Thailand has dozens of supremely luxurious resorts that will easily allow you to spend a month’s salary in a single night if you want to, from pool villas overlooking the Andaman Sea to tiny boutique hotels so exclusive they don’t even want you to have heard of them.
But hey, you’ve seen one run of the mill luxury villa and you’ve seen them all. If you’re looking for something more than sheer pampering and opulent surroundings, check out these extraordinarily fancy digs.
1. Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai
One can imagine the conversations that go on between agitated high society ladies and their desperate-to-please courtesans floating down from business class in the plane ride north: “I don’t care how much it costs a night, I am not staying in a tent and that’s final.”
But once the bickering couple arrives at this Chiang Rai Four Seasons property, there’s likely to be a change of tune. These are tents on steroids, providing a magical and definitely luxurious oasis of privacy in the jungle — minus the soggy sleeping bags and collapsing tent poles. This is getting back to nature at its finest, with an all-inclusive policy towards food and excursions that means you can fully explore the jungle on elephant back and head into nearby Myanmar too.
The Tented Camp is also the place to come if you’re looking for peace and quiet. The tents are sans TVs, DVD players or anything else that can make a racket, although some guests have complained about the birds being noisy in the morning.
2. Soneva Kiri, Koh Kood
What do you think guests lucky enough to stay at Soneva Kiri, on the remote island of Koh Kood in the Gulf of Thailand, first rave about when they come back to the real world? Is it the rock-star start to their holiday (a private airplane transfers them from Suvarnabhumi directly to their enormous 2,000 square feet plus villas)? Or the surrounding lush jungle, powdery white sand beaches and beautiful coral gardens within which the Soneva Kiri resort is nestled? Perhaps it’s the gourmet food, personal Man Friday service, superlux spa, outdoor cinema and the state of the art observatory that lets you observe Saturn’s rings.
Wrong. These things are all great but, more than likely, the first anecdote from any Soneva Kiri guest will be the fact the resort has dedicated, always-open bars for both chocolate (served in blends of up to 95%) and ice cream, with over 60 varieties of freezing cold joy to choose from.
3. Rayavadee, Krabi
One of the most established hotels on Railay Beach in goregous Krabi, Rayavadee hotel has seen the area grow in popularity with the once tranquil area now invaded by daytrippers and backpackers. But not to worry, Rayavadee’s three private beaches are patrolled by security guards to keep the riffraff out, while there are always the huge two-floored pavilions and pool to retreat to if the daytime visitors become too much.
Those willing to step out of the compound can explore the local restaurants and bars further along the stunning beaches, but what makes this place truly unique is the Grotto, the Rayavadee’s subterranean restaurant among the stalactites and stalagmites of Krabi’s limestone karsts.
4. Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai
The Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi manages to outshine its revered Bangkok namesake by being not just a place to stay but an immersive experience in Thailand’s Lanna culture. Beyond the expected impeccable service, exquisite rooms, spas and restaurants, the Dhara Dhevi showcases the work of hundreds of local artisans in recreating Lanna-style architecture and furnishings.
The grounds of the Dhara Dhevi cover some 60 acres and the level of service from staff means that kids are particularly well catered for as they can run riot in the hotel’s rice plantations and jungle thatches and get up close and personal with a baby elephant and their mahouts. Disneyland looks pretty lame in comparison.
Parents will have time to explore the on-site Lanna museum, which details the stunning artistry of northern Thailand and its Burmese heritage. Like Jim Thompson’s Thai silk empire, the peculiar irony is that it’s taken the interest of foreigners to help rekindle one of Thailand’s most spectacular monuments to its own history.
5. Ritz Carlton Phulay Bay, Krabi
The Ritz Carlton’s first Asian project under its Reserve brand, Krabi’s Phulay Bay features the usual suspects of personal butler service, gourmet food and beautiful villas. Where Phulay Bay sets itself apart is its boutique, contemporary feel — a hip hotel with traditional notes set against the Andaman Sea.
While it may be chic, Phulay Bay isn’t minimal. It prides itself on over the top luxury like four metre wide beds. The hotel’s villas are widely spaced apart too so you can pretty much avoid seeing other guests if you want complete privacy. Strangely, for such an opulent beach hotel you can’t actually swim in the water as it’s so rocky beneath the waterline, making the ocean the ultimate designer accessory as it’s just there to look pretty. Still, with outdoor Jacuzzis and plunge pools there’s little reason to deal with all that terrible sand and salt and stuff.