Discover Thailand’s laid-back island life at Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui. Here, you can spend your days exploring pristine sandy beaches bordered by tropical greenery and calm blue seas, lounging by the infinity pool with a cool drink, or relaxing on your private deck overlooking the idyllic Gulf of Siam.
I have fantasies of checking out in a tiny shack on one of Thailand’s rural islands. Something small, but charming. Nothing elaborate. I want comfort and class, but not too vast that I have to walk a mile to the bog. The city is hot, stifling and noisy, but the islands offer something other-worldly as if they’re not part of Thailand at all. Do you get the picture? What Joseph Conrad wrote about.
So it was that I left Bangkok and landed one hour later at Samui Airport, and into a place far removed from the traffic-chocked absurdity of the big city. The little strip of cement bubbled in the tropical heat, an undulating ripple of canned heat. Ah, cool weather and fresh air. That’s the thing with these islands, they’re suspended in a daydream, a sunny, spectral place that bobs over the computer screen and shimmers in the exhaust fumes of rush hour. I’m filled with a sort of giddy happiness, a silent chuckle, laughing at all of those morons back in Bangkok; office-bound, stuck in traffic, sweating profusely on the BTS.
The islands of Thailand exist only on shiny paper and in winter brochures, yet here I am, mingling in arrivals with a reverie of prickly sunburnt shoulders, salty lips and the exotic feel of a sandal strap between my toes.
This is Koh Samui, an area of three-course breakfasts, luxury spas and slippery somnambulant siesta sex; a special island lapped by the imaginations of proto-brides, honeymoon-hangouts and housewives deep in holiday reading—tales of Mr Grey for tonight’s inspiration.
Perhaps the most impressive place of all though on this forest-tinged paradise, is somewhere out of view from nosey tourists, hidden deep within island forestry: the quite wonderful Four Season Koh Samui, a series of 22 villas dotted across the verdant hillside, facing out towards the Gulf of Thailand.
I arrive to the usual highfalutin international fanfare of a welcome drink and a cold flannel, meant to wipe away any remaining European pong. The entrance, the resort design, and the entire architecture of this hidden retreat is breathtaking; one of Bill Bensley’s many international achievements a designer famed for his tropical jungle flora and fauna-designed retreats. The prolific Bangkok-based hotel designer is responsible for over 200 international properties, with this Samui example surely one of his most accomplished and impressive.
I’m taken by personal golf buggy directly to my One Bedroom Pool Villa, overlooking the ocean. The villas offer 60 sq. m of high-ceilinged indoor space with a spacious 43 sq. m outdoor hardwood decking. Not forgetting the thoroughly enticing 15 sq. m private infinity pool with decorative fountain. Inside the villa, there’s a bed big enough for five and all of the mod-cons you’d expect—flatscreen TV, super-fast WIFI, cotton robes, a basket of fruit, fully-stocked mini bar (bottles of Tattinger and all)—and a waterfall shower and oyster-shell bathtub, that both urge you to stay Villa-bound. But I have dinner booked.
At the resort’s signature restaurant, Koh Thai Kitchen, I’m lucky enough to dine with local press and international guests for a special pop-up by Chef Thitid ‘Ton’ Tassanakajohn from LeDu in Bangkok. It’s a carefully curated menu of authentically Thai recipes, chosen to advertise LeDu’s repertoire but without steering too far from the main Four Seasons’ restaurant, which thrives in traditional staples such as Yam Mamuang (green mango with peanuts), Pla Kapong Neung Manao (steamed sea bass with spicy lime) and Poo Phad Pong Karee (wok-fried crab with curry powder). Returning in the morning, it’s unrecognisable, the restaurant turning into a colourful cornucopia of fresh fruits, pastries, cold meats and made-to-order-omelettes. I indulge, fully and without apology—everything is exceptional.
The Concierge recommend I take to the water—snorkelling, diving, kayaking—but the call of my private villa is too much, and I return for some blissful napping—it’s no surprise that Four Seasons have a Pillow Menu, many resorts do nowadays, but a Mattress Menu too, oh my!—followed by a cooling dip in my pool. There’s nothing better than doing nothing. The lure of outside in this sun-soaked paradise gets the better of me though, and I descend down to the private beach for lunch at Noche Latina—Peruvian Ceviche, Prawn Causa, Wagyu Anticucho, Rice Pudding—and from recall, at least four heavily, rum-based cocktails.
The resort also offers what they call “Spiritual Journeys” including full body massages and mind conditioning yoga classes in their Yoga Pavilion. For those wanting a more hands-on culinary approach, cooking classes are also available, with three-hour sessions on a terrace overlooking the ocean. I shake off any holiday laziness with a complimentary Muay Thai class in a competitive ring setting deep within the jungle, allowing for a fresh air coolness not possible in the open-air sweatbox of high-season Samui. Post-lunch, however, and this strenuous activity turns out to be a foolish undertaking, my heart pumping and working over-time—kicking, punching, but mostly retreating in self-defence.
I return to the Concierge to inquire about plans the following day. The resort offers a wealth of tailor-made activities, including an excellent sounding, cultural outing called “Buddha’s Delight” during which guests are taken around the island, venturing to Wat Phra Yai—home to the golden three-story Big Buddha—and two other temples, Wat Plai Laem and Wat Khunaram. There are also “Off the Beaten Path” expeditions and scuba diving, witnessing the many beautiful coral gardens of the Gulf. I decide to take out a paddle board for a few hours and navigate my way around the bay, seeing the island and resort from an entirely different perspective.
While most of my stay is filled with snoozing, occasionally punctuated by culinary indulgences, I also visit CoCoRum Vault, located on the resort beach and Asia’s first and only library of rums from across the world. Famed rums are housed here, part of a rum member’s club, but there is also the opportunity to join a rum class and tasting—which, of course, I do. “El Presidente” is Coco’s signature, made from Diplomatico Mantuano Rum, Mancino Vermouth Rosso, Joseph Cartron Curacao Triple Sec and Hibiscus Grenadine. It’s a punchy number and I am delighted to find later, that a complimentary bottle is in my room, which, as I’m sure you’ll understand, I drink all by myself, around midnight, floating in my private pool.
This is a resort of significant rank, a challenge to all other resorts—of which there are many on Koh Samui—and a throw down of the gauntlet: “catch us if you can”. Peaceful and concealed, it manages to exist on Thailand’s second biggest island, tucked away, wrapped in elegance. It’s not fashionable or over-swank, but understated, with all the emphasis directed towards the guest experience; staff knowing when to approach and when to leave you alone, when to fill your coffee cup, and when to offer a second rum… or a third… or a tenth.
It’s about wellness and relaxation here, where doing nothing is the order of the day. But if that’s not your thing, then they cater for that too. How about getting beaten and bruised by a Muay Thai ninja warrior who grins as he kicks your ribs in, or taking to the saddle of the most advanced human-powered watercraft there is, and skimming the waves on a water bike?
Four Seasons Koh Samui is it. It is for me. Privacy with efficient service, a truly first-rate offering. A slice of the good life, away from the city, away from the crowds—comfort in the trees, with a striking view, whichever way you turn.
David was a guest of the Four Seasons Koh Samui.