TESTING THE WATERS IN SAMUI
Koh Samui continues weaving its island magic on vacationers with ever-increasing options to sleep, relax and dine. Fully experiencing a resort getaway requires sampling as much of the holiday offerings from meals in award-winning restaurants to spa treatments. We’ve done the research to lessen your guesswork on blissful accommodations, scenic dining and luxuriating spa treatments.
Relaxation begins upon arrival at Koh Samui International Airport and continues twenty minutes later at the Le Meridien Koh Samui Resort and Spa. Unique in its architecture and intimate in its setting, the hotel design is an homage to Chinese craftmanship with traditional Thai aesthetics that feels like the inviting home of a wealthy merchant. Fourteen villas and sixty three suites spread out surrounded by fragrant trees and verdant tall plants lining the walkways to the rooms, affording intimacy and privacy.
With a continuing nod to feng shui, one night ritual is their 1919 tradition. At the designated time of 7.19pm, guests gather around a wading pool to welcome the night by releasing a krathong – small floats shaped like a lotus – and make a wish, truly a moment to unwind and watch the twinkling lights. And if that doesn’t calm you enough to retire for the night, a free shuttle awaits guests wanting to check out a little more action on Chaweng Beach.
For another version of a magical night – there is the Ocean Pier, a 120-metre platform gently bobbing on the water with views of fishing boats on the Gulf of Thailand. On serene mornings you can feed the fishes or practise yoga poses – but a sundowner marks the best way to end the day. A Starlight dinner is available, a private dining setup where a curtain of lights gives you privacy from the rest of the world.
Additional relaxation also comes with the hotel’s spa that evokes a cave, with muted colours and dramatic arches leading to zen massage rooms and walls cascading with water. Jacuzzi baths face waterfalls as natural birdsong lend to the atmosphere. Other pursuits at the hotel include cooking classes and learning to make Thai food in Samui is a treat with fresh ingredients, and hands-on instructions from the hotel chef in making classics like Green Curry Chicken, or Tom Yum Gung.
TRIED: TAMARIND SPRINGS
In many ways it takes to bliss out in Samui, doing a spa retreat should be high on the list. When it comes time to further soothe the body and soul, a place like Tamarind Springs Forest Spa achieves it upon first glance of the verdant property and rock formations.
Formerly a jungle, the now pristine and lush environment transforms you to a different realm of calmness. It’s a literal climb to spa nirvana, with massage pavilions spread out at different levels of a tranquil environment lush with trees and flowers and the jewel in the crown – an herbal steam cave.
But as Kanjapha Kitijapirak, the managing director points out – just looking at all that greenery and hearing the birds are already part of the relaxation process. The cares of the world go away as soon as guests tie on the sarong provided by the day spa. There’s reassurance that their massage therapies and wellness treatments balance the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. There should be no pain, no strong pressure that brings on a feeling of discomfort, she stresses. While massage treatments are based on established principles, certain techniques are structured to address whatever ails a modern lifestyle.
The pathway to all treatments requires a meandering climb pass big stone boulders appearing like little hideaways. The steam cave sits next to a cold dipping pool so guests can alternately sit indoors in the heat, in the engaging outdoors for a therapeutic cold splash in the dipping pool. On hand are scrubs made from ingredients liked crushed sesame, oranges and coffee grinds, all artfully presented. Specialised snacks await guests at the conclusion of the treatments or during contemplative moments. The on-site restaurant has a menu of nourishing meals carefully curated with close attention to the healthful benefits of foods. Aptly described as a “sparadise,” the total package offers the ultimate in how you can feel once serenity is obtained.