The mention of Thailand as a holiday destination typically conjures images of party-fuelled, gap-year-student-filled, booze-addled islands, where the local culture is shunned in exchange for debauchery and hedonism. So, having never been to Thailand before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
But, cast your mind away from full-moon neon paint, towards inner peace and absolute luxury – because that’s what I was met with when I arrived at Koh Samui resort, Samujana.
Following a 12-hour flight from London Heathrow to Bangkok, and a 45-minute connection to the island of Koh Samui, I arrived feeling jet lagged, clammy and… well let’s just say not at my most glamorous. But the wow factor hit us as soon as we arrived – and all feelings of travel exhaustion and turbulence instantly evaporated.
Like a stock image of luxury, expansive infinity pools, enormous outdoor spaces, perfectly manicured lawns and large, Grecian urns placed amongst clean, modernist architecture welcome you at Samujana, along with a breathtaking panoramic view across the island at every turn.
The resort comprises 27 villas offering a bespoke experience: a villa-cum-hotel hybrid that hopes to offer the privacy and space of a villa with the service and attention to detail of a hotel. The properties vary in size from those accommodating loved-up honeymooners, to others that can embrace an entire party of guests (the latter, recommended, as you’ll get more bang for your buck – with prices starting from £630 per villa per night for a 3 bedroom villa, luxury comes at a cost).
Keeping it personal
Samujana’s USP is its service personalisation. In keeping with Thailand’s nickname of ‘The Land of Smiles,’ the service at Samujana is a relaxed Thai hospitality that perfectly straddles the line between hands-on and over the top.
In Villa 28, we were hosted by the amenable Joy, who helped us with everything from emergency after sun (don’t let the clouds fool you), to photographing our morning yoga session (although some of us have not quite forgiven her for capturing us in downward-facing dog). At the end of our stay, saying goodbye to Joy was almost as difficult as saying goodbye to the Thai environs.
However, if you’re seeking a holiday that you and your friends can enjoy unaccompanied, Samujana might not be for you. Although the service is noticeably unobtrusive, there is always a niggling awareness that you’re not alone in the property – which can take some getting used to, especially if you’re seeking a home away from home.
The Taste of Thailand
While staying at Smaujana, guests have a choice of self-catering or – if you’re after that added bit of luxury – you can rent your own in-house chef for your stay, who will prepare your meals each day at times of your choosing (£76/day for a group of 10). It’s the perfect antidote to stringent hotel breakfast times, which always seem deeply unappealing the morning after a night out.
The villa’s extensive menus include options from classic European dishes to American food, but the local cuisine prepared in-house is unmissable. The combinations of flavours created from the freshest ingredients from fruity flavours to sharp spices and milky sauces is the real taste of Thailand. Personally, I’d go back just to get another taste of the tom yum soup.
On the Waterfront
If you can tear yourself away from the capacious, sharp-edged environs of your villa, the Samujana team can organise a range of activities across Samui. We chartered the 43ft catamaran, Kindred Spirit, for a relaxed day on the water. But you can also rent a smaller boat and visit the popular Chaweng and Choeng Mon beaches, or go snorkelling.
Alternatively, villa staff can organise a selection of island tours in a mini bus, during which you can visit the 12-metre tall gold Big Buddha and the prehistoric Hin Ta and Hin Yai - Grandfather and Grandmother rocks – which bear resemblance to male and female genitalia (although locating Grandmother Rock without guidance can lead to some rather hilarious misinterpretations). In the evenings, we headed down to the nearby Fisherman’s Village to pick up souvenirs and enjoy local favourite beer, Singha.
If relaxation is your thing, Samujana is the place for you. Without even having to leave the villa, you can tailor yourself an entire wellbeing experience. The yoga and Muay Thai kickboxing classes (though not cheap, at £25 and £38 respectively) are conducted from the comfort of your villa, overlooking the scenic views, and beauty treatments range from the relaxing to the muscle melting, with massages using local oils and performed by skilled therapists who can target your every pain, while you lie in your own bed.
Warning: the massages are somewhat different from our softly, softly British approach, be prepared for losing your prudishness and being walked all over.
Samujana is built for sun. The properties are designed with an indoors-outdoors feel, where flooring and decor merge seamlessly across thresholds. This, while stylish (and endlessly Instagrammable), means that much of the enjoyment is thwarted when rain comes. Although the rainy season still promises moments of sunshine, your best bet is erring on the side of caution and going during the dry months; either during the cooler Nov-Feb season, or the hot season in March-May.
Unsurprisingly, staying at Samujana can end up being an expensive experience – but you can certainly make it less so if you opt out of the services, and the cost of living on the island is very cheap.
For more details go to: samujana.com