TUCKED AWAY IN THE GULF OF THAILAND, KOH SAMUI IS RATHER LIKE A WELL-ESTABLISHED HOLLYWOOD CELEBRITY. SHE’S BEEN IN THE TOURISM BUSINESS FOR LONGER THAN ALMOST ANY OTHER THAI ISLAND HOWEVER, RATHER THAN BECOMING PASSÉ, SHE HAS CONTINUALLY EMBRACED NEW GENERATIONS OF RESORT AND, AS TIMES HAVE CHANGED AND PEOPLE HAVE MOVED UP MARKET, KOH SAMUI HAS KEPT PACE. THIS IS A PLACE OF FINE STRETCHES OF SAND CLOGGED WITH BEACH LOUNGERS, ROADS THAT ARE FREE OF GARBAGE, WORLD-CLASS INTERNATIONAL CUISINE, LUXURIOUS SPAS AND BEACH BAR PARTIES FOR SCANTILY CLAD 20-SOMETHINGS THAT START AT NOON.
Koh Samui, sometimes spelt Ko Samui, is Thailand’s second-largest island after Phuket and it takes just over an hour to drive around its whole perimeter. While the island’s paradise beaches, relaxed culture, awesome nightlife and dirt cheap prices make it a top destination for the backpacker crowd, it is also home to a handful of lavish resorts, hundreds of posh spas and a great little airport all catering to holiday makers who wish to relax in the lap of luxury. The island’s centre is virtually uninhabitable owing to its mountains and rainforests but there is still a wealth of hidden treasures to explore around the coast.
One of the most significant landmarks on Koh Samui is Wat Phra Yai temple. Literally translated as the ‘Big Buddha Temple’ this splendid place of worship was built in 1972 and the name refers to a giant, 12-metre-high (39-foot) gold-painted statue of the Buddha sitting in a calm, resolute state symbolizing steadfastness, purity and enlightenment. It is said that Buddha was able to reach this state after overcoming temptation and fear directed at him by Mara the Lord of Illusion. Known as the ‘Mara’ posture, the left hand rests palm open in the statue’s lap, the right hand facing down over the right knee, almost touching the ground.
Set on the island’s most dramatic site, a gently sloping headland with glorious sweeping panoramas out to the Gulf of Thailand and the surrounding islands, is the celebrated and frequently-awarded Six Senses Samui Resort. This high class development is made up of 66 private duplex villas, many with their own private pool, which are generously proportioned and beautifully appointed with natural finishes and set in landscaped gardens of natural vegetation. For visitors there is a choice of glorious ocean vistas out over the Gulf of Thailand or of tranquil landscape views.
Although giving a feeling of splendid isolation, Six Senses Samui is actually only slightly off the beaten track. The 20-acre (8.2-hectare) estate can be reached by a 15-minute scenic drive from Samui International Airport and a 45-minute flight by plane from the Thai capital, Bangkok.
You can explore Samui through excursions arranged by the resort’s Experiences Team or, alternatively, you can be independent and be free to explore the backwaters and hidden places on the island by private car.