We all have our idea of what makes a place special for those much-needed holidays. For some it might be returning to a favourite river, peaceful valley or rustic hinterland cabin to hibernate; for others, it’s the excitement of skiing down the slopes or climbing a mountain that gets the juices flowing. For me, it’s the lure of a tropical island. I love nothing more than the relaxed pace and the opportunity to slow down and recharge the batteries while wishing life was always this peaceful and comfortable.
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My special place is Koh Samui, a small island just a one-hour flight from Bangkok in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s a place of incredible natural beauty where emerald-green mountains meet palm-fringed, white-sand beaches lapped by the warm turquoise waters of the Gulf — the epitome of the perfect tropical island holiday.
There’s no shortage of great hotels here, and we have stayed in our fair share, but on our latest visit we opted to stay far from the touristy side of the island. Instead, we made our way to the west coast, for three nights at the InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam.
Most of the party action on Samui happens at Chaweng, close to the airport, but take a 45-minute drive west to Taling Ngam and you’ll discover a completely different world of nature’s bounty. Navigating the winding driveway to the resort, we are treated to a view of the verdant jungle with coconut trees as far as the eye can see. But it’s arriving at the lobby that delivers our first (but not last!) jaw-dropping view of endless aqua, blue and green stretching to the horizon.
Looking down, the resort reveals itself layer by layer — from restaurants, bars and pools to the beachside villas, and in front of them, a jetty that reaches into the blue beyond like a giant octopus tentacle. We spy the resort’s speedboat anchored nearby; a sleek number that can whisk guests away to a marine park adventure or a romantic picnic on a deserted beach. It’s also on standby for airport transfers to the hotel — so 007!
This resort is ideal for couples wanting a romantic break or honeymoon in a secluded, luxurious and Insta-worthy destination. Photo opportunities abound, from the mesmerising aqua waters of the Gulf, where ferries chug their way to and from the mainland, to the wide-lens view of the famous Five Islands and Ang Thong National Marine Park. And then, of course, the resort itself is incredible — it wasn’t listed in the best-selling book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die for nothing!
Luxury accommodation options include spacious and beautifully decorated rooms, suites and villas, some beachfront and others nestled into the cliff or spread over the 22-acre site. And with seven swimming pools scattered around the property, you’re never far from a cooling dip. We suggest booking the Club InterContinental option if you want all the fab perks of Club rooms, including a personal butler, complimentary afternoon tea, and canapés with pre-dinner drinks, served while you watch the setting sun wash the sky from blue to pink to orange from the perfectly-positioned Lobby Lounge.
Our Beachfront Villa, with a combined bed and lounge room plus a bathroom with freestanding spa bath, indoor and outdoor showers and loads of hanging space, is divine. It’s as big as our two-bedroom city apartment but comes with a bonus we could only dream of — a pool and cabana overlooking the ocean. I quickly realise three days here could never be enough! After a splash in our private pool and an indulgent spa bath, we feel blissfully converted to island time. So, as the sun starts its descent, we make our way back to the elegant Lobby Lounge for a glass of wine and that magical sunset.
The next morning we join a walking tour to learn about village life and visit the local temple. After a blessing for happiness from the temple monk, we step inside and stand gobsmacked by its colourful beauty. Every wall has been hand-painted by a young local artist to depict the life and death of Buddha. It’s such a touching sight, just being here makes me feel doubly blessed.
Resort activities including Thai cooking and tea or cocktail-making classes let you try your hand at something new while active couples will love Thai boxing, Yoga and Pilates classes plus the fully-equipped gym and Water Sports Centre. There’s plenty on offer to keep you fit and healthy if you have the inclination and energy… I’m not sure our ten-minute gym workout before mandatory sunset drinks and canapés followed by pizza at Flames Beach Bar counts as staying active!
You might think being far from the ‘action’ limits your dining and drinking choices. Not a chance. One night we dine like gourmands with a Thai Set Dinner at Amber Restaurant, working our way through seven courses including grilled Phuket lobster and red curry duck, plus two desserts. Their menu includes contemporary Thai, European and Asian fine dining and for breakfast (also served here), you’ll never eat the same thing twice thanks to an impressive variety of dishes.
The Air Bar serves up signature cocktails and tapas along with an incredible view, while beachfront bar/restaurant Flames offers all-day casual dining from 11am and their signature experience — live charcoal grill with unlimited seafood and meats — in the evening. The beachfront is brought to life with flickering lanterns and torches while the melodic sounds of the resident saxophonist add to the magical ambience, along with the spectacular Fire Show held twice a week.
For a heavenly few hours, we highly recommend a couple’s treatment at Baan Thai Spa by HARNN. Inspired by traditional local architecture, this multi-award winning spa will wow you with the attention to detail in its decor. It’s like being welcomed into a Thai friend’s beautiful home. The couple’s suite enjoys a dramatic position on a cliff edge above the bay and an extensive pampering menu offers something for every traveller. The signature Tropical Samui Passage treatment, which uses coconuts to stimulate the senses and the body, is 180 minutes of sensory delight that will leave you floating.
The InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort is the definition of five-star luxury. So we’re not surprised it wins awards every year, including Asia’s Leading Beach Resort, Asia’s Most Romantic Resort and Thailand’s Leading Resort in the 2018 World Travel Awards. Our love affair with Koh Samui just got more intense!
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