It’s an irony which is hard to miss. Where once the wealthy were inclined to holiday in look-at-me resorts surrounded by glitz and glamour they are now in search of the exact opposite: absolute isolation and privacy.
The cost of this seclusion in no way reflects the paired down lifestyle that these far-flung resorts represent. Prices for properties match if not beat their more glitzy counterparts in established destinations.
Villas in the new Soneva resort on Koh Kood in Thailand, for instance, start at USD4.5m. ‘We understand what our clients need these days is intelligent luxury,’ explains Sonu Shivdasani, an Old Etonian, Oxford graduate who set up the Six Senses group with his wife 12 years ago. ‘Living in big cities means that space and privacy becomes an issue.’
Their way to tackle this problem is to whisk property owners to the resort via private plane from Bangkok’s International Airport. The transfer, which takes an hour, will land them on a private airstrip opposite the resort where a speed boat and their Man Friday (a signature detail of all Soneva resorts: your personal butler service) will escort them to their house.
Bedrooms and bathrooms have views at Soneva Kiri, on Koh Kood in the Gulf of Siam
Once the development is completed, there will be 36 private villas at Soneva Kiri which range from USD4.5m to USD7.5m, depending on size and location. Each of them is a vast, wooden structure built on varying levels from sanded bamboo and reclaimed New Zealand pine. Floor to ceiling doors in the bedrooms concertina open, and each of the rooms have indoor and outdoor bathrooms. Furnished with wood and leather – plus humorous details such as drawers for slippers at the feet of beds – the overall look is relaxed comfort rather than designer glamour.
‘Alongside this prized privacy, we know we have to supply our clients with all the choices they are used to,’ explains Mr Shivdasani. Each villa is therefore equipped with a walk-in wine cellar, a full equipped gym, a library packed with books chosen especially for them by Blackwells in Oxford, and state of the art entertainment suites. ‘Guests arrive with just hand luggage here,’ adds Sonu’s wife, Eva. ‘There’s no need to dress up – no shoes and no news.’
Owners will have access to all of the resort’s facilities, including the over water open air cinema where guests will sit in Vietnamese rice baskets. The Shivdasani’s are currently working on a system to introduce eco-friendly cooling systems into the bedrooms by extracting cold sea water and bringing it back on shore. ‘It’s a million-dollar experiment,’ says Mr Shivdasani, ‘but we?re giving it a go.’ The resort will also house an prototype zero emissions hotel suite built using materials found on the island. The idea is to demonstrate that it is already possible to provide the same levels of service and comfort as a five star luxury hotel room using modern building techniques and technology combined with indigenous skills and knowledge.
A beach front villa at Soneva Kiri
Each villa will have a Mr or Miss Friday to look after guests during their stay, including organising spa treatments (owners receive a 20% discount), restaurant bookings and travel arrangements.
Annual management costs are USD36,000
Six complimentary transfers from Bangkok to Soneva Kiri for owners and their guests a year are included in the costs
The private landing strip will have a customs official allowing for side trips to sites such as Angkor Wat. (Cambodia mainland is visible from Koh Kood).
Owners can choose to place their villa in the rental programme (at the same time, they can exclude bedrooms from the programme if they wish). Until 6% yield, owners receive 80% of room revenue, above 6% that figure drops to 40% and Soneva Kiri take the other 60%.
Foreigners cannot own land in Thailand, with limited exceptions. However, they are able to lease the land and purchase the building that sits on it. Further information available on their website.
Soneva Kiri Private Residences, Thailand
Villas are being sold through joint agents: Aylesford +44 (0)20 7351 2383 and Cluttons Resorts +44 (0)20 7584 3050
Interiors are designed by Eva Shivdasani, using bright colours and natural fibres