Rate: 11,500THB++ (Hilton Premium Club Thailand Rate)
Date: March 2016
It is not often that I return to the same hotel on multiple occasions; the world is a large place and there are so many new experiences out there that I always feel like a bit of a sucker when I make a return visit.
Sometimes though you find a place that ticks so many boxes, a place that you keep thinking about on those drizzly days in the office, a place that is such unbelievably good value that you keep yearning to return and cannot justify the risk of exploring an alternative.
For me, the Conrad Koh Samui is one of those places.
Via Hilton Premium Club Thailand I can book up to 9 nights a year at around 50% of the usual rate and also receive 50% off all F&B including room service. I also get an annual allocation of vouchers good for:
Dinner for two people
Afternoon Tea for two people
A bottle of house wine
50% off a bottle of house wine or spirits
Two signature drinks
This is in addition to my Hilton Diamond upgrade to an Oceanview Retreat Pool Villa and the usual Diamond drinks vouchers.
In short, the value proposition is about as good as I’ve ever come across at any resort ever. I wouldn’t return to somewhere that was just good value though, the place needs to be really special too.
As you will have seen in my previous review, the Conrad Koh Samui is certainly that…
We flew from Siem Reap to Bangkok on one R/T ticket and connected onto another R/T ticket between Bangkok and Koh Samui. Bangkok Air wouldn’t sell us the entire itinerary as a single ticket without imposing a long layover in Bangkok and I preferred to take our chances with just an hour to connect in BKK, meaning that we could depart Siem Reap at 9:50am and arrive in Koh Samui by 12:50pm.
REP-BKK (PG 924)
BKK-USM (PG 131)
We were able to check our bag all the way through at REP and I wasn’t at all concerned about it misconnecting, given how awesome my Amex Platinum Travel Insurance is. In fact, we were pretty disappointed when our bag actually showed up in USM as we had been hoping for a £300 per person shopping spree, courtesy of Amex, like we got in L.A.
Bangkok Airways has to be one of my favourite airlines ever. I guess it helps that whenever I fly them I’m invariably passing through one of my favourite regions in the world. It’s hard to argue with an airline that gives lounge access to all pax though, even those in Economy, and still gives free food and drink to all pax – managing to serve a meal and a drink service in the space of less than an hour!
As always, I pre-ordered the seafood meal – firstly because the food is better and secondly because you get served first!
Bangkok Airways seafood meal REP-BKK
Bangkok Airways seafood meal BKK-USM
There’s something undeniably amazing about walking down the stairs into the warm tropical air of Koh Samui and hopping onto the awaiting transport buggies. From the moment you arrive, you know you’re on holiday
Just like last time we used Mr Samui for our airport transfer. He can be reached via WhatsApp on +66 89 060 6440. The price for our return transfer was 2,000THB. This was what he charged me as a return customer but even if he charged you 2,500THB you’d be getting a significantly cheaper transfer than the one offered by the hotel and Mr Samui is both very entertaining and happy to stop at shops etc. on the way to the hotel. On the way to the Conrad we were driven by his nephew but the man himself rocked up in quite a special vehicle to take us home.
What an amazing feeling returning to one of our favourite resorts in the world! As soon as we were cleared by the security guards at the bottom of the hill, huge smiles broke out onto both of our faces. The anticipation built with every twist and turn up the steep and winding road to the lobby. Even though we knew what we were in for, it felt like our first time all over again, stepping out of the car and setting eyes on the breathtaking views from the lobby.
Conrad Koh Samui Lobby
Conrad Koh Samui Lobby
We were warmy greeted by a member of staff and our bags were taken from us and tagged. We were then shown to the reception area and asked to take a seat, facing that stunning view of the five islands.
I wish I had this view from my office…
Welcome drinks at Conrad Koh Samui
We were then brought some iced lemongrass drinks and cold towels before being asked to pick our Diamond surprise from a box of paper slips. Last time we were here we got a free ice cream, this time we got a spa discount. Neither are groundbreaking ‘prizes’ but it is a nice little extra touch, during the check-in process.
A few weeks before our stay, I emailed to ask if we could be allocated the same villa as last time: 309. Failing that I requested the villas on either side. These particular villas have better hardware than the entry level ones (Bose sound system and Apple TV); they are close to the restaurants, meaning that you can get around without being heavily reliant on the buggies; plus these villas have direct and uninterrupted views across to the five islands.
Resort Map – Conrad Koh Samui
309 was occupied but we lucked out and got 308, right next door. Either of these rooms is basically perfect, as in addition to the points I made above, the two are separated by a large section of foliage and are angled away from each other. This means that you get additional privacy and effectively have only one neighbour (not that you ever see or hear anybody else whilst in your room at this resort anyway).
