There’s a moment, neck-deep in the plunge pool and staring out over the treetops to the shimmering sea, when the isolation sinks in. Here, you realize, is very far away from there – from work, dinging cellphones, alarms, traffic, everything. This little slice of romantic solitude is on Koh Samui, the largest (and poshest) of Thailand’s stunning tropical islands in the Gulf of Thailand.
It’s often the starting point for vacations to Koh Pha Ngan, with its full-moon party debauchery, or to low-key diving trips in crystal waters offshore. Samui itself, mountainous and laden with European and Asian tourists, has a reputation somewhere in the middle.
The resort is perched in the thick jungle of Koh Samui’s northeast corner, so Six Senses is secluded on an already secluded island. Perfectly landscaped and spacious enough to hide each of its 66 luxury villas from the other, a stay at Six Senses means you really can feel as if you’ve truly escaped.
The Six Senses takes some getting to: There’s no direct flight to Thailand from Toronto or Vancouver, so expect around 24 hours of travel time just to get to Bangkok. From there, Bangkok Airways (styled as Asia’s boutique airline) flies a few times daily to Samui’s exceedingly charming airport and from there, Six Senses is about a 20-minute drive away. You can also come by ferry from Surat Thani on the mainland, nearer Phuket or Krabi airports. Finding the resort, especially at night, could be tricky, so book a transfer with the hotel and be greeted with air conditioning, lemongrass-scented cold towels and ice-cold water.
Once you’ve arrived, the resort has its own private beach and enough dining variation to keep you entertained over a short stay, but if you need to get a sense of the island, the “experiences” desk by the lobby will co-ordinate private tours with guides to local markets, temples or waterfalls. Though once you settle in, it’s really hard to leave.
Surprisingly, the most pleasant touch is the deliberate lack of WiFi outside of the villas and bar. Despite complaints from guests, the hotel has resolutely kept public spaces as Internet-free zones, succeeding (mostly) in creating a place where people still notice their surroundings and speak to each another, without hashtagging the moment.
Eat in or eat out?
Breakfast – both à la carte and from the buffet – is included, and the hotel offers half- and full-board options. The fresh juices and smoothies are especially fantastic. Six Senses’ signature restaurant, Dining on the Rocks, is worth a trip if only for the views and the house-special prowtinis, a highly addictive martini made with coconut-infused vodka. The set-menu-with-generous-wine-pairings requires a sense of adventure and a working understanding of what “deconstructed” means when applied to food.
But this being Thailand, you can find a great meal almost anywhere on the island, especially at the roadside restaurants offering curries with local levels of spiciness. The only trouble with eating locally is that it means leaving the resort, which is generally not advised because the outside world is woefully nothing like the Six Senses.
If I could change one thing
Our butler did well to caution us about the proliferation of mosquitoes due to a longish wet season before our stay. So, look: there are bugs here. But pretending that there won’t be bugs in a jungle retreat is a bit naive, and the staff subtly – and successfully – fog for mosquitoes twice a day and set up the villas for a buzz-proof sleep by setting up the mosquito net to surround your bed and side tables just after dark. The mosquito nets add a layer of desert-island feel, but the insect-adverse might be surprised by the byproducts of jungle in this luxury jungle escape.
Six Senses Samui, Bophut, Koh Samui, Thailand, sixsenses.com; 66 villas from $550.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.
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