THE SPACE BETWEEN US

Written by root. Posted in Featured Article, FEATURES

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Published on March 09, 2018 with No Comments

Fresh air, seclusion and space turns Soneva Kiri into a playground for lavish, playful moments.

Words ANIS RAMLI

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If you return all black and bruised from Soneva Kiri, it’s perfectly understandable. Because there will be quite a few instances where you need to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming. Presented with the rarity of Photoshop-quality turquoise waters, or the incredulous treetop dining experience with its ziplining “hosts”, and the jaw-dropping expanse of the villa you will call home, consider being black-and-blue a small price to pay to store your experiences for future extraction.

It’s easy to write off Soneva Kiri as yet another dreamy, luxurious resort. It is that, yet it also is not. Sure, guests will gush over the private plane transfer, the resort’s own private airport on a leased neighbouring island, the private boats at their dispense – long after the tan has faded. And there are many Insta-worthy moments the resort offers. But beyond that, the resort triumphs in elevating the everyday experience. So even a walk barefoot on the beach becomes a novelty because the resort manages to connect all the dots to make it luxurious, special and memorable.

Soneva Kiri also stands out for its discreet service, seclusion, exclusivity and space. And we mean lots of space. Let’s take the villas, for instance. Calling it that in fact, is a misnomer. Spread out to house different rooms and structures – and made of locally-sourced wood, bamboo and other natural materials – it’s akin to glamourous glamping. Many have described it as being very Crusoe-esque. We’d like to think it a natural earthy mansion and an extension of the lush green surrounds enveloping much of the resort grounds. Devoid of chandeliers and marble baths that would make it stand out like a sore thumb, the villas embrace ingenuity. There is freedom in its design and lots of breathing space. The bedroom, indoor and outdoor bath and shower, his-and-hers vanity areas, the pool lounge and pool deck are all beautifully spread out. Getting lost within your villa on the first day is not only understandable, but expected. And because there is space – naturally the resort owners thought nothing of building a water slide from some rooms direct to the pool because well, why not!

This cheeky and playful nature of the resort can be seen elsewhere, too. Guests gleefully ride around the resort in their own private golf cart. You can call out to your “butler”, which Soneva Kiri warmly names Mr or Ms Friday (Robinson Crusoe, get it?), to chauffer you around. But guests are quite game to make a Mickey out of themselves with their undignified halts and stalls. We suspect the hosts get a kick out of seeing these comical misadventures, too! And then there are the chocolate room and ice-cream parlour. Adults become kids again gamely pocketing their favourite truffles or trying to choose between a tamarind sorbet and a passionfruit ice cream from the list of over 40 flavours. Once they have had their fill, it’s buggy time again to the on-water, open air cinema for homemade popcorn and a snuggle under the blankets to catch a Hollywood movie under the stars. Or, they could opt to dine at the menu-less Benz, the quirky wooden shack rising out of the mangroves in the middle of nowhere, or high above the treetops, strapped in a seatbelt with hosts ziplining in with the nibblets.

Only 36 villas stand in the 150 acres of land that makes up Soneva Kiri on a quiet bay of Koh Koot, Thailand’s fourth largest island. This allows guests total privacy and intimacy even when the resort operates at full capacity. Again, indulging in the availability of space has allowed the resort to focus on another area that they take seriously: sustainability. It’s a vision that founders Sonu Shivdasani and wife Eva are committed to since they established the brand together back in 1995.

An excursion to their organic farm was a real eye opener. Instead of the gratuitous patch most resorts claim to be their contribution to sustaining the earth, Soneva Kiri grows organic vegetables, herbs and spices in its 1.5 acres of farm land. It really embraces the farm-to-table ethos and the resort is really proud to showcase this at every meal. And there’s more. Three oxidation ponds on the grounds help recycle water in the resort. In other words, dirty water– from guest villas, host quarters, kitchen, and laundry – never leaves the property and instead is treated with oxygen and microorganisms and is reused to water the farm and for general cleaning. There’s a small hut on the farm that turns used cooking oil into bio-diesel for wood chipping machines. Kitchen wastes are turned into compost. Recyclable materials are sorted out in another hut and sold to recycling plants. Wood waste is turned into charcoal and used in the resort. And, the resort also bottles its own water in reusable glass bottles – cutting down the use of more than 50,000 plastic bottles a year!

This backstory, complemented by the surreal setting, the intuitive service and bespoke experience, all come together beautifully to make Soneva Kiri a resort that is impossible to describe in just one word.

 

Royal Brunei Airlines flies Bangkok 6x weekly for connections on Soneva Kiri private transfers to Koh Mai Si, Soneva Kiri’s private airport. Discover things to do in Koh Koot in www.muhibah.com.bn

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