Is that this Chiang Mai or Koh Samui Resort excellent to your subsequent journey?

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There’s nothing like a retreat to a Koh Samui resort by the sea or luxury abode in the mountains. EL’s KATE WOODBURY dipped her toes into both on a recent visit. Here is what she had to say about these two destinations, the best food in Thailand to try and some top things to do in Chiang Mai!

Banyan Tree Samui – Relaxing Koh Samui resort

Spanning a whopping 38 acres, Banyan Tree Samui is spread over two steep hills overlooking a picturesque secluded bay and pristine beach. Needless to say, the views are stunning! And so are the facilities. Actually, pretty much everything about this idyllic Koh Samui resort is so well thought through, you might not want to leave. Enjoy a welcome drink and chilled towel while the friendly team take care of the check-in formalities and let the magic begin.

Each of the 88 luxurious villas is situated within a lush private garden complete with your own 35-square-metre pool and sundeck. We stayed in a spacious Deluxe Pool Villa, rectangular in shape, with the sitting room leading to the bedroom in the middle and a vast bathroom at the end.

With views of the pool throughout, the villa is furnished to a very high standard and decorated in natural calming tones adding to the serenity. In addition to all the amenities you’d expect, there are some thoughtful touches at the Koh Samui resort including a daily aromatherapy essential oil, which you can also purchase from the hotel to take a little piece of that Banyan Tree magic home.

Things to do at this Koh Samui resort

There are plenty of activities within the resort such as kayaking, snorkelling and stand-up paddleboarding along with a daily schedule of wellbeing classes including yoga and sleep meditation. The infinity pool is large enough for some decent laps, with comfortable sun loungers to relax and enjoy the views overlooking the beach. If walking up steep hills to your villa or to breakfast isn’t your idea of relaxation, don’t worry – a team of smiling drivers in golf buggies zip around the Koh Samui resort. But do take some time to wander around the lush tropical gardens, to slow down and unwind. Enjoy the serenity!

Banyan Tree is famed for its spa and there’s a fabulous range of massages, treatments and therapies available. During our stay, we tried the Rainforest, a hydrotherapy wellness experience. The 60-minute circuit takes you through different water therapies including steam, bucket shower, ice fountain and a rainforest walk. At the end, you can relax in the vitality pool.

koh samui resort

Dining delights for top food in Thailand

There are plenty of dining choices if you’re looking to stay in the Koh Samui resort during your stay (and why wouldn’t you!) Enjoy afternoon tea or a sundowner in the Lobby Lounge with spectacular views over the Gulf of Thailand. Breakfast is served at The Edge and offers an extensive buffet food in Thailand including local, Asian and Western choices – everything you could possibly dream of. Sit outside on the terrace, enjoy the gentle sea breeze and soak up the views over the resort’s private bay. Aptly named Sands, the casual beachside restaurant serves Thai and international cuisine – if you’re lucky enough to stay on a Saturday night, prepare to be mesmerised at the fire show. And perched high on the hilltop, you’ll find Banyan Tree’s signature restaurant Saffron, perfect for date-night dining.

During our stay, we were treated to a Chef’s Table dinner – the culinary highlight of our visit. Chef John’s four-course menu featured southern Thai cuisine, and I loved watching his team prep the food as he explained
each course, its ingredients and techniques. (We were given personalised aprons and invited to help prepare each course too!) All the dishes were exquisite, but my favourite was the Bai Cha-Plu Kreung Gaeng, with slightly bitter, peppery chau-plu leaves dipped in curry paste and lightly fried. It was the perfect accompaniment to the Yum Thua Phu Hoi Shell, grilled scallops served on a wing bean salad. Perhaps the surprise of the evening was the Monsoon Valley Signature white and red wines from grapes grown in the Hua Hin Hills Vineyard. I had no idea wine was being produced in Thailand, let alone of such quality.

A luxury resort of this calibre is the perfect romantic retreat and the team will arrange bespoke experiences for honeymoons and special occasions. Saying that, families are very welcome. There’s a small kids’ pool, play area and club, and best of all, a huge soft lawn to run around on barefoot. Children’s menus are imaginative and fun, offering plenty of choice with some cleverly disguised veg. Of course, each villa has a private pool, every kid’s dream!

No matter your reason for booking at Banyan Tree Samui, you won’t be disappointed booking this Koh Samui  resort. After our two-night stay, I felt so incredibly relaxed that coming back to reality was a jolt!

banyantree.com/thailand/samui

Samui’s one-of-a-kind airport

Bangkok Airways flies non-stop daily from Hong Kong to Koh Samui and all flights include a decent hot meal and drinks service. The airport at Koh Samui is owned by Bangkok Airways and is perhaps the world’s prettiest airport; in fact, it looks more like a relaxed tropical Thai village! No airbridges here; instead, jump on board the cute bus for a short ride to the open-air pavilion-style airport buildings. Our bags had already arrived when we got there, and immigration was super quick and efficient. Banyan Tree Samui is about a 25-minute journey from the airport.

