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From secluded temple replicas to free jet lag massages and a forest boutique with door-opening monkeys.
While Thailand is regularly touted as one of the most affordable destinations on the planet, no one particularly wants to scroll through a feed of your really, really well-priced yet grotty hostel. There's no need to skimp on every single creature comfort just to allow for another dozen 50c beers; Thailand offers plenty of boutique accommodation options to help you get there, catering to all wallet and pool sizes. From secluded temple replicas to free jet lag massages on arrival and a forest boutique with door-opening monkeys, these are six boutique resorts worth visiting across the land of smiles.
If you're looking for attentive and personal service to make you feel like the most important person in the universe, Chiang Mai's Sireeampan is the place you need to take a load off. Whether it be the golf cart escort from the gate to front lobby, the charming radio communication announcing your movements, or the amuse bouche on a silver platter upon arrival, there's a reason this place is known for its regularly returning guests.
The grandeur property is a replica Thai manor from the Rattanakosin era— a taste of what you can expect within the city walls of Chiang Mai— its elaborate roof soars straight up to the sky. Staying true to the ancient traditions, shoes must be removed and swapped out for a pair of slippers upon entering the paradisiacal courtyard. But before you even get to harness the zen, each guest is welcomed onto the property with a complementary platter of snacks and drinks— complete with quail eggs, sweet potato balls and a fragrant drink that magically transforms from blue to purple with a squeeze of lime juice.
The courtyard is a pristine tropical escape, abundant with plant life and the pleasant sound of trickling fountains. The area is split by a fish pond with the biggest goldfish you'll ever lay your eyes on. It immediately feels a world away from the sweaty Thai streets.
A proper boutique hotel, there are only 11 rooms onsite— each named after gemstones which form a part of Thailand's jewellery heritage. All come with a selection of local fruit, a coffee machine and an iPad to scroll through the features of the property, of which include a private underground karaoke room, pool, spa service and a five-star restaurant offering both traditional Thai and Italian food; Sireeampan manages to pull off the exotic cuisine with finesse thanks to training direct from the motherland. Breakfast is its own event— custom built via your iPad the night before and served anywhere around the property— even in bed. The royal feast will set you up for a day of exploring.
Also located in the northern provence of Chiang Mai, Akyra is a far cry from the tropical escape of Sireeampan. The property is situated within the vibrant Nimmanhaemin art district, known for its decent cafes, first-rate restaurants and rooftops bars. A hipster's paradise, you'll naturally find Akyra on 'coffee street'. It's also decent distance from the tourist trap bars of the old town that are rammed with sun-kissed Europeans and plastered antipedeons.
Only one year old, the property drips contemporary charm, with every detail worthy of appearing in the pages of a luxe design magazine. The culprits are Singapore's Manor Studio, who went as far as modelling the exterior on Chiang Mai's old city wall and aligned glass on the rooftop pool for perfect underwater photo shoots.
After sinking a refreshing virgin lychee martini upon arrival, your equally impressive room awaits beyond the dramatic curtain-bordered hallways. Set out in a practical U shape, or courtyard-within-a-room style, the rooms are organised down to the tee with hi tech curtains, a cinematic make-up and hair area, his and hers bathroom accessories and perhaps the most comfortable bed known to man. The ultimate sign of luxury comes in the form of a huge circular white marble bath in the courtyard.
An attractive feature, and crafty way to encourage use of the mini bar, is the property's 'cocktail of the day'. Each day your room is supplied with all the tools and ingredients, sans alcohol, to create a glorious concoction. If you don't trust your own drink-making ability, the rooftop bar serves as the perfect location to grab a drink between laps of the pool. The two-for-one happy hour is the ideal time tick off the cocktail list and catch the sun setting over Doi Suthep. The cherry-infused whiskey sour is first-rate.
Downstairs within the lobby you'll find Italics restaurant, characterised by elaborate branch lighting features. Led by Chef Kip, the contemporary take on Italian has been given the tick of approval from locals, meaning you won't be purely surrounded by tourists. The menu features delights like wood-fired pizza, duck ravioli and slow-cooked lamb shoulder. Again, the complementary breakfast will set you up for the day ahead, with the option of choosing two options from the al a carte menu as well as a high tea platter stacked with fresh fruit, crossants and local cuisine like chicken noodles.
Those wanting to bypass the bubblegum tourist hoopla of Patong and downtown Phuket should make a beeline straight for Aleenta. The property is located in the Phang Nga province, around a 20-minute drive from the international airport and close to one hour north of the bustling florescent drag.
Situated on the shore of the Andaman Sea on Natai Beach, the property is the epitome of your classic fantasy Thai resort; daybed loungers await on white sand, the infinity pool welcomes a swim-up bar and glorious photo opportunities, and mind blowing west coast sunsets and lighting shows are a given.
The expansive property also caters to all kinds of occasions— private fenced-off pool villas for honeymooners, beachside abodes that cater to large groups, and bach-style houses that come with their own kitchen facilities. To avoid the duty of cooking on holiday, Aleenta offers two restaurants in the form of upmarket Thai and Italian. You'll pay beyond what you'd find at side of the road gypsy joints, but it's not everyday you get to sample a mouthwatering soft shell crab massaman curry. The breakfast buffet will also leave you bursting at the seams and yearning for an afternoon nap on the beach. Not strictly limited to the buffet selection, the breakfast allows you to choose anything off the a la carte menu as well. Sit back with one of the country's best iced coffees and soothe the previous night's cocktail binge in the sweet ocean breeze.
It's the little things that make Aleenta stand out. The evening turn down service is extremely thoughtful, characterised by the perfect placement of soft floaty pyjamas and slippers at your bedside, complementary meringue candy for a sweet nightcap, and surprisingly dark bedtime stories to read before drifting off.
