Thailand’s Koh Samui has long evolved from its hippy roots to become a smart, chic destination for luxury travellers. Head for the Samujana villa estate in the hills near Chaweng and Choengmon, where contemporary architecture, stunning views and a blissful escape await…
Words: Kat Hopps
Koh Samui has long evolved from its hippy roots to become a smart destination choice for luxury travellers. More manicured than neighbouring islands Koh Pha Ngan and Ko Tao, the island is a 45-minute flight from Bangkok or 14-hour direct flight from the UK and a must-visit destination if only to stay at Samujana.
The private residence of 27 villas perches over the northeast coast of Thailand’s third largest island, commanding spectacular views across the verdant jungle and coral coves below. It combines five-star hotel luxury with friendly Thai hospitality – a place where wellness retreats were surely born.
The estate is a 10-minute drive from Koh Samui International Airport, close to hotspots Chaweng and Choengmon. Up a steep incline, lies a naturalistic setting of gardens, mature trees and rocks, a deft accomplishment by architect Gary Fell who built the villas around the existing topography.
Along with friends, I stayed in a large villa with 360 degree views over the Gulf of Thailand. In addition to six bedrooms and six bathrooms, the villa has a gym, roof deck, home cinema and landscaped gardens. Best of all is the huge infinity pool, with adjacent jacuzzi, which will have you reaching for your bathing suit as quickly as you can, while the spacious design is an instant relaxing tonic.
Even if you’re positioned further down the hillside estate, every one of the three-bedroom to eight-bedroom, sea-facing villas has an infinity pool and direct access to a picturesque, quiet beach. All make good choices for families, friends and couples.
Aside from its stunning views and location, Samujana is extra special because of its wonderful staff and emphasis on wellness. Each villa has a host to help you plan trips, organise meals, answer questions and act as a local guide, enabling you to relax and be as flexible as you like with arrangements. Experts are on hand too, to provide you with bespoke packages to stimulate the senses and nurture the soul – anything from massage to personalised fitness and detox plans.
Do try a morning yoga session. It’s a memorable experience because of the scenic settings, whether by your villa’s infinity pool or down by the beach. Lessons are taught by Rui Zou, who also runs Pilates sessions, and her partner Jason Milne. Both are expert teachers and calming influences; you’ll feel refreshed after just one session. Energy enthusiasts should opt for a more traditional pastime, a Muay Thai kick-boxing session with retired Thai-boxing professional and friendly English ex-pat AJ.
If all that activity works up an appetitie – and believe me it does – food will be high up the agenda of your trip. Thailand is blessed with excellent produce and spices, and dining options are varied depending on your energy levels. We opted for a private chef who prepared fresh, delectable breakfasts, Thai curries, BBQ seafood platters and tangy salads.
Menus can be designed around you and dietary requirements are easily accommodated. If you’re keen to try some Thai-style cooking of your own, opt for a lesson from one of the chefs. In one hour, I learnt how to create three dishes, including new favourite mango sticky rice. And don’t forget to enjoy fresh coconut juice from the ‘Coconut Island’ – just ask your host to either prepare you one or leave it inside your villa.
Once rested, seek some adventure on the high seas by way of Kindred Spirit, Samujana’s private 43ft catamaran. We sailed to Koh Pha Ngan, with glasses of champagne en-route, and swam and fished in waters next to quiet beaches. For cloudy days, take a cultural trip. Big Buddha is the most famous temple and home to a 12-metre high Buddha statue, which is as flamboyant and colourful as you would imagine.
While there, shop for souvenirs before heading back to your villa via the temple of Wat Khunaram, famous for its mummified monk Loung Pordaeng, which sits upright in a glass casket and is worshipped by Thai visitors. And if you’re feeling famished, eat at one of the island’s superb restaurants – ask your host for their recommendations – though you might find yourself whispering over dishes ‘that wasn’t as good as Samujana’s’ – we did.
Bookings can be made online at samujana.com, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 66 (0)77 423 465. Prices start from £360 per villa per night. Flights from London to Koh Samui via Bangkok start at £571 return.