Why tourists are still burning 1 million baht for a couple of nights on Koh Kut
A fire at one of Thailand’s most exclusive island resorts has failed to dent its popularity among ultra-rich Thai and foreign tourists.
Eight months later, Soneva Kiri is operating normally with activities and restaurants at full capacity.
The fire at the resort – where a night’s stay can cost 500,000 baht (over US$14,200) – is still reportedly under investigation by authorities.
The Nation takes a closer look at how this luxury phoenix emerged untouched from the flames.
What’s so special?
Soneva Kiri’ overlooks a pristine beach on Thailand’s fourth largest island. Koh Kut is sparsely populated and renowned for the untouched beauty of its natural surroundings.
Guests are flown by private plane from Suvarnabhumi Airport to the airstrip on Koh Mai Si before taking a 10-minute boat trip to the resort.
Awaiting them after check-in is exclusive luxury coupled with environmental sustainability and top-notch cuisine.
The six-star luxury resort sits amid 150 rai (24 hectares) of lush jungle looking out over white sands and turquoise waters.
Soneva Kiri is owned by Indian-British hotelier Sonu Shivdasani, who has used the same eco-friendly luxury formula for his two other resorts in the Maldives.
The Koh Kut branch has 33 pool villas (34 before the fire) with between one and six bedrooms. The resort is constructed entirely from wood.
Choose a villa
Prices range from an eye-watering 40,000 baht ($1,140 dollars) per night to a whopping 500,000 baht for the most expensive villa.
If that’s within your price range, the next step is to choose your preferred type:
1. Bayview Pool Villa
Bayview Pool Villa Suites come in three sizes. The one-bedroom suite has room for three adults and two children in its spacious 464 square metres. Amenities include a dressing room, outdoor bathroom, dining table, sun loungers and a private pool.
Not big enough? A four-bedroom Bayview Villa (1,211sqm) will fit 12 guests while the five-bed version (1,845sqm) has room for 14.
2. Beach Pool Villa
Prefer a pad by ocean? The Beach Pool Villa comes with one, two, three or five bedrooms to accommodate anything from a small party of four guests to a crowd of 14.
3. The Sunset Ocean View Villa
Further up the hill are the Sunset Ocean View Villas, available in four sizes from a one-bedroom family unit to the five-bedroom party mansion.
Need an even bigger place? You’re out of luck – the six-bedroom Sunset Ocean View Villa was the one that burnt to the ground in March.
Let’s talk money
Super-rich tourists on a tight budget can choose the cheapest room: the Bayview Pool Villa Suite for 2-3 adults comes with a king-size bed (or two twin beds) for around 40,000 baht ($1,140).
Before March, you could have grabbed the top-price Sunset Ocean View Pool Reserve Villa for a bargain 500,000 baht per night (it was 800,000 baht before Covid-19). It boasted 2,928sqm with six bedrooms on two floors. The lower floor housed a pool, dining room, wine cellar, gym, bedrooms, and dressing room. The upper floor featured the master bedroom, bedrooms, dressing room, reading room, living room, and spa.
Since the fire, large groups of ultra-wealthy tourists have had to slum it in the smaller five-bedroom villas.
Beyond the private villas, the resort is dotted with outdoor pools, restaurants, and fitness centre. Butlers are also on hand to provide personal service for guests.
The “No News No Shoes” theme is designed to root barefooted guests in nature, disconnecting them from the stress of the outside world.
When tummies begin rumbling, there’s buffet breakfast and dinner and an a la carte menu for lunch. For a culinary highlight, try the Treepod Dining five metres above the ground.
Day and night activities include cycling, boat trips for firefly watching, water sports, and outdoor film screenings. For pampering, there’s a spa, massage, sauna, and hot spring. For exercise, guests have the option of the fitness room, yoga room, or tennis courts.