t enjoy a resort stay just that little bit more knowing that their carbon footprint is being minimised and their impact on the lives of the locals is for the most part positive rather than negative.