As much as I wanted to explore the tourist hotspots in Thailand, revelling in all their glory, I was also keen to experience the more secluded, rural parts – and when planning the itinerary, began researching where hadn’t yet been developed to accommodate travellers.
One place I came across quite frequently was Khanom, a region in Southern Thailand which kept popping up as the country’s ‘best kept secret’. Well, I couldn’t exactly miss that!
So a few weeks into our trip, we jumped on the ferry at Phi Phi, got off at Krabi – and from there, we made the three hour journey to the Nakhon Si Thammarat province, which is nestled right on the Gulf of Thailand coast. Driving for such a long distance, some parts in the complete wilderness, really made me appreciate our surroundings and just how special it was to be there.
Vast sweeping landscapes were all we could see for miles, with towering rocks covered in moss, grass and trees plonked in the middle of it all. It was slightly surreal, but beautiful. For once, I didn’t photograph this because I was too busy gawping. And stuffing my face with Oreos. Which would later result in disaster.
Eventually, after our very lengthy journey, we arrived at our home for the next few days – the beautiful Aava Resort & Spa. Featured on numerous ‘best hotel’ lists, including Tatler and Mr & Mrs Smith, the property is a stark contrast to the rest of its surroundings and yet seamlessly blends into the greenery, creating a gorgeous leafy paradise that puts you at ease right away. Coconut trees sway gently in the wind (it’s a little breezier in this part of the Thailand) and a pink dolphin tour runs each day. Quite quickly, I realised this was my kind of place.
Built to reflect traditional Scandinavian design, the hotel stretches along the beautiful sandy white Nadan beach – each bedroom a separate villa, meaning that they boast plenty of space. The buildings are unobtrusive and blend in naturally with the stunning backdrop. So much so that there’s quite often huge lizards roaming around (they’re friendly, don’t worry), completely unaware that there’s a five star luxury resort on the beach.
The staff at the hotel are extremely welcoming, which is commonplace in Thailand, however at Aava Resort they seem to have increased this two fold. We had an unfortunate incident where our money was stolen in Phi Phi and they went out of their way to contact our previous hotel, even offering to drive us to the local police station to report what had happened. They organised a complimentary transfer to the ferry port for us and even offered to take us on a trip to spot the rare pink dolphin that resides in the nearby locality. Unfortunately again disaster struck and I had a nasty tummy bug and couldn’t make it. But the fact we were so welcome made our stay so wonderful.
The boutique nature of the hotel means that it never feels busy or overcrowded – even at breakfast there were only a handful of guests (despite it being fully booked) and the layout means that everything feels very exclusive and quiet. It’s the place to go if you truly want to switch off from the world and totally relax. Although if you do fancy tuning back in, there’s a strong wifi connection throughout.
We were allocated a poolside villa for our two night stay, which as the name suggests, was nestled right in the middle of the gorgeous infinity pool. Being able to slide open your bedroom doors and straight into the water to cool off was definitely an added bonus! Especially during the evenings when it was lovely to pop open a bottle of Chang beer and dip your feet in the pool.
The high ceilings and open plan layout really made the most of the location – even to the extent that the walls of the bathroom slid back to reveal the stunning view of the pool and the beach. Of course, when you’re with your partner this is a lovely addition but I suppose it is worth baring in mind if you prefer a bit of privacy.
The resort is quite a drive away from the nearest town, so you have to stick to the hotel and beach offerings if you haven’t got a car (or for those brave people among you – a moped). This wasn’t a problem for us at all, as we absolutely loved the food but it’s worth bearing in mind if you’re looking to sample street food or local delicacies.
The main restaurant offers a selection of western and local dishes, of which we sampled plenty of during our stay. David proclaimed that the carbonara was the best he’d ever tasted (admittedly, he hasn’t yet been to Italy but he’s hard to impress when it comes to food so this was quite the declaration) and my frozen strawberry daiquiri was incredible. The fresh pina coladas served in a coconut aren’t worth missing either!
If you fancy something different, the hotel also has a secret wood fire pizza oven at the very front of the property, which is open throughout the day and during the evening in case you fancy a takeaway treat. After picking your toppings, you nip back to the pool and within 10 minutes, your masterpiece is ready for collection. On our final night, we sat out on our deck, sipping wine and tucking into these delicious pizzas with the most incredible view. I don’t think we could have asked for a more perfect evening.
In fact, I don’t think we could have asked for a more perfect stay (minus the food poisoning) and my only regret is not staying for longer. I would recommend stocking up on insect repellant if you do visit, because there are a lot of flies (I suppose because it’s not as built up), but other than that, all there is to do is eat, sleep and relax.
Have you ever heard of Khanom before? What do you think of the hotel?