Good to be back
Stepping into our beautiful wooden sanctuary, I immediately felt relaxed. I remembered where everything was and so felt completely at ease. I was able to immediately focus on unwinding, whilst taking in the postcard perfect views.
Conrad Koh Samui – Bedroom
With views like this it would be a crime to ever draw the curtains. With privacy like this, you never ever have to.
Elephant’s eye view
One of the little details that I love here. The bedside lamps are huge but give off a soft glow, ideal for relaxing. They are also fixed so there’s no chance of knocking them over in the morning (something I’m more than capable of doing otherwise). Both sides of the bed also have full lighting controls and power ports. I hate when there is a ‘weak side’ and a ‘strong side’ in hotel bedrooms.
We found a very generous selection of amenities laid out for us in our room. A bowl of local fruit, a selection of macarons and a bottle of sparkling wine.
This is in addition to the four drinks vouchers we received as Hilton Diamonds (which themselves were in addition to the two free drinks we received via Hilton Premium Club Thailand).
I’m not sure if I can do justice to just how relaxing this place is. If you wanted to you could just sit and enjoy these views all day long, ordering room service and sipping ice cold drinks by the pool.
I love the fact that the villa pools are saltwater too. Not only because this is way better for the environment but also because it is so much better for your skin. When your skin isn’t covered in chlorine it is easier to just fully unwind. It’s cool not having to worry about showering off after each time you get in; you can just drift to sleep on your sun lounger, feeling the ocean breeze and glowing sun drying your skin.
The lovely Kamara modelling our 10m saltwater infinity pool
You can see here how large the resort is and how spaced out the villas are. It really makes a difference whereabouts you end up, not just for the view but also for the amount of walking and reliance on buggies that this will entail. The structure above our wall is Jahn – the resort’s fine dining venue. Pretty much everyone needs a buggy to get there.
The design of the villas is excellent, not only internally but also in the way the way that they interconnect externally. Despite being located above all the other one bedroom villas, there is no way that we could see anybody else, even when hanging over the edge of our pool, save for a siny segment of one of the pools. With the parasols open, even this small azure square becomes hidden.
The other thing I love about the villas at CKS is the desk area. I sometimes struggle to write trip reports (as evidenced by my current monolithic backlog versus what you see on Instagram) but here I just found everything flowed perfectly. The internet is really fast, the views are great and there are ample power sockets, desk space and light. The Eames office chairs are also as comfortable as they are stylish.
I’ve encountered a number of seriously amazing bathrooms in my travels but I think that overall, this has to be one of the top three. The views are spectacular, there is a ton of space and the whole space just feels utterly relaxing. Sitting in the bathtub tends to give you a different perspective, one from which you can see dirt and the underside of surfaces as you’re closer to the floor. Looking up you might see a gap around a light or cracked bit of plaster near the corners. None of this is an issue at the Conrad Koh Samui. Everything is completely perfect. Every little detail has been thought of and the finishes are absolutely top notch. If you leave any toiletries on the countertop, they will be perfectly arranged, with a towel of corresponding size placed underneath them. If your nail file looks worn, a brand new one will be placed next to it, just in case you’d prefer a new one. Leave your sunglasses behind? They will be sparkling clean when you come back to pick them up. Housekeeping are seriously good at this resort and nowhere is this more apparent than in the bathroom.
The bathrooms at the CKS are almost as big as the bedroom and living area. I love that the mirrors can be tilted so that you can appreciate view from the rainfall shower behind. The bathtubs are enormous and can very easily accommodate two people. Thankfully the taps are super powerful too and can easily fill the thing in less than fifteen minutes.
Dual vanities, an endless supply of bottled water, power sockets on either side of the sinks, freshly cut orchids, a basket of every bathroom amenity you can imagine, porcelain containers filled with Aromatherapy Associates products and…
….as always, we requested Shanghai Tang toiletries. The Conrad went crazy, giving us three full kits.
It wouldn’t be a luxury Thai bathroom without freshly cut orchids.
These waffle knit dressing gowns are so comfortable
The housekeeping details continue into night time. At turndown you get a different towel animal each night (we were greeted by elephants when we first checked in). Fresh orchids are also placed on the bed alongside a sweet treat. We also got this little turtle on our first evening.
Conrad Koh Samui – Turndown service
One evening, in lieu of orchids, we were given a long stemmed white rose.
The best and the worst part of staying at CKS – the sunsets. The best: because they are utterly spectacular – turning your head left and right and seeing these colours everywhere you look is profoundly moving. The worst: because each sunset marks the end of another day in one of the most relaxing places on earth.
Food and Beverage Options
There are three main F&B options at the Conrad Koh Samui:
The views from Zest are just as spectacular as they were from our villa, which makes sense given that we were located only a two minute walk away. Despite being so close by, we never heard any noise from Zest.
