Soul survivor

Simran Dhaliwal        Print Edition: May 15, 2011

If you think privacy settings is the sole preserve of Facebook, then think again. For connoisseurs of exclusiveness, 'privacy' is the most precious commodity. How else does one explain the mushrooming of, say, the concept of private dining rooms (PDRs) in the last couple of years? Close on the heels of the PDRs are private resorts, offering discrete hospitality to those who can't afford an island for themselves.

Cashing in on this trend and ratcheting private holidays a notch higher is a new resort called 'Upni Duniya' located a few kilometres from Bangkok; where I was invited to enjoy the solitary charms of the resort for a few days.

An hour and a half's flight from Bangkok, Koh Samui is by no means a hidden paradise. However, it is much quieter and cleaner than its more popular cousins Phuket and Pattaya. Twenty years ago, backpackers would come here in search of nirvana. Today, it is a cosmopolitan melting pot with big boys like Banyan Tree, Four Seasons and Six Senses offering haute living. Upni Duniya is the latest addition.

Moody weather greeted my arrival at the smallest airport I've ever seen, one that looked like the lobby of a boutique hotel-cosy and welcoming. Even the conveyor belt at luggage claim was about the size of a sushi belt at a Delhi restaurant. The fabled views though, had to wait as I was whisked off to the resort, some ten minutes by car from the airport, nestled on the shores of the Bang Rak beach.

I had mixed feelings before I entered. I must say that the deceptive wooden plank doors just don't do justice to the resort's spectacular location. But when I walked down a pretty wood tiled alley past small ponds on either side with eager fish surfacing in the hope of treats, I was charmed.

A pristine view of the Bang Rak beach from the mastervilla
A pristine view of the Bang Rak beach from the mastervilla
I checked into a villa with bright mustard yellow walls. Each of the nine villas here is painted in a different colour though the overall aesthetic remains the same. The rooms are minimally cluttered, with three immense glass windows for walls. Outside each one, amidst the greenery on the ground level, are terracotta figures of the Hindu trinity: Bramha, Vishnu and Shiva. These hand-carved figurines are unique to the region and are painstakingly handmade by the craftsmen of Chiang Mai over several months. The lone (brick) wall in the room is adorned with local wooden artifacts. The bamboo ladder placed in the bathroom to hang clothes on, adds a hint of rural tradition to the otherwise contemporary aesthetic. However, it's the open bathtub gazing upon an azure skyline that sums up the romance of this place.

The master-villa-which is the only sea facing villa at Upni Duniya- has a Jacuzzi outside the bedroom which looks out onto an infinity pool. Khajuraho-inspired terracotta figurines to one side add to the spice. India Inspired? Well, David Lees, chief designer of Upni Duniya describes the space as 'whimsical and a little sexy'.

The master-villa comes with a private pool and jacuzzi
The master-villa comes with a private pool and jacuzzi
Taking a lap in the pool, I feel one stroke away from the inviting ocean, though in reality it would take more than just a dive to get there. The resort's USP, and what according to me is its defining essence, is that visitors must book the whole place (i.e. all of the eight villas) in order to stay here. Imagine the sense of privacy; the resort is like your holiday home minus the maintenance.

Factfile:
  • Visitors must book atleast eight of
  • the nine villas, priced at THB
  • 90,000 (Rs 1,33,000) per night. The
  • master villa can be booked exclusively,
  • and costs THB 32,000
  • (Rs 47,000) per night.
  • Address: Upni Duniya 25/25 Moo 4,
  • Tambon Bophut Koh Samui,
  • Surat Thani 84320, Thailand.
    Website: www.upniduniya.com
Since my room had no view of the ocean, I spent the majority of my time poring over a book in the lounge, or soaking under the gazebo while staring out at the infinite view of the sea. Nothing but silence and the sound of the lapping waves for company. The weather was moody, breaking into musical rain at the drop of a hat-giving me the perfect excuse to stay in and sample the delightful cuisine.

A mustard yellow bedroom
A mustard yellow bedroom
The menu at the resort is extensive, including everything from predictable Thai staples, to the cross border flavours of Vietnam, Korea and Japan, along with treasures from Italian and Indian cuisine. Every morning, the in-house chef assists you in planning your meal-fusing specialties from across the globe, with a marked Asian thread running through it all. At night he dons the role of bartender, and, from what i saw, that's where his real talent lies.
What's more, he even managed to teach me a mix or two! The stress had by now evaporated as Samui started to heal and cleanse. Reluctant as i was (spoiled by all the pampering and serenity), I agreed to join my fellow residents the next morning on the Santiburi golf course.

A bathroom with open sky bathtub
A bathroom with open sky bathtub
This charming mountain course fringed by a palm forest is considered to be one of the toughest courses in the region. While the others putted, I lost myself in the stunning views of the hilly course. After all, wasn't it Mark Twain who called golf, "A good walk spoilt"?

Lulled into a mode of relaxation and lethargy, any guilt is assuaged by the realisation that headlong hedonism is in the DNA of this country. The island and resort encourage you to climb into a little cocoon of comfort and levity. And if you miss the madness, well, there's always Bangkok.

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