As I go to the baggage claim sala for my suitcase, the clues are already here that I have arrived in paradise. From the quaint train that takes you to the arrival sala and the landscapes gardens complete with water lilies in beautiful ponds it is apparent that this private airport (owned by Bangkok Airways) is the port for an island that is all about looking after you. [callout title=Top Tips from South East Asian Lifestyle Consultant Claire Edwards] Fashion Siddharta in Hua Thanon has cool jewellery, bags and reasonable clothes Chandra in Chaweng has cool stuff
Fun Things To Do Zip-lining in the hills in the centre of Samui. 100 Degrees East will organise a fabulous trip to An Thong National Park.
Wellbeing Kamalaya Spa is brilliant Whole-food cafe Sweet Sister (Baan Bang Kao Road, Koh Samui).[/callout]
Thailand has something for everyone, from the bustling city of Bangkok to full moon parties on Koh Phangan, the jungle of Chiang Mai to the beaches of Phuket. But Koh Samui, despite its past reputation, is the perfect getaway for anyone who wants to focus on themselves – body and soul.
This wellbeing island offers stylish escapes at any level of luxury that will pamper your body and your soul. It is all about relaxation, returning to nature and coming back the best you, you can be. From the stunning Na Muang waterfalls to beautiful natural day spas such as Tamarind Springs this is an island to commune with nature.
Ang Thong National marine park is a boat ride away and is a stunning collection of 42 islands with desert beaches, tropical rain forests and beautiful coral reefs teeming with sea life.
If you do want trendy bars, nightclubs and a bustling night market, Chaweng is where it all goes on. Despite being so developed, the beach has maintained the beauty that made it so popular in the first place. The Library offers sophisticated cocktails and dining while The Akyra hotel, at the north of the bay, has a contemporary feel and their beach front bar is the perfect place to chill out. If you want to eat fabulous international food while enjoying amazing cocktails, try relatively new The Larder.
The island provides a plethora of accommodation of every type from hostels, huts and homestays to exclusive villas and luxury five-star resorts.
Best for foodies
Luxury boutique resort Akaryn may be compact in size but that doesn’t mean that the gourmet traveller has to look outside the resort for gastronomic experiences – from traditional Thai cuisine to sophisticated international dining. If you are a refined gourmand then Ochos is the place for you. Under the watchful eye of chef Christoph Lindner, Ochos has sourced the finest ingredients including Wagyu Striploin, Ginger Mustard, Lobster Sashimi, prime rib, saltbush lamb, Chateau Haut-Brione and Chateau Clinet.
If casual but authentic Italian dining is more your thing, the beachfront pizza restaurant is fabulous. Pizzas are freshly made by hand and acrobatic skill by Venice native chef Andrea Brunello, who built the pizza oven himself brick by brick. There is nothing like sitting back, watching the waves roll in while eating a chewy hand-pulled pizza and drinking a nice glass on wine. I had the Ferrari with parma ham, black truffle paste and porcini mushrooms and it was out of this world!
If you are here for the Thai food, The Legend restaurant is fabulous but why not take a cooking class with Akaryn’s executive Thai chef Mas Suksrikeaw and be able to recreate these Siamese delights to impress friends when you return home? Mas is friendly and offers a guiding hand, teaching you not only how to cook the dishes but educating you on the unusual ingredients and training you in chef techniques as well. He also revealed the best type of commercial pastes on the market to buy internationally so I can cook these for years to come. The end result was phenomenal! Not only did my dishes taste like they had come out of the kitchen of a top restaurant but they looked like it as well (yes that is my handy work left!). When I get around to doing these dishes now that I am back home, my friends are sure to be impressed.
After all that food, my body was feeling a little lethargic so I decided to book a personal yoga session, after all this island is known for its wellbeing. Personal trainer Sean Carey is a specialist in both yoga and pilates so you can be sure that he is going to push you to the limits in the most calming way possible. He came to my room which meant privacy as well as only having to dress two minutes before he got there. From Sun salutations through to pushing me in to the weirdest positions, it wasn’t just my muscles that got a workout but my ligaments, joints and tendons too which was not a bad thing. Best of all I could jump into my own plunge pool straight after! Akaryn also has a wonderful spa and provides a fabulous beach service with sunbed supervisors reminding you when to turn over to ensure you don’t get burnt, and a beautiful coral reef just a short swim away.
