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Seven years ago, nobody seemed to know about Koh Samui, Thailand. It was a relatively undiscovered sliver of island paradise that only backpackers had the map to. Hotels averaged $10 per night; pad Thai cost about a dollar; and miles of sublime beaches sprawled under their bare feet. The only way to get there was by bus and ferry, a little too much effort for most.
Then the tsunami struck Phuket in 2004 chaging everything. During Phuket’s rehabilitation, travelers still wanted an island excursion when traveling through Bangkok. Koh Samui was the next best alternative, and now the destination is giving Phuket a run for its money. Approximately four years ago, the Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui opened on a quiet beach on the northwest coast. Then Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts set up camp. Next, W Retreat Koh Samui opened its doors. And in the fall of 2011, Conrad Koh Samui set up camp, raising the bar on luxury in the area.
Sprawling 25 acres, Conrad Koh Samui features 80 contemporary villas raised on stilts — 65 one-bedroom villas, 14 two-bedroom villas and a Royal villa — all perched on a cliff that offers commanding views of the sea and mainland Thailand. Each villa comes equipped with state-of-the-art, in-room technology, including an LCD flat-screen satellite television, a CD/DVD player and an iPod docking station. This seems to blend effortlessly with the traditional furnishings such as tropical hardwood floors, Thai silk wall paneling and local-inspired artwork. Marble bathrooms include separate glass-wall rain showers, double vanities and deep-soaking tubs with floor-to-ceiling views of the sea. Furthermore, each villa is equipped with an extra 300-square-foot outdoor deck that includes sunbeds, a lounge and a 30-foot-long infinity pool, all of which face the magnificent sea and sunset. In fact, Conrad Koh Samui is the only luxury resort with this privilege due to its location on the west side of the island.
Foodies will not be disappointed with the range of culinary options headed by Joe Diaz, formerly of French Laundry. The resort offers in-cellar dining at the Cellar with approximately 3,000 bottles of wine from which to choose; fine Thai-inspired dining at the cliffside specialty restaurant Jahn; and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine made to order from live action stations in the all-day dining restaurant Zest. Glow Lounge, the signature bar, offers terrific cocktails and memorable sunsets.
A sanctuary within Conrad Koh Samui is its 11,000-square-foot spa. The two-level, full-service facility in its own unit also overlooks the sea and various islands. Traditional Thai therapies are infused with Western philosophy (the spa program was developed in collaboration with Dr. Buathon, Thailand’s leading authority on holistic healing), and aromatherapy products are used in treatments. All 10 treatment rooms have a private deck and 300-degree panoramic views of the ocean.
Even the sauna rooms have floor-to-ceiling glass walls for that amazing Gulf of Thailand view.
The resort is about a 45-minute drive from the town of Koh Samui, but considering the wealth of options available — including an on-site diving and sailing center, a 600-foot pier, a 24-hour fitness center, an outdoor yoga pavilion, a central infinity pool, a private sliver of beach and 24-hour room service — guests will be hard-pressed to find a reason to leave.