Thailand. – Sometimes I think travel couldn’t get any better, and then I arrive at my next destination. My latest discovery, a place with soul, a story and proud ownership, where luxury and nature are best of friends, and I realise that the gift of opportunity continues to indulge me.
This was the case with The Tongsai Bay, the fourth and last of the Green Pearl’s Unique Places I visited. Located on the North East corner of much loved Koh Samui, with a private cove, 25 acres of land and total seclusion from traffic and neighbours.
This is an intensely luxurious, romantic and special place and I loved spending my last two days here under the care of The Tongsai Bay team and Hotel Manager Mark Harrison. This is a resort built on dreams, one that has grown to become exactly that realised for the many guests it hosts today.
I’m told it all began in 1985 when the late Akorn Hoontrakul, then chairman of The Imperial Hotel Group, saw Tongsai Bay from the sea and declared it love at first sight. Seven days later Akorn bought the land and for three months slept on the beach, dreaming of his ideal resort, whilst starting to plan the layout and location of the rooms. A key challenge was to do so without cutting down a single tree or cause damage to the beautiful natural surroundings.
The Tongsai Bay opened its doors in July 1987 and became the first five-star luxury hotel on Koh Samui, under the umbrella of The Imperial Hotel Group. Following a period of illness in 1993, Akorn sold the Imperial Hotel Group whilst retaining The Tongsai Bay, because he wanted to live out the rest of his life there with his beloved wife Chompunute.
In 2000 Akorn passed away and management moved to the capable hands of his son, Thanakorn and his daughter in-law, Saisiri who both share Akorn’s passion for the environment and for providing the highest standards of hospitality and service. Under his watchful eye, The Tongsai Bay continued to grow from strength to strength and developed its own ‘Green Project’. This is now the model for many new hotels who also desire to preserve the island’s natural environment for future generations.
Some things The Tongsai Bay takes great pride in.
Unique attributes include the 25 acres of protected and secluded land, a private bay and beach completely free of vendors and motorized water sports.
Breakfast until 10:30am as nobody should have to get up early on their holiday. The flexibility of late check-outs. Unbelievably high speed free Wi-Fi everywhere, as well as computers in the internet room. Fabulous art in the grounds, rooms and public areas. Housekeepers twice a day, should you wish.
Chilled drinking water in the restaurants, bars and on the beach is at no cost. Welcome drinks and cold towels are offered on arrival. Fresh flowers and cut fruit, turndown goodies on the bed and lots of extras for celebrations and highdays. It is no wonder 35% of their guests are returning or word of mouth recommendations.
It appears they gave me the best room at the resort, even though I would have been happy with whichever was selected for my stay. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it and have no doubt the expression of amazement showed on my face as I was taken to Villa 15 on the top of the hill and shown around the incredible space that would be mine for two days.
The Tongsai Grand Villas are situated high on the hillside to the south of the bay and each has a spectacular view. The luxurious features include the vast open air wooden decked terrace complete with bath as centre piece, a 4 poster bed with mosquito net, bar, pantry, dining area and sun loungers. Inside a separate lounge with TV, walk-in cupboard, desk. A large bedroom and bathroom, as well as an outside garden.
It offers unsurpassable luxury in relaxed comfort and I savoured every moment!
The view from the villa.
The other types of accommodation on offer:
The Beachfront Suites located in a 3-storey building overlooking the main pool have excellent views. Well equipped with an inside bathroom and large terraces that have outdoor baths and loungers. The ground floor suites have direct access to the pool and garden which is perfect for families.
The Cottage Suites are scattered among the tropical gardens on the hillside overlooking the sea. Most are semi-detached with a split-level design of bedroom and living area. They are all slightly different in shape and all have a private open-air balcony complete with the resort’s signature bath-with-a-view, two sun-loungers and a writing table.
The Seafront Cottages have the same design as the Cottage Suites and are located along the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea offering spectacular sea views and privacy.
The Seafront Pool Villas are in front of the Tongsai Grand Villas. Each is luxuriously furnished and features an open air terrace with bath, 4 poster bed with mosquito net, mini bar, dining area and sun loungers. The sea views are excellent and the sense of privacy and tranquillity welcome. Each villa has an inviting private pool.
