A week-ago Friday, my brother-in-law and I met in Koh Samui for an almost indescribable weekend. Peter came to Thailand in early November; he spent his first week in Bangkok followed by four days at Surin beach on Phuket before heading to Samui. During our stay on Samui, he remarked that it reminded him of the Robin Leach’s old television show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. This was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Koh Samui is the largest island (250 square miles in area) in an archipelago of more than 60 islands in the Gulf of Thailand off Thailand’s east coast. Located about 300 miles due south of Bangkok (point A on map below), Samui (B) is the third largest island in Thailand after Koh Phuket (C) and Koh Chang (D). Phuket has gorgeous white sand beaches, but they are very crowded with tourists and hawkers selling all sorts of things. Koh Samui, in contrast, has far fewer people on the beaches, and if you are looking for relative solitude, peace and quiet, and a good place to relax, unwind, and perhaps read a book, Koh Samui is the place. Just north of Koh Samui is Koh Pha Ngan where thousands of people gather each month for an all night Full Moon Party on Haad Rin Beach.
The story behind the trip to Samui dates back to September when I went with an expat wine distributor to one of the dinners at the World Gourmet Festival. The dinner we attended was prepared by Galvin Lim from Les Amis in Singapore with wines selected by Jeannie Cho Lee, the first Asian Master of Wine. The event took place at the Four Seasons hotel in Bangkok, and at the end of the evening there was a live auction to benefit children with HIV. One of the prizes offered was a two night stay in a two bedroom villa at the Four Seasons resort on Koh Samui. Since there was little action, I jumped in and placed a bid. Someone raised the bid and I nodded once to go one notch higher. No one else was interested, so I was the proud, and perhaps a bit inebriated, winner. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with my prize, but when Peter told me that he was coming to Thailand, that problem was solved.
We met in Samui about 4:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon and hired an SUV to take us to the resort, a 45 minute trip. I wasn’t sure how good this weekend excursion was going to be since the Four Seasons is on the northwest tip of the island (point A on map below) and most of the island’s activities seemed to be either on Chaweng Beach (B) on the eastern edge of the island or at Lamai Beach (C) on the southeastern side. Boy, was I wrong.
Upon our arrival at the Four Seasons, we were greeted by the resort’s general manager, Ram, and residence manager, Nurul, who gave us a brief rundown about the property. The Four Seasons resort sits on 42 hilly acres on Laem Yai Bay. We were told that we would be staying in the villa that was overlooking the Gulf of Thailand and nearest to the resort’s private beach. After we finished our pleasantries, the manager called for an electric buggy to take us to the villa.
When we arrived at our villa, I was stunned. The villa occupies an 8,000 square foot plot overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. It has three buildings — a main building that contained the living room and dining room and then two separate bedrooms on the sides. Outside, there is a main deck, private pool, and dining pavilion as well as a lap pool off one of the two bedrooms. An around-the-clock butler lives on the property in order to take care of the guests; upon our arrival, he had some snacks, cookies, and fruit waiting for us. While I had read about a night market in a nearby village that takes place only on Fridays, once we saw the villa, neither of us had any desire to leave. Instead, we gave the butler our food order and we enjoyed dinner outdoors in the dining area that overlooks the pool and the gulf.
At the end of the evening, the butler took our breakfast order and we asked that it be ready at 8 a.m.; it was. During breakfast the next morning, we noticed a yacht anchored just off-shore and the butler explained that we were looking at the larger of the resort’s two charter boats, the 66 foot Minor Affair. The butler explained that it could accommodate up to 12 people and that it had three sleeping cabins and a full galley. He apologized that it was booked solid through January at the rate of 200,000 baht per day (just under $7,000). We expressed our disappointment and vowed that next time we would plan ahead better.
We asked the butler to call for a buggy to take us down to the private beach where the resort provides complimentary snorkeling gear, kayaks, and wind surfing equipment. After a few hours in the gulf and on the beach, we took a buggy back to the residence to change and meet our car and driver for an afternoon tour of the island.
The butler had arranged an elephant trek for us, and 40 minutes after we left the resort we arrived at Living Thailand where Natalie and Emma, 38 and 40 year old elephants, and their mahouts took us on a one-hour ride through the jungle. Along the way, we saw water buffalo, egrets, and colorful butterflies. We passed by large coconut trees and stopped at a nearby pond so that the elephants could have a drink. About halfway along the journey, the mahouts jumped off to take pictures and they offered to let us slide down and “drive” the chang. I rode on the elephant’s neck for the remainder of the trek mainly because I had no idea how to climb back up onto the seat!
After our ride, we circumnavigated the rest of the island before heading back to paradise. That evening, we had a wonderful dinner at Pla Pla, the resort’s beach side restaurant. On Sunday, we reprised the Saturday morning routine. While we were at the beach, the resort workers were setting the stage for a wedding complete with a floral carpet of purple and white orchid petals; an hour or so later, we watched a young Thai couple get married. Unfortunately, all good things ultimately end, and by 1 p.m. that afternoon we were on our way to the airport to catch our flight back to Krung Thep.
After a nine-month renovation, a nearby shopping mall — the Silom Complex — recently reopened. The 31 story complex has retail space on the first five floors and there have to be close to 50 places to eat, roughly half of them full restaurants while the others either sell take-away or serve just dessert or drinks.
After shopping yesterday, I tried BonChon Chicken, a restaurant that advertises itself as the “Best Wing in Amrica” (sic). The chicken is offered coated in either a hot sauce or a soy-garlic sauce and a choice of a side order of rice, sticky rice, creamy cole slaw, or kimchi. I opted for an order of two drumsticks and six wings with the hot sauce and with cole slaw for the side. Apparently because it is fried twice, the chicken is incredibly crispy but not greasy. The chicken compares quite favorably to my favorite Buffalo Wings albeit absent the blue cheese sauce; the mall location, however, simply does not have the general seediness that is a quintessential part of the true Buffalo experience.
In addition to three outlets here in Bangkok, the South Korean-based chain has stores in Seoul, Singapore, Manilla, and Dubai as well as in NYC, Boston, L.A., and San Francisco in the states.
That man in the White House and the American voter
Kop Khun Krab.
© 2012 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.