Sunday March 31, 2013
Thailand’s Six Senses resort, nestled away on the remote island of Koh Yao Noi, is a favourite destination for would-be grooms eager to propose in a paradise setting. Pulse’s intrepid globe-trotter Sharon Feinstein heads to this far-flung jewel, to savour exotic boat trips and sunset barbeques on remote beaches
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hey arrive, faces etched with stress, exhaustion, and expectation. From city high flyers, to honeymooners and celebrities, they are travelling the length and breadth of Thailand to find peace and paradise.
Six Senses has created the perfect place on Koh Yao Noi, a remote island in the Andaman Sea, with a landscape of big skies and sculpted limestone stacks. Couples come here to start a new life, celebrate anniversaries, get married and generally to have a time to remember forever.
General Manager Manish Puri says there were 42 proposals in the past six months alone.
After just a day, that space between the mundane and paradise had opened up and I’d fully left London behind. My new home was the bamboo, teak and palm-leaf Ocean View Villa, where the only sounds were the swishing of fishtail palms and bubbling water in the private pool.
Six Senses’ ethos is to conserve energy and become self-sufficient. It has established a reservoir and waste water treatment plant, there are no plastic bottles, imported flowers or plants; and it grows as much organic produce as possible, including delicious mushrooms from a quaint mushroom hut.
The resort is the jewel of Koh Yao Noi, but it in no way sets itself apart from the nearby community.
I took one of the mountain bikes round the small, unspoilt island, weaving round rubber plantations, jade green rice paddies, pristine beaches and back gardens laden with papaya and mango trees. Locals build their houses on stilts, chickens darting about below, and unlike the Caribbean there are no sad, stray dogs and cats on the roads.
All over, the villagers talk about Six Senses with admiration. For the guests themselves, manager Manish Puri has created a plethora of options, such homemade ice creams which are free all day. Hollywood movies on beach loungers under the stars, with hot popcorn. A Thai boxing ring by the sea. Yoga at dawn on the hilltop overlooking the dreamy limestone stacks. The romance of exotic boat trips and sunset barbecues on remote beaches. Even a tray of sumptuous cakes and there is certainly temptation to pick every one. It truly is the stuff that dreams are made of.
According to the staff, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and his model girlfriend had left just and tried everything. Well who wouldn’t? Along with Dutch chef Sebastian’s organic cuisine, fabulous Thai dishes can be enjoyed in the low-lit Living Room, and tapas in the purple-themed Den beside the lily pond.
I spent my early mornings swimming across the bay through fierce 20-minute downpours, or sunny ruby dawns. Every day I felt healthier and acutely tuned into the wonders of nature here, watching hornbills high in the trees, or white bellied sea eagles dipping for fish.
In the distance, long tails spread out on the sea in one of those ancient scenes, with fishermen bent over their nets to scoop up jellyfish and sell at market.
Snorkelling round the shadowy rocks, I came across a turtle and followed her with sheer delight until she dived into the bluey depths.

Utterly peaceful and one of Thailand’s hidden secrets, Six senses KohYao Noi is the counterpoint to Bangkok. But I knew I’d love that City of Cities just as much and couldn’t wait to explore the flip side to this peaceful, romantic hideaway.
Only a short flight away on Bangkok Airways from Phuket, the city hits you with its raw, steamy energy. Exotic golden temples glint along the Chao Praya beside sleek 21st-century skyscrapers and wooden houses on stilts where families wash in the river. This is the city of contrasts, the strangeness of street life where families cook, eat and congregate, alongside cutting edge, futurist wealth.ness. Now I get a lot from working with young Jewish addicts.
The most elegant retreat is The Mandarin Oriental, not just one of the world’s most splendid hotels, but also a piece of history. Here Evelyn Waugh sat on the terrace writing Mad Dogs and Englishmen, John Le Carre finished The Honourable Schoolboy, and Somerset Maugham recovered from raging malaria in an airy bedroom. It has lured royalty, heads of state, artists, and travellers for 136 years, with its long-serving impeccable staff.
I loved the super cool Bamboo jazz bar where I saw a US head of state, and the choice of dinner at the Riverside Terrace Restaurant, as well as Lord Jim’s fish buffet, which is famous throughout Bangkok, and the exotic Shanghai-styled black and red China House. Then there’s the gold mosaic swimming pool, heavenly Spa, floor to ceiling flower displays and a string quartet playing in the opulent foyer! Need I go on?
I even had my fortune told by a charming Bangkok teller named DT. She got a lot right, including my love of travel. “You want to walk around the world,” she said. Well Bangkok for starters, I grinned.
Away from the hotel, I came across the city’s best tailor, James Fashion, who can literally make anything – even copy photographs of your favourite outfits – so you go home with a new wardrobe. Charlie’s certainly the man to take care of you there!
There is also no limit to the wonderful eateries spread across the city. My favourite restaurants included Thiptara, which lies across the river at The Peninsula (where I also had a hugely relaxing spa with a therapist appropriately named Beauty); Koi, (which serves fantastic fusion food and Wasabi Tini cocktails; and Celadon (at the Sukothai Hotel where we ate delectable fish and Thai dishes).
I also enjoyed meals at the trendy and new Smith, housed in a warehouse, which offered imaginative dishes and culinary art, as well as Nahm in the Met Hotel, where you can enjoy great cocktails and tasty food beside the pool waterfall and with cool evening breeze.
I ate there with Jason Friedman, a Jewish New Yorker who has lived in Thailand for two decades. He told me: “Because Thailand’s never been colonised it knows how to make everyone feel welcome. Being a Jew in New York you’re one of many. Here you’re one of few and it helped me identify with my roots. The rabbi is wonderful and the community gets together for Holy Days.”
So, do you envy my trip? It was La Dolce Vita for three weeks, and even flying back on Eva Air didn’t bring me down, because the flight’s so smooth and provided a great service at a very decent price. But as for getting home again to London – now that was the hard part!
•EVA Air, 0207 380 8300, www.evaair.com
Six Senses Yao Noi Beyond Phuket, Thailand, www.sixsenses.com/sixsensesyaonoi
Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok
Read more about Sharon at www.sharonfeinstein.co.uk or on Twitter @sharonfeinstein