While you never actually need to leave the property, bikes are available to explore the area. A short ride north will take you to the Natai Beach pier to see local fishermen bringing in their morning haul, while even further will give you a look at rural lifestyle— water buffalo and all. Further attractions within arm's reach include a turtle sanctuary, monkey cave and the budda on the hill.
Thanks to its palm lined beaches and roaring nightlife, Koh Samui is one of the most visited spots in Thailand. For something quieter and less tacky than the likes of Limai and Cheweng, Bo Phut offers some calm from the storm with their secluded garden property— while still keeping within walking distance to the popular Fisherman's Village and a short scooter ride to attractions like the 12-metre tall golden Big Budda.
After checking in, a visit to Bo Phut Resort & Spa has the option of a complementary 15-minute jet lag massage that'd you'd be insane to pass up. The experience is a snapshot of the traditional Thai massage from head to toe, and a refreshing treat if you've just crossed international waters or made the journey from the mainland.
A stroll through the lush garden property will lead you past a variety of rooms, whether it be gated pool villas or tree-covered garden suites. They all come armed with traditional amenities— pristine white sheets, a pillow menu, first-class toiletries et al.— and bathrooms equal to the size of the living quarters. A cute addition is the complementary monkey soft toy that during the turn down service will be arranged into different poses for your entertainment.
The pool offers obstacle-free views over the lively Bo Phut beach. If lounging around by the pool isn't your bag, the resort offers a free schedule of activities everyday; from windsurfing to yoga and fruit carving. For those still yearning for the classic Samui experience— jetskis, diving and snake holding are also at your disposal. Further along the lively beach you'll encounter nightly fire shows and thriving beachside bars. You'll never be shy of things to do.
While there's an endless supply of food options down the road at Fisherman's Wharf, the property boasts its own two restaurants: Sala Thai Restaurant serving authentic local cuisine and L'Ocean serving specialities from the Mediterranean— neither making any sacrifices for westerners' tastebuds. The complementary breakfast is where you'll find all your usual suspects— bacon, eggs, fresh fruit, plus made to order omelettes, fried noodles, crepes and waffles.
Even further from the hustle of the main ring roads in Koh Samui is Tongsai Bay, a completely secluded property with its own private 200-metre beach. Spread across the hillside of the northern point of the island, the property provides everything you need for a private getaway. It's equipped with three restaurants - offering western, Mediterranean and Asian cuisines, a yoga room, chill out and games rooms, and a full-size tennis court that comes complete with a chilly bin of ice cool water and towels— much needed relief in the Thai humidity.
Unless you book your own private villa, there are two large pools to choose from, each extremely accessible via winding paths or by the round-the-clock golf cart service. If you prefer the embrace of salt water, the private beach is but a short walk down to the bottom of the property. In calm conditions the secluded bay is perfect for a burn in one of the kayaks, standup paddle boards and windsurfers on hand. We also hear the fishing isn't too bad off the rocks. For the less active, the beach also boasts an abundance of parasols and loungers to waste the day away; the onsite bistro Po-Lad will assist with classic beachside cocktails; the beach boy team will provide the ice water. The private bay serves as the main hangout for guests and come nightfall openair cinema completes the overarching community vibe.
Thanks to the management's active preservation of the natural surroundings, the property is engulfed by lush forest. A seat at the Tongsai's main restaurant Chef Chom's will give you a tiny glimpse through soaring trees to the ocean; a perfect fit with the traditional Thai cuisine. The treehouse dining room is the same spot you'll find the breakfast service. Not your average smorgasbord, the service flaunts a staunch 'have it your way' attitude, featuring a fresh honey comb tap, a make your own Bloody Mary station, an extensive DIY noodle soup service, and a fridge entirely dedicated to butters.
Getting to Pimalai is an adventure in itself. Finding your way to the property at the southern end of island getaway Koh Lanta will see you embark on a one hour's drive from Krabi before another 40 - 50 minutes on a speed boat. Suitably, complimentary transfers are provided to and from Krabi airport. Sailing into the enclosed bay with glistening white sand, you'll instantly be glad you made the journey. According to fellow guests, the location is close to what Samui felt like 20 years ago before the hoards moved in. But before setting foot on dry land, you'll be tasked with a questionable walk along the resort's makeshift jetty made from plastic containers that undulate with the waves.
The Pimalai property is split into two parts: beach side and hill side. While the beach sounds like the more appealing locale, the hill accommodation is dotted in tropical rainforest that allows for sweeping views across the Adaman Sea and out to the pointy limestone island, Koh Rok. The trip up the winding road is another adventure in itself.
Each villa is enclosed, making the visit extremely private. Though, as a heads up, you may have to compete with creatures that inhabit in the surrounding rainforest. Upon your arrival, you'll be briefed on some of the wildlife that you may encounter during your stay; monkeys that can slide open doors, flying dragon lizards, frogs, bats, coconut rats and everything in-between. As the sun sinks beyond the horizon a symphony of those animals soars across the bay.
With the best lavatory view you've ever seen and a shower opening out onto lush rainforest, you'll never want to leave. While Pimalai suitably translates to "a little patch of heaven", the property is on the larger side of boutique resorts; the entire area is home to four restaurants, both western and Asian, two bars, and an immense 50m long infinity pool. There's a lot to explore if you don't mind scaling the steep paths. Breakfast can also be delivered if you'd prefer to keep your little patch of heaven entirely to yourself. Though, beyond the small enclosed beach are some of the best snorkelling spots in Thailand.
Published on February 08, 2017 by Stephen Heard