Two hours. That may be all the flight time needed to skip away from bustling Singapore and land where the Tom Yam is deliciously spicy, the beaches expansive and the views spectacular, thanks to the limestone karsts that seemingly rise up from the sea like totems to the gods.
But while the idyllic Southern Thai resort island of Phuket is a lovely place, having to share in that experience can be a strain on the senses, especially when you are constantly aware of a stranger’s presence. The numbers don’t lie: Thailand attracted nearly 32 million visitors in 2016, with nearly a fifth of them making their way to Phuket.
The alternative would be to pack friends and family away on a ‘Togethering’ experience at Ani Villas Thailand, an elegant 10-villa private resort. Tucked away on Koh Yao Noi, or little long island, the resort is just 30-minutes by speedboat from Phuket. Designed with the collective experience in mind, the time is all yours as everyone in your party enjoys an exclusive time together amidst stunning views of surrounding Phang Nga Bay while soaking in Southern Thailand’s rustic charm. There will even be ample opportunity to take walks down unspoilt beaches where the only impressions on the sand are yours.
The concept, according to Ani Villas CEO Ira Bloom, is all about travelling and enjoying the moment with friends and family. “People want to travel. They want to be with family and friends. They like the amenities of a resort but want to have their own space. With a private resort, you can have it all. You can do almost as much at a traditional resort, of course. But when you have the whole place to yourselves, the experience is more personalised, deeper, richer and more memorable,” he says.
It’s All Yours
With that exclusive experience in mind, the five-star Ani Villas Thailand (one of four in the world), only hosts one group at any one time, with an entire team of staff dedicated to facilitating that entire holiday. The other Ani Villas properties are on Anguilla in the Carribean, Sri Lanka and the Dominican Republic.
From the stunning pictures here, time spent at Ani Villas is akin to visiting your own private seafront estate on the eastern coast of the Koh Yao Noi with food, drinks and on-site activities arranged specially for you and your guests.
There, you’d find life dialled down a couple of notches, with views of the Phang Nga Bay and its characteristic limestone karsts dotting the horizon. You could while away your days doing absolutely nothing by the pool and then spend your evenings strolling down the serene beaches. Alternatively, one could take to the sea for some kayaking or paddle boarding, and then relax your muscles with massages by the trained in-house therapists at the spa – the choice is entirely yours.
Mealtimes, though, is when everyone comes together as the resort’s Chef Yao whips up scrumptious meals that includes local Thai, Asian and international favourites with unique touches of local flavours. Where possible, the ingredients are all sourced locally from the island. Depending on the weather, the resort’s staff will also organise Instagram-worthy seafood BBQ dinner parties by the seafront, styled beautifully with fresh cut flowers and fairy lights.
Elaborating on the ‘togethering’ concept, Ira says: “The entire grounds belong to a single party. ‘It’s all yours,’ as we like to say. That waterslide, it’s all yours, same with the yoga studio and fitness centre. The spa, only you and your people use it. The bar, likewise, it’s your bar. Not many people are accustomed to this. All of our guests have been to other resorts, and they’ve all experienced what it’s like to sit at a resort bar or go to the spa and have a treatment, but there is this whole other dimension of experience that comes from a place being entirely at your disposal. They tell me it’s a liberating kind of feeling. We’re never as comfortable as we are when we’re in our own home… It’s the same thing at Ani.”
Freedom and the sense that you’re right at home with your loved ones is exactly what Ani Villas feels like.
Fashioned in the Northern Thai Lanna-style architecture, Ani Villas comprises a total of 10 villas. These include pool suites, ocean front master suites and family suites – each of them spacious, cosy and tastefully sumptuous with king-sized beds and ensuite bathrooms.
Opened officially in October 2016, the 8,000sqm property offers everything one would expect to see in a luxury beach resort, complete with 42m beachfront infinity pool, private dining sala, beach bar and even a two-story waterslide all tastefully integrated into the space.
The trappings may be amongst the best that money can buy, but Ani feels more like a home as the staff smile and greet you like family. Be it cocktails shaken to your liking, fruits selected to whet your palette or meals cooked to suit individual tastes – every little detail is noted for every single guest. Exclusivity here is all down to the details, with each stay customised and personalised down to individual details like dietary preferences to specific activities to be experienced.
Highly recommended activities to build shared experiences include exploring Koh Yao Noi on scooter or bicycle to soak in views of the island’s mangrove forests, padi fields and fruit plantations. There will even be an opportunity to visit the Ani Art Academy, an independently run art school which gives talented artists a platform to develop and gain recognition with full art scholarships.
Those inclined for more adventurous pursuits can consider Muay Thai classes on the island, and exploring the many little outcrops that dot the bay on a Longtail boat. Instead of outsourcing such tours, the same staff from the villa will lead the tours and shape your experiences by taking you to secret lagoons, hidden sea caves and the most scenic beaches only the locals will know about. The end result? An unforgettable holiday experiences that have everyone remembers for a long time to come.
The Last Word
Luxury could mean the finest things in life, perfection in the everyday and supreme comfort. But nothing beats being able to share in those experiences and build common memories with those closest to you. With that in mind, Ani Villas Thailand has created a perfect oasis for bonding with a’ togethering’ concept in a fantastic location supported by a team of staff that takes care of your physical needs so guests can focus on what’s most important – bonding.
A Culinary Treat
Dining together and sharing in the simple pleasures of eating, drinking and communication is what makes a stay at Ani Villas so special. We catch up with the man behind the culinary magic every guest will remember fondly, 39-year-old Kanawat Iadnuch, or Chef Yao as everyone knows him by.
What kind of culinary experience do you hope to share with your guests?
The first thing is giving people a chance to experience and enjoy local Thai food. The ingredients used are the same as those used in traditional Thai recipes which I’ve learnt from my teacher and from my family. When I serve the guests, it’s more of a fusion, with Thai tastes but presented in a contemporary modern style.
Where does your inspiration for creating these dishes come from?
I used to teach home economics in university and I use what I learnt in floral arrangement to my food, to see how different elements can come together in harmony. I’ve had the good fortune to have been able to travel around Thailand, and taste different types of food from the different regions. This experience allows me to set up a taste balance which can be altered to suit different people. Experimentation and seeing the reactions from my guests allow me to better refine my recipes.
How would you like people to remember your food?
I want guests to be able to discover something that they love, a dish that they would love to have every day. Preparing a variety of different dishes every day lets me give them that opportunity.