After our visit to Vietnam we headed back to Thailand for the second of five beach weeks during the trip. We'd had a fantastic time in Goa and we hoped our time on the island of Koh Samui would be at least as good as that week was. It exceeded our expectations in so many ways that it's hard to describe the experience. I'll have to let the pictures speak for themselves.
We stayed at the Koh Samui Conrad, a hotel we chose mostly because it's a member of the Hilton chain (and we're racking up Hilton points and perks this year), but also because of the incredible location of this hotel. It's built down the side of a mountain on the more isolated west side of Koh Samui. The hotel consists of villas built on stilts, and the villas cascade down the side of the mountain all the way to the sea. The photo below shows the view from the top.
The resort is large and the climb very steep, and so you get ferried around in golf carts. If you want to go to a restaurant at the top of the resort or at the bottom, you call for a cart and one comes to pick you up and whisk you away. Depending on where your room is located, part of it could be walkable, but considering the heat and humidity, it would be a serious challenge for anyone to get around on foot.
At the bottom of the resort is a beautiful pool.
I mean seriously, that's paradise, right there.
Oh, wait... now it's even better! ;-)
That pool was beautiful, but we honestly only visited it a couple of times, because every villa had its own private pool.
Yes, that is our room right there. And that was the pool that was steps away from the door.
We had a fantastic view, one of the most stunning views I have ever seen in my life. I really don't think I will ever see a place more beautiful.
We spent six nights here, and for the majority of them, we laid around in the room, went swimming in our little pool, ordered room service, and so on. We ventured out for breakfast and dinner, and went down to the big pool a couple of times, but for the most part, we didn't want to leave the room. Can you blame us? ;-)
The entire resort faces the west, and the sunsets were stunning. I thought the sunsets in Goa were amazing, but this was something else altogether. We would grab beers out of the minibar and get in the pool and just watch the sun set.
One thing we really wanted to do was go see the islands and do some snorkeling, and so we hired a private boat and driver for a day. It was expensive, but it was so, so amazing.
As the boat headed out across the sea toward the marine park, I could only stare out at the water and the beautiful scenery going by, and wonder how this was my life -- even if only for a day.
Our first stop was on a beach that was actually a shallow coral reef. We waded out in the water and watched fish swimming around our ankles. It was stunning!
Many of these islands are worn away at the base where the waves have crashed against the stone. This leaves wonderful grotto-like overhangs that are shady and fun to swim under.
And oh, the snorkeling was fantastic! It was probably the best snorkeling I've been able to do in my life. We just parked the boat at an isolated spot, put on our masks, and dove in, and there were fish everywhere, so many different kinds and colors, all kinds of corals, incredible spiny black sea urchins, and on and on. It was amazing.
Carter finally gave up on the mask and just put on his swimming goggles instead, and then just swam around in the ocean for a while. The water was warm, clear, and calm with no waves, and it was a very easy place to snorkel.
We cruised around the little islands, snorkeled some more, and generally enjoyed the day.
We had lunch in a little village restaurant set up for boating tourists, and then afterwards headed off to a beautiful beach to do some swimming. There were lots of people there when we arrived, but eventually everyone else left and we had this stunning beach to ourselves. We just floated in the water and tried to soak it all up.
When all the other tourists had gone, a little local boy who couldn't have been much more than 4 years old came down and played with Carter. They splashed around together for a while.
At last it was time to get on the boat and head back to the hotel. We did it very reluctantly.
As you might imagine, Carter was worn out by the end.
We had a few more days to enjoy hanging around the hotel and swimming in our private pool. Here is Carter's "OMG are we done taking pictures yet?" face.
He even went skinny-dipping once! He thought it was hilarious to be in the pool naked.
One morning this is what his hair looked like: the end result of a couple of months of daily swimming! Chlorine-removing shampoo and conditioner work wonders, though.
We checked out all of the hotel's restaurants and enjoyed a few more sunsets. At the most upscale restaurant, they brought Carter a coloring page and a set of twelve oil pastels to color with. Not crayons, but oil pastels! You know it's a fancy restaurant when...
Our 18th wedding anniversary fell during this week, and we decided to have a special dinner to celebrate. The hotel offered a private meal in their wine cellar, attended by the hotel's sommelier, and that sounded perfect for us. We got a sitter for Carter and had a lovely evening sipping wine, enjoying the food, and talking to the sommelier about the wine business in Asia. We learned that Thailand places an extremely high luxury tax of 400% on wine, for example! The hotel took great care of us and the executive chef even prepared a few special dishes that weren't on the menu.
At the end they brought us a cake! We took it back to the room and ate it over the next few days. I think Carter ate every one of the flowers all by himself.
During a big chunk of the time, we were the only family there. Almost all of the other people at the resort were honeymooners, and most of them were from Korea. (Apparently the hotel advertises heavily in Korean wedding magazines.) And one other strange thing that we noticed was that almost all of the honeymooning brides wore life jackets in the swimming pool. The pool was 4 feet deep, so I really don't understand why the life jackets were necessary, but at one point there were six women in the pool wearing life jackets. And they could stand up in the water! While we were at the big pool, we saw several more women come down and ask the pool staff for life jackets they could take back to their private pools. We still aren't quite sure what to make of that.
Overall, our stay in Koh Samui was amazing. There have only been a few places on this trip that I did not want to leave, and this was one of them. On the last morning, Carter and I swam in the pool and I stared out at the islands and the water and wondered if I will be fortunate enough to see this place again. I hope so. Maybe we'll see something even more spectacular during this year, but I have a hard time imagining it.