Haven on Earth
Far from Thailand’s tourist traps, the ultra-exclusive Resort Villa Rayong Thailand manages to balance high-end luxury with environmental sustainability
When you enter the Resort Villa Rayong Thailand, the first impression you get is that you are floating. From the calm, cerulean waters that flank the reception to the myriad swimming baths and infinity pools in the eight luxury villas; from the giant aquarium to the ponds that surround the dining areas, this is a place built around water. It gives this luxury resort a feel of weightlessness.
“It is a place for guests to float in comfort, away from everyday stress,” says the property’s Head of Marketing, Patty Sa. “We have our own private beach but we are also surrounded by infinity pools, numerous ponds and a huge private lake for water sports. It sometimes feels like you’re on your own private island.”
Little wonder that the Resort Villa Rayong beat candidates in the Maldives, Spain, South Africa, Fiji and the Caribbean to win the title of the best private villa from the prestigious World Boutique Hotel Awards. It also won Luxury Hideaway Resort (Asia) in 2018, and Eco & Green Villa (Asia) in 2019 from World Luxury Hotel Awards, and has been featured inpublications including Elite Traveller, Spears and Vogue UK. Private, exclusive, self-sustaining, but also surrounded by places of extreme natural beauty, this eco-friendly resort redefines what a luxury resort is capable of. It provides levels of luxury associated with the highest end European or North American resort, but it remains inextricably linked to its local community, and firmly attuned to the area’s delicate ecology.
“The Resort Villa is one of the world’s most luxurious private destinations,” says General Manager Benjamin Tellenbach. “It is the perfect super-luxury destination and offers complete privacy. The property comprises eight lavish villas and three saltwater infinity pools. Recent upgrades have ensured that there are more bars, kitchens, tennis courts and swimming pools. No expense was spared on any of the materials used or the meticulous Thai craftsmanship, with tranquil outdoor spaces paved with polished granite, while special stonework, such as onyx or limestone, and teak floorings evoke the beauty of nature in its interiors.”
The Resort Villa’s story begins in the 1980s when a young Swedish entrepreneur started travelling to Taiwan to run his own manufacturing business. During one flight back home to Stockholm via Bangkok, he struck up a conversation with another passenger in business class, who told him of his plans to build a home in the Rayong region of Thailand. The Swedish businessman was invited to check out the area and was startled by its natural beauty – and by its potential. When he saw a large plot of land for sale – one with an amazing view of the ocean and access to several spectacular beaches – he jumped at the opportunity. With 25 years of experience building factories in Taiwan, he was ableto start construction of an unparalleled luxury resort, one that mixes exclusivity, natural beauty and a rare environmental consciousness.
The result is a secluded hideaway that overlooks the white sands and crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Thailand. Two hours’ drive from Bangkok International Airport, Rayong is a secluded rural paradise situated well away from bustling cities like Chiang Mai or Bangkok, or from the popular tourist destinations such as Phuket, Ko Phi Phi or Phang Nga Bay. “It’s not a commercial area,” says Patty. “The resort is close to a small fishing village called Mae Phim. You’re surrounded by nature, not the traditional stereotypes of a Thai holiday.”
At 14,000 square metres, it is much larger and more extravagant than most destinations on the luxury market. And yet it is only available to a single group of up to 16 guests at any one time. Together with friends and family, guests can have this entire luxury villa to themselves, with privacy guaranteed. More than 70 full-time members of staff are on hand to ensure that each element is tailored to an individual’s wishes, be it a home cinema, a games room, a fully equipped gym or a luxury spa where guests can unwind with a traditional Thai or a hot-stone massage, and enjoy deluxe beauty treatments. “We offer unique and exclusive experiences for our guests,” says Benjamin. “Our guests might be celebrating an anniversary, a wedding engagement, a birthday or even a corporate trip. We can make the situation perfect for any scenario.”
There’s a stunning 15-metre wall-length aquarium teeming with 50 varieties of tropical fish and infinity pools spanning 1,000 square metres. Those in search of adrenaline-fuelled entertainment will relish the range of aquatic activities on offer, including diving, snorkelling, jet-surfing or kayaking. There are paddleboards, speedboats, sailing boats, jet skis, sea bobs or surfboards, and access to a private lake on-site. “Adventurous types can also go island-hopping around the Gulf of Thailand using any one of our four boats, which include a 60-ft motor yacht and a super-fast, 40-ft rigid inflatable boat (RIB),” says Benjamin. “It’s perfect for adrenaline-seekers. These are the kind of toys you’d expect to find in a Bond villain’s lair!”
For relaxing and refuelling back at base, the Resort Villa has four bars and nine dining areas where private chefs can create sumptuous fine-dining experiences. “We can do food from around the world,” says Patty. “There are Thai banquets, with traditional Thai dancers, but we can also provide a Teppanyaki grill and sushi chefs for a Japanese-themed meal, or plenty of other cuisines, including Moroccan, French or Chinese. You can experience a different dining experience every night of your stay! And we can certainly cater for any specific dietary requirements. Many of the ingredients are actually grown onsite, on our own farm.”
Should guests wish to venture beyond The Resort Villa, several sites of outstanding beauty are easily accessible. Around 45 minutes away is the Khao Chamao-Khao Wong National Park. Covering an area of 84 square kilometres, this area of serene nature and lush rainforests became Thailand’s 13th National Park in 1975. It is an important area for local agriculture and is also home to a spectacular waterfall that stretches up to 3km and has more than 80 caves within its limestone mountains. Resort staff can also organize a firefly dinner trip at the national park. Guests board a Thai houseboat in the middle of the mangrove delta where traditional Thai cuisines are served using ingredients caught in and grown around the delta, with a menu that can easily be tailored to your liking. Once your taste buds and stomach have been satisfied, the boat will be towed deeper into the mangrove forest where an amazing phenomenon awaits to be witnessed. As the sky darkens, certain trees favoured by hundreds of fireflies will start blinking in unison – almost as if the forest has been set ablaze.
Located only 5km from the shores of Mae Phim lies the island of Koh Man Nai, a small island developed intoa Sea Turtle Preservation Sanctuary. The Resort Villa offers boat rides to visit this conservation centre, which was established in 1979 following the drastic decline of sea turtles in Thai waters. For fans of ships and historical wars, there is the HTMS Prasae Memorial: an old US Navy ship that was captured by the Thai Navy and then towed to its current location, where it has been on display since 2003. There is also the KruKung Museum, which recreates 1950s life in a Thai village. Including a school, a bar, a cinema and a salon, the museum is also home to a variety of artefacts and antiques from the last century. Just 4km from the Resort Villa is the Sunthorn Phu Memorial, a monument to a famous Thai poet that stands at the centre of a grand public park, which features various statues of mythical characters from Phu’s poems amid beautiful gardens, ponds, and fountains.
From luxury service to natural wonders and historical sites, The Resort Villa has a world to offer. What’s particularly impressive is that this luxury resort manages to do this while maintaining a marginal carbon footprint. “We are an exclusive, high-end resort with a very high level of environmental awareness,” says Benjamin. “We believe that a balance between environmental sustainability is not just desirable but necessary.”