Checking in: The Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui
When life gives you a beating, it'd be wise to take some time off for a restorative break and enjoy a little solitude. Travelling somewhere away from the grind can give you a sense of perspective while taking in the luxury of time and space. That was exactly the kind of getaway I was looking for when I touchdown at the Samui airport. Twenty minutes later as I stepped into the lobby of The Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui, I realised it was going to be a relaxing weekend ahead.
Located on the north-eastern part of the island, The Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui is spread out across 58 acres from hilltop to beach. The oceanfront property was built on the site of a former coconut plantation and hence, you'll notice deliberate use of coconut and other natural materials throughout the resort in a homage to the past. And what's an island holiday without swaying coconut trees to imbue a sense of place right?
The 175 exquisite suites and pool villas are peppered across the hillside and beach with stunning views of the ocean and beyond. Each room is designed with local architectural aesthetics but with a contemporary touch in its interior and neutral palette tones. With expansive windows and open veranda, the natural light streaming in through my Terrace Suite immediately drew me in. The panoramic ocean was in full view as I lounged in this private sanctuary that I have the privilege to call my own for the weekend.
As I shook myself out of a daze, I made my way inside to the bathroom where an egg-shaped bathtub sits in the middle flanked by the wardrobe and toilet on one side and the shower and a row of sinks plus mirror for couple on the other. No need to be fighting for space with your significant other when you take a romantic holiday here. That night as I laid my head down for the evening, I was lulled into a deep sleep soaking in the comfort of the bed and the knowledge that my worries can take a back seat for a few days.
There's no shortage of dining options on the resort grounds. For breakfast, you can enjoy the buffet spread at Shook!—yes, it operates based on the same concept at Starhill KL where you get a good selection of Asian and Western dishes. My pick is the noodle station where you get to sample the herby kway teow neua or Thai beef noodle soup, a soothing meal to start your day.
Look forward to lunch at Pak Tai, which offers traditional southern interpretation of Thai cuisine made fresh with the finest ingredients sourced from local markets daily. Southern Thai cuisine is known to be fiery and uses a generous amount of herbs and spice blends. Just relay your chilli tolerance to the server if you're worried about burning your tongue. One dish that got me salivating till today whenever I think about it is the banana blossom and prawn salad—it was unique and simply delicious.
You can also dine by the beach restaurant, Sea Salt, where the relaxed ambience will whet your appetite to savour international classics and Thai favourites. Service at this particular spot may seem lapsed but you'll get to lull yourself with the ocean breeze and focus on the pretty view. Next to the pool, you can unwind to a refreshing cocktail at Tides, in which the bar also serves some pretty good citrus-cured ceviches.
Your gastronomic journey comes full circle on Saturdays when the Baan Talat alfresco area is transformed to offer guests authentic Thai street food experience complete with traditional dance performance and local crafts. This was a highlight of my trip as I was able to enjoy favourites like moo ping (grilled pork), hoy tod (oyster omelette), khao ka moo (pork knuckle rice), khao neeo mamuang (mango sticky rice) and more. Just be warned that you might go a little overboard and try everything more than your tummy space can handle.
To wholly immerse yourself into the local culture, you can also sign up for a visit to the local market to source seasonal produce that you can then use for a culinary cooking class. Besides sunbathing by the beach or attempting the water sports, you can also take up 'The Art of Eight Limbs' aka Muay Thai. The resort has an arena next to the gym for you to learn and hone your agility and speed with real coaches. I had fun at this class where the coaches gave encouraging tips with their sense of wit. One unique activity that you can also try out is the snorkelling and fish-feeding experiences at Swim Reef, where there are over 50 species of fish living in the temperate environment.
Of course, The Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui also carries the Spa Village institution in its resort. The 3,800 square metre spa includes eight treatment suites, three massage pavilions, a yoga pavilion, a health bar and a lap pool with intimate cabanas. Each treatment focuses on the therapeutic properties of natural local ingredients and age-old healing practices of the region. Take for example, the Songkran Shower that is a signature pre-spa ritual inspired by the Songkran festival involving the joyful throwing of water.
I will always have a soft spot for Thailand, its people and cuisine. My weekend at The Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui was a bliss, made better by the resort's Ladies and Gentlemen (as how the staff are known throughout the establishment). They certainly attend to each guest with sincere smile and genuine warmth that made this a sanctuary of peace and comfort.
For more info, or to book your stay, visit The Ritz-Carlton Koh Samui.