After check-in on your return to HK, there’s a 200-metre outdoor walk past a kids’ playground, shops and various eateries to the departure pavilion. Once through passport control, there’s plenty of seating and free snacks and drinks for all passengers. Business class passengers can enjoy free access to the lounge (and air-con!) bangkokair.com/eng

Meliá Chiang Mai – Mountain escape

The Spanish-owned Meliá Chiang Mai opened mid-2022 and it has everything you’d expect of five stars, and then some. A warm Thai welcome awaits as you enter the impressive lobby; here the décor artfully blends Spanish architecture with local Thai hill tribe design and materials, and the results are stunning – a great start!

food in thailand and things to do in chiang mai

The modern rooms are spacious, comfortable and tastefully decorated in neutral tones; the hardwood flooring added a natural and calming element. The well-priced options include a spacious family room with games, toys and other thoughtful amenities. We stayed in a “Level” room, equivalent to a club room, which also gave access to The Level Lounge on the 21st floor with the usual perks of breakfast, all day drinks, snacks, evening cocktails with delicious nibbles and sensational views.

Things to do in Chiang Mai

The facilities are top-notch, with a deep-blue tiled pool, steam room and sauna, gym, separate kids’ pool and wet play area. I recommend a visit to the hotel’s world-class YHI Spa for a massage – mine was the perfect finale to my stay in Chiang Mai. However, the jewel in the crown here is the sensational kids’ club, The Kidsdom. This huge and well-equipped space has different zones and a host of loads of things to do in Chiang Mai right inside the resort, including activities, games, books and toys for ages three to 18.

food in thailand and things to do in chiang mai

While Chiang Mai is teeming with restaurants, bars and cafés, the hotel has some excellent dining options. Laan Na, on the ground floor, offers a Spanish and European menu with a handful of local Thai dishes. A highlight of my stay was the breakfast buffet with an excellent selection of Thai and Western dishes. Don’t miss out on the Spanish specialties such as tortilla, some delicious bread, cold cuts, cheese and freshly made churros – delicious!

On the 22nd floor, you’ll find the city’s highest outdoor bar, Mai The Sky Bar, where you can sip on a cocktail and enjoy panoramic views across Chiang Mai towards the mountains. No stay would be complete without a visit to the hotel’s flagship fine-dining restaurant, Mai Restaurant & Bar, on the 21st floor. Chef Billy and his team have mastered the art of fusion – think Northern Thai cuisine with a touch of Spanish flair. Stand-out dishes included Mai’s Samplers and the hang lay-style curry of pork ribs with potatoes and garbanzos. All the dishes we tried were excellent and very well priced for the quality.

Regional eats & must try food in Thailand

The food in Thailand can be broadly categorised into four regions: Northern, Northeastern, Central and Southern. In the north, dishes are known for the aromatic flavours of lemongrass, turmeric and ginger and are generally less spicy and use less coconut milk. Sai Ua, Chiang Mai’s popular and delicious pork sausage, plays centre stage. Northeastern food in Thailand or Issan Cuisine is famous for its fish sauce and spicy, tangy flavours – think grilled meats, larb and Som Tum Thai (papaya salad). Sticky rice is a staple in both northern and Issan cuisine. Central Thai is generally considered the most sophisticated being home to Royal Thai Cuisine and perhaps the “melting pot” where all Thai regions funnel together; it’s the home of dishes such as Pad Thai and Tom Yum Goong. Finally, in the south, you’ll find the most spicy and fiery curries, dishes and food in Thailand, with popular dishes including Massaman Curry and Gaeng Som.

What’s nearby

The hotel is an easy 20-minute taxi ride from the airport. Step outside the lobby and walk for just a few minutes for one the best things to do in Chiang Mai, exploring a bustling Night Bazaar! Or, jump in a taxi or tuk-tuk to Chiang Mai Old Town – the Tha Phae Gate is about a kilometre away. The old town is a true delight; I spent a couple of hours meandering through the historic streets marvelling at the temples – there are over 300 in and around the city. So you won’t be running out of things to do in Chiang Mai!

Chiang Mai is also the perfect base to explore north Thailand, with plenty of day trips the hotel can help arrange. We enjoyed a half-day excursion to a Buddhist monastery about 30 minutes away, including a traditional northern Thai lunch. This hotel really ticks our boxes – charming Thai service, great value, fabulous facilities, and kudos to the team for the enormous Kidsdom, a game-changer for families.

melia.com/en/hotels/thailand/chiang-mai

This article on things to do in Chiang Mai and a Koh Samui resort first appeared in Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.

Looking for more travel inspiration or Koh Samui resorts? Find more articles like this in our Travel Section.



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