The archipelago of southern Thailand is a tourist trap and Koh Samui, the third largest island, has been growing rapidly in popularity, attracting foreigners with its pristine beaches and laid back culture.
Initially, as we drove past Chaweng Beach, I wondered where the brochure shots came from… how could the busy strip of tacky shops and vendors be the idyllic paradise to which visitors trekked? I could not imagine the oasis at the other end of the island.
But drive a little further and you reach Banyan Tree Samui, a breathtaking, awe-inspiring property with villas perched on the green hillside. They surround a quiet secluded bay, used exclusively by the hotel guests.
The experience begins at reception where smiling staff welcome you to the view, I felt dizzy looking out… this is the postcard landscape that you will never get used to at Banyan Tree Samui. Cooling coconut water and a flower garland followed then it was all aboard the buggy with a personal butler ‘Summer’, and off to our hill crest villa. The hill grew steeper and steeper until we reached a grand wooden door. More steps led to a three room luxury villa. This elevated structure reflects traditional Thai architecture, spacious with a high ceiling and floor to ceiling windows offering views out over the Gulf of Thailand. Summer chatted away about the immaculate detailing of the facilities, I zoned out as I gawped at the view and wondered, who can I FaceTime first?
The stylish rooms show continuity with dark wood panelling, beige and brown furnishings with a touch of warmth from the burnt orange detailing. Despite the size and space the rooms feel cosy and homely. The huge white bed looks out to the incredible infinity pool which can be accessed from anywhere in your villa, and it is tempting to spend an hour struggling to take ‘selfies’ of yourself from every angle in the pool, my iPhone very nearly drowned.
Through to the bathroom and a giant indulgent bath tub looks ready to relax even the sternest of guests, black granite covers the surfaces. A glass-enclosed power-shower is also provided should you need it. Branded patterned bathrobes and wash bags are yours for the stay or available to buy to take home. We were lucky enough to see the sunrise, a spectacular vision at 6.15 in the morning.
There are numerous ways to occupy yourself whilst staying at Banyan Tree. We took part in coral replantation on the beach, which was both educational and fun, testament to the conservation work the staff do. The spa is renowned throughout Thailand boasting unrivalled facilities and expert staff; with hydrotherapy pools and a rainforest complex, there is a wealth of treatments to try. I can personally vouch for the Rainforest indulgence, a three hour experience which involves a hydro and Thermo circuit followed by a balancing massage. It is a sensory experience not to be missed.
The hotel has three exemplary restaurants: the Edge for breakfast, Saffron for traditional Thai and Sands for casual beachside cuisine. We enjoyed an atmospheric dinner at Saffron, which showcases the finest Thai flavours and cooking techniques. The meal begins with a ritualistic hand cleanse and a flower behind the ear! The food was faultless: sticky sweet pork ribs with honey was a highlight, tender juicy meat with a crisp caramelised edge coated in sweet marinade. Red curry was great too, and it was fun choosing between the four rice varieties that accompany the dish. Sticky rice, mango and coconut ice-cream was made to perfection here also.
Sitting at the highest point of the resort listening to the lyrical local music and gorging on the divine delicacies was unforgettable. I commend Banyan Tree on their beautiful establishment.
More information and book to stay at Banyan Tree Samui here: www.banyantree.com/en/samui/