There is a very extensive breakfast buffet at the Conrad Koh Samui but for me the standout memories are the bottles of freshly squeezed guava juice and this: the Thai eggs benedict.
One of my favourite dishes here is the chicken satay. The toast, peanut sauce and cucumber salad were all absolutely perfect. The only thing that was missing for me was that maillard crunch on the outside of the chicken and just a little more of a lemongrass flavour.
Stir fried prawns with Thai basil and pomelo
Making full use of our 50% discount we ordered the Goong Mong-Korn Pad Cha. It was a little chewy but the flavours were excellent. They certainly weren’t stingy with the chillies (I asked early in our stay for maximum spiciness at all times!)
“Norwegian Salmon Gravlax”. A deplorable blight on this otherwise fine establishment. We ordered this as part of our Premium Club set lunch, just to see what the Western food was like. An unholy mayonnaise abomination with a generous splash of fake, sugar added, balsamic syrup. There was also some salmon and salad in there but their flavour and texture were totally dominated by the heinous quantities of mayo. To be avoided at all costs.
The Gaeng Jued Woonsen Gai Sub. A giant portion of rich and flavourful chicken, tofu, noodles and vegetables. Ostensibly a starter but definitely suitable as a lunch in and of itself.
Khao Phad Moo. Fried chili pork served with fried egg and freshly steamed jasmine rice. Again a meal in itself and at 300THB ($10), pre-discount, presents spectacular value for an isolated 5* resort.
Mango sticky rice, beautiful presentation and flavour to match
Mint ice cream. Welcome relief from the scorching heat of the dry season.
Thai spring rolls. beautifully cooked, really crispy without any hint of oiliness.
A mountainous serving of chicken Penang Curry
Khao Tom Mad – steamed rice with coconut milk and banana. I’m not hugely into desserts but these and the mango sticky rice really hit the spot. A moreish blend of sweet and salty.
We had an afternoon tea voucher to redeem as part of our Hilton Premium Club membership. I’m not usually a big afternoon tea guy, I tend to view these things as carb festivals that get in the way of having a proper dinner later on. Still, I figured it was a waste to throw the voucher away two years in a row, so decided to hit the gym hard in order to work up an appetite. This also served the purpose of getting some pics of the gym, which we totally swerved on our last visit too…
We were the only ones having afternoon tea and the staff looked quite surprised to see us. Given that it was nearly 40 degrees outside I can see why people wouldn’t be beating down the doors to quaff gallons of piping hot tea, served with cream cakes.
Thankfully we were told that we could have any tea or coffee that we wanted and decided that iced coffee was the way to go.
The coffee was served ice cold and the ice cubes didn’t melt instantly – which is always good. There’s nothing worse than getting scalding hot coffee poured directly onto ice and having it instantly diluted.
The afternoon tea was presented on a modern looking tiered stand and featured a few savoury Thai chicken wraps in addition to a variety of biscuits, macarons and red velvet cake.
The Sunset Lounge is located directly across from Zest and as well as housing a bar is also where you’ll find the concierge. The actual lobby, where check-in takes place, is right at the very top of the resort and you only ever pass it when arriving or departing from the Conrad.
The bar is unattended for quite long periods throughout the day and only really gets going for happy hour (5-7pm each day). At other times you can pick up the phone and call for service but it’s probably easier to just walk twenty feet and grab a drink in Zest.
Sunset Lounge – Conrad Koh Samui
Our daily process – get a couple of G&Ts during happy hour and then get two more using our free drinks vouchers. Hard to argue with four drinks for the price of one!
The view: also hard to argue with
The resort’s fine dining restaurant is frighteningly good. Having an establishment of this quality level at your disposal, a mere five minute buggy ride away, is a true luxury. The service, the ingredients, the level of creativity, the decor, the wine list – all are of a quality level becoming of a Michelin star. We ate here on two out of three nights and honestly I wish it had been more.
Camera lens attempting to adjust from our air conditioned villa to the air outside Jahn.
We arrived early both evenings as we enjoy sipping a couple of cocktails pre-dinner. Generally speaking though the restaurant never gets so busy that people end up on the inside tables. The atmosphere is relaxed, elegant and romantic.
Did I mention the amazing view?
Although this is a fine dining establishment, this is still a beach resort, the dress code is quite relaxed and I dare say that we were on the ‘overdressed’ end of the spectrum with our choices!
On our first visit we were still digesting the afternoon tea and decided to tone things down by going a la carte. As tends to be the case in this type of establishment though, there are numerous amuse bouches and extra courses, courtesy of the chef. Tomato and herb salad was a really refreshing way to start the meal.
The Tom Yum soup, featuring two enormous grilled prawns. A symphony of flavours with a rather clever method of presentation – which I will show you later.
