As you gaze from your pool and ocean-view patio overlooking the limestone cliffs of Krabi, lines from Colin Hay's Waiting For My Real Life to Begin wafts over the compound. "Be still my love/open up your heart/let the light shine in," croons the singer-songwriter. That's exactly what you'll find yourself doing in any of Southern Thailand's beaches — but this song in particular hits a higher note if you're nestled in Ani Villas.
Situated on the southeastern tip of Koh Yao Noi — an island that's equidistant from Krabi and Phuket — luxury's new address comprises of a collection of 10 rooms in an all-inclusive villa. To call them 'rooms' is perhaps an understatement — the pool and ocean-view room features a dipping pool in the middle, while the garden rooms boast a spacious outdoor space for barbecues or a game of badminton. At less than two and a half hours away from Singapore, Koh Yao Noi is an escape that you deserve — in an experience that starts with Ani Villas. Here's why.
1. It's. All. Yours.
Ani Villas runs on a one-for-all, all-for-one concept — which explains its "It's all yours" motto. When you book a stay, you'll be enjoying the whole property. That's right, all 10 rooms, two swimming pools, spa, restaurant and café are yours for the taking. Naturally, it's a place you'd seek when you're travelling with a group of friends and/or family. Guests fly into Phuket and take a 20-minute drive to the jetty, where Bao, one of the resort's do-it-all staff will accompany you on a 30-minute speedboat ride that zips through the gorgeous Phang Na bay, passing through limestone cliffs and islands such as Naka and Koh Yao Yai. Bao's a friendly chap who'll offer you a commentary on the neighbouring spectacles — he'll even show you the scars he obtained from surviving the tsunami of 2004.
2. Here is where kitsch comes to die
There's nothing worse than going to a luxury resort only to see it marred with gaudy figurines that attempt to recreate a temple experience. What Ani Villas has done in its design — thanks to Thai interior design firm Naga Concept — is to cleverly create a modern escape while bearing in mind its traditional roots. Combining ancient Thai fixtures with a '20s colonial feel, the one-storey rooms, open-air bar, dining sala and café stand harmoniously with the infinity pool as the focal point. Enter a room and the first hints of teak and sandalwood hit your nose, while you set your sights on the high ceilings which point upwards in a pagoda-like shape. Property developer Ira Bloom even laments that every time he steps onto the compound, it feels as though the level of his blood pressure lowers. Good to know.
3. You'll get an Eat Pray Love experience, but without the commercialism
How many times have you ventured to greener pastures looking for an authentic experience, only to be served with a cookie-cutter deal of touts, overcrowded attractions and watered-down cuisine? Koh Yao Noi isn't a place with a commercial heart — the locals' main source of income is obtained through rice, rubber and palm oil plantations, which form 70 percent of the island. This means you'll be met with views over hills, farms and pockets of communities on your bicycle or scooter ride. Need daily essentials? Be sure to stop at the one and only 7-11 on the island.
4. You won't find any obnoxious backpackers
Bloom shares that the island has a rather hippie feel — which you'll notice as you meander your way around the island's fringe. Peppered with the occasional luxury resort, chalet-like accommodation, hammocks and plastic chairs, couples both old and young go about their activities in discreet fashion. You'll spot a few men throwing some punches in a Muay Thai boot camp, or spot a lone jogger making her rounds along the jetty. You'll even find yourself observing the talents of the local students in Ani Art Academy, a non-profit organisation set up by the founder of Ani Villas. At night, head to dive bar Parabar, situated across the resort for some jamming sessions with their regulars — it helps if you know the lyrics to The Rolling Stones' You Can't Always Get What You Want.
5. Hospitality like no other
There's nothing quite like Thai hospitality. But this instant warmth and camaraderie are taken a step further with staff who really go the extra mile. Bao serves as transport coordinator, waiter and mobile searcher — he painstakingly went through the thick forest to retrieve the mobile a companion had lost. Miang, a former chef at Amanpuri makes sure that every guest is met with their needs — as soon as a walk up the hill produced battle scars on my feet, she made sure that a first aid box was ready upon my return. It might be presumptuous to say this — seeing as the resort hasn't officially opened — but if I had to point to where the heart of Ani Villas lies in, it's in Miang.
Ani Villas will officially open on 25 December. They're already accepting reservations for 2016, so book your stay here.