It’s a weird time to be travelling, given that you’re asked to scan more QR codes than you can remember, you’re panting heavily after scaling the lengths of Suvarnabhumi in a tight face mask, and you’ve never been more constantly aware of your body temperature.
And yet, nevertheless, it’s also a wonderful time to be travelling. We’re lucky to live in a country that boasts world-class luxury hotels and resorts, and that after we’ve ripped off the face shield and named everyone we’ve ever been in contact with, we can retreat to the comforts of a large, private, hilltop villa overlooking the Gulf of Thailand.
If anywhere to rip off your face shield and retreat to the comforts of a private hilltop villa as of late, it is the Banyan Tree Samui. You are so socially-distanced in the large self-contained villas — only reachable by gulf buggy, only discoverable from across the private peninsula by way of binoculars. It is utterly serene. It is absolutely romantic (even if you’re single). And it is the most fitting escape for anyone looking to get away from the madness of pandemics or general pandemonium. Checking in for the weekend, find out why we fell so in love with its general ambience and aura, and with one underlying aspect in particular.
[All images courtesy of the Banyan Tree Samui]
The Banyan Tree Samui lies approximately 30 minutes away from Samui International Airport on scenic Lamai Bay. It is nestled into a private hill cove spread over 38 acres of rainforest, the view of which will greet you upon arriving. It’s breathtaking. We’re not ones for ‘gramming every second of our vacation (we believe in social media detoxing for 2020), but it’s really worth capturing. 88 standalone villas dot the landscape, each with a private pool shimmering in front of them. The villas are aligned such that they sort of cascade down towards the private beach just below, giving the entire scenery a real wow effect — even for he or she who believes to be well-travelled and believes to have seen it all.
What’s great about the villas at the Banyan Tree Samui — in comparison to other resorts or not — is that the villa types only really differ by view. The interiors are the same for every villa (excuse maybe a larger shower in some, or a bigger walk-in closet in others), and every villa has the same generously-sized private pool.
We stayed in the Royal Banyan Ocean Pool Villa, made up of a whopping 155sqm of space for us alone, with a little outdoor sala area (ideal nap space) and a jet pool (also only available in the beach-facing villa types). The villas are a perfect blend between Thai and contemporary design, with an ethos of airiness and high ceilings, which seamlessly blends together the outdoor and indoor areas. You can walk out from the shower to the terrace, you can wake up to the view of the sunrise from the bed, and you can slide open all the doors and hop directly into your deep, dark blue, infinity pool. The view from here does the word ‘sprawling’ hardly any justice.
There’s also a sweet selection of changing signature incense sticks available in the room every day after turndown service, which was really one of the highlights of our stay.
The Banyan Tree Samui is the kind of place you could check in to for the weekend and never leave for the entire duration of that weekend. Granted, given COVID-19 and its effects, the beloved Saffron restaurant is closed for the time being, and the breakfast at The Edge has moved down to Sands restaurant, but this doesn’t mean dining is limited.
In-villa dining is the far too underrated star of the times we live in, and we enjoyed a wood-fired oven pizza and wine to unspeakable levels on our terrace. We wore bathrobes. We watched television. We napped on the sunbed. It was a whole thing.
For dinner, we took the buggy down to Sands, enjoying international and Thai cuisine, and an especially mean wagyu krapow worth mentioning. Sands, as its name suggests, is located by the beach. Here, you’ll get a dreamy view of the beach with beautifully-formed rocks to either side (it feels like a movie set), and a stretch of white sand and sea. Couples balance their weight and expectations on the paddle boards, and groups of friends return from snorkelling at the nearby reef. You’ll breathe in that infamous Samui sea breeze. It’s a far cry from your regular PM 2.5 on Rama 4.
In case you haven’t caught on, the Banyan Tree brand is one that prides itself in engaging the senses. They’re known for their wellness sanctuaries, and their spotlight on tranquility and well-being. The experiences are designed to suit.
There’s a gallery, a yoga centre, and a library, as well as a fitness centre and a spa. At the latter, you’ll find an inspired selection of holistic treatments, with one extraordinary experience standing out from the rest. It’s called ‘The Rainforest’, and is housed in an indoor location known as ‘The Rainforest.’
The rainforest indulgence is centred around hydrothermal therapy, and involves a walk through “rain”, a Swiss bucket shower, a sauna and steam session, an ice fountain, and making the rounds in a vitality pool. It’s not like a traditional massage, like, at all, but it’s a spa experience for those looking to try something new. It’s also fun to do together with a partner, as you go from station to station and have water targeted at certain muscles at varying strengths.
Afterwards, you’ll get to relax on hot tile beds and it’s likely that after all that faux water exercise that you’ll fall into a deep snooze, too.
There is something about having to pick up the phone and call for a buggy every time you want to go somewhere. Social distancing sucks in many instances, but it’s cool when you want to roam your secluded villa in a barely-there outfit. You may have never had a ‘contactless journey’ before, but you’ll find it’s interestingly calming. Also, how great for the environment is a QR code-accessible digital food menu?
The Banyan Tree Samui employed many ‘Safe Sanctuary’ policies after the break of COVID-19. The resort boasts our favourite accommodation on the island, yet in the strange times we live in, these policies become the greater selling point. You don’t want to leave the villa because it is extremely romantic. You don’t have to leave the villa because all your needs can be catered to. These days, it’s actually more relaxing to have peace of mind than to have plush interiors.
Luckily, the Banyan Tree Samui excels on both fronts. Soothingly, all feels well in the world while you’re here.
Bangkok Airways is now operating 10 round-trip flights daily between Bangkok and Samui. You can find out more at www.bangkokair.com. To find out more about the Banyan Tree Samui, check out their website.