Sawadee Khrap: Thailand Island hopping
| 13th December 2015
After a 14 hour flight, 9 hour train journey and an hour boat ride arriving at The Library hotel in Koh Samui was a welcome sight. Chaweng Beach is cluttered with hotels, but none quite like The Library in terms of its elegant and modern boutique feel. Blending seamlessly with its surroundings this modernist retreat is renowned for its geometric design, most noticeably exhibited by the gleaming-white library building, its rectangular shape and clean lines echoed by the manicured lawn, the blood-red pool and the suites which are referred to as page numbers all mirror the stylish aesthetics.
Page number 7 was our residence, an ‘Exotic suite’ with a spacious unobstructed area for the main bedroom, leading to an open-air living area with wooden shutters and daybeds. The suite is kitted out with everything you would expect from an uber modern resort and more, snazzy electronic blinds, a large LCD TV with DVD player, an iMac with internet, a lightbox above the bed which you can change the colour to fit your mood, a bathtub Jacuzzi and a top end Lavazza espresso machine.
With the resorts primary restaurant ‘The Page’ undergoing refurbishment we headed to their roadside restaurant the ‘Drink Gallery’, an impressive open-air wooden decking linking to a colossal cube of glass. Encouraged to try the signature ‘Pairings’ menu, as the host name would suggest the tipples are equally regarded as the food in this 3-course menu.
We began with the delicious ‘crispy seaweed with trio sauce, five-spice duck and fresh spring roll with hoi sin sauce’, along with the flavoursome ‘Manhattan clam chowder’. Paired with the refreshing Miss Rosé Collins – rosé wine, blanco rum, peach schnapps, lemon, fresh lychee and hints of aromatic elderflower’ and the delightful ‘Blanco’s Orchard – white wine, apricot brandy, granny apples, watermelon and notes of Italian basil’.
For the main course we enjoyed the succulent ‘lamb Massaman – Tender Australian lamb shoulder, new potatoes, braised peanuts and garlic rice’, as well as the ‘pan-roasted chicken breast – sour cream and onion potato purée, broccoli, buttered pan jus’. We accompanied these with the ‘Unconventional Hickory Smoked Manhattan’ – a potent blend of Makers Mark, Cherry Heering and Angostura bitters, mixed and blown into a sealed bottle with hickory smoke, and the ‘GF Bellini Martini’ – Tanqueray gin, fresh pink grapefruit, lemon thyme, vanilla pod essence, all crowned with a Prosseco foam.
Finally for Dessert & Ending Brews we had the exquisite ‘lychee crème brûlée – sugar cookie box with lychee syrup’, wetted by the ‘Spiced Winter Cliché – sparkling wine, Ketel One vodka, strawberry purée, lime, cinnamon spice and bitters’ and the ‘Shade of Grey – Earl Grey tea, gin infusion, Port wine, citrus and
The food was simply exceptional. Fine dining quality without the snobbery and tiny portions – the cocktails themselves were as good as any you could find in London’s top bars.
The next morning we were up bright and breezy to cap off our stay by experiencing the resort’s ‘Breakfast on the Beach’ culture. This is a real treat, breakfast in bed with a view of the Gulf of Thailand, unlimited lattes and freshly squeezed juices, tropical fruits, pastries and a hot breakfast made to order… paradise.
The quality and standards of the resorts in Chaweng have been rising progressively over the years, but if you want a truly luxurious experience and to stay in the coolest hotel around then get yourself ‘booked’ into the Library.
Next up we headed to the North coast for a fly by visit at the vibrant Koh Samui retreat Anantara Bophut Resort & Spa. Located right at the beachside, 82 guest rooms with private balconies overlooking the enormous tropical garden, the pool and the sea, providing modern but still Thai influenced comfortable accommodation in a breathtaking location.
Once settled into our spacious deluxe garden view room we headed back down to reception to begin our ‘Spice Spoons’ cooking class. We were greeted by the resorts Thai chef instructor who began by introducing us to the seasonal produce, aromatic herbs and the rich spices of Koh Samui whilst teaching us about Thai cuisine’s cultural significance and health benefits. Then it was down to business, heat on high and with step-by-step instructions from the master chef we produced our favourite traditional dishes.
