Samui Wining & Dining
Heavenly Heights
A venture into the realm of the gods with spa-dining at Conrad Koh Samui.


Heavenly HeightsTo the Ancient Greeks, Mount Olympus was the home of the gods. And from its lofty summit the twelve Olympian deities would look down upon all the world, from one side of the earth to the other. Indeed, even today, it’s said that to gaze around from the summit of Olympus still strikes awe into the beholder. Koh Samui is nothing like Greece. And our modest little ‘mountains’ are insignificant by comparison. But there’s one place that’s as equally dizzying as Olympus: one location where awe and opulence are knitted majestically together. And that’s down in the most south-western tip of the island at Taling Ngam (signposted just a little way from the landmark of the Samui Snake Farm at Conrad Koh Samui.


Whichever way you look at it, it’s unforgettable. Seen from the sea, at a distance, it conjures images of palaces and temples: the villas are bedded into the steep hillside, their architecturally-featured ‘stilts’ looking for all the world just like columns and pillars. And seen from above, looking down from its summit, it takes your breath away – quite literally. From the reception area, which is the upper of seven cascading levels, the view both seawards towards the famous Five Islands, and also vertically, straight down, makes the hairs tingle on the back of your neck.


And it’s the pinnacle of luxury, too. There are 80 contemporary Thai-inspired villas, a fitness centre and yoga pavilion, an extensive function room, two world-class restaurants plus an extensive wine cellar, a separate bar and grill, and a superb spa. And when you combine the first-class treatments you’ll find at the spa with the excellent cuisine you’ll be served with at the restaurant, then you’ll truly discover what it’s like to be in the realm of the gods.


One of the conditions of elegance is to reject anything showy: there’s no need for it at all. And absolutely everything here is elegant; understated, refined and simply oozing quality. The spa – simply named ‘the Spa’ – is a significant feature of the resort, having no fewer than 10 separate treatment rooms, including a select VIP Suite with its own Jacuzzi and sauna. Plus there are two double suites that specifically cater for couples, each of them featuring stunning ocean panoramas, and two rooms dedicated to Thai massage. And there’s additionally a separate salon for manicures and pedicures.


It’s almost impossible to escape that iconic and dizzying view (not that anyone would want to!) and it’s the spa that really epitomises this element. Its unique placement at Conrad provides a curved 270-degree panorama, which is exploited by most of its exterior walls being made of glass. The reception area is tastefully fitted with natural woods and fabrics; a motive that’s consistent throughout. And a look at the spa menu reveals a perfect balance of both pampering and holistic approaches.


There’re five massage options, including ‘Jet Lag’ and ‘De-Stress Muscle Release’, and a ‘Body Experience’ package that covers re-hydrations, scrubs, smoothers and revivers, together with numerous facial treatments. But, as they say, beauty is only skin deep, and the Spa follows this philosophy with the holistic approach of ‘Zen Natai’ to stimulate the Chi and also the lymphatic system, improving digestion and breathing and overall wellbeing. You can also choose from ‘Meridian Massage’, ‘Herbal Touch’ and the soothing ‘Skin Food’ treatment.


But possibly the most sought-after package is the spa’s signature ‘Samui Enriched’ program. Surrounded by the aromas of the essential oils of vanilla, jasmine and cinnamon, you’ll begin with a full body exfoliation using aroma-infused organic coffee, followed by a deep massage with indigenous coconut oil infused with vanilla and geranium. This is topped off by a hot oil scalp massage and completed with sweet-jasmine body butter, leaving your skin silky smooth and hydrated. And if all these deliciously-decadent ingredients are making you hungry . . .


Order a buggy! And this will whisk you silently up to the next level where you’ll find yourself at ‘Jahn’, the resort’s sophisticated ‘Contemporary Thai’ restaurant. And in the same way that the Spa is an essay in understated and refined luxury, so it is here, too. But, take note: try to arrive around sunset. The outer open lounge, ‘Glow’, is one of the best places on the island to enjoy a cocktail sundowner as you look out across the Gulf of Thailand.


The décor at Jahn is elegant, with solid surfaces of wood playing-off against walls of textured stone. A boldly-patterned pattern dominates the central columns, and then you’ll notice intriguing sculptural fittings begin to emerge as you gaze around. It’s modern and chic, but it definitely still feels very Oriental, with Thai motifs and symbols woven into the overall design. This is most appropriate, as that’s precisely the approach that Executive Sous Chef, Joe Diaz, has taken towards his unique cuisine.


Chef Joe is something of a prodigy. After having been awarded the accolade of ‘Best Chef of the Year’ in his final year of study at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, his first appointment was working under the world-renowned Thomas Keller at California’s ‘The French Laundry’. And then he went on to Ferran Adria’s ‘el Bulli’ in Spain before continuing at Alain Ducasse’s ‘Hotel Plaza Athénée’ in Paris – if you’re not entirely familiar with these names then think ‘Michelin 3-star’. These are some of just a small handful of the world’s top restaurants.


The dishes that Joe prepares are both intriguing and sublimely, mouth-wateringly-delicious. Using familiar Thai ingredients he’ll approach a traditional Thai dish, tom yam soup for example, de-construct its ingredients, and then re-present it in a form that’s quite unrecognisable! Tiny cubes of coloured ‘jellies’ appear alongside familiar and perfectly-cooked ingredients – each cube is a pure distillation of an essential ingredient, has taken ages to produce (for example, his rice alone is a seven-hour process as it’s saturated with flavour, be it lemon-grass, kaffir lime or chili). The overall effect of tasting, spooning, nibbling-at and combining all this is a precise taste-bud equivalent of the original, traditional dish. It’s almost beyond belief, and will very likely make you squeal with delight.


It has to be said that the service is also absolutely world-quality – and, once again, fused seamlessly with the essence of friendly Thai hospitality. The attention you’ll receive is constant yet unobtrusive, from the knowledgeable sommelier and her encyclopaedic wine-list through to every member of the floor staff, each of whom will have memorised your name!


Dizzying heights, indeed, and in more ways than one. Conrad Koh Samui is spectacularly-elevated in its location. And its culinary excellence has established a new peak of service and dining on our island. Combine this with a sublime session at the Spa, and you’ll quickly learn what it feels like to become a god or goddess!


Rob De Wet


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