You know how therapists recommend visualizing a “happy place” to combat anxiety? Well, I never had one until I went to Thailand.
Now, my happy place is The InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort.
Two weeks ago my husband and I spent three, relaxing, sun-filled days at this gorgeous resort on Koh Samui island. It has taken me a few days to sift through the hundreds of photos I took and decipher my scrawled notes written poolside, but here goes.
Checking in was actually one of the highlights of our stay and that is not something I think I’ve said before about a hotel. While hotel personnel ran my credit card, we were seated in the stunning, open-air lobby and presented with orchid bracelets, glasses of fruit juice and cool towels. We were already feeling pretty pampered and sinking deeper into the sofa cushions, when we caught sight of the postcard-perfect ocean views…
…which is why we stayed in the lobby for drinks and canapés: Papaya salad, springs rolls, salmon nigiri, caprese and seaweed salads. We happily munched while watching the sun sink closer to the turquoise waters. My husband ordered a very un-tropical cocktail, an Old Fashioned, and made friends with the bartender who had studied oenology in Burgundy. Small world.
Finally, we were ready to see our room.
Since the hotel sits perched on a hill, guests must be ferried from the lobby by golf cart down to the beach. As we were driven down the winding road through the lush jungle, I told myself surely I will walk from now on; no one needs to be chauffeured around like Lady Crawley on Downton Abbey. By the time I checked out, I didn’t remember life before golf carts.
When we first opened the door to our one-bedroom, oceanfront villa I said out loud “This is how Oprah vacations!” Which probably sounds like I’ve never been in a luxury hotel…I have, but I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a room of this caliber. If you could even call our standalone villa “a room,” since it was nearly the size of our Swiss apartment.
Moreover, we do not have a butler in Switzerland but we had one at The InterContinental!
Our butler, Natt, was sadly underused since we could not think of anything to request that was not already provided in the room: Stocked minibar, robes, bath and beach towels, umbrellas, daily newspapers, a safe, an indoor and outdoor shower–even sandals and sarongs. I especially loved the room’s dramatically vaulted ceilings and the locally-produced wooden furniture.
Now I know a hotel should not be judged by its amenities alone, but the tiny shampoos play a big role in my happiness. The InterContinental’s Harnn products did not disappoint.
This natural skincare line is produced in Thailand using flowers, fruits and herbs found in southeast Asia. Harnn uses ingredients like mulberry, jasmine and even rice. As most of my skincare veers French I was intrigued with the holistic, herbal approach. I squirreled away a few bars of soap from our room (I can’t help myself!) and purchased a bottle of their Water Lily Blossom Toner.
The only downside to having a private pool is that you can never imagine life without a private pool! I miss it dearly. Although too diminutive to really swim laps, the pool was just deep enough for a refreshing dip. The best part about having your own pool? No closing time. The underwater lighting was perfect for spontaneous, late-night swims.
Of course, the main attraction was the ocean–just a few hundred feet from our front door.
On our first morning we took off early in the hotel’s high-speed boat to visit the uninhabited islands surrounding Koh Samui. Thanks to our knowledgeable guides we were able to catch the rare, pink dolphins feeding near one of the islands. Although I couldn’t manage to capture a decent photo of these magical creatures, I promise you they are real and they are pink!
Our guides then took us to a secluded island where we snorkeled for an hour with some fantastically striped and iridescent fish. Since I haven’t mustered up the courage to try scuba diving, the snorkeling satisfied my curiosity.
Wiped out from our adventurous morning, poolside burgers and fries were in order. (I mean, who could eat fish?!) We lounged the afternoon away, taking a dip when it got too warm and playing cards in the shade of palm trees.
That night we had dinner at the hotel’s beachfront restaurant Flames. The restaurant takes its name from its signature, flame-grilled dishes. The chef will grill anything from vegetables and wagyu beef to lobster and fresh fish. Although simply prepared, nothing beats the taste of grilled seafood while you have some sand between your toes.
On the side was a lavish buffet of Thai curries, salads, noodles and desserts. I couldn’t stop myself from having crêpes suzette for dessert!
After dinner, local fire dancers performed on the beach. We were bowled over by their fearlessness and gracefulness! It was kind of like watching a fireworks show up-close.
On our second day we finally got to visit the attraction that was at the top of my list: The Baan Thai Spa. Although located not far from the lobby, the teakwood structure on stilts is completely surrounded by a tropical jungle, so you feel totally removed from the hotel. You can hear birds singing and leaves rustling in the breeze. The serenity was palpable.
My husband and I were ushered into a candle-lit room by two aestheticians and asked to change into robes. Our session began with warm foot baths and then we were led to side-by-side tables for our treatments. I chose the Hydrating Facial for my sun-scorched face and my husband chose the Oriental Massage.
The spa uses all Harnn products, but I was way too relaxed to ask my aesthetician about each one she was using during the facial. That said, I wasn’t as relaxed as my husband who ended up snoring through the last 15 minutes of the treatment!
Is it a shame to admit we spent our last day at our villa? We really meant to try the complimentary stand-up paddle boards or Thai boxing classes. We had plans to check out the cooking classes or at least visit another of the hotel’s seven pools…but when the view is this heavenly, what more do you need?
So, we spent the day reading books, soaking in the pool and pillaging the minibar.
I find more and more that I would rather spend three nights in a nice hotel room than one week in a hostel bunk bed. Perhaps it means I’m getting old, but I value a good night’s sleep, polished customer service and eye-catching interior design. Comfortable accommodations turn a trip into a vacation; and The InterContinental is on the dream vacation level.
By Thai standards (a country known as a backpacker’s paradise), The InterContinental is a splurge. A basic room begins at about $250 per night, but there is nothing basic about the room hotel management let me tour:
Can’t you picture yourself sunning on that daybed with a good book and a cocktail?
This is the kind of hotel for a honeymoon, an important birthday or because you may only get one chance to visit Thailand in your lifetime. I can honestly say it is worth the money (especially if you are a Club InterContinental member).
We left so incredibly relaxed and high on life, it is hard to put a price tag on what we gained from staying at The InterContinental. I’m already looking for a way to return.
*This post was sponsored by the InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam. All opinions are my own. Thank you to companies like the InterContinental who keep Bakersfield Blonde traveling!