An excellent time to get away from the cold weather, Thailand can easily become the Cancun or Ibiza for the Middle East. This week I’ve landed at the Japanese-influenced resort called Akyra. And while it is not a certified eco-hotel, which I am going to seek out and review later, there are a few elements of the resort that are in line with some of the values we might be looking for when looking to tread lighter on the planet. Of course sleeping on a beach bungalow without air-con is the best option for eco-travel in Thailand and something I do in Sinai. But not for me at this point in my life with a baby who’s now walking. I am looking for simplicity, quiet aesthetics and the kind of quality that will stand the test of time.
At Akyra there is an attention to design and detail, as one would expect from Japan. Simple, without too much furniture, tschokes, or brochures hanging about. Not a lot of extra stuff, and without that Disneyland feel common at mid and luxury resorts on Thailand’s islands. Usually when I enter a hotel room I spend a few minutes putting away all the ads, all the signs, so it can feel like home. Not here at Akyra. A lot of attention has gone into a vision of minimalism and comfort.
Let’s start with the rooms: Like many luxury resorts in Thailand, the bathrooms are stocked with locally produced shampoos and soaps, in small ceramic bottles that are refilled daily or when needed. This is a small detail but an important one for me. Speaking with the manager Colin, he tells me that all the plastic bottles are recycled at the hotel, that very little is wasted. It’s just the Thai way. Unfortunately we can’t drink the local water in Thailand, so bottles are a must.
The resort offers a sampling of complementary drinks in the mini-bar and it isn’t pushing piles of junk food treats on you, treats which are a temptation when you get those munchies in the late afternoon before bed. Instead, order some fresh sushi or a fruit plate from the room service menu, and you won’t pay room service prices, about $7 for a plate of sushi, half of that for fruit, local and fresh. Bananas, papaya, pineapple, lichee. Yum.
Locally produced Thai hardwood lines the private Japanese balconies, fitted with a simple bench. No gaudy plastic lawn chairs here. If you are on the ground floor of the regular rooms, a small private garden is attached to your balcony, some lined in living bamboo, giving your head room to download your worries and any stress you’ve left at home.
The bathroom is a little bit like letting the outside in. Open the screen-free shutters and let your eyes enter your Japanese garden from inside. Mind the insects or salamanders that might crawl in. This is Thailand and insects in your room cannot be avoided at even the most discriminating hotel resorts.
At Akyra the walkways are lined in bamboo plants, the first shoots planted which in couple of years will lead to a small bamboo forest. The plentiful water and rainforest precipitation keeps the vegetation well watered with practically no effort.
The staff at Akyra are typical for Thailand when it comes to smiles and hospitality, but no doubt the ones at Akyra are hand-picked for their extra-specialness and friendliness towards the guests, keeping close to cater to your needs, but maintaining a distance if you need more privacy. I like that.
It’s hard to stay at a big resort, this one is medium-sized, yet still feel privacy. If you want to feel more apart of the resort scene book a suite down by the sea where you can open your large curtains to the beach and seafront, and admire beachgoers from your resort as they walk by.
There is a spa at Akyra that looks divine. I didn’t try it because I like to get my Thai and oil massages right on the beach at local prices. But certainly this is a special treat for romantic getaways and weddings as the resort offers a special honeymoon package.
View of Chewang Beach from the pool:
While you won’t be impressed with the eco-tourism options on the island, if you travel to Koh Samui, Thailand Akyra offers a sensible mind and body healing option with the attention to details and not a lot of stuff or unnecessary accoutrements. I have stayed nearby up the road at Nora Beach hotel a couple of years ago and I prefer Akyra for that reason.
The Akrya resort is the only one on the island that offers a Japanese-influence for the Asian island, and it works. One of its owners is Japanese, and he was able to give it an authentic feel. It is also very new, so don’t expect any cracks in the wall or stains on the wood.
I was hoping to find more eco-hotels on my journey to Thailand, like the one run by Asian Oasis (Lanjia Lodge) – see my review on the Mekhala Slow Boat from Bangkok. Environmentalism in the way we might expect it is only starting to grow in Thailand, so be patient as Thailand grows in that direction. There are some hotels that claim to be eco-friendly on Samui, and I hope to visit a couple of them on my journey next week to see if they match their claims.
Most tourists I’ve seen on the island of Koh Samui are from Europe or Australia, Israel, India, America, along with the odd group of women from Abu Dhabi. While the Middle East conservative culture isn’t exactly at par with the late-night beach culture in Thailand, going to a beach resort like Akyra can keep you close to the fun, with a safe distance for seclusion when you want it.
My parents for instance even enjoyed the Full Moon Party on the island nearby Koh Phangan, while I stayed home and chilled at Akyra with my small family, working, meditating, and planning my next revolution.