You won’t go hungry at The Tongsai Bay.
With the Po-Lad Beach Bistro & Bar on the beach serving Thai, Chinese and Western dishes for lunch each day between 10.00 till 17.30 and after dusk transforming into a contemporary gourmet restaurant with emphasis on all that is fresh, you are spoilt for choice. The setting is hard to beat too.
The Po-Lad bar is a good place to enjoy drinks and cocktails, I especially loved the oversized couches. The bar is open from 11.00 in the morning until the early hours.
Higher up on the terrace and overlooking the bay and tropical gardens, Chef Chom serves Thai cuisine the traditional way. The restaurant is named after Chef Chom who worked at Tongsai Bay for over 20 years and is said to have trained more than 500 chefs in her illustrious career.
This is also where breakfast is served. Fresh fruit being something to indulge in whilst in Thailand. Specialty and private dining is available on request.
The Prana Spa.
One of the most sacred places at The Tongsai Bay is the Prana Spa where a variety of spa treatments are offered, something that forms an integral part of any Thai stay. Set amongst the trees and close to nature, here your choice of treatment can be therapeutic, healing and simply relaxing.
I opted for a traditional Thai massage which is known to restore the balance of energy to the body and release blockages through ancient healing that combines acupressure, Indian Ayurvedic principles and assisted yoga postures. It doesn’t require oil and is performed whilst you are fulling clothed, in this case in a cute outfit they provided.
Each spa cottage offers complete privacy and is equipped with two massage beds, two treatment beds, two easy chairs for foot treatments, a steam room and an open-air bathtub for floral baths. The choice of treatments covers all preferences, as seen on the menu.
Bear in mind that the Spa offers excellent discount during the middle of the day and has special combo deals available. There were also two outside massage gazebos which face the beach, I’d opt for that if possible, very idyllic.
Activities on Offer.
There are two pools that will be an instant draw, together with the beach of course. The main free form freshwater pool is huge and right on the water’s edge with Thai style Gazebos, sun-loungers, umbrellas and tables to enjoy. There is also a separate children’s paddling pool. The team on duty provide with fresh towels, drinks and complimentary iced water and fresh fruit.
The other pool, known as the Half Moon pool, is above the Po-Lad Beach Bistro and has excellent views of the bay. This is for adults only, offering tranquility away from the family guests.
There are complimentary Hobie Cats, Windsurfers, Kayaks and snorkelling equipment available. In keeping with their green policy no motorised water sports are allowed.
The exercise room is next to the main swimming pool with treadmills, bikes, rowing machine, weights and more. There’s even a flood lit tennis court if you prefer and yoga is offered a few days a week.
Enjoy Authentic Thai cooking classes with Executive Chef Robert Mujagic and his team whether you are a beginner or experienced cook. You can even go down to the organic garden with the Chef to select the ingredients you will use.
Movie nights on the beach – bliss, cultural classes and Thai beginner language lessons among many other things. There’s a ‘What’s on Weekly’ brochure placed in the room to give you a wide choice to select from.
Then you could leave the resort and visit one of the attractions, the one I was sorry to have missed is the very Big Buddha, which is very near by.
The pool on a quiet early morning.
Feet washing station as you come off the beach.
My most cherished moments at The Tongsai Bay include:
– Watching a movie on the beach while sipping on a glass of bubbly, only about 10 people in sight. Laughing with carefree abandon at the funny scenes, feet in the sand, chewing on popcorn, feeling not a care in the world.
– Waking up and walking from my cool air-conditioned room into the heat of the day, my sunglasses fogging up as I made coffee on the deck, taking it with me to the plunge pool, where I enjoyed it between dipping into the refreshing water and taking in the views through the trees towards the bay.
– Sitting on the golf cart for my transfer up the hill, chatting to my driver, wishing the distance was longer and I could learn more of his love for the resort and the obvious sense of family.
