10 best: Thai treasures
From the wilds of Khao Yai to the honeymoon islands of Phuket and Koh Samui, Thailand is rich in luxurious retreats. Here, boutique hotel experts Mr & Mrs Smith pick 10 of the best.
Six Senses Hideaway, Samui, Koh Samui
Occupying a jungly peninsular patch of north-east Koh Samui, this back-to-nature resort is a widely spaced cluster of flora-fringed wooden villas, each boasting floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the outlying islands.
The vast infinity pool has one of the most dazzling vistas in Thailand, the gastronomic restaurant juts oceanward over the rocks, and the signature Six Senses spa provides mind-blowing massages -- best taken at sunset.
Details: 66 villas, including 52 with private pools. Rates: Low season, from (THB)17,400 Thai baht (€387); high season, THB43,400 (€965); excludes breakfast at THB1,000/e22pp plus 17pc tax, and taxes at 18.7pc.
Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa, Chiang Rai
Surrounded by fragrant gardens in the jungle-clad hills of northern Thailand, elegantly rustic Anantara has many feathers in its cap, notably dazzling views of the Mekong River, Myanmar and Laos, and an elephant camp on its doorstep.
Room design is inspired by Lanna (a former Thai kingdom), with dark teak floors, raw silks and local art adorning the walls.
However, this is one resort where non-stop lazing would be wrong: longtail boat trips along the Mekong, hikes in the jungle, rice-paddy picnics and, of course, elephant treks are all enticing diversions.
Details: 77 rooms, including 19 suites. Rates THB12,000-THB33,400 (e266-e740), including buffet breakfast. Excludes 7pc tax and 10pc service charge.
Aleenta Phang Nga, Phang Nga
It's always a delight to find a luxury retreat with a conscience, but this boutique hotel in Thailand is passionately involved in turtle conservation and has its own sanctuary nearby.
If the prospect of watching hatchlings making their first stumbling journey to the sea doesn't pique your interest, how about rooms with retractable glass walls, ocean views and 10km of private, pristine beach right outside?
Details: 30 rooms, including 15 villas and 15 suites. Rates THB 9,900--THB31,900 (€220-€709), including breakfast and a daily yoga lesson; excludes 17pc tax and service charge.
With a secluded coconut plantation setting, a perfect private beach and the look of an Ewok village reinvented by a maverick modern architect, Amanpuri couldn't be a more restful retreat. At 21 years old, this unabashedly sophisticated resort (trio of gourmet restaurants -- Thai, Japanese and Italian -- spectacular spa, and, er, the most impressive lavatorial gadgetry in the world) may be the Aman group's oldest, but it's still fresh and full of up-to-the-minute luxury.
Nature gave this Krabi escape three alabaster beaches and cinematic limestone cliff-sides, but the Rayavadee's owners gave it four restaurants, lush gardens and a reputation for tropical indulgence.
The paradisiacal pavilions have two floors, couple's bath tubs and wooden swings instead of sofas.
Opt for a garden-endowed Spa Pavilion with an outdoor Jacuzzi, and remember to take your sea legs -- the only way to get around is by boat.
Details: Rooms comprise 98 one-bed pavilions and four villas. Rates: Low season, THB19,400-THB96,000 (e430-e2,130); high season THB 23,000-THB150,000 (e510-e3,330).
Rates include breakfast and Krabi airport transfers; excludes service charge and tax at 17pc.
Once you venture past the clubby cast-iron door and low-lit lobby at Tenface, you'll discover a sultry designer den. Yet this sleekly-styled hotel still allows you to relax and be yourself.
The public zones are moody and atmospheric -- dark aubergine-hued corridors are lined with thick charcoal carpet -- and give way to a collection of either light or dark-toned rooms.
Details: 79 suites, including one penthouse. Rates: THB9,000-THB21,000 (e199-e465), including buffet breakfast. Excludes tax at 7pc and a service charge of 10pc.
Putahracsa, Hua Hin
A glittering white oasis in the centre of Hua Hin, this is a stylish reinvention of '60s motel architecture. The rooms and villas are clustered around the main infinity pool, bordered by wooden walkways and day-beds. Inside, everything is soothing and stylish. Expect beautiful people drawn to the laid-back lifestyle, and the hotel's sexy restaurant and bar.
Bring something heavyweight to read -- it's so calm that Hegelian dialectic reads like chick lit.
Details: 59 rooms, including 23 villas. Rates: Low season, THB4,750-THB18,250(e105-e405); high season, THB6,500-26,900 (e114-e595), inclusive of tax, service charge and breakfast.
The Racha, Phuket
There's something distinctly Bondish about arriving at your hotel by speedboat; the trip from Phuket to the tiny island of Racha Yai is a 35-minute thrum across turquoise waters to a gorgeous cliché of powder-white beach.
Pared down and eco-chic, this modern retreat has been built in low-rise harmony with its environment. The serene whitewashed villas epitomise clutter-free cool while sleek gadgetry and smart lighting keep things fresh and modern.
You wine and dine in style here, with four restaurants and two bars (including the new Club del Mar beach club).
Details: 70 villas divided into six categories, including nine suites. Rates THB11,500-THB65,000 (e255-e1,440), including buffet breakfast. Excludes 8pc tax and 10pc service charge.
KC Resort & Over-Water Villas Koh Samui
It's not often you get to walk on water, but staying here, it's an everyday occurrence. Built on stilts over a saltwater pool, the villas have a glass pane in the floor that lets you enjoy the effect of the water rippling beneath your feet.
In the midday heat, the pool outside comes into its own, as a place to dip into when it gets too hot, and the delectable bed, sleek gadgetry and deep Jacuzzi tub will keep you occupied for days. When you come up for air, the thrills of Koh Samui are just a paddle away.
Details: 16 Rooms. Rates THB25,080-THB37,620 (e556-e834), including buffet breakfast.
Muthi Maya Khao Yai
At the foothills of the Unesco-protected Khao Yai National Park, a two-hour drive from Bangkok, Muthi Maya's ochre-hued pool villas look out over majestic mountains and forests.
Fitted with kitchens and gorgeous marble bathrooms, villas are a sensual, uncluttered blend of warm russet, dark wood and natural materials such as bamboo and sea grass.
Outside is a spacious deck and refreshing plunge pool -- although Khao Yai is known for its cooler temperatures, it can still get balmy during the day.
Details: 64 pool villas. Rates: THB22,000 (e488), including breakfast but excluding the 7pc tax and the 10pc service.
All prices are per double room, per night. For bookings, visit mrandmrssmith.com. Exclusive Irish Independent offer: Join Mr & Mrs Smith’s unique travel club, BlackSmith, for half price — you’ll get a year of travel benefits for €8.50 (usually €17), ranging from free Champagne on arrival to exclusively reduced rates at boutique hotels. Perfect if you adore staying in unique and individual properties. See mrandmrssmith.com/irish-independent, or call the Mr & Mrs Smith’s expert travel team on 1800 812 925 and quote Irish Independent to take advantage of this offer.