Some people have a thing for chocolate. Others crave cake. My junk food guilty pleasure is crisps – give me a bowl of salt and vinegar over a bar of Green & Black’s any day. This doesn’t mean, however, that I want to eat them for dinner. So our stay at AKA doesn’t get off to a particularly brilliant start when, after a delayed flight and 15-hour journey, we arrive to find we’ve just missed the room service cut-off time of 11.30pm and the chef has gone home. There’s no alternative but to raid the minibar for supper. ‘Oh well, tomorrow is another day’, we think wearily as we collapse into bed with barely a glance at our surroundings.
The next morning paints a different picture as we wake to slivers of golden sunlight slipping into our room. Even through sleepy eyes we spy the deck outside and (probably the main draw at AKA) the sparkle of our private pool.
We spring out of bed to explore our new home, pausing only to put in a call to room service for some brekkie. Our one-bedroom deluxe pool villa turns out to be more of an apartment than standard hotel digs. The sleeping area, with two walls of patio doors, features a gigantic modern four-poster swathed prettily in mosquito netting. Uplit vaulted ceilings add to the sense of spaciousness. On one side, a neat bathroom in black tiles and dark woods opens out to an alfresco shower and bathing area; on the other, an archway leads to the living zone, furnished with sofas, flatscreen TV and a bar. The outside space, however, is the main attraction. We fold back the double doors and step out into our very own sun-dappled garden, complete with stepping-stoned pond, lush foliage and sunbathing deck boasting two contemporary sunloungers. All of which flank the aforementioned swimming pool: our swimming pool. Ten metres long, infinity-edged and lined in sexy black slate, it feels like the ultimate in luxurious privacy. We simply stand and gawp at it glinting temptingly, until Mr Smith is galvanised into action and strips off for a pre-breakfast dip. I, meanwhile, continue my exploration of our quarters. It transpires that the building facing us is a whole other bedroom and bathroom. Later enquiries reveal that it is in fact our ‘spa pavilion’: in the event that we’re feeling too cocooned (read: lazy) to walk to the spa for treatments, they’ll come to us!
Just when I think I’ve checked out every nook and cranny, I spot a covered sala on the roof of our living room. After puzzling for a few minutes over what it is, I spot an external staircase and discover a whole other private deck with cushioned double day-bed and ceiling fan. From here, I have a bird’s-eye view of the whole resort and surrounding fields, though (surprisingly but thankfully) not of any of the nearby villas. It’s the ideal location for some sunset yoga. Who am I kidding? It’s the perfect place for the first cold Singha beer of the evening.
By this time, breakfast has arrived so we feast poolside on pancakes with berry compote and fresh dragon fruit, pineapple and watermelon. We spend the rest of the day wallowing in the luxury of our pool, and I soon have Mr Smith (normally a serious laps-and-goggles man) joining in with a ridiculous aqua-aerobics session of my own invention, which has us both cavorting around in stitches. It’s probably not the kind of behaviour envisaged by the architect of this sleek retreat, but never mind.
Later, we enjoy those Singhas on our roof terrace and watch the sun setting and the farmer in the next field walking his cows home. The soundtrack is unadulterated birdsong and we revel in the feeling that we’re so far from home. Tonight we’ve arranged to take AKA’s shuttle service into Hua Hin to have a look around.
After soaking up so much serenity, Hua Hin seems overwhelmingly busy and noisy, but our wanderings lead us to a street market and we’re soon entranced by the sheer exoticism of the sights, sounds and smells. We later escape the crowds and duck into fellow Smith hotel Putahracsa, where the restaurant, Oceanside, is meant to be one of Hua Hin’s best spots for dinner. We have a delicious meal facing the crashing waves before journeying back to our villa. After what feels like an adventurous evening, the cool calmness of our private space is welcome. Wishing the frogs in our entrance pond goodnight, we retire for a peaceful night’s sleep.
The next day features more sunshine, more lazing about by the pool and more silly aqua-aerobics. It’s our final night, and we’re dining in the hotel’s restaurant, flanked on one side by lily ponds and on the other by AKA’s impressive if hugely underused communal pool (why would you when each room has one of its own?).
We choose a table on the edge of the open-sided room and the waiters and kitchen staff are happy to accommodate our veggie needs. Mr Smith declares his Thai green curry to be one of the best he’s ever eaten, and a palate cleanser of mango and coconut milk sorbet also goes down a treat. At the end of the meal, the affable French chef comes over to say hi and to reassure us that he is entirely happy to cater for vegetarians and tends an organic vegetable patch within AKA’s grounds. For the rest of our stay, he tells us, we shouldn’t hesitate to request veggie versions of anything on the menu. We sadly inform him that it’s our last night, and he looks touchingly disappointed, but believe me, he isn’t half as sad as we are to be leaving.