This is the daily routine at Ani Thailand, a two-acre private resort tucked away on the pristine island of Koh Yao Noi; every beautiful daybreak promises a new surprise, whether it is a stunning fire show, Thai culinary workshops, a street food-style evening buffet, or sidecar rides to breakfast in the midst of a vast rice field.
The resort itself is impressive; this paradisaical hideaway contains two Ocean Villas, two Family Villas, and four Pool Suites accommodating up to twenty guests. Guests get immediate access to the beach in front of the resort, which is located on one of the 42 islands that comprise Phang Nga Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Ani’s grounds are verdant and well-manicured, and the luxuriously outfitted villas range in size from 980 to 1,000 square feet. Their characteristic pointed roofs, reminiscent of old Lanna architecture, belie the opulent interiors adorned with textured soft furniture and all the contemporary amenities we like to pretend we could live without. Outside, visitors have unrestricted access to the 43-meter swimming pool and the many ocean-facing open-air salas that serve as the bar, restaurant, and relaxing nooks.
Because the resort is customized for one group of visitors at a time, the atmosphere is as laid-back as you like. The twenty-person staff rapidly learns your name and preferences, and your stay is characterized by intuitive, kind service devoid of the pomp and circumstance you may meet at a ritzy hotel. The launderer doubles as a Muay Thai instructor one morning (outside of work, he is a champion of the Thai martial art), and the waitresses assist in setting up a glass-walled sala for our batik-painting lesson. Everywhere we go on the verdant property, the individuals we encounter look us in the eye, welcome us by name, and pause for a little conversation.
Each group is required to stay a minimum of five nights at Ani. One may believe it would be difficult to keep a bunch of wealthy vacationers happy for so many days, yet the crew continually delivers. An expedition to a local fish farm where you can actually pet the fish; a visit to Ani’s Art Academy, a non-profit organization that provides intense multi-year art skills instruction for aspiring artists; and a relaxing sound healing session. When our sunset longtail boat excursion is canceled due to inclement weather, the crew recreates the experience in a local pub built like a longtail boat.
ANI’s nightly fee ranges from US$14,000 (S$18,880) for six villas (up to 12 people) to US$22,000 (up to 20 people) for 10 villas (depending on the season).
In addition, the package includes one round-trip flight from Phuket or Krabi Airport, VIP FastTrack service through customs and immigration, and lounge access. These are the very stuff of memorable holidays.