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Review of the Intercontinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort

Whilst Samui remains one of my favourite places in the world to travel to (I did get engaged there), it has usually been in villas as opposed to hotels.  I’m excited to share Gina’s amazing review of her stay at the Intercontinental, located in the exclusive enclave of Taling Ngam Bay on the West side of Koh Samui.

Intercontinental Koh Samui

My husband and I spent 4 days and 5 nights in Koh Samui, Thailand in mid-June at the Intercontinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort with our children (ages 6 years old, 3 years old, and 6 months old) courtesy of the Serenity Hideaway package. Overall, it was an amazing holiday and I would highly recommend both the destination and the resort for families with kids. I only wish we had been able to stay a few days longer, ideally 5-7 days. Here are a few of our experiences and learnings.

Getting There

The Plane
Bangkok Airways offers multiple flights per day, which is very convenient.  We took the afternoon flight from Hong Kong on a Friday, which allows you to work at the office in the morning, and we arrived in Koh Samui late Friday evening. Although Bangkok Airways slogan is “Fly Boutique, Feel Unique”, I doubt you will feel special on the flight.  In addition, the tickets were expensive.  Why Cathay pacific doesn’t fly to Koh Samui remains a mystery.  There was no on-demand TV, no individual TVs, the movie (Les Miserables in our case) was inappropriate for young kids – all of which made the 3-hour flight seem longer than it was.  On the way back the check-in queues were long and there was a 2-hour delay.  But we were wiser the second time around and requested a bassinet for the baby, checked in via the business class line (which you can apparently do if you check in online or are traveling with children) and had thought to purchase headphones for the iPad at the local Tesco before arriving at the airport so the kids could enjoy age appropriate movies during the flight.  The best part of the flight was undoubtedly the most ridiculous safety video, which I can’t help but share.

Recommendation: If you have an infant, request a bassinet seat.  If you have toddlers or school age children, bring an iPad loaded with movies and a set of headphones.  On the return, check-in online or approach the business class counter and asked to be checked in if you are traveling with children.

Car to Hotel
Air transfer was included in the price of the Serenity Hideaway package.  The hotel provided a minivan, which comfortably seated six of us and the driver, who was waiting for us when we arrived. Although we had requested carseats for both a toddler and infant, only a toddler carseat was provided.  All seatbelts were fully functional.  It was a 45-minute drive to hotel.

Recommendation: Bring your own carseats (especially if you need rear facing) and let kids use the toilet before the long(ish) drive to the hotel.  If you arrive late, call the hotel from the car and order food for the kids so it is ready upon arrival.

Intercontinental Koh Samui 3

Accommodations
We stayed in a two-bedroom panoramic view villa, which was beautiful and spacious with excellent views and balconies.  A baby cot was set up in master bedroom upon arrival as requested; a rollaway bed was set up in second bedroom upon arrival as requested; and a high chair was provided to us on request.  Gifts (sand toys and kids toiletries) and robes were provided for kids, which was a nice touch. The bathtub was in the master bath only, which meant we bathed the kids in our room.  The reverse living concept also meant adults in upstairs living space had to be somewhat cognizant of noise levels, so as not to disturb sleeping munchkins in the kids bedroom below.  Also, in some of the two bedroom villas, the bedrooms are accessible from grade (potential safety issue).  Ours, villa 604, just happened to be elevated on a hilltop. A bottle sterilizer was provided in room although we hadn’t asked for it.  I am not sure if this is a standard feature or they realized we were traveling with a baby because we had requested the baby cot and provided it; but either way it was a nice amenity.  The hotel did not have baby monitor, although we could have opted to purchase one at the Tesco, which is a 20-minute drive from the hotel.

Recommendation: Don’t pack sand toys. Bring your own inflatable baby bath (if you don’t want to bathe baby in the sink) and baby monitor if needed.  Request villa 604 or a villa where downstairs bedrooms are not accessible from street level.  Make use of the hotels excellent ability to cater to your family by requesting whatever you need (baby cot, rollaway bed, high chair etc).

Food and Beverage
There are two restaurants on campus: Flames (poolside) and Amber (near the lobby). The food at both was very good.  Amber had an excellent breakfast buffet, which was included with our package.  The kids menu was very good with a range of diverse options, including healthy choices.  Room service was a little slow at times, and it took 30 minutes to get a kids menu in the villa when requested.  As our youngest had just started on solid foods, we requested fresh baby purees (carrot, pear) in advance and they were ready upon our arrival.  Chef Tee was very accommodating and prepared well more than we needed.  There was no adapter for baby food warmer, which we had brought with us from Hong Kong.

Recommendation: Request baby purees in advance if needed and bring your own adapter.  Request kids menu at villa on arrival.

Spa and Recreation
Massage and Yoga was included in our package.  The yoga instructor was very good.  The Oriental Oil Massage was divine!!!

Beach and Pool
The beach was beautiful and wonderful for collecting shells and interacting with local fisherman. We were a bit disappointed to see a sign that read “No lifeguard on duty. Beach can be hazardous. Beware of sea urchins.” The hotel has seven pools, offering endless entertainment for our “little fishes”.

Recommendation: Bring swim shoes and life vest for kids.

Kids club
The kids club was just steps from the beach pool, which means kids can play while parents relax.  Our 6 year old and 3 year old enjoyed the independence that came with being able to walk on their own to the kids club, stay as long as they wanted, and return to us when they pleased.  And we enjoyed relaxing poolside while they played!  All activities for the day were set up at all times (rather than specific activities available only during specific timeslots), which ensured that the children had a chance to try the things in which they were interested at times when it was convenient for the family.  In addition, the activities were rotated daily, which kept things interesting.  And the staff was very accommodating about pulling out an activity from a previous day if the children had missed it and requested it.  The kids loved the Planet Trekkers kids club and the staff were caring and professional.

Things to Do
We took a long tail boat ride with a local fisherman, which the concierge arranged for us.  It was wonderful to be on the water.  We made a few stops to feed tropical fish (snorkeling was also available) and do some island hopping.  Unfortunately, we didn’t check the weather beforehand, and we ended up getting stuck in a storm in a wooden boat on the open seas.  Not a good idea! The fisherman was extremely capable seaman and, when things got too rough, dropped us off on the southern tip of Koh Samui island and organized his friend Sharon, a lovely retiree from California, to pick us up in her car.  It was an adventure, I’ll say that much!  We also went elephant trekking, which lasted about 20 minutes, perfect for the short attention span of young children.  And we visited Five Islands restaurant down the road from the hotel, which had excellent Thai food and a very laid back vibe.  We first went in the evening after the kids were asleep.  We liked it so much we brought the kids back the next day. The restaurant picked us up in a tuk-tuk, which was a fun experience for the kids.  Other activities including water parks and animal shows were available on the islands but we didn’t have enough time to try them all.

Recommendation: Take a long tail boat ride but check the weather first! Go elephant trekking.  Check out Five Islands Restaurant down the road.

Intercontinental Koh Samui 2

Our trip to Koh Samui was a perfect blend of local and luxury, rest and adventure.  Indeed, a good time was had by all!

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