From the moment our 10-seater private Cessna plane landed at Koh Kood's dusty runway at Trat, we sensed excitement and adventure. A short speedboat ride later, we were at the jetty where the smiling staff of Soneva Kiri greeted us with cold towels and welcome drinks.
Hidden away on the island of Koh Kood, Thailand's fourth largest but least populated island, award-winning eco-luxury resort Soneva Kiri nestles within a lush tropical rainforest.It advocates "Slow Life" and barefoot luxury, a way of life that promotes a cleaner and healthier way of living.
We were whisked off by our own electric buggy to our villa. The four-bedroom accommodation overlooks the glorious Gulf of Siam and offers lounge areas, two outside showers, a gym, a sunken bath, two infinity pools with a slide into the pool.
From luxurious spa treatments to private excursions to nearby islands, meals in hidden away locations, fully equipped PADI diving and training courses, local cultural experiences, visiting the local fishing communities and nearby temples, snorkelling, kayaking, diving, stargazing, cooking and coconut oil-making classes...there was so much to do on the secluded island.
Far from the madding crowd
A fascinating tour around the island took us back to an untouched Thailand. Wewere enthralled by glistening rainforests, tinkling waterfalls and traditional rural life of the local fishing communities. Koh Kood is also host to two stunning ancient makka trees, whose age is said to be somewhere between 200 and 500 years old.
With fat, rotund trunks and knobby aerial roots, they look surreal indeed. Also surreal is the island's landscape. Everywhere we were followed by chirping birds, lush foliage and the scent of blossoms. We took long walks on the beach, snorkeled and swam. And then swam some more beneath a waterfall.
The three-tiered Nam Tok Khlong Chao waterfall has tonnes of milky foam crashing over a moss-covered cliff into a large, inky pool. "Nam means water and tok means fall", our affable guide, Real explained as we trekked over slippery boulders to the waterfall. He explained that when King Rama VI visited the spot in 1911, he gave it the royal name Anamkok in commemoration of Ong Chiang Lue, a Vietnamese King who took refuge in the Kingdom of Siam during King Rama I's reign in the late 18th century.
A beach picnic
The next day, we headed to the jetty where a boat took us over the glutinous ocean for a lunch on North Beach. An enchanting zephyr blowing over a crystalline ocean, we feasted on juicy burgers, a Greek salad, deep-fried Basa and a seafood platter, all cooked fresh by chefs on the beach! All was washed down with fresh fruit juices. To work off the calories, we played beachball and frisbee. We kayaked on surf-tipped waves. What a picnic it turned out to be.
Koh Kood's fragile ecosystem necessitates that its 4,000- odd residents as well commercial establishments adhere to strict environmental guidelines. Consequently, the island boasts of no public transport; mega marts, beer bars or eateries swarming with tourists. There aren't even any roads on Koh Kood. There's little Internet access, and few cars. Electricity is minimal; homes and hotels rely on generators or solar power.
Local bamboo doubles as building material for homes as well as commercial establishments simply because as a local put it "the material allows cool breezes to pass through". The island's chefs leverage local produce to cut down on food miles and carbon footprint. Yet every meal is a feast of flavours here. We breakfast among the treetops in the Treepod where croissants, yoghurt, cheeses and sandwiches are ziplined straight by our intrepid "flying waiter" to our rattanand-steel basket. We also dine deep in the bowels of mangroves at Khun Benz's Thai restaurant.
The eatery is so exclusive, it is open only twice a week and counts among its regular guests many Hollywood greats. Chef Benz constructs authentic meals around fresh local produce.
Our taste buds are tickled by the delicate flavours of a banana blossoms salad with shrimp, deepfried crispy sweet corn, sea bass soup with Thai herbs, wok-fried morning glory with oyster sauce, red curry pork with pineapple and tantalizing bowls of Tab Tim Grob, the signature Thai dessert (red rubies in coconut milk).
Innards exploding, we beg the chef to stop sending us more food! Soon days blurred into a week and it was time to bid adieu to Koh Kood. Really, why does time always fly by faster when one is having so much fun?
FACT FILE: Accommodation:Soneva Kiri Six Senses Resort located at Trat offers 35 luxurious villas overlooking the Gulf of Siam. It also offers diving, snorkelling, fishing, kayaking, a private beach, children's facilities, fitness and cookery lessons and free wifi access. It has four restaurants, an ice-cream and a chocolate parlour, an observatory and a spa.
How to get there: Koh Kood is a remote island. Fly to Bangkok from where one can hire a private plane (90 minutes).