Unlike most airports, landing in Koh Samui is an experience in itself. Flying high above the clouds, you slowly descend through the mist, catching glimpses of green mountains ringed by rocky shores and sandy beaches. As you spy the odd fishing boat and sailing yacht, you pass low over a patchwork of houses and pool villas, before finally coming to a stop – but the fun doesn’t end there. After walking down a movable staircase, you board what must be the cutest airport ‘buses’ in existence. A fleet of colourful trolley cars transport you to an open-air terminal that welcomes you to the tropics: huge tree trunk-shaped pillars hold up a vast wooden roof, as you casually walk through immigration and baggage claim.
It may all seem rather nonchalant, but this relaxed sense of arrival is part of the reason that Samui is rapidly becoming the boutique island of choice in Southeast Asia – as soon as you land, you feel warmly welcomed. Of course, there are other factors at play as well: an emerging upmarket dining scene, chic cocktail bars, amazing diving and snorkelling, and – perhaps most importantly – a raft of luxury hotels to cater to visitors’ every need, including the likes of the Four Seasons, InterContinental, Samujana, W and Vana Belle.
Opened a decade ago, the Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui, to give it its proper name, occupies a small headland on the northwest corner of the island. Designed by iconic Bangkok-based hotel designer Bill Bensley, the all-pool villa property has taken the idea of a traditional Thai village – thatched roofs, plentiful vegetation, use of indoor-outdoor areas – and given it an ultra-luxe twist. Interestingly, the resort was built on the site of a former coconut plantation (Samui is said to grow the best coconuts in Thailand), with more than 800 of the trees being retained after construction. I was once fortunate to stay here on a ‘babymoon’ with my pregnant wife, and the two night stay has remained long in the mind.
© This article was first published in Aug-Sept 2017 edition of World Travel Magazine.