Truly a destination that lives up to the idea of getting away from it all, Yao Noi island sits between Phuket and Krabi province in the Andaman Sea. It’s a 45-minute speed-boat ride from Ao Po Marina, around 20 minutes from Phuket Airport. You’ll whizz between stunning limestone karst islands jutting from the shimmering sea, all greys, rust and cream sprouting tops of dense green jungle.
Situated in the Phang Nga region of Thailand, one of the islands played home to Bond villain Scaramanga’s lair in The Man with the Golden Gun; indeed, you can take in a BBQ on the beach at Six Senses Yao Noi while watching the film on the big screen as night falls.
In the wake of Covid-19, tourist numbers are significantly down meaning a quieter experience and some shuttered restaurants. While the hotel is a great place to do very little, having lunch or dinner one day at one of the beachside local restaurants is a good way to give something back.
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Why stay here?
One of two Six Senses luxury destinations in Thailand (the other is on Koh Samui), the hotel feels like another Bond backdrop as you arrive. The resort is set into a hill in what appears from the outside to be dense jungle; thatch-roofed villas are dotted around a steep hill that runs down to the sea. You’re greeted at the pier by a team of welcoming staff and whisked straight off in a buggy to your spot and you’ll start to get a feel for the size of the footprint, both spread out and intimate all at the same time.
It’s Thailand so the air is alive with the calls of birds and thrum of insects; hornbill nesting sites are visible among the tall trees and you’ll see them swooping past – an ornithologist’s dream. There are a few resident monitors too which the staff for some reason have named Jason (yes, all of them). Butterflies and other buzzing delights abound while crabs skitter along the shoreline at one of the hotel’s two beaches; Mai Thai is a stunning crescent of sand and you’ll often find yourself alone there. The sunrises are worth an early start on at least one morning to be drunk in, view uninterrupted, from the summit of the hotel.
Six Senses has put sustainability at the heart of its hotels; each one features an Earth Lab where initiatives both on and off-site are championed. At Yao Noi rainwater is gathered and goes through an on-site purification and pasteurisation process to be bottled as drinking water. A percentage of guests’ bills is used for community water purification systems – thus far, Yao Noi has given more than 100,000 people access to clean water in the Phang Nga region.
A recent push has seen the hire of Dharath Hoonchamlong as director of sustainability (previously he worked as environmental manager for world-renowned Bangkok restaurant, Bo.Lan) and he’s drawn up a long wish-list. On a more everyday level, you can head out to visit the hotel’s mini farm and meet the chickens and ducks which supply Six Senses Yao Noi with fresh eggs.
Rooms and suites
The secluded two-tier villas feel utterly private and don’t overlook each other. The jungle provides significant camouflage and a gentle hum of background noise via squawking birds or chattering cicadas; the noise fades with the warm winds that cut across the island.
The traditional teak structures are effortlessly cool, they sprawl expansively from a viewing deck on the top level looking out over a thousands shades of blue ocean to a gorgeous infinity pool frequented by dragonflies and butterflies, the luscious vegetation gently encroaching around you. Inside it is all dark woods contrasted with bright shades of orange and yellow. Outdoor showers and sunken baths complete the luxe experience; huge floor-to-ceiling windows frame an almost unreal backdrop in this ultra-chilled, rugged spot. Top tier are the villas down at beach level with direct access straight onto the sands.
Eating and drinking
The Hilltop is the hotel’s most chic dining spot. All smooth, rounded, organic shapes, it has a spectacular pool and its entranceway provides utterly breathtaking views – it’s one of the most show-stopping spots we’ve ever come across. The food moves across Thailand, India and the West with some playful desserts on offer.
The Living Room is the beating heart of the hotel, providing expansive breakfasts (don’t miss the excellent breads and Paris-quality pastries), barbecues and Thai food. It’s a traditional, open-air affair set amongst the gardens, a stone’s throw from the beach.
If you fancy heading out for something a little local, stop in at โรตีชาวเกาะ (Islander Roti) in Yao Noi’s main town – if you take one of the hotel’s TukTuk tours you’ll pass right by. These are chewy, crispy breads fried in butter or coconut oil and served either sweet (banana and condensed milk) or savoury (perhaps with egg and cheese) and are an utter treat.
Ciao Bella is a beach-side Italian restaurant, but skip the spaghetti options and order from its Thai menu; genuine, authentic dishes – “medium spicy” was seriously hot.
What to do
On arrival at Six Senses, GEMs (guest experience managers) are on hand to offer advice on the resort, its various activities and eating options; the main vibe here is to do as little or as much as you want. Lounge by your pool and order room service, shower and take a buggy up to dinner or head out early for some scuba diving.
Maybe indulge in a spa treatment at the hotel’s fabulous retreat – a serene oasis with waterfalls and prayer bowls to bring you to inner peace – you’ll want at least an hour-and-a-half. You can have a week’s treatment planned out and the hotel runs morning yoga classes every day.
Take an island tour on a traditional long-tail boat around the Krabi National Park, swimming in hidden lagoons inside karst islands and visiting isolated beaches. A village tour is a great way to take in the island – far from what it sounds like, this is a gentle chug around the 20km-ish perimeter seeing a bit of real island life.
Prices for a Hideaway Pool Villa at Six Senses Yao Noi start from £540 on a B&B basis; sixsenses.com
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