Kami Ramini discovers paradise in Koh Samui.
People go to Thailand for all sorts.
For the food, the beaches, the endless beachside parties and buckets of booze, the luxury hotels or the detox yoga retreats. Really whatever it is you are looking for, it’s pretty much guaranteed you can find it in this incredible South East Asian country.
And for us it was simple: we wanted pure luxury without the worry of the price tag. It was our honeymoon after all.
So with one week in June and top priorities the weather and top-notch everything – a short search showed there was one thing for it.
Strategically placed off the coast of south-eastern Thailand, Koh Samui rests between the mainland and the infamous island of Koh Pha-ngan (birthplace of the Full Moon Party) and made for a perfect base.
We’d decided to pick one home for the week and take tours when and if we felt like it, putting ‘relax’ above all else on our to-do list.
The second we walked into our hotel, Sareeraya Villas and Suites, we knew we’d hit bingo. Sitting right on the edge of Chaweng, the island’s buzziest area, we had everything at our fingertips. Shops, restaurants, bars, tour agencies… You name it; we had it at a stone’s throw.
But once inside the hotel the vibe completely shifted. It was peaceful. The large, open space and partially open air reception lead out onto an immaculate infinity pool, followed by pristine beach and the warm calm waters of the Gulf of Thailand beyond.
Our suite, one of only 36 suites and 13 villas in the exclusive resort, continued the decadent feel. Paying homage to traditional Thai styles with dark wood and deep red and orange tones, it was warm, spacious, and decked out with every little detail you could possibly imagine - there were even sun hats, thongs and a beach bag in the cupboard, “just in case you forgot your own”.
Beyond the French windows, a private terrace looked out over that incredible sea view; this time with the added bonus of our very own jacuzzi.
Those first few days we barely even left the resort. Flicking between the infinity pool, Chaweng Beach and that amazing jacuzzi; we lazed, we swam, we sipped freshly mixed tropical fruit cocktails and ate Phad Thai and spicy seafood salads. Only making the occasional scooter ride out to a local beach – Crystal Bay and Silver Beach distinct favourites – to pick a palm tree to lay under and remind ourselves of just how great life really is.
Fully recharged and ready to explore, on day three we walked to the nearest tour agency to book a trip. Elephant trekking, scuba diving, snorkelling, island tours, cooking courses, jet-skiing, wake-boarding… There was more than enough to fill a whole month, let alone a few days. But in the interest of maintaining that feeling of relax we were both relishing, we settled on two things.
The waters around Koh Tao, a nearby island, are widely recognised as some of the best scuba diving spots in southern Thailand. So that was first on the list.
All of the dive schools offer PADI courses (normally three days) for who isn’t certified but if you already are, you can book in for all-inclusive day trips.
And it is well worth it. The first dive was standard to about 18m, but absolutely packed with different coloured fish and coral: reds, greens, yellows, electric blues… great shoals of fish, cute little butterfly fish swimming along in couples, or a lone Nemo hiding out among the corals. We even saw a leopard shark asleep on the seabed.
But that was just the start. After a hot buffet lunch on Koh Tao we headed back out and this time for a cave dive. I’d been reluctant to break Letizia’s (our Swiss divemaster) heart and say I wasn’t sure about caves, having never dived in one before. She kept saying how lucky we were, that there was rarely “as good a day as this” – so, anxious to please, I went.
Twenty metres below the surface the perfect buoyancy level was pivotal to coast through the thin crack between the rocks and get into the cave. Once in, the fit was super tight but just enough to move through, kicking lightly and breathing slowly, careful not to lose that crucial buoyancy.
My eyes adjusted and followed the line of Letizia’s torch to octopi, ballonfish, and minuscule see-through prawns hard at work in the sand. As shards of sun crept in through holes in the rocks, an optical illusion made it look like the light was coming up from inside the cave, escaping out into the open water. Magical.
Maybe it was adrenaline from some sort of fear I hadn’t consciously registered but that cave dive was one of the greatest highs of my life. I’d do it again tomorrow.
Over the next few days we returned to our regular haunts, hopping on the scooter to explore the white-sand-turquoise-sea scenery and a stop-off for a Phad Thai with a different twist. We raced up and down the waves on jet skis and gave wake-boarding and water-skiing a shot too.
I even convinced Luis to join me for a hot oil massage one afternoon. He hated it, said it was the most painful thing of his life. I thought it was heaven and I swiftly booked in a sea-salt foot scrub.
Our second ‘excursion’ was a class at the Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts which came recommended as ‘the real deal’. And that it was. We spent two hours under careful instruction pounding fresh ingredients into pastes, marinating meats and noodles, chopping, dicing and slicing before hitting the woks to cook up our feast.
The menu changes daily but we made red curry with duck, stir fried pork in oyster sauce, and Phad Thai with prawns – all of which we ate for dinner, washed down with a Singha beer.
While our intentions had been to fully splurge in Koh Samui, we soon found there was no need. Our scooter ($9 a day) meant the island was ours to explore; even the excursions and activities were incredible value and we’d eaten mostly at local restaurants, feasting on freshly caught fish or quick fried noodles and rice.
But we’d saved something really special for our first night. We’d booked in for a ‘Romantic Dinner’ at the Sareeraya – a five course amuse bouche, served at our private beachside restaurant by our very own waiter.
Dressed up but barefoot, feeling the sand at our feet and the water lapping in and out, it was hard to imagine a more perfect end to a fantastic holiday.
Before bed, we lit a paper lantern and watched it sail off over the sea and into the black sky with a silent promise to come back.
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