Ritz Carlton Phulay Bay Infinity Pool
Make exploring Thailand a truly luxurious experience
Thailand’s stunningly beautiful scenery, unique culture and intimate hospitality attract visitors from every area of the globe, catering to those ready to dive headfirst into unknown places, explore ancient civilisations or simply relax by the white sands and cobalt waters of the many beaches. While Thailand is a staple for backpackers everywhere, the top of the list for travelling destinations, it also caters for some of the most discerning of patrons. It may be a gap year staple, but some of the most prestigious hotel chains in the world, along with exclusive independent resorts have made the country a promising prospect for an unforgettable luxury getaway. With that in mind, we have selected a few of the best to give you some idea of what you can find…
Ritz Carlton Phulay Bay, Krabi
In typical Ritz Carlton style, Phulay Bay is one of the most luxurious resorts in Thailand. Between lush jungles, blue water and a beautifully rugged shoreline begging for a day of island-hopping, the area offers unspoiled views of the scenery that has made it a global holiday destination. The resort itself enhances the area’s natural magnificence with a deep sense of peace and tranquillity, emphasized by the sheer luxury of the contemporary Thai villas. Complete with a 24-hour butler service, the resort ensures that guests can relax with each and every need met.
From cocktail bars to traditional Thai cuisine, Phulay Bay uses only the freshest ingredients in the various restaurants available, the highlight of which is undoubtedly Lae Lay. Worth a visit in itself simply for the unforgettable setting, surrounded by azure water, Lae Lay’s daily-caught seafood is flawlessly prepared and undoubtedly a culinary highlight of any visit.
For an indulgent, blissfully relaxing time out, global luxury spa ESPA has a home at Phulay Bay. With the soft rhythm of the Andaman Sea just within earshot, the treatments on offer enhance the prevalent sense of tranquillity, soothing all the senses into deep calm with massages and bespoke aromatherapies. Along with treatments, the resort offers candlelight yoga, a uniquely serene experience.
For those that want to do more than relax, there are a host of activities, from kayaking between the local islands to trekking through the jungle on the back of an elephant. Nearby Hong Island is one of the area’s best-kept secrets, you can go swimming in the lagoon at Koh Hong, view the great sights in Phang-Nga Bay, as well as exploration of intricate cave systems, it offers plenty for even the most active of visitors.
Soneva Kiri, Koh Kood
Soneva pride themselves on creating uniquely memorable experiences and, between greeting the sunrise with a luxury breakfast in the resorts tree pod dining area and a picnic beside the magnificent Klong Chao waterfall, their Koh Kood resort is just that. The array of activities on offer is impressive, both cultural and sporting. Koh Chang National Park offers two-dozen dive sites down to 30 metres though much of the more colourful coral thrives closer to the surface, around 12 metres, while Ao Salad village offers an intimate glimpse into the everyday lives of the locals.
Despite the experiences, dining takes centre-stage at Soneva Kiri, the aforementioned tree-top dining being one of the highlights. 12 metres up, the waiter arrives by trapeze to serve gourmet dishes in a style to be found nowhere else. While impressive, that is just the beginning of the culinary delights on offer. Dinner at Benz, situated in the midst of a mangrove swamp, is just as memorable, while those with a sweet tooth can sample the local honey and indulge in their chocolate factory daydreams in Soneva Kiri’s chilled chocolate room, packed with chocolate truffles, lollipops and cacao cocktails. To round it off, also on offer is a selection of sixty different ice creams to take the heat out of the day.
Not to be outdone by the food, the twenty-nine villas at Soneva Kiri are all vast and luxurious. In a style at once minimalist yet with all the amenities you could want, the villas blend in perfectly to the surrounding landscape. Each is embraced by a private pool and faces either the glorious sunrise or strikingly multi-hued sunset. With electric buggies to ferry guests to other areas, they provide the ease and simplicity for a perfect retreat from the world.
The Ritz Carlton is not the only luxury retreat at Krabi and Rayavadee is just as special. Accessible only by sea due to the surrounding limestone cliffs, guests arrive at the resort after a short, exhilarating speedboat trip from Krabi pier, creating a sense of fantastic isolation and journey into the undiscovered.
