Only 430 miles south of Bangkok, Samui could be a million miles away with its picture-perfect coastline of white-sand beaches, coconut palms slightly lifting in the breeze and the turquoise seas sparkling in the sunlight. Samui’s inland is still awe-inspiring with its rugged jungle draped inland.
According to my driver/tour guide “Moo,” Samui, known as the coconut island, supplied coconut to Bangkok, but now the island “grows resorts.” In 1993, just over a half million annual visitors came to Samui, and almost a million people a year pack onto an island only 21 kilometers wide as Thailand’s third largest island. Moo said it was good for his business that the small island was becoming so popular, but the traffic not so good.
Today, high end resorts are replacing huts, and the constant flow of backpackers is slowly being priced out with the demands of leisure travelers. Some say Koh Samui has lost its paradise personality amidst the luxury hotels and tourists, but like any other destination, part of the experience is stepping away from the familiar hotel brands and touristy areas.
That’s what I hoped for when we turned off the main road, just 10 minutes from the airport, and another few minutes down a rocky dirt road winding past a handful of cottages before finally arriving at the secluded sanctuary of Melati Beach Resort & Spa, on the northern most tip of Samui.
Located on 15 acres, Melati Beach Resort & Spa emulates a tropical paradise, with its lush foliage crowding the walkways and edging the maze of 77 suites and villas, fashioned after a Thai Village. Once I stepped into the destination resort and spa’s open-air lobby, I thought I’d hit a lucky 7 jackpot at Melati.
No time to soak in my surroundings just yet as I had my first spa treatment scheduled. A seamless check-in and then, the valet transported me via golf cart down an incline into the tropical landscape surrounding the villas.
Suites and villas ranges from 750 to 2150 square feet of indoor-outdoor space, with more than half also including private plunge pools. My accommodations were in a Grand Deluxe room, first floor.
Enter through a private garden courtyard to what can only be described as an oasis. A king bed, separate bathroom with large yet private outdoor bathtub – simply delightful! The writing desk was adequate, and the in-room WiFi (surcharge) was a pleasant surprise.
I barely had time to take in my oversized deluxe suite before changing into yoga pants and a T-shirt.
The Melati Spa was on the other side of the lobby, so back I went, this time a 5-minute walk on the winding path that snaked through the resort’s tropical foliage and up the hill, past the seven-level waterfall feature, up the stairs past a restaurant, through the lobby, and then across to the spa.
Melati Spa’s sign signals a walk through yet another lush Samui foliage-edged path again. Open the door and the jasmine floats into the air, and I decided it was the moment to succumb to its calming abilities – after all it was spa time.
Melati is the Indonesian word for jasmine. It’s only fitting that jasmine is the signature scent of the spa. Melati Spa, with a tagline of “the Essence of the Orient” is a merging of cultures – Thai, Balinese, Ayurvedic, Turkish –and another page in my Eat, Pray, Love déjà vu.
The spa reception showcases the cultures with soft colors, low lying tables and chairs while distinctive Thai classic woodwind and percussions softly play in the background. The award-winning spa offers a full range of treatment in 3 private luxury villas with indoor/outdoor treatment areas, private meditation platforms, Jacuzzi, and steam room.
Ancient remedies merge with modern techniques, giving Melati Spa the distinctive rank of Top 10 in Thailand. Timeless Journey – An Indigenous Coconut Experience honors the island’s affinity with the coconut tree, including a coconut shell massage. I’d opted for the signature treatment to relax and detoxify, the Melati Massage, recently recognized for outstanding achievements at the Koh Samui Spa Fair 2011.
The spa’s interior reflects the exotic beauty of the Thai culture, and my treatment room was just to the right of a soothing waterfall and pond. The royal purple accents and the distant sound of the waterfall fused with the jasmine to calm my traveling nerves.
My Thai therapist spoke little English and I spoke less Thai, but we utilized general hand signals along with simple English to communicate. Within minutes, she massaged warm jasmine aroma oil into my left leg, then my right, and I was caught in the magic of the combination Ayurvedic, Balinese and lymphatic drainage massage techniques. Smooth, pressure just right, massaging away the tension.
I can’t say for sure – as I was in that wonderful place hovering between oh-this-feels-so-good to dozing – but I think she even performed a mini-Thai massage on my back and shoulders, working with her feet and toes to de-stress. The 90 minute, signature Melati Massage was over far too soon.
I slowly made my way back through the landscaped paradise, past my villa to the pool bar and terrace. I ordered a glass of Chardonnay while my eyes followed the massive infinity pool, known as “The See,” to the cerulean waters of Thongson Bay and neighboring islands. In addition to the accommodations that include pools, there are 2 swimming pools.
With 2 pool bars, 1 lobby bar, and 1 beach bar, you’ll not go thirsty. Two restaurants on-site range from fine dining at Kan Sak Thong, adjacent to the resort’s waterfall, serving Thai and Thai French Fusion cuisine, to the relaxed setting on the beach front “The View” Restaurant with Mediterranean and international menu, and of course, fresh locally caught seafood.
Wow, the Melati Beach Resort & Spa truly is a retreat from the world. Its location on the beautiful island of Koh Samui is the perfect wind down from the sometimes overwhelming sensory experience in Thailand. From its picture perfect beach to the surreal spa experience, the Melati Beach Resort & Spa will forever top my list of outstanding hotel experiences.
Photos & accommodations courtesy of Melati Beach Resort & Spa