A place of sanctuary and serenity.
By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
While I’m well aware that what we see on social media is carefully curated and edited, I’m not lost to the appeal of Instagram’s travel reels and pictures, beckoning me towards a holiday destination that often looks too good to be true. Z9 Resort in Kanchanaburi was one such resort that I’d often seen lighting up my feed with its tranquil waters and villas reminiscent of The Maldives. I was especially intrigued, however, by its promise of a sanctum of peace and rejuvenation, just different enough from the usual beach destinations brimming with droves of sunburnt tourists.
Pronounced ‘Si-Nai,’ Z9 is a reference to the revered Mount Sinai in Abrahamic traditions, where the prophet Moses met God during a time of intense meditation and soul renewal, preparing himself for a time when he would once again lead his people with the God-given 10 Commandments in hand. In a similar vein, Z9 Resort’s focus is on creating a sanctuary to rejuvenate your body and mind before returning to the frenetic energy of the city and hustle culture. After a hectic holiday (and wedding) season, this conceit was exactly what I needed, and I was looking forward with bated breath for the resort to deliver on its promises – which it did, and more.
The resort is perched on the edge of Srinakarin Lake, created from the Srinakarin Dam on the Kwai Yai River. Because of its remote location, ideal for getting away from it all, be prepared for a 1.5- hour drive from Kanchanaburi city, which takes you through the scenic route up a hill and makes it clear why the province is the third-largest in Thailand. When we arrived in the evening, what instantly struck me was the palpable feeling of tranquillity in the property. No noise from the outside can be heard here, only the comforting murmur of the crickets, the gentle lapping of the water, and the silent twinkle of the stars above.
Soft lights from rattan lamps bathed the lobby in a golden glow as attentive staff checked us in, and we were ushered down the stairs, past an ancient tree of magnificent proportions, to the water. A floating wooden pathway led us to a fork where beautifully- constructed rooms lined either side, made of wood and stone and rising in gentle curves, like an extension of the lake itself. In the dark, the welcoming warmth of the lamps from each room’s foyer painted a fantasy vista; a cut-out from a watercolour-painted edition of The Hobbit from my childhood. It was small wonder that the resort had won so many accolades over the 4-5 years that it’s been operational, including the ‘Best Hotel Architecture Thailand’ award from the Asia Pacific Property Award Architecture 2019-2020.
We had been given one of the larger Escape North rooms, which I was informed were suitable for small families. Comprised of a 50sqm floating house, it marries rustic charm with modern amenities, and is replete with a flatscreen TV, Bluetooth speakers, and outsized bean bags. Only comprised of 20 keys, the other half of the resort held the smaller South the Scene rooms, perfect for couples. Both types of rooms have ample porches that face the mountains and the idyllic sunsets, and lead straight into the beckoning waters of the lake, which you can swim in as long as you wear the provided life vests.
When I met with Phenprapa Bualoy, the General Manager of Z9 Resort, she explained, “We want our customers to experience nature, but at the same time, be treated with luxury by our attentive staff,” and this is exactly what we experienced throughout our stay.
DRINKING AND DINING
As part of the carefully-curated experience, the resort only has one all-day-dining restaurant-cum-café, Zmoné, which serves up authentic Thai food in hearty portions. Their comprehensive menu also has a selection of wines, cocktails, smoothies, and other non- alcoholic drinks. Our first night there, we were served a specially- selected set menu courtesy of their Head Chef, comprised of their signature Pad Thai glass noodles (THB 210), moreish and mildly sweet as it should be; Spicy shrimp creamy or clear soup (THB 440), with the zaap flavours that I adore; and Thai Spicy and sour shrimp curry with omelette (THB 370), a traditional and filling dish. Of course, we also had their classic Mango and sticky rice dessert which you can order off menu, and which had some of the most succulent mangoes I’d had in a long time. “All our food, which has a very clear Thai identity, is cooked by a chef with decades of experience,” their GM tells me. “We also use local ingredients from farms in the area, so if you want to try authentic traditional Thai food, you won’t be disappointed.”
The restaurant itself spans two floors, with wooden furniture and end-to-end views of the lake, and it’s clear that the design fits itself around its environment rather than the other way around. The trees are allowed to grow within parts of the restaurant itself, and I would highly recommend sitting outside at night and sharing a bottle of wine underneath the stars. For breakfast, you’re given a selection of dishes to choose from ahead of time, and each guest can have both a Western breakfast set (comprised of a continental breakfast with your choice of eggs) and an Asian breakfast dish (such as jok or pad krapao). They also have a breakfast bar with an inviting selection of early-morning bites, such as cereal and fruit. My suggestion, however, would be to stay over the weekend, when they have a delightful Sunday buffet spread of international delights, including my personal holiday favourite, a live egg station.
WATER ACTIVITIES AND SUSTAINABILITY
Water is the running theme of the resort, from its symbolism of renewal and rebirth; to its role in the resort’s sustainability initiatives; to the activities that you can partake in solo, as a couple, or with your entire family. While it’s all too easy to ‘greenwash’ a destination and lean into guests’ increasing awareness of climate concerns, I was delighted to hear that at Z9 Resort, this was no superficial programme.
“We care about being at one with nature, and we try not to disturb our surroundings as much as possible, by not releasing waste into the river,” I’m told by the GM. “Fishing in the area is not allowed. We take care, maintain, and live in harmony with the beauty and peace of nature, and we encourage our guests to do the same. For example, our wastewater is recycled in a cleaning facility and sent to the staff quarters and other areas of the resort.” These initiatives, I’m told, have won the resort the Futurarc Green Leadership Award 2019, among others.
Part of the resort’s celebration of the life-giving lake that literally keeps it afloat, are the myriad of water activities that it offers. Guests are encouraged to go kayaking or standup paddleboarding as part of the full experience, while those who are more adventurous can opt to rent jet skis or go wakesurfing or jet-boarding on the lake, for a price. Having had extensive experience kayaking in the seas down South during my more adventurous school days, I can definitely say that kayaking on the lake was a much more tranquil experience, and one that can be enjoyed with groups of any size. Overall, this lakeside retreat was exactly what I needed to quieten my spirit and rejuvenate myself, and one that I would highly recommend if you’re craving some time away in different and relaxing surroundings.
THE INSIDE SCOOP
PHENPRAPA BUALOY, the General Manager of Z9 Resort, gave more of her insight:
What do you consider Kanchanaburi’s most enticing features for both domestic and international visitors, especially compared to other holiday destinations driving distance from Bangkok, which are more popular among the Thai-Indian crowd?
Kanchanaburi is a wonderful place, because it is a city of history and natural attractions. You can find a lot of historical destinations, like Prasat Muang Singh or the River Kwai Bridge in the city. But at the same time, you can find natural wonders like the many waterfalls, Erawan National Park, and Lam Khlong Ngu National Park, all in the same region.
While it is traditional, with many natural wonders and attractions, it is also reasonably priced, compared to destinations like Pattaya, Bangkok, Khao Yai, and Koh Samui, which I think is one of its main appeals.
Which clientele do you believe the resort would appeal the most to, and what would you say are your USPs compared to other luxury resorts in the area?
We welcome all customers, whether it’s couples, or small or big families, because we want all of you to enjoy and spend your valuable time with us. As for unique features, we offer a wide range of water activities, and if you are someone who loves them, we are the right choice. We can give you a place to relax in luxury. The Thai-Indian community is a very new group for us; we haven’t seen many of them visit yet, but I foresee that they’ll be very happy here. We hope you can join us and have a great time with us!
71250 Si Sawat, Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Tel: 061 360 4959