Best for girly trips and families
Set in expansive unspoiled gardens, Napasai is a sanctuary of refined calm that is perfect for a girly trip or somewhere to take the family. The traditional wooden villas scattered around the resort are well-appointed and provide the perfect home away from home with the space and luxury that you expect. From beds with views over the bay to giant stone tubs in the bathroom, to your own private garden with outdoor bed, it is a place to gather, unwind and have more than a little fun.
Sun lovers have the choice of a huge infinity pool and a private white sandy beach with beach loungers and beds, making it the perfect place to swim, relax and get a tan to make everyone back home jealous! Every hour an attendant comes around to ensure that you have everything you need and offer a refreshing treat – from cold towels to ice-cream. There is even a dedicated children’s pool for the smaller ones. The pool bar is a chic setting for a fabulous afternoon tea with delectable delights tempting even the strongest willed amongst you as well as being the perfect place to start cocktail hour.
For those who are recharging themselves body and soul, pilates or yoga in the gardens is the perfect way to start the day, with Sean (yes the same Sean from Akaryn!) making sure all participants get the most out of session whether it is a one-to-one lesson or a group class.
Napasai Spa can ensure that all knots from the long flight are worked out of your body as well as getting it looking its very best. I chose the Ancient Royal Treat spa ritual which was 180 minutes of bliss. Starting with a sacred flower body scrub that left my skin silky smooth and moisturised before a traditional Thai royal massage with herbal compress balls that saw me drift off, dreaming I was, well back at their beach actually! As the sun sets, the Beach Restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy a meal with tables set on the sand. Informal and relaxed you can enjoy Thai favourites or a beach BBQ but resort manager Iolanda introduced me to the delights of the table grill hot-pot where you BBQ fine cuts of meat and fish on hot charcoal at your table while vegetable simmer in the stock around the edge making it a great fun meal for a group of friends or slightly older kids who like to get involved. Teamed with beautiful wines suggested by the sommelier, the evening whizzed by.
Best for couples
Arriving at the Four Seasons is deceptive. There appears to be just one building at the end of the drive. Going through the double wooden doors to the reception reveals a stunning view down over a spectacular valley and coconut grove dotted with villas. The lush expanse beckons like a lost paradise that I hardly notice the welcome drink I’m offered while waiting for the golf buggy to take me to my villa. But this is just the start! My villa, tucked away amongst the swaying coconut trees and abundant greenery, is fabulous with every room, including the dressing room, looking out over my private pool and the pristine white sands of the beach below. Even better is that the villa is totally private. Despite having villas next door, they have been so well designed that no one looks over the other.
The beach is beautiful with soft white sand, big beds and loungers. Sun screen of different strengths and after sun is available in case you left yours in your room as is shampoo and conditioner at the outdoor showers. Attendants bring frozen mango and ice lollies made by the resort’s chef to keep you cool while you relax.
The Four Seasons spa offers further relaxation. Walking along the wooden walkways to the individual spa salas tucked away in the cool coconut grove and rainforest whisks you away from the heat of the day where you can enjoy a relaxing couples treatment together. The Divine Night Ritual will not only bring you closer together but unwind you for a wonderful night’s sleep.
For a romantic evening, book the Castaway dinner in the Four Seasons private cove. Sitting on the sands, tiki lights twinkling and watching the waves gently caress the foreshore while enjoying freshly barbecued seafood is as enchanting as it is delicious. If you are planning something special you can have a private dinner on the beach where it is guaranteed to be just you. Accompanying the food is traditional Thai music played on a Lim and the end of your evening is marked by floating lanterns being released into the night sky.
Leaving Koh Samui, it is once again the airport that reminds me just how special this place is with its private island charm as well as the complimentary food, drink and wifi in the departure lounge. I know I am bidding farewell to a place and people who really care about making you feel special and more than that, I know I’ll be back.