Back packers Atte Savisalo and Kati Hakkinen of Finland were planning on spending three months back-packing their ways around Southeast Asia.
They would start in Thailand and move on to Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, and Singapore.
With a budget of 5,000 euros, they were hoping to spend not more than 20 euros per day. They would stay at youth hostels and inexpensive hotels in the 5 to 10 euros a night price range.
The Finnish couple never made it beyond Thailand. After visiting a couple of islands that were overrun with foreign tourists in the South, they took the ferry to Khanom, which is located in Southeastern Thailand's Nakhon Si Thammarat province.
With a population of just 11,000, it has yet to be discovered by foreign tourists. It currently has only two hotels and about 20 mostly unpretentious resorts.
Yet it has kilometre upon kilometre of unspoiled beaches, limestone mountains, breathtaking waterfalls, swaying palm trees, and fascinating caves. It also adjoins breeding grounds for pink dolphins, which are thought to be a subspecies of the Chinese white dolphin.
“We liked the beach and the quiet,” Savisalo reminisces. “We both had this feeling that we had come home. The Finnish side of us came out. It was very quiet, and there was lots of space.”
They put their plans to travel about Southeast Asia on hold as they dreamed of opening a resort in the vicinity.
And they considered their options.
The locale was, after all, starting to become popular with visitors from Scandanavia, who were tiring of Koh Samui, which was becoming a bit over developed and far too commercialized.
They discussed their plans with their parents. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Most Luxurious Finnish Resort Outside Finland
Two years later, the most luxurious Finnish resort ever to be built outside Finland has arisen along the sands of Khanom's Nadan Beach, a 9 kilometre stretch of golden sands and emerald waters.
A boutique hotel with just 28 bungalows, the Aava Resort & Spa is the first foreign owned luxury hotel in the province and Thailand's first ever Finnish owned luxury resort.
The other is an open air bakery and pizzeria that is located at the front of the property as well as a quaint shopping strip selling local clothing, food, and souvenirs.
“The Greater Khanom Area remains so beautifully untouched in spite of its location,” Hakkinen says.
“With the Aava Resort and Spa, we really wanted to capture the simplicity of this unspoiled area and create a luxurious spa destination in untouched Thailand to accommodate discerning travellers from Scandinavia, Asia, and elsewhere.”
Having spent two wonderful nights there, enjoying the haute cuisine, champagne and fine wine, doing laps in the pool, combing the beach, breakfasting on the beach after viewing the pink dolphins, and indulging in an outdoor spa treatment, I would have to say that they have succeeded spectacularly.
The hotel's grand opening will take place in May, but an exact date has not yet been set.
Copyright: Michael Taylor Pictured: Kati Hakkinen and Atte Savisalo with Nino (top and middle); Aava Resort and Spa (bottom) Photos Courtesy of Aava Resort and Spa