Island breaks take a luxurious turn on exotic Koh Samui
Back in the late 17th century, this island was where fishermen, sailors, and sea traders sought refuge from a storm while traversing the Gulf of Siam. It first appeared on the global tourist map when it was discovered in the 1970s by backpacking hippies arriving on this palm-fringed tropical island on a simple ferryboat. Today, Koh Samui is a luxury magnet for tourists who are jetting in to stay in some of the most luxurious retreats in the Kingdom of Thailand.
Story by Laurence Civil & Luxury Society Asia Team
Sitting in the Chumphon Archipelago of over 80 islands, which form the Ang Thong National Marine Park, the island is just under one hour’s flying time south of Bangkok. Measuring 25Kms in length and 21kms across, it is Thailand’s third largest island after Phuket and Koh Chang home to about 40,000 local inhabitants, 90 percent of whom are Buddhists.
The easiest way to get there is by air. Bangkok Airways have nearly hourly departures throughout the day to and from the island and Thai Airways have twice daily departures. The privately owned Samui International Airport has two terminals one international the other domestic. All arriving passengers disembark at the parking stand and are transported to and from the terminal in brightly coloured fairground style opened-sided trucks. Welcome to paradise.
Conrad Koh Samui
Located on the southwest tip of the island, on Aow Thai Beach, Conrad Koh Samui has a secluded hillside location, home to 81 freestanding villas, each with a private balcony commanding breath-taking views over the Gulf of Thailand directly facing the Five Islands.
An Ocean View Pool Villa offers the guests 130sqm of combined indoor and outdoor space with a 10m ocean-facing infinity pool set on a wide terrace. The space is equally divided between the bedroom and the bathroom which houses an oversized bowl-shaped bathtub, separate rain shower and twin hand-basin with illuminated mirrors. The plus in the bedroom was the Apple-based TV system, personal espresso machine and milk in the fridge
The must do here is dinner at Jahn, to enjoy the ultra-fine Thai cuisine in an opulent setting. As the restaurant only seats 28, reservations are recommended. The only true way to understand the experience is to take their Taste of Jahn Menu. The two stand out dishes are a very unique Tom Yam Kung and a distinctively creative Massaman of Wagyu Beef.
The perfect couples retreat for those wanting to get away from everything, it’s too far to go clubbing anyway.
W Retreat Koh Samui
A 20-minute drive from Samui International Airport and just a five-minute drive from Bo Phut Pier, the Big Buddha statue and Fisherman’s Village, the hilltop W Retreat Koh Samui is nestled between Maenam and Bo Phut; 74 private pool villas sit up on the cliff overlooking one of the finest and most pristine beaches in Thailand.
Ultra chic and cutting edge design with stunning sea views is on offer here. Positioned at the highest point of the hotel is the 162 sqm Ocean View Escape Villa with its stunning floor to ceiling windows that offer the best views in the entire resort. On the deck outside is a private pool measuring 11 X 2.5 metres, when it comes to private pools, size does matter. Inside the living space is decorated with silk lamps and designer furnishings giving each villa a relaxed, yet elegant feel. Toys for grownups abound, from a 46-inch flat-screen TV, DVD player and Yamaha Wi-Fi sound dock. Each room also has an Illy espresso machine and the signature W Bliss Spa amenities in the bathroom.
Akyra Chura Samui
Tucked away at the secluded northern end of Chaweng Beach just a 10-minute drive from the airport the beachfront Akyra resort offers 65 rooms and suites. Styled in Japanese aesthetic, the accommodation is minimal yet functional recreating the innocence of the original Samui beach huts. The one-bedroom villa offers 70 sqm of luxurious privacy with a pair of sun loungers on the terrace. On entering guests are greeted by the polished concrete floored living area complete with a sofa and occasional table for casual in-room dining. The only decoration is two framed Japanese floral silk prints. Next door is the polished teak floored sleeping area where a protective mosquito tent hangs from the ceiling.
A short bamboo corridor connects the lounge and bedroom with the larger wet space. On the left are double alabaster wash basins while on the right is a large circular bath tub scooped out of a single block of granite set in it’s own private bamboo garden. Overhead is the outdoor rain shower. Southern Thai style green glass windows are used in the indoor shower and toilet area.
The beachfront swimming pool looks out onto a pristine white sandy beach and a crystal clear sea in 50 shades of blue. An adult’s only retreat.
A private residential beachfront villa, that just takes one booking at a time. Designed by Italian architect Ricardo Tossani based in Japan the architectural style was inspired by the dramatic roofs of local architecture and vernacular traditions of cool, shaded spaces. It is a fusion of Thai and Japanese design with Japanese building traditions that respond to climate, view, privacy and comfort in an exquisite beach and tropical forest setting. The energy efficient screens minimize the UV rays entering
The Umi Ocean master bedroom has a lawn and sand separating it from the turquoise sea. Inside is a sea facing king size bed; behind the glass wall backing the bed is a large oval bathtub and separate rain shower. At night silk Yukata, casual Kimono bathrobes are draped over the bed. All meals and beverages are inclusive and are served in the dining pavilion with an unrestricted fully stocked bar on the counter with ice and mixers in the refrigerator. Entertainment is in the Theatre Pavilion complete with a 65’’ HD TV and the Ultimate in Surround Sound and Apple TV with an extensive library of complimentary videos. It also has its own private pantry and bar. Perfect destination for couples, a group of friends or family.
