It looked like a simple macaroon. The kind that’s baked to perfection with a crusty outer layer of meringue-like peaks encasing a soft and delicious inner core of coconut. But when I sank my teeth into it and allowed its inherent flavours to ignite my taste-buds, I realised it was streaked with a delightful complexity that came from a hint of kaffir lime. The little welcome snack accompanied by a refreshing drink in a green test tube, literally set the tone for the rest of the trip!
“And that’s really how the Banyan Tree Samui works its magic throughout your stay. It takes tried and tested treats, adds its own Thai spin and dollops of luxury and takes them to a whole new level of bliss.”
Take, for example, its villas. Almost 90 of them set in a sort of cascading terrace structure at varying levels up and down the hill. Some with a view of tropical foliage and others from where you can spend hours gazing at the beautiful Lamai bay, a cove that gracefully curves at the south-eastern side of Samui island, thus ensuring that there’s almost zero outsiders (since all Thai beaches are technically public beaches, vendors and day-trippers tend to disrupt the peace at some other places). Connected by steep pathways and eco-friendly buggies (thankfully!), the villas are secluded yet offer easy access to the lobby, restaurants, spa sanctuary, gym, and beach. Each is slightly elevated and has solid wooden features in a tribute to Thai architecture.
My Deluxe Pool Villa (their most basic offering!) had a suite of spacious, open-concept rooms, each giving directly on to my private plunge pool and overlooking a gorgeously green expanse of trees and shrubs. A wooden outside ‘gate’, a short flight of stairs giving onto a solid wood deck with outdoor seating alongside the pristine pool, and finally, a main door that opened into the inner sanctum, truly gave me the sense of entering my own Asian-style villa. The plush living room with its own over-stocked bar and football stadium-sized TV led to a high-ceilinged bedroom with all the expected creature comforts and then some. The silken fabrics, the lamps, art and artefacts carefully curated for the rooms… they all spoke to my soul in oriental accents. When I woke up in the king-sized bed, the view of the shimmering pool and the sunlit trees beyond started my day on a very Zen note.
“Even the lavish bath area, with a modern yet sumptuous tub and twin vanities, had a black stone rain shower space lined with glistening white pebbles that shone even more when I showered. Very Yin and Yang. And, coupled with the fact that the water cascades down for a long length of the bathroom from an elongated overhead showerhead, just right for a couple!”
The only thing that I’d change about this villa would be the bean bags on one side of the pool deck that somehow didn’t quite fit into the vibe of serene sophistication that the rest of the space exuded. And absolute privacy in the pool area would be great too, as it’s a tad unnerving to know that your neighbours can sneak peeks if they like. No au naturale swims here, for sure! While they have nine different villa categories depending on size, features and location, the one to score is definitely the Horizon Hill Crest Pool Villa, which offers spectacular sunset and beach views from its own infinity plunge pool!
Although it’s one among the top luxury resorts catering to the changing grade of tourist in Thailand today (more billionaire hipster than shoe-stringing hippy), the Banyan Tree Samui is set apart by its aura of exclusivity coupled with a charmingly warm hospitality that’s far from mechanical.
“Having a villa host who magically brings you fresh pool towels when you’re out or delicious cookies in a jar at turn-down is like having a kindly fairy godmother overseeing your vacay.”
My typical day at the resort would start with riding a buggy to the patio-style restaurant called The Edge, which has a stunning view of the entire property set around the scenic bay (the resort’s main lobby, which you visit when you first check in, has the same jaw-dropping sight but from an even greater height!). The vast multi-cultural buffet at The Edge features everything from regular breads, cold cuts and fresh squeezed juices to plump dimsum, sushi, vegetarian specialties, avocado omelettes and pad thai made to order at live counters, and ends on a wonderful note with delicious smoothies and sweet sorbets on a stick!
From here, a host of activities awaited my choice – such as nature walks through the property; a visit to the spa for a relaxing massage or an energising session of hydrotherapy; snorkelling or paddle-boarding around the bay; or just soaking up the sun on the beach or in the communal infinity pool.
While it was tempting to have them set up a splendid lunch or dinner in the privacy of my villa, I found that a meal at Saffron, the signature modern Thai restaurant, could be quite a memorable experience too.
“When they can do four different types of just rice – jasmine, butterfly pea, saffron and coconut – you can imagine the variety of the other dishes on offer.”
Alternatively, I’d head to Sands for some relaxed meals on the beach, which I enjoyed in a private pavilion shielded from the sun with cool, wispy white curtains. Both Saffron and Sands had different vibes by day and dusk. Elegant lighting illuminated the apothecary-style drawers filling one wall of Saffron inside, while the sun dipping behind the cliffs was also a dramatic setting if I wanted to dine at an outdoor table overlooking the bay.
There was often live music in the evening at Sands and I could even indulge in a mixology class before I took my drink to the dining table where the sensational seafood on my plate found resonance in the sound of the waves and the silken sand underfoot.
“Watching the moonrise over the bay as the dinner conversation dwindled into a comfortable and contemplative silence was an exceptionally romantic moment for me.”
A drink or dessert (the best Thai mango with sticky rice and coconut milk EVER!) at the spectacular Lobby Lounge made for the perfect night cap to end the perfect day at the Banyan Tree Samui.
Where: Banyan Tree Samui
99/9 Moo 4, Maret Samui, Lamai Beach,
Koh Samui, Ko Samui, Surat Thani 84310, Thailand
Phone: +66 77 915 333
Website: Banyan Tree Samui
Note: The writer was invited by the Banyan Tree Samui but all the opinions expressed herewith are her own.