The hotel occupies an enviable beachside location near Hua Hin, 175 kilometres south-west of Bangkok.
Originally opened as an Alila in 2009, the property is a fine example of the clean lines and bold, contemporary design of acclaimed Thai architect Duangrit Bunnag. For the rebranding as a So Sofitel (which opened in February 2016), Accor collaborated with Thai fashion mogul Polpat Asavaprapha and French interior designer Donatien Carratier. They’ve kept Bunnag’s steep, white marble steps; large reflection pool and towering caged rock walls. But they’ve added playful touches such as a menagerie of animal sculptures, sunglass-shaped bathroom mirrors and sultry glass door silhouettes. The result? A resort that surprises and delights at every turn. Facilities include two pools, a spa, an art gallery, a chic rooftop bar and two restaurants, the newest of which is Beach Society, a breezy, laid-back venue overlooking a private section of Cha-am beach.
Although the bare bones of the property’s 77 rooms are the same – high-ceilinged spaces with concrete floors and walls – the interiors come in two contrasting designs. So Nature uses a muted colour scheme and wooden furnishings to create a calming, natural environment while So Arty employs a bolder, more colourful palette with busy prints and gilt frames. Both feature striking art work by New Zealand landscape photographer Martin Hill or American dance photographer Lois Greenfield. Particularly impressive are the spacious bathrooms, which have ceiling-mounted rain-head showers flanked by full length mirrors (not for the self-conscious). Splash out on one of the six stand-alone villas and you get a separate living area and a private pool.
As the property’s all-day dining venue, White Oven transitions valiantly between breakfast, lunch and dinner with a good range of Thai and western offerings. The breakfast buffet is extensive and there is a welcome selection of lighter, health-conscious options for lunch. The standout experience, however, is the shared tasting dinner menu, which features upscale versions of Thai classics such as massaman curry and traditional Thai-style omelette. Beach Society has a more casual vibe and specialises in seafood – particularly the cuttlefish and crab you can see being caught by fishing boats on the horizon.
The resort offers a wide range of excursions, including visits to a food market, exploring the impressive temple-filled Khao Luang Cave and touring the former royal palace of Khao Wang. Particularly recommended is a cycle or stroll to nearby Cha-am fishing village, a narrow inlet crowded with boats and seafood restaurants. The journey takes you through a beguiling montage of rural life – a reminder of the simple, subsistence lives eked out by many of the people in the region.
A delightful combination of French elegance and Thai whimsy that delivers that rarest of things – a resort with real personality