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The Four Seasons Koh Samui is one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever been to

Have you seen the hit American streaming show, The White Lotus?

Season One, filmed and released during the Pandemic, focussed on a group of wealthy guests and the staff at a luxury hotel in Hawaii.


It was a huge hit because it showed up the rich for their sense of entitlement and the way in which they treated the staff at the hotel, which was called the White Lotus. (Actually it was a Four Seasons in Maui.)


   I enjoyed the show but I thought the rave reviews and the Emmy nominations were a little over the top.


   I changed my mind about the White Lotus only when I watched the second season, in my view one of the best streaming shows ever made. It took the same basic idea of focussing on an upmarket resort. But instead of the one-dimensional theme about entitlement, the story had many layers from family dynamics to marital infidelity to crime.


   It helped that it was set in the Four Seasons Taormina, a far more beautiful hotel than the Hawaii property featured in the first season. Even if you did not like the plot you could just feast your eyes on the location and enjoy the beauty of Sicily.


   It could be (though I don’t think that this is actually the case) that I am biased because I had stayed at the Four Seasons in Taormina before the show came out and enjoyed identifying the locations. It really is one of the most visually stunning hotels and Sicily is gorgeous.


   There will be a third season of The White Lotus and though the makers have not announced (as I write this) where it will be set, we do know that the show business bible Variety has announced that it will be set in Thailand. According to a spokesperson for the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) quoted in the world’s press the White Lotus team has visited Chiang Mai, the Golden Triangle (the land bordering Burma and Laos), Bangkok and Koh Samui to check out locations.


   These places have only one thing in common: they all have Four Season hotels. And given that the first two seasons were set in Four Seasons hotels, it seems reasonable to assume that Season 3 will also be in one of the chain’s luxury properties.


   My money is on the Four Seasons Koh Samui.


   Why do I think that? Well, because it is, like Taormina, (the location for Season Two), one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever been to. And while the other Four Seasons properties mentioned are all lovely (with the exception of the Golden Triangle hotel, a tented camp, which is horrible), there is nothing that compares with Koh Samui.


   I should know. I just got back from there last week.


"The hotel, set in over 50 acres of hills and gardens, overlooking a beach, is not your average seaside resort."

   As readers of this column may recall, Thailand is one of my favourite countries. I first went there as a schoolboy and since then, over the last three decades or so, I have been to Thailand over a hundred times. (Much over a hundred actually.) I even did a TV series about my travels through Thailand, going from the hilly North to the more touristy South (Phuket, etc.)


   But, for some reason, I had never been to Samui. And even when I did go, I went out of friendship rather than any spirit of adventure. Jasjit Assi (‘JJ’), who I have known for years, ever since the Mumbai Four Season opened a decade and a half ago, is now the General Manager of the Four Seasons in Samui and he insisted I come.


   The hotel is now new; it opened 17 years ago. It is owned by Bill Heinecke, who I know (but it is not run by Bill’s own excellent Anantara group), and was designed by Bill Bensley, who has been responsible for wonderful properties and gardens all over Asia (including Udaivilas and Amarvilas in India).


   But because I am not so wild about Thai beach resorts (in all of Phuket, the only hotel I have ever really enjoyed staying is Amanpuri, which is not a beach resort) and Samui is an island (‘Koh’ means island in Thai) I assumed this would be just another beach destination and refused to go there.


   I was wrong. The hotel, set in over 50 acres of hills and gardens, overlooking a beach, is not your average seaside resort. It is an all-villa property (including large residences that are like private homes) with a ratio of around two villas to one acre of greenery. As you would expect from Bensley, it is exquisitely designed.


   Samui is Thailand’s coconut island. Long before it became more developed, the locals made their living from selling coconuts (which have the sweetest, most flavourful nariyal pani I have ever tasted) to the rest of Thailand. Because it was complicated to climb high up the trees to find the coconuts, they trained monkeys to do it. The monkeys would climb to the very top of each coconut palm, pull off the coconuts and throw them down. (Not the sort of place you would want to send Keith Richard on holiday, clearly!)


   Bensley made the monkeys the symbols of the hotel and you will find stylised monkey motifs all over the property. Though, because this is Thailand, you will also find spirit houses and at the entrance to the hotel, an idol of Brahma who even the Buddhist Thais venerate in a local avatar.


   What do you do for five days (which is how long I went for) in this kind of property? Well, you can go out and see Samui. Or you can go out to eat. The Four Seasons specialises in Thai food but it also has world class European food cooked by Chef Ruslan Shipanov. We went out to the boutique Cape Fahn hotel, set on a small island within the larger island of Samui to eat at a restaurant run by David Thompson, the Australian chef who first brought Thai food to global attention. Thompson is not a Pad Thai-green curry sort of guy; his food comes from old family recipes and includes dishes that even many Thais have never tried. I enjoyed it and if you are adventurous about your food you should go.


  Like all Thai resort towns Samui has a nightlife scene (though I did not go to that area and so, cannot recommend it) and a fun pedestrian street full of stalls selling Banana Pancakes (no idea why they should be such a big deal) and cannabis which is now legal in Thailand and sold openly at shops that look like ice-cream parlours. (This is a family publication so I can’t recommend that either.) But unlike Pattaya, Phuket and other resort towns, Samui is still reasonably unspoilt and sleaze-free.


   But frankly, if you do stay at somewhere like the Four Seasons with its huge grounds, you might as well enjoy the resort and not venture too much into the town. It is so beautiful and so peaceful that I spent a large part of my time just staring at the hills, the sea, the foliage and looking at the unusual birds that would come to the trees near my villa every day.


   I have no idea whether they will actually shoot the White Lotus in Samui though they would be nuts not to. In case that does happen, it will be impossible to get bookings and rates will shoot up (as has happened in Taormina).


   So, in the immortal words of the Moody Blues: If you gotta go, go now!


   I did. And I loved it.



Posted On: 05 May 2023 11:30 AM
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