Chaweng Noi the smart end of Samui’s most popular beach Chaweng is home to Vana Belle part of the Starwood Luxury Collection. Their Ocean View Pool Suite offers 172 sqm of space which includes a private terrace with a sea view a raised outdoor bathtub and captivating infinity pool that cascades in the direction of the resort’s lush tropical garden. On the deck there is a shaded table and chairs and a pair of sun loungers with an umbrella, while at the shallow end of the pool floating on the water are another pair of sun loungers.
The villa itself has floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors for optimum daylight. The contemporary Thai décor with a sofa and two armchairs is delivered in tranquil cream and brown tones completed by the dramatic sculptured light fixtures and an abstract interpretation of the creatures of the mythical Himavanta Forest, the resort’s inspiration. Entertainment is delivered through the 46-inch LCD television with CD/DVD player, or program a custom soundtrack on the iPod docking station. An intimate place to enjoy freshly made tea of coffee or to sip from the Champagne bar; a personal butler is on hand to care for any needs.
When it’s time to sleep a signature king-size Luxury Collection bed awaits. The 43-square-metre granite-lined bathroom offers dual vanities combined with a rainforest shower enclosed in frosted glass, a large stone bathtub, and a glass door that opens directly onto the terrace.
Sala Samui Resort & Spa
Sala Samui is located on the pristine Chaoeng Mon Beach at the northeast end of the island with 69 stylishly spacious villas and suites of which 53 have their own private swimming pool. The Garden Pool Villas offer in excess of 100 sqm of privacy set in their own walled lush tropical garden. Entry is through a private gateway and once on the other side guests find themselves in their own magical world with an outdoor daybed, a stunning 3m x4m swimming pool and a pair of sun loungers. The sleep is indoors in the air-conditioned bedroom with its own full sized daybed. While the bathroom is outdoors with a free-standing tub and rain shower set in the colourful tropical garden.
This is the epitome of modern understated Thai luxury enhanced by both personal and private service. At the far end of the resort is a pristine 80-metre stretch of white sandy beach, perfect for a romantic getaway.
The southeastern village of Baan Taling Ngam has for the past 20 years been home to the island’s oldest five star resort which for the past four years has been Intercontinental Koh Samui. The new ‘Thai-inspired designs meet colonial-style features’ look offers 79 superbly appointed rooms suites and villas. From the top floor lobby the most striking feature are the hanging birdcage lamps drawing inspiration from the competition singing birds, which are popular with locals in southern Thailand.
Their 67 sqm Premier Ocean View Rooms are located on the top floor. White panelled doors lead out onto the spacious terrace with a day bed and outdoor dining area. From here there are stunning views looking out over the sparkling sapphire waters and sandy white beaches of Taling Ngam Bay. In the bedroom there is a lounge area at the foot of the king-sized bed. The bathroom is behind a glass wall with double vanity units, a stand alone oval bath tub with taps midway, built for sharing and a spacious open rain shower.
A must do here is a sunset cocktail at Air Bar, a Koh Samui attraction in its own right as it directly faces the sunset. The best seats are the three ocean facing sofas.
Soneva Kiri (Koh Kood)
Koh Kood is Thailand as it was years ago: untamed jungle, pristine beaches and fishermen going about their business. This slice of paradise is just one hour from Bangkok by private plane where Soneva Kiri offers barefoot intelligent luxury at its best. No news, no shoes, Thai style. 24 resort Villas and 11 private residences located either on the idyllic beach or sunny slopes in the rainforest, all have stunning infinity pools, impossibly chic furnishings, personal electric buggies and impeccable service courtesy of Mr or Ms. Friday, the resort’s private butlers.
It doesn’t get better than the Beach Front Pool Villa Suite, 403 sqm in total, 268 sqm living space with 135 sqm half moon infinity private pool with direct beach access, a dream spot set on soft, white sand. Sink into one of the shaded cushioned day beds and sun loungers scattered around the private freeform swimming pool and beachside gardens. Bathe and shower by starlight in the outdoor bathroom – a jungle hideaway of elephant ear palms and other lush green drapings. Then slip between the organic cotton sheets on the pillow-topped king-sized bed in the sea-facing luxury master bedroom and float way into a blissful night’s sleep.
Six Senses Yao Noi
Being located on its own small island midway between Phuket and Krabi in Phang Nga Bay gives Six Senses Yao Noi its very own unique sense of privacy and adventure. The natural vegetation and lush landscaping provides privacy between the elevated villas. Sea View villas offer glorious views over Phang Nga Bay, while Mountain View villas face a classic plantation of rubber trees.
Guests arriving at Phuket International head to the Ao Por Grand Marina by car taking 20 minutes and then a 45-minute speedboat ride to the resort. For those arriving at Krabi Airport there is 45-minute car journey to Thalane Pier and then a 20-minute speedboat ride to the resort.
An Ocean Panorama Pool Villa offers a 181-sqm footprint, 88 inside, 75 outdoors with a stunning 180 degree panoramic view looking out over Phang Nga Bay. The accommodation comprises a separate bedroom, a bathroom with outdoor shower and a sitting area with its own wine fridge, Bose hi-fi and iPod dock. Their culinary highlight is at the Dining Room where they serve fine organic European cuisine.