Luxury rarely feels as ingrained in everyday life as it does at W Retreat Samui. Hand-delivered luxury, of course, is the resort’s calling card, the lever lifting its exalted reputation even higher. Opulent fantasies draw guests — year in, year out — to the quiet northcentral shores of the island, where the pink-and-white seductress beckons, suggesting dreams may become real within its elevated tropical grounds.
The most basic spaces are, in fact, villas with 166 square metres in which to roam. Each comes with a private pool. Throughout the day, little gifts are brought to you — fragrant and potent Japanese beers served in a bucket of ice, delicately moulded chocolate truffles and so on. The branded Bliss amenities speckle the white-tiled bathroom — a bathroom that leads to the private pool through a sliding glass door.
Fridges are scattered across the property. Each brims with Häagen-Dazs and soft drinks. DJs spin tracks behind a hanuman mask-shaped booth. Master mixologists prepare designer drinks. Regular events are held on-site, from small in scale to grand. Mondays end with a movie on the beach while Thursdays bring “Mojito Madness,” with its seven different takes on the muddled mint drink. At this sprawling utopia, the beach meets at a tip of the island, a vantage point from which you can catch a firebright sunrise and, later at the same spot, turn your chair around to watch the sun sink into the ocean as it casts a peach glow across the sky.
It’s easy to fall in love with the W brand: funky, chic, and stylish without venturing into pretentiousness, you’re always in for a thrilling experience, whether in Bali, Bangkok, or Barcelona. But this Samui property, representing the brand’s first venture into Asia (it opened in 2010), is truly special.
First of all, its location couldn’t be more ideal. Mae Nam is a luxury traveller’s paradise. Guests arrive at the resort from the airport in the time it takes to eat a sandwich (a really big sandwich, but you get the picture). A regularly-serviced pier is mere minutes away, as is the charming Fisherman’s Village, where a night market fills the streets each Friday. The effervescent Chaweng, home to the island’s raucous nightlife, is close enough to enjoy, but far enough that you won’t hear (or feel) any pumping bass.
Second, the aforementioned sunrise/sunset combination from the W’s beachfront is phenomenal. Beach loungers, shaded by umbrellas, line the shore, offering a comfortable spot to watch the show unfold. This might the best-placed resort on Samui, if not in Thailand.
Lastly, W Retreat has taken on the challenge of competing with some of Samui’s biggest clubs for title of best nightspot on the party-centric island. Hordes of glammed-up holidaymakers and locals flock to the resort’s Woo Bar for happy hours and big events. The parties may end earlier than others, but their popularity can’t be denied. And the fact that people are willing to travel from all over the island — sometimes from all over Thailand — to get there is testament to W Retreat’s top-notch drinks, DJs, and beautiful people.
A perennial favourite perk is the “Whatever, Whenever” service, which, says a check-in clerk with a wry smile, “covers anything, as long as it’s legal.” With the press of a button on the phone (anytime, day or night), food, drinks, massages, and more are served up however you want them. The service embodies W’s playful side, though discreetly. More obvious examples come through in the resort’s wordplay. In lieu of the standard “reserved” signs on restaurant tables, here they read “promised.” Complimentary toothbrushes ask, rhetorically, “Who’s got pearly whites?” (You do, of course). Whether kitsch or cool, the light-hearted phrases represent the brand’s attempt to shake off the shackles of convention.
Subtle efforts to seem different, off-colour, or sultry, as it were, have influenced all aspects of the property, from comfort to cuisine. Dinner at the famed Namu provides a decidedly modern culinary journey. The team of chefs have reframed classic Japanese cuisine, standing with blowtorches and smiles behind a semiseparated kitchen in which diners can watch them prepare delicacies that burst with flavour. Sashimi pizza, topped with caviar, and green tea tiramisu are wellmade riffs on fusion cuisine. Although Japanese-Italian is a familiar mixing of foreign styles and tastes, at Namu the dishes never feel tired or confused, thanks to expert preparation and presentation.
The neighbouring open-air beachfront Sip bar attracts post-dinner crowds. Each cocktail features a special twist, clear inventive touches that unite even the most traditional booze mixers with the resort’s acting principles. Breakfast — served until 11am, for those who spend too much time at Sip or prefer to stay wrapped up like a cocoon in the soft bedsheets — is an elaborate feast. Served at the ocean-facing restaurant, The Kitchen Table, the breakfast features perfectly-poached eggs, herb-infused sausages, platters of smoked salmon, golden pastries, and more. Imported cheese is kept fresh in the fridge, and fresh fruit juices, as well as coffee and tea, round out the daily smorgasbord.
Every moment at W Retreat, holiday dreams take definite shape. Even getting to your room resembles reverie, as an electric buggy whisks you down a paved alley toward the blue horizon and your elaborate digs. The only time the dreams die is at check-out, when the cold, hard reality of leaving enters the frame. After so much time in the resort’s embrace, you become unaccustomed to disappointment.
W Retreat Samui
4/1 Moo 1, Mae Nam, Koh Samui, Surat Thani
0 7791 5999 | wretreatkohsamui.com