Relaxing in a recliner set directly in the pool, I was mesmerized by the giant otherworldly rocks rising out of the Andaman Sea. Welcome to Ani Villas, a jewel of a resort located in Koh Yao Noi, an island 40 minutes by speedboat from Thailand’s southern island of Phuket. Set amid lush tropical foliage with gorgeous pagodas and eight thatched roof houses that are luxurious suites, the exotic retreat is inspired by the temples of Northern Thailand. It’s a stunning paradise of pearly white sand, turquoise water and mystical limestone formations that spellbind one and all.
To top it off, you get the entire place to yourself since the 10- bedroom oceanfront estate is available only as an exclusive rental. It’s ideal for girlfriend getaways, romantic escapes, celebrations, families or anyone who wants to get away from it all and experience tranquility in their own private sanctuary. You can swim off the beach just steps away or kick back in style in a comfy chaise lounge built into the grand infinity pool – decidedly different than the crowded beach scene in Phuket.
Ani Villas prides itself on creating top customized experiences and carrying out any guest requests, so I put them to the test. I asked if it was possible to dine in the pool that evening, on stools and a stone table submerged in the water used for drinks during the day when guests are bathing. Without hesitation, the staff agreed and began taking the requisite measurements to execute the aqua meal.
My friend and I arrived promptly at 8pm clad in our bathing attire. A candlelit table with flowers awaited. We savored a dinner of tastiest lamb paired with fine wine, served with smiles by the attentive staff as they waded into the pool. Between courses we swam and floated, gazing up at the golden Thai moon and starry night sky. It was absolutely fabulous. Well done Ani.
As for the food, it’s outstanding. Chef prepares whatever you want however you want it, both local and Western cuisine. I particularly enjoyed delectable chicken laksa with northern Thai noodles and a delightfully flavorful pad Thai. And coconut juice served from fresh coconuts – yum. The last evening a spectacular seafood barbecue of grilled lobster, prawns and sea bass plus an array of tantalizing side dishes is served on a beachfront dining table glamorously wrapped in lights.
There’s no shortage of activities such as snorkeling, stand up paddleboard, kayaking, cycling, cooking classes, yoga and more. And the pampering spa with indulgent treatments such as a Royal Thai, Aroma Essence or Herbal Foot Massage is sure to leave you blissed out.
The staff will take guests on a tuk tuk tour around the island to see local artists passing rural villages, fishing boats, rice paddies and buffalo or on a sunset long tail boat ride to a secluded beach, with canapes and cocktails. However it’s hard to leave the oasis.
How To Go: Bangkok Airways, Asia’s Boutique Airline, offers seamless service from Bangkok to Phuket with just under a 90-minute flight including a hot meal onboard. The planes are new with spacious seats and the attentive crew are consummate professionals. Their Boutique Lounge offering snacks, drinks and wifi is complimentary to all travelers whereas the Premium Blue Ribbon Club Lounge featuring full meals is available for business class guests. From Phuket, it’s a short speedboat ride to the resort.