THAILAND

Soothe your soul what­ever the sea­son with Six Senses Re­sorts

Signature Travel & Lifestyle - - Contents -

There is noth­ing quite like a speed­boat trans­fer to let you know you are ar­riv­ing some­where spe­cial. Re­lax­ing on a daybed the colour of Thai limes, we are whisked across the wa­ter from Phuket’s Ao Por Grand Ma­rina to Six Senses Yao Noi. The re­sort’s teak vil­las curl down the jun­gled hill­side as if they had grown out of their sur­round­ings and the butler who greets us has a bright pink uni­form the ex­act shade of the bougainvil­lea that blooms all around the prop­erty. Some­one has re­ally thought about this. And there you have it, the essence of Six Senses: re­sorts at one with their en­vi­ron­ment, where the small­est things count. Even the re­sort bug­gies are in­di­vid­u­ally named.

It is ‘Sense of Well­ness’ that picks me up the next morn­ing (I also ride in ‘Sense of Hu­mour’, ‘Sense of Style’ and, my per­sonal favourite, ‘Sense and Sen­si­bil­ity’).

Lit­tle brown hens peck my toes as I in­spect their egg-lay­ing prow­ess on a Six Senses farm tour. ‘Or­ganic’ is a pop­u­lar buzz­word these days, but at Yao Noi the ev­i­dence is all around you. Scare­crows in straw hats guard the veg­etable gar­dens nestling next to one- and two-bed­room pool vil­las, herbs are picked out­side the kitchen door and mush­rooms bloom in dark peaty-smelling huts. No won­der the food is so de­li­cious. The re­sort’s sig­na­ture ice-cream is home­made, so I rea­son that even that must be good for me.

The hid­den la­goon

The food and the heav­enly spa (one of the largest of any Six Senses re­sort) are rea­son enough to visit Six Senses Yao Noi, but the sur­round­ing lime­stone is­lands also beckon. Hol­ly­wood has been there be­fore me with Roger Moore mak­ing such an im­pact on one pin­na­cle that it is now called James Bond Is­land; it’s a mag­net for tourists tak­ing self­ies, fin­gers cocked like 007’s gun. Al­low Six Senses to or­gan­ise your ex­cur­sion, how­ever, and you’ll avoid the crowds.

Early one morn­ing the re­sort ar­ranges a tra­di­tional Thai long­boat and guide to take us to a ‘hid­den’ la­goon. Along the way we learn about the edi­ble-nest swift­let, whose homes be­come the del­i­cacy of bird’s nest soup, and the is­land of mon­keys. Fill­ing the hole of a dough­nut-shaped is­land, we reach the la­goon through a tiny arch­way in the rock. Once inside, we find our pri­vate

‘pool’ shared only with the fish ea­gles. Our guide even dons a rashie and slips into the la­goon, cam­era held aloft, to take our pic­ture, which I con­sider way beyond the call of duty. The re­sort will also or­gan­ise a les­son in Muay Thai at its pri­vate box­ing ring, cook­ing classes, div­ing and snorkelling or yacht tours.

I re­mem­ber the Bond theme as I lie on a sun lounger at the Hill­top Re­serve on my last morn­ing. All the vil­las at Six Senses Yao Noi have their own pri­vate pools, but the Hill­top Re­serve pool is the most spec­tac­u­lar of all. Perched at the top of the re­sort, what was once a pri­vate four-bed­room villa wor­thy of a Bond vil­lain’s lair is now shared by all. The in­fin­ity pool merges into a hori­zon dot­ted with lime­stone is­lands and the pri­vate din­ing room (soon to be a spec­tac­u­lar new bar) has breath­tak­ing views.

Spa sanc­tu­ary in the rain

When it is high sea­son on the western, Phuket side of Thailand it is wet sea­son in the east, and good­ness it is pour­ing now. A blan­ket of trop­i­cal rain as thick as a the­atre cur­tain ob­scures the beach views and my pri­vate pool is over­flow­ing. But if a re­sort still feels this wel­com­ing in the rain, it must be good.

Six Senses Samui is on the op­po­site side of Thailand to Yao Noi. This was one of the ear­li­est Six Senses re­sorts where the phi­los­o­phy of well­ness and healthy liv­ing was first cre­ated, so what bet­ter place to head on a stormy day than the spa. In a for­est ‘treehouse’ I re­lax to the sound of rain­drops drip­ping off gi­ant leaves, as per­fect as any New Age rain­for­est CD, and feel my mus­cles un­knot. I de­cide that if it keeps rain­ing I’ll re­turn and try out the en­er­gyen­hanc­ing ‘Seven Full Moon Singing Bowl’, just be­cause I love the name.

A break in the clouds gives us the chance to ex­pe­ri­ence the spec­tac­u­lar sun­set from Din­ing on the Rocks, where teak plat­forms of­fer shim­mer­ing views over the wa­ter. An­other day, equipped with Six Senses um­brel­las, we take an is­land tour, pad­dle through pud­dles to the tiny tem­ple of Wat Plai Laem with its in­tri­cate and beau­ti­ful wall friezes and re­ceive bless­ings at the is­land’s Big Bud­dha, which seems to smile be­nignly in the rain.

And what do I ask the Big Bud­dha for? Health and hap­pi­ness for my friends and fam­ily, plus – as a shal­low af­ter­thought – a re­turn to beau­ti­ful Koh Samui in the sun­shine.

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01 All vil­las at Six Senses Yao Noi have pri­vate pools 02 Is­land hop­ping by long-tail boat 03 & 04 Spec­tac­u­lar views from The Re­treat at Six Senses Samui 05 Cin­ema Par­adiso on the beach at Six Senses Yao Noi04

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