First up was my personal favourite Tom Yum Soup, where we were told that the secret to a successful Tom Yum lies in its liquid base; lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and chillies are simmered in the pot to form the identity of this tasty and nutritious dish.
Next was the classic Thai Green Curry, characterised by its colour and desired sweetness it is most commonly found in southern Thailand because of its coconut cream base. Again the key is in the sauce, which consists of coconut milk, green curry paste, eggplant (aubergine), sugar, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil leaves.
Last up was another favourite, Prawn Pad Thai. Arguably the best known of all Thai foods it is made with light and simple ingredients consisting of rice noodles, prawns, eggs, shallots, roasted peanuts and chillies garnished with coriander leaves and lime.
Buoyed with our impressive new skills and satisfied after a delicious lunch we were given certificates, aprons and cutting boards as souvenirs that we now have proudly displayed at VIVA HQ.
To cap off our delightful short stay we headed to Anantara’s premier restaurant Full Moon. Overlooking the resort’s charming lily pond garden and shoreline infinity pool, the Full Moon’s al fresco deck is beautifully lit at night (they use little book lamps to light the menus) and the staff were very attentive. Complimentary fresh bread, roasted garlic, butter and salsa were served almost immediately and we enjoyed a further three courses. The best of which were the succulent seared tuna served with mango salsa, semi-dried tomato, mesclun salad and a herb-miso dressing, and the exceptional Wagyu Beef Steak which was cooked to perfection.
Romantics will love this vibrant retreat, boasting a blissful beach and verdant gardens this is the resort which offers modern but still Thai influenced surroundings where you can wine a dine al fresco or spoil yourself in their exclusive spa.
The next morning we were up early for the final leg of our trip. We took a 15 minute taxi to Petcharat Pier where a private speed boat was waiting to take us on a 30 minute boat ride to Santhiya Koh Phangan Resort & Spa.
As the boat neared our destination, a picturesque island paradise nestled into the hillside overlooking a crystal clear bay came into view. This eco-friendly hideaway is set against a backdrop of lush tropical forests, with a private beach, a gigantic free-form outdoor pool with cascading waterfalls, a beautiful spa for total tropical indulgence and gourmet Thai cuisine.
On arrival we were greeted by Panja Nakapong, the charming General Manager who guided us through the resort passing the pool and other facilities on the way to the wonderful reception area decorated with carved wood where a welcomed fruity drink and cold flannel awaited us.
We were shown to our stunning sea view villa suite with private pool overlooking the bay. The entire villa is chock-full of detail, from the daily bottles of water dressed in little Thai outfits to the beach bags and the fresh-smelling Eucalyptus salts on every bedside table. All are adorned head to toe in gorgeous teak wood, intricately carved mirrors, wood floors and walls, and carvings behind and on the ceiling above the bed. The beds themselves are comfortable and have quality white linens. The lavish outdoor bathroom heightened the contrast between modern amenities within tropical surroundings. Other amenities include Thai-style robes, beach bags, umbrellas, free Wi-Fi, luxury toiletries, and LCD satellite TVs with DVD players (there’s a loaner DVD library by reception). Every possible need had been catered for and to the highest standards.
We spent our first morning in the Chantara restaurant, breakfast is extensively catered with staff positioned throughout the restaurant serving eggs and fresh fruits. You’ll find whole tables offering breads and pastries, you can opt for continental, western or Thai cuisines with considerable choice of hot and cold dishes. No matter what mood you find yourself in you are well taken care of.
Relaxation is undoubtedly the focus at Santhiya, following our leisurely breakfast we meandered down to the pool. Located by the beach this gigantic lagoon with cascading waterfall is the perfect spot to spend your days lounging, reading, and drinking cocktails.
There are countless activities for those with a more restless demeanor to get involved in, from elephant trekking, boat tours and snorkeling adventures. You can also rent a jeep or motorbike to traverse the jungle and search out other parts of the island.
After a few too many mojitos and far too much sun it was time to get ready and head back to the Chantara Restaurant to indulge in their famous traditional Thai buffet. At 650 Baht per person this really is great value, with quality ingredients over a multitude of delicious dishes on offer all accompanied by a magnificent traditional Thai dance performance.
So if you want to get away from it all and indulge in some serious R ‘n R in a real slice of paradise then the Santhiya Koh Phangan Resort & Spa is perfect for you.