(TIML FOOD) We are elevating higher, climbing toward the top of the forest. Our host pulls a lever to raise our bamboo treepod, where we’re lounging on canvas-cushioned seats, overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. Suddenly, a man who appears to be our dinner server — dressed in khaki and a harness — swiftly ziplines to a wooden footboard melded into a nearby Singapore Almond tree. There, we dangle mid-air as he gathers plates to serve into our levitating booth.
Safeguarded by harvested bamboo, the tableware stays put while the pod sways with the ocean breeze. Slipping through the ancient rainforest, dodging branches and the dangers of towering heights, the host seems to imitate Indiana Jones. He props himself up after landing aside the rattan-woven pod’s table to bring us fresh juices. Like Jones, he arrives cleanly on his feet as he plates the table with wooden canisters disguising our picnic dishes.
At the secluded Soneva Kiri eco-resort, located on the island of Ko Kut in Thailand, each airborne host undergoes an intensive 100 hours of zipline, rescue, and treepod operation training. Outside of unfaltering hospitality, the hosts are instructed how to scale the different tree species utilizing a harness and carabiner fasteners — all while carrying plates.
Soneva Kiri’s treepod dining debuted in 2010, earning international attention. Under the canopy, Soneva Kiri is a place for people seeking deep contact with nature and food. To arrive there, guests fly into Suvarnabhumi Airport, where a 60-minute charter flight then takes them to a sliver of jungly land that is the resort’s docking pad. Disembarking from Bangkok to the Trat province, guests boat from the pad’s jetty to the shores of Soneva Kiri, then take a golf cart to their beachfront villas. Some travelers visit the island resort solely for treepod dining, and it’s easy to understand why.
The treepod experience begins with a barefoot guardian ushering you through a maze of winding wooden stairs, pegged above sloshing waves. Serenaded by a philharmonic of birdsongs, guests take the tree-lined stroll, catching glimpses into nature that most humans don’t ever see this close (but birds enjoy all the time). In addition to Kiri’s other dining, guests can reserve a luncheon in a mushroom cave, a five-minute boat ride off of the resort’s nearby reefs in Koh Raet.
Located near the Thailand-Cambodia border, and the fourth largest island of the country, Ko Kut is an island that was originally inhabited by generations of indigenous Cambodians and Thai folks who engineered stilted village communities on the low-tide waters for fishing. The island of Ko Kut, understood to most as Koh Kood, is native for Ko chang monkeys, mango trees, and more distinct wildlife that punctuate the resorts and local seaside villages.
Soneva Kiri’s biophilic structural design suffuses elegantly with Ko Kut’s natural grounds. Soneva’s homegrown philosophies (including a no-shoes policy) are intentional for guests to connect closer to nature. The singular way to unearth the five-star Soneva Kiri resort and restaurant’s grand mysteries is by exploring it yourself.
The best period to reserve a treepod is during the hours of lunchtime to sunset, if you are looking to witness Ko Kut’s magic hour, when the sun’s incandescence fades into the stretching horizon. Starting at $315 for two diners and upwards to four guests maximum, the Gourmet Picnic option is a 60-minute service, including a full charcuterie board with mature cheeses and buttery breads as well as finger foods and a selection of hand-sized sandwiches.
Wines and champagne are also available for ordering, unless you choose Soneva Kiri’s Luxury Picnic “In The Air” experience, which is a more premium offering with alcohol included, plus a spread of fruity fondues, caviars, crispy crab canapes, savory rillettes, French oysters, and shrimp cocktail.
The aged evergreens create a grandeur, a shielded sense of seclusion for your treepod, particularly those trees that have reached adult heights, ranging from 50 to 100 years old. Smaller tree-hanging monkeys and Asian golden weaver birds are curious and have been known to gawk at diners, everyone savoring feasts in their respective habitats.