What a difference a few degrees of latitude can make. After travelling down from September monsoon-drenched Chiang Mai the sunny climes of Koh Samui feel like another world and once the sun hits the face, the mountains and jungle feel like a million miles away.
Text by Thomas Jones
It has been many years since I first set foot on Koh Samui as a backpacking long hair and the island has changed a lot. More shops, more roads, more people, even an airport! And of course more and more bourgeoisie five star resorts than ever. At my stage in life, however, this development is not an issue and I must admit to reflecting shades of the bourgeoisie now that I am older and wiser and no longer take joy in beating down the price on a five dollar beach hut to four dollars fifty just to impress my girlfriend. Bring on the five-star I say…and bring it on now, my good man.
How do you make paradise even better? You put a Four Seasons on it. The Four Seasons Koh Samui to be precise, the location where my photographer and I were spending a couple of low-key days of heavy investigative journalism. The entrance to the resort is a very simple affair; a quick turn off the main road on a non-descript headland to a simple bamboo structure that doesn’t give too much away, but once out of the car and ushered into the reception lobby the view was like what Christians must expect when they pass through the Pearly Gates, only with a lot more blue sky and less red tape. From high above the property the estate fills the foreground with trees that stretch to the sea, which in turn flows out to meet the horizon, which is punctuated only by the island of Koh Panghan sitting in the seam. All bathed in as much light and heat as the sun can muster it was seriously impressive and almost enough to make me want to be a believer in the after life.
The Four Seasons Koh Samui didn’t open until February 2007, yet despite coming late to a party where all the flat land was gone, they found their own 1.7 hectares of steep hillside terrain on the northwest tip of the island and transformed it into something exquisite filled with jungle, coconut palms and their own private white sand beach. There are only 73 rooms, 60 villas and 13 two-, three- and four-bedroom Residence Villas, all based on a southern Thai style with thatched roofs and filled with western comfort. It is certainly not overcrowded and everyone gets an ocean view, although only villa and residence users get a pool.
We certainly had both in spades from our private residence. A two-bedroom beauty right above the water’s edge with a huge infinity pool looking out to sea. And just for indulgence sake I even had a private plunge pool outside my room. Days were spent with breakfast in the sala, sun tanning on the deck, lying in the pool and running our butler ragged with requests for more and more toast, fresh juice, cold beer and snacks. He was very talented and anticipatory, and knew just the right amount of ice to add to a glass of whiskey come three o’clock, to turn it into something resembling Irish nectar.
When we did venture forth it was either to the beach, the spa or the hilltop restaurant. Other than that you have it all in-house and no reason to leave. The beach is private access only and has the only communal pool in the resort set back among the coconut trees. This is also home to the open-air Pla Pla restaurant. It means ‘fish’ in Thai and consequently has a heavy emphasis on pescatarian fare. They serve a mean soft-shelled crab with green mango salad, especially tasty when washed down with a couple of icy cold Singha beers. After a fantastic seafood lunch we thought about taking a Hobie Cat out for a spin. It is supposed to be easy, but neither of us had a clue how to sail so we took a couple of kayaks out to the edge of the reef instead and traversed the coves around the headland taking in the coastlines that make Thailand famous. Looking back at the resort from out at sea, the view is every bit as impressive in reverse.
When my photographer found the call of his artistic nature too much to bear and went snap happy in the resort I found my way to the spa for a treatment aptly named Gaia’s Earth, (in keeping with its very tranquil bamboo grove jungle setting), and gave my brain a three-hour respite from all but the most basic involuntary nervous responses. Justifiably chilled out, I realized it was nigh on sunset and my watch said ‘beer o’clock’ at Lan Tania restaurant. Named after the local blue palm tree, Lan Tania is superbly situated at the top of the resort, more than 100 metres above the beach with stellar views out to sea. Heavy on Thai décor with bamboo and thatch structures it has a lounge, indoor dining and a long luxuriant outdoor terrace that gives everyone their own private sunset. Indeed, with a cold glass in hand and my feet up, mine felt very much mine, and mine alone.
Koh Samui has never forgotten its roots, and a trip down to Chaweng Beach to see the backpackers and package tourists at play will confirm this. But, paradise is definitely a better place when filled with the finer things in life and shared with just a small crowd. Four Seasons provides for this in spades and knowing them they will never cease to please.
Four Seasons Koh Samui
Tel: +66 77 243 000