ANDY TREADWELL'S TRAVEL BLACK BOOK

Eat, sleep, dive in Thailand

Mr Andy Treadwell, managing director of the Singapore and Thailand Yacht Shows, likes to stay at Soneva Kiri resort (top) on Koh Kood island.
Mr Andy Treadwell, managing director of the Singapore and Thailand Yacht Shows, likes to stay at Soneva Kiri resort (above) on Koh Kood island. PHOTOS: SONEVA KIRI RESORT & RESIDENCES, COURTESY OF ANDY TREADWELL
Mr Andy Treadwell, managing director of the Singapore and Thailand Yacht Shows, likes to stay at Soneva Kiri resort (top) on Koh Kood island.
Mr Andy Treadwell, managing director of the Singapore and Thailand Yacht Shows, likes to stay at Soneva Kiri resort on Koh Kood island.

The Gulf of Thailand has beautiful cruising grounds, delicious food, luxurious hotels and stunning dive sites

Who: Briton Andy Treadwell, 61, managing director of the inaugural Thailand Yacht Show, which will take place from Feb 11 to 14 at Phuket's Ao Po Grand Marina; and the sixth edition of the Singapore Yacht Show, which will take place from April 7 to 10 at the ONE°15 Marina Club in Sentosa Cove.

He and his wife Sophie, 60, have 22-year-old twins, Zoe and Louisa.

Favourite destination: Gulf of Thailand

Why: With beautiful expanses of calm water, picture-perfect islands and some impeccable marinas, the cruising grounds there are fantastic and it is one of my favourite destinations to sail to.

Once you reach land, Thai hospitality, delicious food and luxurious hotels make for a perfect stopover. You can't beat that.

Favourite hotels

Soneva Kiri (www.soneva.com/soneva-kiri) on the island of Koh Kood is a magical place. I like to think Koh Kood is Thailand as it was several decades ago: untamed jungle, pristine beaches and fishermen going about their business.

With room rates starting from US$1,570 (S$2,260) a night, the hotel boasts 24 of some of the largest resort villas and private residences I've seen and guests are provided with an electric buggy as well as a private butler.

But what makes Soneva Kiri stand out is the experience it offers. Its "Cinema Paradiso" is an open-air, jungle-enshrouded auditorium perched over a lagoon. Guests can watch classic films every night and order cocktails and small bites.

Guests can also enjoy the view of the night sky from the hotel's observatory and learn about the constellations and planets from the hotel's visiting astronomers.

Another favourite is Samujana Villas (www.samujana.com) on Koh Samui. Ranging from three to eight bedrooms and starting from US$920 a night, each villa is set into the hillside and incorporates rock outcrops and indigenous trees into its contemporary design.

Samujana offers activities and tours such as visits to the local rum distillery. There is also an in-house health expert, Amrita, who offers luxury wellness services in the comfort and privacy of your villa.

Favourite eateries

You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone with a bad word to say about chef Francois Porte's Chez Francois (33/2 Moo1 Fisherman's Village, Bophut, Surat Thani 84320, Thailand; tel:+66-9-6071-1800; www.facebook.com/chezporte) on Koh Samui.

The menu changes daily, depending on what he finds at the market.I have had some delicious meals there - from lobster cannelloni to coq au vin with garlic puree. A meal there costs about 2,500 baht (S$100) a person.

I also love visiting the Thepprasit Night Market (www.pattayaconcierge.com/specified-place/thepprasit-night-market/201100000003/shopping) in Pattaya for the chargrilled squid and sticky mango rice.

And I have never come across anything quite like the unique Treepod Dining (www.soneva.com/soneva- kiri/treepod-dining) experience at Soneva Kiri. Seated in a bamboo dining pod, guests are hoisted into the treetops of the rainforest. Your personal waiter delivers food and drinks via a zipline and there are stunning views of the beach.

Favourite dive sites

Just over an hour by speedboat north from Koh Samui, Koh Tao, or Turtle Island, is a haven for scuba divers.

A short ride north-east of Koh Pha Ngan leads to the magnificent Sail Rock, a large boulder-like pinnacle that rises 15m from the sea. This is one of the most impressive dive sites in the Gulf of Thailand, with giant groupers, large shoals of bat fish and barracuda. We were once lucky enough to dive there with whale sharks.

Inside the pinnacle is the famous Chimney, a vertical shaft where divers can enter at 18m deep and swim up to its 10m or 5m exits and see small cleaner shrimp and Japanese blue striped pipefish.

Off the main dive area is a site called The Secret Pinnacle. Along with the striking corals, there is a chance to see a massive shoal of bigeye trevally circling around 12m above the pinnacle. It is possible to enter and get encompassed by the shoal, an experience the likes of those seen on National Geographic.

Favourite fishing spots

The Gulf of Thailand is teeming with tropical marine game fish of all sizes and varieties. Just off the shores of Koh Samet - about 220km south-east of Bangkok and off the coast of Rayong province - is a brilliant fishing spot. You can come across trevally, barracuda, grouper, garfish, rockcod, parrotfish, coral trout, dorado, emperor, shark, stingray, kingfish, triple tail, pompano, snapper and seaperch.

Events to bookmark

The Koh Samui Triathlon and Top of the Gulf Regatta are both in April.

The triathlon starts on Nathon Beach with a 4km swim, followed by 120km of cycling and a 30km run. The regatta (www.topofthegulfregatta.com) in Pattaya is a fun event where boating enthusiasts can see a range of offshore yachts race alongside dinghies and beach cats, catamaran sailboats.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 24, 2016, with the headline 'Eat, sleep, dive in Thailand'. Print Edition | Subscribe