Every day brings excitement for the perennial luxury traveller but there was such a feast of goodies at Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui, Thailand, that you could honestly be mentally, and emotionally, exhausted.
Opened February 2007, this is a vertical hotel, with even more stress on the straight-up-and-down than at, say, Four Seasons or Maia, both in the Seychelles. Here in Koh Samui, the entrance to the resort is 110 metres above sea level, but that measurement is a mere 650 metres, in a straight horizontal line, to the water. Think of it another way: the slope is more gruelling than walking on a Technogym jogging machine set at 15 degrees to vertical. Each of the 60 villas are built on stilts, some incredibly high, and designers Bill Bensley and Jirachai Rengthong left the original 850 coconut palms, so, as at Villa 707, they come up through the wood-tiled roof.
Every villa is built with a mirror image in semi-detached style, and is at least 130 square metres, plus a 26-square-metre pool and a big deck. Inside Villa 707, my ceiling soared up, cathedral style. I could spend a week there, no problem, perhaps learning how to make the DIY Daiquiri that was part of my welcome. Others head on one of the 60 buggies down to the beautiful beach that was part of the reason the resort’s owner, Bill Heinecke – the US-born Thai citizen who owns the burgeoning Minor Hotel Group empire, that includes Anantara Hotels and Resorts – bought this idyllic Koh Samui spot at the northwest tip of the island back in 2000. Today there is a brand-new 60-metre pool down there on the beach and a CoCoRum bar with six tall-backed double chairs. There are also six airy cabanas and nearby is a single-plank table, cantilevered over the ocean, that can seat up to 20 for dinner.
The hyper-creative GM, Jeff Rednour, was all set for a basketball career back in his childhood home in Las Vegas, and he is always coming up with ideas here. There are so many dining opportunities with paella nights, steak nights, romantic tables on the beach or in the 3000-bottle wine cellar. The food is fabulous, including still-smoking just-smoked salmon, with a smoked yoghurt ice-cream. Yes, really, and it was heavenly, almost eulogistic. In the morning I walked up – an Iron Man hike – to the 24/7 Citterio-for-Technogym for an extra work out to make up for that dessert. The sun was coming up as I finished – magical. Yet again eschewing a buggy, after a swim I hiked back up again for breakfast (oh the view! looking far down at the ocean) and as luck would have it met the pastry chef, a Michigan lad, Dustin Baxter, who had actually created the dessert. Want the secret? Pipe smoke into yoghurt for ages, remove said pipe and make into ice-cream.
And while still on food, lunch was memorable too. I went for DIY room service: Moo Kra Ta Thai Barbecue. Precisely 90 minutes, as stated, after ordering I was brought a low, round wood tub, like the sawn-off end of a barrel. Inside this an iron liner held hot coals. On this was placed a metal lid with a concave outer rim. Into the rim chicken broth was poured, in which I cooked my vegetables. Using a stick of lemongrass, the central dome of the lid was brushed with olive oil to make it non-stick. On this I cooked sesame-dusted free-range chicken breast strips, which of course kept on falling into the broth. SUPERB result! I really did not need the two starters – green papaya and beef salads – or the spicy dipping sauces, or the final platter of mango and pomelo. All this should have warranted a return to the hotel’s Jungle Spa (after spa reception, it is then a total of 93 steps up or down through undergrowth that has become 100% lush since the hotel’s opening 10 years ago this very month). But as so often happens, sadly, in my global tour of luxury hotels, it was time to move on.
Mary Gostelow travels over 300 days a year, doing one-night stands in top hotels around the world. Read her daily travelogue, www.girlahead.com