MUDDY GOOD: Reawaken with a relaxing massage.
MUDDY GOOD: Reawaken with a relaxing massage. Contributed

Thai island safe haven

SHE may have been petite in stature but the strength she possessed in her thumbs would surely defeat a burly arm wrestler.

And she was using every gram of power in them to knead and prod, recirculate and reawaken every centimetre of tired flesh before her.

In between silent groans of agony and ecstasy, I chuckled to myself that if football superstars David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo could insure their legs for millions, Tik – my Thai therapist – should ensure her thumbs for the same because they were just as valuable. With every second of treatment in the Luxsa Spa at Hansar Samui Resort and Spa in Koh Samui, another little twinge, ache, strain and cellulite dimple surrendered at the hands of Tik.

A nine-hour plane flight followed by a gruelling 10 days of playing tourist had taken its toll.

And with a return flight home beckoning, I had welcomed the chance to let Tik work miracles with a broken-down body.

My Luxsa 90-minute signature massage (3500Bt or about $126) is designed to balance the elements.

The oil is applied to the skin for healing.

The therapy stimulates the metabolism, relieves mental and physical fatigue, reduces stress and tension, and balances the nervous system, which promotes a sense of wellbeing that rejuvenates all the senses.

Earlier, through a questionnaire conducted before the treatment, I was diagnosed as a combination fire/water/earth character, but I chose a fire oil mix of jojoba and eucalyptus to be used on my “split personality”. The pampering begins with a foot-cleaning ritual using an essential oil soak while you enjoy a herbal tea and calming background music in the reception area.

This decadent treatment package seemed to epitomise the Samui holiday experience.

We had arrived on Koh Samui (or simply Samui, as it is known to the Thai people ) via the scenic route with the wind in our hair on the hourly Seatran ferry from Donsak to Port Nathon over looking the Gulf of Phuket.

Time flies during the 90-minute voyage as you watch the dock and mountain range backdrop fade from view and welcome the hazy outline of dozens of tiny islands and rock formations in the distance.

As the ferry is enveloped by the pastel blue of the sky and the teal green waters, the cheery natter of workers, friends and holiday

makers of all nationalities fills the air with excited anticipation.

Thailand’s third-largest island after Phuket and Chang is home to 50,000 people plus many more thousands of tourists and workers from the mainland on any given day.

The name Samui remains a mystery – maybe an extension of the name of one of the native trees, mui, or from the Chinese word Saboey, meaning “safe haven”. But for me, Samui simply means indulgence.

Think tropical cocktails under market umbrellas by infinity pools with waiters at your beck and call.

Think aromatic spa treatments, world-class dining and casual elegance.

Think coconut palm trees and coral reefs giving way to white sandy beaches.

The wide, 7km stretch of white sand beach at Chaweng is Samui’s happening place all-year-round for sun, surf and socialising.

But for those who don’t want to have Party Central right on their doorstep the whole holiday, Bophut Beach, just up the road, offers the best of both worlds.

The long golden sand beach on the north-east of the island is a nice, quiet alternative to stay, but with plenty of shopping, arts and crafts, al-fresco and absolute beachfront cafes and restaurants as well as nightlife in and around popular Fisherman’s Village.

Tourists are spoilt for choice with massage and spa treatments, hair salons, dive and snorkelling tour businesses, bicycle hire and even cooking classes available in the bustling village. Joining the boutique resorts, villas, cottages and bungalows is Hansar Samui Resort and Spa.

Looking out over the Gulf of Thailand, the resort has prime position on Bophut Beach, with an unobstructed sea view from every suite, and the Beach Bar and H-Bistro Restaurant soaking up all the sights and sounds of village life at ground-floor level or, as the hotel likes to put it, “a front seat to island life”. To usher in the holiday feeling, each open-plan room has a large private balcony with daybed, as well as little touches of luxury such as teak floors, flat-screen TV and terrazzo bathroom.

The French Mediterranean menu prepared by chef Stephen Dion in H-Bistro is both innovative and complex – a subtle combination of tastes in ever mouthful, merging Mediterranean spices with imported produce such as Maine lobster and oysters from Canada, Japan and France plus the local harvest of the sea.

Vibrant Fisherman’s Village, only a five-minute stroll away down the cobblestones, puts on its happy face every Friday night when the “Walking Street” comes to town from 4-10pm. The beach road is closed to traffic, allowing pedestrians to wander the market stalls selling everything from coconut soap to hippy pants, jewellery to wooden art. Or perhaps pop in to a tailor to be fitted for a quality Armani-style, three-piece custom-made suit – priced at a fraction of the cost in Australia – to be delivered the next day.

As lanterns are released from the beach to burn their imprint on the night sky, the chic cafes fill with world travellers while musicians play covers of the West’s most-loved rock and pop songs.

As the night explodes in colour with the 10 o’clock fireworks, the real party begins.

If that was all Koh Samui had to offer, it would be enough. But the sightseeing on this “big little island” offers even more to keep tourists occupied by day.

Samui’s other tropical splendours all have their own pace and natural beauty just waiting to be explored.

Beaches include Lamai (second only to Chaweng in popularity, the perfect white sand crescent of the beach is also considered to be the finest on the island), Maenam (tranquil and retaining the old Samui charm), Choeng Mon (a series of bays on the north-western tip), Taling Nam (the most remote beach on the island), Lipa Noi (the shallow waters make for a family favourite while also boasting majestic sunsets), Nathon Town (the island’s main port), Hua Thanonm and Bang Kao (for total peace and quiet on the south-west tip).

Man-made marvels such as the 15m tall Big Buddha, the Lad Koh Lookout and Kao Hua Jook Pagoda – all offering sweeping views over the island from many angles – join with weathered wonders such as Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks to fill memory cards with everlasting happy snaps of this pretty island in the sun.

The writer was a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.


Where to stay: Hansar Samui Resort and Spa

How to get there: Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Pattaya Airlines and Firefly Airlines fly to Koh Samui. See their websites for details.

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