– Being served specifically crafted vegetarian meals by Chef Aek who seemed to have been issued a ‘feed me’ brief and on my arrival told me about the beautiful dishes he had planned, bringing them to me himself with animated enthusiasm over the days and the instruction to ‘take photo’. Not always easy to do in soft light or when all I wanted to do was dig right in. My favourite was probably the potato gnocchi with thin strips of sun dried tomatoes and rocket.
Also the delicious poached egg on handcrafted potato rosti and organic mushrooms, which means that no breakfast will ever compare moving forward.
– Chatting to the waiter at the Po-Lad Beach Bistro & Bar about his decade in service at The Tongsai Bay and how this is where he belongs, despite originally being from Northern Thailand.
– The time spent in the Organic Garden with Mark, Sutin, Mai and Yum.
– The fact that the gift shop has incredible things for sale at affordable prices, with most aligned to community and environmental projects, making shopping for gifts for home easy.
– Taking a big outdoor bath filled with frangipani flowers, afterall that’s what the note said I should do. Every room at Tongsai Bay has an outdoor bath, no matter which category it is.
– The comprehensive information, activities list, map of the property, room service menu, green and red service signs in the rooms.
– The vast sense of space, where everywhere is considered with a stepping stone or hanging orchid, tree name to be scanned for more information or signs leading to paths and inviting stairways.
– Honestly the most beautiful recycling centre I’ve seen. If that doesn’t inspire you to do the right thing, not much will.
Truth is there are much easier ways to get to Tongsai Bay than the one that saw my arrival at roughly 8.30pm after a full day of travel, but then in my case arrangements never went as smoothly as anticipated.
Leaving Zeavola Resort by long-tail boat to Phi Phi Island, I took a ferry to Krabi and a taxi to the Airport, enthusiastically arriving at check-in for my flight to Samui, only to be told that all flights had been cancelled as a result of the devastating fires in Indonesia.
Desperate to keep moving in the right direction and with no days to spare, I managed to find a group of travellers who shared my determination to find another way. We hired a shuttle bus to drive us the four hours to the Seatran Pier where we took a ferry to Na Thon.
Throughout I was in contact with Christine of Green Pearls and Mark at The Tongsai Bay, who offered support, sending a complimentary shuttle to meet me off the ferry. I knew immediately that I was in good hands as my driver handed me a water and scented cold towel to freshen up, whilst settling me into the car for the hour’s drive to the resort.
What a welcome sight arrival was and all were very sympathetic of the delay, having struggled with stranded passengers all day. Terrible to think how great the ramifications of the natural disaster of fires are.
Said intrepidness aside, the more conventional way to get there is flight to Samui Airport which is only about 15 minutes drive away. Best part is that the airport not only services daily flights to Bangkok, but as Thailand’s second International Airport has flights from Singapore, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Bali and other.
I wish I’d known about the direct flight from Singapore as it would have saved me a flight.
Then of course even though you may understandably not want to leave the resort, should you choose to see more of the island, Tongsai Bay is only 10 minutes drive from Samui’s busiest and biggest town Chaweng Beach.
Also only 10 minutes drive away is Koh Samui’s famous walking street market, The Fisherman’s Village. I went there on the one night and it’s a great place for street food, beach bars, shopping and Mojito’s to go. I even saw some insects being fried up as a food store offering, but I opted for veggie spring rolls instead and they were delicious.
For transfers to any of these places you can arrange for a car at reception, or have one of the tour desk team help plan your day for you.
Truly a remarkable stay in a very special place.
Thank you Mark of Tongsai Bay, Christine of Green Pearls, Chef Aek and every one of the wonderful people who made my stay extraordinary. I make it no secret that I would love to return for more, not least to swim in the warm water and be inspired by your green hearted spirit.
NOTE: They offer weddings, how extraordinary that would be.
I’ve stretched out my October Thailand posts like I would the last pages of a good book, not wanting it to end, still wanting to be there in mind, worried that the written word would bring finality to this wonderful trip. Yet nothing will, the lodges and experiences are etched into my green heart and much cherished, I shall continue to sing their praise as I remember with much appreciation the details.
More posts on my visits to Thailand.