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Sawasdee Samui!

Ask any middle aged ex backpacker where they spent a summer ‘finding themselves’ and the Thai island of Koh Samui will feature highly.  Fast forward 15 years and I’m bringing my own young children to Samui albeit on a slightly different kind of holiday.

Unlike the Samui of our yesteryear which had a sprinkling of luxury hotels and plentiful beach huts, it is now populated by high end villas and more resorts than you can shake a stick at.  We were lucky enough to find a suitably large palatial pad to house our brood of 12 adults, 5 kids, 2 toddlers and a baby.  Gone are the days of sleeping in a hut on the beach with a bucket for a shower. Ban Haad Sai Ban Haad Sai is a sprawling beachfront 7 bed villa with a large pool, 2 separate living areas, gym and live in staff.

Back in the day, you would arrive at Samui following an overnight boat from the mainland, sleeping on flea infested mattresses and fearing the boat might sink.  Samui Airport (owned and operated by Bangkok Airways) now welcomes flights from many Southeast Asian destinations and its open air, laid back style helps you flop immediately into island life.

Hammock in Ban Haad SaiLocated on Bangrak beach, our villa, Ban Haad Sai was a welcome 10 minute transfer in an air conditioned minibus.  Although it has been considerably built up over the last decade, Samui is still a feast for the eyes with its lush greenery and ramshackle stalls lining the streets selling pad thai and spring rolls.  We all know that hotel/villa websites can be misleading and I was worried (particularly given the large group I had organised a holiday for) that Ban Haad Sai wouldn’t live up to our expectations.  Luckily, we hit the jackpot.  We piled into the villa amidst shrieks of ‘look at the size of the pool!’, ‘get me in that hammock’, ‘we have our own chef?!’ and ‘they’ve already stocked our fridge with beer!’.  What I loved about this villa was that every bedroom is a good size and nicely appointed.  The two master bedrooms are beautiful with large outdoor bathrooms and views out to sea.  The villa provided either rollaway beds or mattresses for the kids and 3 travel cots.

As a backpacker I would wander down the beach for a banana pancake, pick up some Pad Thai on the street and save my baht for bottles of beer in the evening.  This trip we were spoilt as our villa came fully staffed with a fabulous chef who continued to amaze us with delectable thai dishes (and unlimited eggs & bacon at breakfast!).  Kids LunchThe kids would eat their meals together and happily flop in front of a movie or nap whilst the adults enjoyed a more civilised child free lunch.

There’s a lot to do on Samui for kids but when you’re in a big villa with the beach on your doorstep, it’s hard to work up the courage to drag yourself out of the hammock.  The villa provided some beach toys including buckets and spades and also had two kayaks which we enjoyed taking out on the water.  A short walk down the beach is the Chaweng Aquapark which consists of fun looking inflatables in the sea although we felt our kids were too young to enjoy this.
BophutThe location was perfect, on a quiet stretch of beach and you could exit the villa on street level to find grocery stores, massage, restaurants and bars.  The nearest town is the fisherman’s village of Bophut, in my mind far nicer than the tourist sprawls of Chaweng and Lamai.  We took the kids out for dinner to some lovely beach restaurants, the Seaside Steakhouse and Krua.  The one thing I will say about having your own chef is that meals in the villa were of such great quality that we stayed in to eat most days. Bophut also has lots of delightful boutiques.  Pay a visit to British designer Nikky Noodles for one of her custom made dresses.

Compared with the Samui of my backpacking days, whiling away hours in cafes watching bootleg DVDs and munching on pad thai, this time I got to sample some high end restaurants.  A ten minute walk along the beach from Ban Haad Sai is Ocean’s 11. Save this for a romantic evening out and enjoy delicious mix of Thai & Western cuisine.  Also close to the villa is Le Jaroen with elegant French food in a stunning setting.

If you want to pretend you’re partying with the Euro crowd in St Tropez then take the kids to the Sunday BBQ at Nikki Beach.  The kids loved playing in the pool and dancing to the sounds of the all day DJ.  The buffet is good value but be warned alcohol is very expensive!

Boat TripWe also organised a boat trip through the villa to visit the neighbouring isle of Koh Phangan.  This time not to frequent an infamous Full Moon Party, but to enjoy a bit of snorkelling, beachcombing and a spot of lunch at The Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is a yoga retreat with a delicious restaurant.  Our kids were mesmerised by the yoga loving hippies who were hula hooping and practising their fire dancing on the beach.The Sanctuary

One family in our group had arrived from the UK a few days earlier and spent a morning at the Samui Tiger Zoo.  The zoo is located 30 mins from the airport on the south side of the island.

If you are travelling in a group, I highly recommend hiring a villa with a private chef and this is likely to end up costing you less than a luxury hotel.  Our 7 bed villa cost us approx. USD $15,000 for 9 nights, including chef.  You pay extra for the ingredients but it is inexpensive and far cheaper than eating in restaurants.  We booked our villa through the professional and extremely helpful Desiree at White Rose Samui.

Koh Samui is one of my favourite family friendly destinations in Asia.  The Thai people are welcoming, hospitable and love children.   Do I miss my backpacking days of lazing on a sarong by day and downing Sangsom whiskey by night?  I have to admit we still tucked into the Sangsom but nothing compares to the memories of your kids laughing & playing on the gorgeous sands of Samui.

Girls on beach

1 comment

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