Monday, June 2, 2014

Classic Spa Experience on Koh Samui

It's an oldie but a goodie! Diana Plater discovers that Thailand's oldest health resort still delivers the bliss.

I’ve heard a lot over the years about The Spa Resort at Lamai in Koh Samui.

It’s said to be the oldest health resort in Thailand with a dedicated clientele who go regularly to detox, fast, have colonic irrigation and do yoga.

Started by an American and his Thai wife, my cousin swears by it, saying it has helped her lose a large amount of weight.

I wasn’t that keen on the idea of fasting and colonics, but healthy food and yoga sounded just what the doctor ordered. And of course massages and beauty treatments, right on the beach.

We arrive late at night so it isn’t until the next morning that I see how good the view is. It feels like staying in a fishing village with the locals working away on their boats, seemingly undisturbed by crazy foreigners trying to lose weight.

Lamai Beach at Koh Samui.  Pic: Diana Plater

We stay at the hotel next door, the Poolsawat Villa, which has large rooms in a main building and villas overlooking a large swimming pool – one that you can actually do laps in. For around 1500 baht (around A$50) a night it’s a bargain.

View from Poolsawat Villas. Pic: Diana Plater

From here it’s easy to walk along the beach and find cheap and cheerful places for breakfast or dinner, stopping off at massage decks for fantastic treatments. We also love the fruit seller across the road who makes yummy fruitshakes and fried banana and eggplant.

The Spa has a restaurant right on the beach, Radiance, serving vegetarian, vegan and raw food, but you can also have a glass of wine there and muse on how people can still sport dreadlocks and wear tie-dyed clothes in 2014.

There’s a trendy new bar across the busy road if you want something a bit more upmarket.

What’s a Spa without a spa? This one has a herbal steam room, and treatments which include aloe vera body wraps and Ampuku, a Japanese therapy that helps the fasting process.

Yoga is my favourite activity taught by Englishman Mike, who really makes it fun. Doing laps in the pool, then yoga, then breakfast, followed by lazing on the beach or by the pool: pretty perfect holiday if you ask me. Or you can take the shuttle to the sister resort, The Spa Samui Village, up in the hills.

Yoga at The Spa (supplied)

The lovely lady who owns the fruit stall organises for her brother and his girlfriend to give us a tour of the island one day and leave us for lunch at Belmond Napasai Koh Samui at Baan Tai up on the north coast.

We are shown around this stunning five star resort by Food and Beverage director Sascha Spiegel. As we visualise guests enjoying unspoilt views of the ocean over to Koh Phangan from their villa beds, Spiegel tells us that they want the guests to feel like they’re in Thailand, not some other part of the world.

Belmond Napasai Koh Samui (supplied)

Some of the villas are privately owned and in turn used by people prepared to pay big baht for privacy, with their own full-size kitchens and exclusive beaches. We hear many of these guests arrive by helicopter.

As well as a great spa, new gym, private beach, infinity swimming pool and mix of restaurants, the resort now has its own farm with animals including buffaloes and chickens. Great for kids and functions, and they even show outdoor movies here.

Belmond Napasai Koh Samui (supplied)

As we leave we notice a boatload of guests coming back from a snorkelling and diving expedition to the National Marine Park.

We take a slightly less comfortable trip – the twilight ferry to Koh Phangan itself. We think maybe we’ll try the Full Moon Party but after viewing inebriated backpackers drinking straight from red wine bottles we decide… hmmm, maybe not this time.

The island is packed and accommodation is scarce but we make our way by minibus and in pitch darkness to the very humble Happy Beach Bungalows, where my cousin’s friends are staying. They love the quiet simplicity of this area. We find it perhaps just a bit too rustic.

Early morning swimming in a sea that feels like honey takes away any woes from the previous day’s trip. But we’re more than happy to get back to our digs at the Poolsawat Villa and vow not to leave until I reluctantly have to head for the airport.

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