Soneva Kiri: The Best Way to Beat Jet Lag
If you are travelling to Southeast Asia from North America, you will have to contend with a few days of jet lag-induced disorientation. The best way to soften the blow and adjust for the adventure ahead is to treat yourself to a stay at the eco-luxury resort Soneva Kiri.
Sprawled over a bluff and beach on the island of Koh Kood, 350 kilometres southeast of Bangkok and 80 km off the Thai mainland, Soneva Kiri is great for couples and multi-generational families. It could serve as base to start your exploration of Thailand, Cambodia, including the magnificent temple city of Angkor Wat, Myanmar and Vietnam. Or it could also be your pampering reward after an active itinerary of biking or hiking through the region.
Like all the Soneva resorts, this one espouses the “Slowlife” philosophy – embracing sustainability, social responsibility, local buying, wellness and engaging experiences. It recycles waste, conserves water, preserves local environments (including the fragile marine ecosystem), grows organic food and also buys its meat, vegetables, fruits and seafood from local farmers and fishermen.
The adventure begins after landing in Thailand. You reach Soneva Kiri via a private flight from Bangkok or Siem Reap, and then taking a short boat ride to the fourth largest island in Thailand and the resort with its “rustic-chic” design, with recycled wood, including poles reminiscent of the stilts of local fishing villages.
When signing in, you get your own electric buggy to transverse the custom-built pathways connecting the sprawling resort. And more importantly, you are introduced to your own personal concierge, a Ms. or Mr. Friday.
Our Ms. Friday was wonderful and took the time immediately to find what we liked and what we didn’t, so she could personalize our experience. She was around when we wanted her and retired discreetly when we needed privacy. She also gave us a cellphone so we could contact her anytime of the day, for room service, to ask questions, to make restaurant reservations, arrange for excursions and anything else.
All accommodations are well-appointed luxury villas, ranging from one to six bedrooms, with both beachside villas and ones perched on the cliff. Each spacious villa has its own pool, outdoor showers and bathtubs with all-natural bath products, iPod music systems with speakers place strategically throughout the compound, TVs with DVD libraries and more.
Our one-bedroom Oceanfront Villa had more than 460 square meters of indoor and outdoor space. But we found it was so gorgeous outside that we never really wanted to go in.
Lights, Camera, Action!
One of the great things to do at night, after dinner, is take your cart to Cinema Paradiso, the resort’s outdoor movie theatre. Unlike a regular packed theatre, you have your own viewing space. The staff sit you down, make a little bed for you, serve you popcorn, coffee, tea, drinks – whatever you want – under the moon, with sounds of frogs and insects in the background.
Still jet lagged, the two of us drifted off to sleep during the movie. When we woke, we hopped into our buggy for a drive back to the villa.
During our stay we discovered how great it is just to look up. Without the lights of civilization to dim the night sky, you get a great view of the heavens, which can be enhanced by a visit to the resort’s observatory. Here an astronomer gives you a guided tour of the sky, zooming in on things like Jupiter and distant galaxies.
While the resort sits on a beach, the bay here is a bit shallow. But a short shuttle boat ride takes you to a lovely white sand, private beach on the south side of the island, where you can indulge in watersports, such as kayaking, sailboarding, waterskiing and wake-boarding.
You can also take guided snorkelling trips to reefs teaming with colourful sealife or go to one of two-dozen dive sites (some 30 meters deep) in Koh Chang National Park.
Those who embrace the active life can also play tennis, volleyball or get pumped in the fitness room.
Dining on High
There are, of course, great restaurants throughout the resort. For example, you can cruise through the mangroves of Klong Yai Kee to the open-air lantern-lit Benz’s restaurant, perched on stilts. Talented chef Khun Benz offers signature Thai cuisine with an ever-changing nine-course dinner menu only using ingredients grown on Koh Kood and neighbouring Koh Chang.
Or there is the The View, which takes its name from its sweeping outlook from its cantilevered location at the top of the cliff. Its bistro menu pairs fresh local produce with Western cooking techniques.
Among the other resort eating choices, one of our favourites is Treepod dining, where you enter a bamboo pod and are winched six meters in the air. While full meals are available, we went for the decadent but life-affirming Champagne Tea. From our view on high we enjoyed panoramas of the ocean and rainforest, while our waiter used a zip line with athletic prowess to retrieve our drinks and edibles from ground level.
Beyond the Compound
When you are feeling more energetic, you can go on excursions, ranging from a fishing adventure with a local fisherman to a trip to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. We tried a half-day tour of our island, complete with snorkelling and sunset cruise. You can also tour the island on your own, on a moped.
Koh Hood is beautiful, with wild interiors, lovely beaches, waterfalls and rubber plantations. At one of the oldest settlements you find a fishing village built on stilts, where fishermen unload the day’s catch from boats of many colours. You get a feel for their way of life. We also saw new temple under construction, with a golden Buddha.
Pamper Yourself with a Spa Treatment
While I’m not usually a spa person, Soneva Kiri’s Six Senses Spa really blew me away. Very unique and innovative. You can sit down first with a wellness practitioner – who is both versed in Western medicine and Ayurvedic practices from India – for a consultation, looking at the state of your health and giving you a suite of treatments to try at the spa. It’s a customized regimen that you can continue at other Six Senses Spas in the region or when you go home.
Treatments can range from locally inspired ones to the healing therapies of Asia and beyond. Mud massages, Thai herbal baths, silk facials, warm oils of Ayurveda and other wellness rituals are available. Of note to recent arrivals is the 90-minute jet lag massage that revives circulation, releases muscle tension and resets the internal clock with an exclusive blend of aromatherapy oils, followed by a heated fresh Thai herbal bag to improve the flow of energy, and an eye and foot mask.
Very Kid Friendly
Families and as well as couples and groups of friends will feel welcome here. In the Den – a giant bamboo playground shaped like a manta ray – your kids will find themselves playing with children of all nationalities, including ones from Australia, China and Europe. Professional child minders look after them and keep them engaged playing Thai instruments, painting and doing lots more. One- to five-year-olds can spend time in the one-of-a-kind Explorers Club with its Eco Den, supervised by qualified childcare experts, as well as offering guided rainforest walks, local school visits and more.
Children of all ages will enjoy the resort pools, waterslides and sweet treats, such as the unending flow of chocolate from the So Chochoholic room, including salted caramel-infused truffles, creamy mousse and thick cholate fondue.
As I said, Soneva Kiri is a great way to start a trip in Southeast Asia. But watch out, you might find it hard to leave when the time comes.