Many years ago, before kids, marriage and responsibility my husband and I – quite adventurously for the time – decided we wanted to go to Thailand. More than that, we wanted to go to an island that was pretty unknown then called Koh Samui. We booked a flight with an airline called Britannia and as this was the early 90’s and there were no direct flights from the UK , we stopped to refuel in Bahrain. I can picture the arrival in to Koh Samui so well even now – we swooped in on a strip of a runway and walked through a hut with a straw roof to collect our bags from the room they called the baggage area.
The next two weeks were, I remember, absolute bliss. Tropical beaches, lovely hotel, nights spent drinking cocktails on the beach listening to The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, sunshine every day and tropical storms that blew away as quickly as they arrived. By the hotel were a few bars and restaurants to wander to every night and we were welcomed by the friendliest, warmest people you can imagine.
We talked about going back for years. We were both convinced the island – having obviously now grown to be tourist hotspot – couldn’t live up to our possibly rose-tinted memories. If we were going to go back it had to be for something – or somewhere – special.
Sat atop a hillside on the northeastern coast of Koh Samui and overlooking a picture perfect cove, this resort (and I use this term loosely as it’s nothing like a ‘resort’) is more than special. Each of the 20 or so luxury villas have been designed by award winning architect Gary Fell of Gfab Architects and are very cleverly built amongst the original rock outcrops and indigenous trees of the hillside – and they all have jaw dropping sea views.
Every villa looked amazing on the website. Infinity pools, private gyms, the talk of comfy slumber areas and extensive living and dining areas. We also loved the sound of ‘the latest in audio and media amenities.’
Ahem, excuse me. This was the undersell of undersells – see excited children later on.
We flew with Asia airlines, our first time with this particular airline and we were pleasantly surprised. Good service, plane was comfortable and as spacious as you’d expect on a short haul economy airline. A special mention though has to go to the safety video. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it – but if there were awards for such things, Air Asia would win for entertainment, comedy and originality!
The airport had changed – there was more than one hut and a ‘street’ of shops and even a proper baggage belt now. But still it was without any of the stress and manic feel of most other airports and it still held the same quaint charm it had all those years ago.
We were met at the airport and led to our bus where the fun started immediately. As we pulled away we were asked if wanted music – of course we did! On went the music and disco lights and up went the volume and all of a sudden – much to the kids delight – we were on a party bus. It was hilarious and surreal at the same time. Shame the villa was only a ten minute journey as the kids were having so much fun.
Coming in to Samujana doesn’t feel anything like driving in to a resort. Villas aren’t packed together fighting for the best view and it’s almost as if you are being given a neck massage as you pull up. Honestly it has, you know, THAT kind of feel.
Villa 22, which if I tell you was originally planned as two villas, will give you an idea of how big it is, was perched just around the first bend. We were immediately welcomed by our beaming villa host X (yes that was his name – when I asked how to spell that he grinned at me and said “with an X, no more”) who took us on a guided tour of the villa and made us the first of many refreshing lime sodas.
Anyone listening to us as we were shown around would have been intrigued immediately. Lots of sharp intakes of breath (the size of out bathroom), oohs and ahhs (our own treatment room), squeals of delight (a full size pool table AND a tennis table) and Wows! (a private cinema room with thousands of films to choose from). The excitement caused by the state of the art gym and huge infinity pool complete with inflatable turtles was infectious.
Honestly, having seen all six bedrooms and nine bathrooms and then settling ourselves in to just two next to each other, we did say this would be much more suited to an extended family gathering rather than just the four of us on a quick family holiday. We would be literally rattling around. But that was ok, we don’t mind a rattle!
It wasn’t long before the kids were diving in the pool and hubby and I were relaxing on the sun beds smiling smugly at our good fortune to have found somewhere so amazingly stunning. From there things just got better and better and more and more relaxed.
With our own private cook available in the villa breakfast was a feast – of many courses. Granola, cereals, fresh fruit, yoghurt, pastries as well as a selection of cooked food from omelettes to french toast, we were totally spoilt for choice. After the first morning we realised not to scarf down everything laid out for us on the table as this was just the start. X and our sweet housekeeper/chef would continue to bring out food. Literally we ate like Kings.
Lunch could be ordered from X too with a wide and varied menu to choose from. The chef can prepare a barbecue or a feast, whatever you want, you could have. We chose to eat out most nights and again X was on hand to recommend restaurants and arrange transport to the local town of Chaweng, or wherever it was we wanted to go. He even took us himself in his own car when he could.
We spent the week in total zen like relaxation. Reading, snoozing and playing in the pool with the kids when they weren’t playing table tennis or watching another movie in the cinema. Music is fed through speakers throughout the villa and you can choose to hook up your own music or listen to what is there. X had a penchant for soft reggae it seemed as often we’d have that playing – which seemed to suit the laid back mood perfectly.
All of the staff we encountered whilst there could not have been friendlier or more accommodating. From the guys watering the grounds to the security men at the gate. We took a walk down to the private beach one day – carrying a bag prepared for us by X with water and towels in – and spent an enjoyable hour or so skimming stones and swinging on the tree swing that’s hung there. The beach wouldn’t win any awards for beauty as it’s very rocky and the sand is more shingle, but it’s not a bad place to while away some time.
We were surprised to see X on our walk back who had kindly come along to carry the bag back and offered us a lift on the back of his moped. Now, don’t tell Nanna, but both children were delighted to jump on the back one at a time and be whizzed (carefully and considerately!) up the short hill to the villa. He even came back and offered hubby and I a lift. We declined as figured we needed the exercise.
If you’re feeling energetic there is a tennis court and Samujana also offer a number of different experiences should you wish to indulge yourself. These include chartering a luxury 43ft catamaran, diving and snorkelling and cooking classes or yoga. Last year saw the launch of Samujana’s Wellbeing experience which offers bespoke wellness and fitness services working with some of the top therapists and experts on the island. A great idea if you want to kickstart a healthy regime or re-boot your body.
We did neither I’m sorry to say. We just relaxed and made the most of it. We explored the island a bit too as wanted to see how much it had changed. And there’s no denying it has. Chaweng is now a town teaming with restaurants, bars, massage parlours, tattoo studios, boutiques and nail bars, to name but a few. Tourists are aplenty and the atmosphere is a mix of hippy student backpackers and family holiday. But go a little deeper and you and still find the charm of old Koh Samui. Simple villages with a couple of places to eat and locals going about their daily business.
We had the most wonderful week at Samujana and will look forward to going back one day. Next time though we’ll take a few people to enjoy the stunning villa with us. In fact, we both said what a fabulous place it would be for a celebration like a ‘big’ birthday, family reunion or a wedding. With a dining table that seated 12 comfortably, huge comfortable sofas aplenty, six bedrooms and nine bathrooms it easily has the room. Even if you have little ones -as long as you were cautious with the stairs and the pool – it would be great as there was plenty of grass area to play on and of course, being Samujana they could even offer a nanny service to help you relax a little more.
Obviously with this kind of luxury comes a larger than life price tag. But if you were sharing the cost with one or even two other families it really is worth every penny (in fact, it’s worth it for a special treat regardless).
Thanks for having us Samujana, it was truly something special.
This song will always say “Koh Samui” to me.