It was two summers ago when I’d decided, if anyone mentioned going to Thailand to me one more time, I’d bitchslap them.
Whether it was a best friend from my pre-pubescent years or my 75-year-old neighbour teasing me with her coloured granny pants (don’t ask). Thanks to the Hangover series, in my mind, Thailand was all about gay clubs that would rave until 7am, seedy massage parlours tucked away in dark alleyways, and malevolent people hugging a drugged-up tiger.
However, this spring, in a very foot-meet-mouth situation, I planned my own trip to Thailand.
A) I needed to press pause on my overworked and overtired brain after suffering from I-spent-two-years-in-Dubai trauma. I needed clarity and a taste of real life, something that you easily forget in the Middle East.
B) I needed a serious dose of sunshine, salt water and unlimited supply of coconut water.
C) I wanted to stare into the ocean for hours, and be the model of a drone photoshoot in Koh Phi Phi. Are you listening, @FromWhereIDrone?
D) I had mentally archived several vacay outfits that didn’t require me to pack a bra (#FreeTheNipple4LYF) and I was ambitiously lost in knowing I could live in petite bikini bottoms all month long.
E) I was scouting locations for the ultimate bachelorette party (not for me)!
F) Umm, Green Thai Curry… obvs.
The virtues of this holiday were already giving me peace and tranquility, especially knowing that I was going to spend a full week hopping the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan with a dear girlfriend visiting from London.
We knew our itinerary needed to be very different to how everyone else does Thailand. No ladyboy bars, no creepy massage parlours, and no magic mushroom milkshakes.
With yoga, kombucha, sunshine, late-night nudie swims and cycling on my mind, we were ready to fall in love with this archipelago in the Gulf of Thailand off the coast of Surat Thani.
Typically known for its full moon parties (disastrous for some, soul-searching for others), our first four nights were spent in the palm tree-dotted vicinity of Chantaramas Resort & Spa on the south-east coast of Koh Phangan. This luxurious hotel is as far away from the assumed island chaos as you want it to be, and as close as you’d hoped for it to be. You decide.
We arrived on a very wet evening under a blanket of storm clouds. The moonless sky wasn’t ready to break-up with the thunder clouds. As we stood under our lanky umbrellas on the resort’s private beach, the dramatic sky flirted with the sea, teasing it with a roaring wink, provoking the waves to shy away to the nearest shore but making sure they returned back to its gloomy love shack. As nature acted out its seductive screenplay before us, the resort had its own nightly entertainment planned.
“When I buy a new book, I read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side…” announced Harry Burns as the 1989 classic When Harry Met Sally played on the big screen in the resort’s restaurant. This is a nightly ritual – guests vote for a rom-com, and it’s played sharp at 1900 hours. “Bachelorette party’s dream evening,” I thought.
A little bit of Sally’s innocence and a whole lot of Thailand’s daunting spring shower… our Thai journey was going to be indelible.
As the blanket of darkness drew back the next morning, every corridor, terracotta tile and frangipani bud waved hello. Chantaramas Resort was celebrating the clear skies: the blues of the infinity pool bled into the turquoise of the sea, spotted geckos sunbathed on shimmering rocks and a swing overlooking the glistening azure of the sea whispered my name.
This beach-front resort is a holidayer’s dream: boutique in size, exceptionally located to suit almost every guest type, modern renovations for comfort, Insta-worthy views from every turn you take, exceptional food and kombucha on tap. There is so much freshly brewed kombucha on the island of Koh Phangan, your eyes will sparkle brighter than glittering unicorns showering in sunshine.
If you find yourself on this busy island with your girlfriends, stay at Chantaramas Resort for a little slice of tranquility. Those who want to rave, Haad Rin beach is a five-minute drive away (only if you must!). If you want serenity, book a 90-minute Thai massage at the resort’s spa.
After attaining satisfactory levels of zen in Phangan, we took a ferry across the pond to the bigger island of Koh Samui. With a limousine awaiting our arrival at the port to take us to Nikki Beach Resort Koh Samui, we knew the next three days were going to be luxurious AF.
Koh Samui is one of the original Thai islands. While it only encouraged an audience of ravers craving celestial energy on a full moon night, or yoga bunnies injecting their veins with spirulina and wheatgrass, the Samui island as it is today is dolled with some of the best resorts and first-class spas. Koh Samui has grown up to be this smart, polished and sophisticated island; an ambitious Capri of South-East Asia.
Heaving with heavyweight hotels, Koh Samui has the lot to choose from, but if you want to pack your itinerary with everything the island has to offer – fitness, beach parties, fresh food and luxury – Nikki Beach Resort & Spa is your calling.
As we drove from the port to the hotel, we found it really hard to believe that up until the 1970s, no paved roads existed on Koh Samui. It only got its international airport less than 30 years ago. Today, the isle’s northern and east coast is packed with tourists (and actual chock-a-block traffic that lasts hours), however, where we were heading, things were more simple. More calm, to say the least.
The western and southern coast of Koh Samui belong to the locals who like to keep things traditional and easy. The backpackers leave a cloud of unusual scents up in the air, and the fishing boats dot the horizon with shimmering lights come dusk hour. Nikki Beach situates itself in the heart of this lull, making it even more appealing for an all-girls holiday. But don’t relax too much, because this is a party resort.
As we arrived on Sunday morning, we were told how the poolside beach club was glamming up for its weekly Sunday brunch where the champagne is bottomless, fresh sushi is limitless, and white linen is the accepted dress code. Every Sunday, white umbrellas and turquoise blue cushions welcome the wealthiest holidaymakers who sip Dom Pérignon as if it was water and take a dip in the pool in their golden bikinis and Chanel pearls. This legendary global network of beach clubs was founded in Miami in 1997, and has since been responsible for sheltering the glitterati of the world in its St Tropez, Marrakech, Ibiza, Bali, Phuket, Dubai and Koh Samui outposts.
Indulgence, extravagance and luxury on the mind — we slipped into our finest water-approved threads to day-drink until we weren’t fit to jump into the pool. The resident DJ provided a soundtrack that made everyone stand on their plush day beds and watch the sun disappear into the horizon.
Champagne and cycling might not go hand-in-hand, but the next morning, we set out for a day of adventure. A Muay Thai session in the morning, gentle yoga following breakfast and a cycling tour to the nearest waterfall for lunch. As the head throbbed, and the body latching on to the hangover, things went well until we jumped on our bicycles. With a gear change here, and an uphill there, we were unfortunately met with a serious bicycle accident (the cycle’s fault), which took us on a tour of the insides of a Thai hospital. Also, great — a must visit, if you may.
Even though the adventure didn’t go as planned, we immediately retreated to a spa session at Let’s Relax Spa on the north-easy coast of the island. There’s almost nothing in the world that a relaxing Thai massage can’t cure.
As our luxurious stay at Nikki Beach Resort in Koh Samui exited stage left, I realised the extolling virtues of Thailand are ALL TRUE.
This country and its people can heal you more than the toothless Ketut à la Eat Pray Love.
Even if it means having to visit the ER of a local hospital.