The resort itself boasts nearly 100 enchanting two-story pavilions and 4 luxurious private villas spread over 26 acres of coconut groves and tropical gardens and bordered by three beaches. The award-winning architecture blends with its natural surroundings to create a unique atmosphere reminiscent of an idyllic southern Thai village.
With a number of restaurants to choose from, there is one in particular that stands out. The Grotto is a subterranean restaurant where guests can fine among the stalactites and stalagmites of Krabi’s limestone karsts. Serving light snacks and barbeque, seating along the idyllic Phranang Beach allows a drink in the sun during the day, while at night a retreat into the grotto itself lends an air of natural grandeur to any meal.
Guests can learn a number of traditional Thai activities, including Thai cooking, flower garland weaving, fruit carving and batik painting. However for those of a more adventurous mind there is plenty to be done in the way of hiking, kayaking or diving, all in the astounding lush tropical paradise that is Krabi. Most magnificent however are the elephants, which guests can ride through a guided exploration of the local jungle and get up close and personal with one of the world’s most majestic and intelligent animals.
Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai
Between the unsurpassed service you would expect at any branch of the world-famous Mandarin Oriental and the immersive experience the resort offers in Thailand’s Lanna culture, Dhara Dhevi easily rivals its revered Bangkok namesake. Located close to one of Thailand’s most fascinating cities, the resort is not just luxurious but is an architectural gem, influenced heavily by the local culture, both contemporary and ancient, a theme reflected eminently in the accommodation.
Converted from authentic Northern Thai rice barns, exteriors maintain their unique Lanna style while interiors enjoy a spacious, modern design with accommodation spread over two floors. The décor of the ground-floor living space incorporates traditional rustic elements such as bamboo, silk and hill tribe textiles, whereas upstairs features crafted wooden beams and sliding shutters as well as a peanut-shaped spa bath in the inviting bathroom. An outdoor terrace off the king bedroom is furnished with a small table and sun-loungers. Several of the villas are clustered around a private cottage garden through which a small brook flows, the perfect place to relax in the early evening.
The culinary offerings of the resort are as varied as they are exquisite, with everything from evening meals to Sunday brunch, bistro dining to casual poolside snacks on offer. Farang Ses, one of the most acclaimed French restaurants in Thailand offers traditional continental cuisine in a grand Lanna buildings which features elegantly sculpted chandeliers and enormous teak pillars clad in sheets of beaten copper relief. Named after the prosperous Chinese province famed for black tea, Fujian specialises in authentic Cantonese and contemporary Chinese cuisine and is particularly famed for its dim sum lunches. Finally, for more local fare, Le Grand Lanna lives up to its name with both northern Lanna and classic Thai dishes, complemented each evening by traditional music and dance.
Four Seasons Golden Triangle, Chiang Mai
While a tented camp may seem to be more along the lines of the backpackers that swarm through Thailand each year, Four Seasons resorts are not known for their lack of luxury. While the accommodation on offer is indeed tents, this is not camping and though the quiet solitude and open air allow guests to get back to nature, they can do so in the utmost comfort and style. With stunning views and handcrafted furniture, they are as far away from everyday camping as guests feel from the world.
Elephants may be a major attraction throughout Thailand, with many resorts allowing visitors to see or even ride them, yet atFour Season Golden Triangle the gentle giants take centre stage. As well as riding them, guests can take on Mahout training, learning how to act around the elephants to put them at ease and give commands to drive them, a skill that can be practiced in abundance in a variety of jungle and mountain treks.
After a hard day of Elephant steering, what better way to relax than a traditional Thai massage, nestle amongst the bamboo? Along with innovative treatments created with local ingredients, including mountain botanicals and local warming spices, the Camp’s spa provides a holistic healing experience to soothe the aches and pains of an arduous mountain trek.
Between the luxuriously bedecked ‘tents’, indulgent spa and activities from elephant riding to traditional cookery courses, Four Seasons Golden Triangle is more than a few steps up from usual thoughts of camping.