Enjoying the finer things in life

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 November, 2007, 12:00am

Going to a resort is nice enough, how about living next to one and enjoying the luxuries that accompany such an arrangement? That is what's on the table with Soneva Kiri & Six Senses Spa on Koh Kood, a remote island in the east of Thailand.

Like many islands in Thailand, Koh Kood has pristine waterfalls, crystal clear waters and unspoiled village life. It's rather inaccessible, taking four hours by car from Bangkok plus a two-hour ferry ride to get to. But all that will change next year - for a small group of affluent people.

'Guests will fly there in a private plane, which is a Cessna Grand Caravan with a beautiful interior - leather seats and all the handling. You land at an airport a kilometre from the island. I don't know any other resort or residential development in Asia where you fly in with a plane,' Sonu Shivdasani, chairman and chief executive of Six Senses Resorts & Spas, said. 'I think it's quite exotic.'

The flight from Bangkok International Airport to Soneva Kiri Airport takes 60 minutes.

There are 20 private villas for sale, with prices ranging from US$4.5 million to US$7 million. Fourteen had already been sold at the time of going to press.

For US$3,000 a month, the villa will be maintained to optimal conditions and always be ready for the owner to live in.

There is also the option of putting the property into the rental pool, where it would be leased out for US$6,000 to US$10,000 per night. The money generated from the rental would be more than enough to cover the maintenance charges.

'So instead of writing us a cheque, we will be writing you a cheque,' Mr Shivdasani said.

Sharing the same site is the Soneva resort comprising 42 pool villas along the beachfront and on the hillside, overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. Other than providing accommodation space for visiting guests, it also caters to the residential villas.

'It's intelligent luxury, anticipating what customers want. People want choices. They want the finest beef; they want Mouton Rothschild '66, or a special bottle from a small, unnamed vineyard in Australia,' Mr Shivdasani said.

'Every Soneva resort has a wine cellar and a sommelier, and he can come to your house to serve your guests and help you put together a wine list. And we have winemakers coming in to have dinner with guests.'

Three restaurants are planned, and they will provide everything from fine dining and a romantic dinner on the beach to casual home cooking or even popcorn and hotdogs to go with your favourite DVDs.

Each owner of a Soneva Kiri residential villa is entitled to up to eight complimentary round-trip rides on the private plane between the resort and Bangkok International Airport.

'It's the whole flight for up to eight guests, all free, and if they leave in a week we take them back free.'

For additional guests or trips, another plane can be hired for US$350 return.

As with other Six Senses developments, Soneva Kiri is being developed with a host of ecologically sustainable designs.

'We've created a rustic experience in a tropical forest without using any timber from the forest. For the boardwalk we use pine that's been preserved, and they are very thick planks and last a very long time. Then we sand-blast them so that they look like driftwood,' Mr Shivdasani said.

Another exclusive residential development is Jumeirah Private Island Phuket, by TGR Group Asia.

The exclusive 33-hectare island resort, which looks out across Phang Nga Bay to the north and Ao Po Bay to the west, is scheduled for completion late next year and also aims to offer extremely high levels of luxury, privacy and security.

Reachable by a seven-minute helicopter ride or 15-minute drive from Phuket, followed by four minutes ride on a private motor yacht, Jumeirah Private Island Phuket is home to 48 residential villas and 105 suite and pool villas set among tropical gardens and a 101-berth deep-water marina.

The starting price of the private villas is US$2.8 million and 60 per cent of the development had been purchased at the time of going to press.

'[The buyers] have largely been professional families in their mid 40s seeking a home or a base in Asia,' said Anthony Franklin, partner and marketing director of TGR Group Asia.

'We're not seeking investment buyers, although Jumeirah Private Island Phuket is a solid investment. But we believe that between now and completion prices will rise in excess of 100 per cent.'

A number of the villas can be customised to buyers' specifications, and the island will offer a private yacht club, boutiques, business centre and library.

Environmentally friendliness has also been incorporated in the design. Construction will be restricted to a quarter of the island and an integrated rainwater collection scheme will be in place, in addition to thermal insulation in all roof structures to reduce the need for air conditioning.