Holiday companies desperately seeking to boost sales of packages to the Mediterranean at the moment are wondering where all their customers have gone. They could try looking in Thailand’s Koh Samui.
Arriving at the island’s airport, you feel as if you’ve landed in some kind of Disney version of Thailand. It’s all wooden huts, twinkly lights and rickety carts to take you to the baggage reclaim area, while fireworks shoot into the sky. You half expect Mickey Mouse dressed in a safari outfit to start unloading the bags.
But clapping eyes on the resorts of Chaweng Beach, you may be forgiven for wondering how somewhere so far from Majorca can manage to look so much like Magaluf. British pubs are prominent, as are posters of the Crazy Frog (still big with the Germans, it seems), techno music, pints of Stella and fish and chips.
But the resemblance is only tattoo-parlour deep – just a short drive away you can experience a rather more authentic Thailand. It’s easy to escape the crowds, especially thanks to a crop of recently opened hotels.
But it’s really important to do your research and, easy as it is to get carried away by slick website design or glossy brochures, not all of the resorts are as good as they first seem.
With the amount of competition around, there are definitely tricks at work to lure guests into hotels which don’t turn out to be everything they appear.
Research the location. It may seem the most obvious suggestion but it’s one that a lot of holidaymakers still don’t observe. The last place you want to be is slap-bang in the middle of Chaweng Beach, between nightclubs and bars selling fireworks to drunken gap-year students.
My first hotel, the Akyra resort, which opened in May, was a only a short distance from Chaweng Beach but was something of a haven from the madness. An infinity pool stretched to the beach, where we could just see the tops of traders’ heads and arms as they waved tie-dye sarongs for our perusal.
The only disturbance was some incredibly annoying music being piped out from dawn until dusk. It’s a craze that seems to have swept Koh Samui.
The music was slow, lounge covers and no genre was left uncovered. We would lie there shouting out song names as we hit upon them, from Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance to the least fathomable – a slow, swing version of YMCA. The CD never left the stereo, and now I’m trying to track down my own copy on Amazon (well, it grew on me!).
The Akyra’s main appeals to younger travellers are its absolutely luxurious feel (huge outside shower and bath, cable TV, an outstanding sushi restaurant set high on a hill overlooking the sea) and the reasonable price, while still being close to the nightlife of Chaweng Beach.
However, for those looking for all-out luxury, a 15-minute drive to the Maenam district of Koh Samui beckons. Here, the W Hotel screams plush. Each suite has its own private infinity pool and sunloungers, golf buggies are on hand to take you on what would have been a five-minute walk and, as if that weren’t enough, free ice cream is available.
You might be surrounded by rainforest, but the hotel’s trendy brand is stamped everywhere: a pool in the lobby is filled with huge neon lights, the logo is projected on to walkways and walls, even rocks in the undergrowth, are piping out trendy low-level dance music (for sale on a CD in every room). It’s a bit of city cool brought to the jungle.
For pure old-fashioned luxury, book at the Orient Express resort Napasai. Also in the Maenam Beach area, Napasai is everything you could want in a hotel. It couples home comforts (if your home has a white sandy beach nearby, that is) and stylish design with lashings of indulgence.
If you’re easily bored, there are lessons every day, from cocktail-making to Thai massage. There’s a top-notch spa, three different restaurants nestled among coconut and cashew trees (which at night twinkle with birdcages filled with lights) and a specially created lagoon which offers some of the best snorkelling in Samui.
Koh Samui is definitely a long way to travel for less than a fortnight’s holiday, but there are so many reasons to choose it over resorts in Europe.
Source : Daily Mail