Baby squid and our orange curry. My least favourite dish. The soup was thin and lacking in flavour when compared to the Tom Yum. The squid were also overly soft and would have benefitted from being grilled before adding to the soup.
Moo Palo – Pork belly, Chinese five spices, king oyster mushroom, vegetable noodles and poached egg. Tasted even better than it looked. A stupendous symbiosis of flavours, textures and techniques.
Pan fried sea bass with ginger sauce. Perfectly cooked. An unreal crispy shell yielding to moist flaking flesh underneath.
Pre dessert – miniature ice creams
Given how full we were (and knowing what was coming next) we decided to split a single dessert. A single, enormous and intensely delicious dessert: chocolate souffle with pistachio ice cream.
Before we could even finish the dessert, our server returned with a slate of mignardises. The two on the left were a bit boring but the chili jelly, the macaron and the marshmallow were excellent.
On our final evening, free from the burden of an afternoon tea sitting in our stomachs, we returned to Jahn and I decided to go all out with the Tasting of Jahn Menu. Kamara just ordered a starter and a main because she lacks my awe inspiring sense of greed.
We started with a couple of signature cocktails.
We were then offered an initial amuse bouche of sweet chilli pork on popped rice.
This was immediately followed by a selection of hors d’oeuvres: Mahor chicken, fresh summer roll with fish and betel leaf with prawns.
Next up was a very creative and absolutely delicious take on one of my favourite Thai dishes: Som Tum (Spicy papaya salad). I particularly like the papaya caviar sitting on top of the shredded papaya and can only applaud the addition of the fried chicken wrapped in pandanus leaves. My only criticism? It was nowhere near spicy enough. Then again I’m a sucker for punishment and Isaan food is basically my favourite thing in the world.
Earlier on I mentioned the unique way in which the Tom Yum Goong is served. This is it. The soup stock is poured into a glass teapot, containing a mixture of herbs and spices. The plate in the centre holds four cubes of concentrated chili jelly. You can add as many of these as you want to crank the heat level up to your desired level.
The tasting menu portion comes with a single grilled prawn rather than two, which is probably a good thing given how much food you are presented with throughout the evening.
Completed Tom Yum Goong. Spicy, salty, sweet, sour and absolutely delicious.
Next came a Rosella sorbet palate cleanser. It had a fantastic consistency and wasn’t icy or slushy at all.
For the main I ordered the MAssaman of Wagyu beef. I ordered it rare and it was cooked wonderfully. It lived in a beautifully arranged garden of potatoes, pearl onions and peanuts with the sauce being served on the side. I really like this format. It allows you to use as little or as much sauce as you’d like, with the fillet rightfully taking centre stage. I left the luminescent green rice as it didn’t look particularly appealing and wasn’t necessary to balance the dish.
Kamara ordered the Pad Thai Talay. This deluxe version came with a grilled prawn, lobster tail and scallops. The noodles and vegetables came wrapped in an egg nest just like at Longrain in Australia.
The finale: sweet potato tart with apple compote, passion fruit coulis and guava sorbet. My kind of dessert, lots of interesting texture and slightly savoury. Perfect. Once again this was served with a selection of petits fours.
Throughout both of our meals at Jahn (and indeed our previous visit the year before) the service was nothing short of impeccable. I never once had to actively look around for staff, a mere turn of the head would instantly result in our server coming over to offer assistance. Every dish was explained to us in great detail and the pacing was perfectly suited to the speed at which we ate. The staff were all very warm and friendly too, striking a great balance between fun and professionalism.
I would gladly return to Jahn time and again. If you aren’t staying at the Conrad but find yourself in Koh Samui I cannot emphasise enough how worthwhile the experience of dining here is.
Room service at the Conrad Koh Samui is basically the same price as eating in the restaurants so enjoying a poolside lunch in your villa doesn’t have to break the bank. On our last afternoon we just couldn’t bear to tear ourselves away from our infinity pool.
The papaya salad was a little more traditional this time and way spicier than at Jahn! The pizza was superb. Perfectly thin crust with a generous amount of very fresh toppings.
Very similar view to Jahn though!
Some other areas of the resort
The gym, located down by the pool, was a actually more extensive than I was expecting.
There were even some moderately heavy dumbbells
Plenty to keep the cardio weenies busy.
A variety of TechnoGym machines
Looking up towards Zest from the pool
The main infinity pool. Understandably empty outside of lunch time and happy hour, as everybody has their own pool anyway!
We couldn’t resist a spot of diving whilst we were in the area and went with The Dive Academy. They charged us 2500THB per person for 2 dives, including all equipment, car transfers to the dive centre and speedboat transfers to Sail Rock in Koh Tao.
We had hoped to see some giant pelagics…
…but got enormous schools of small fish instead.
Less usual was this comingled ‘school’ of giant clams and sea urchins (aka delicious, delicious uni)
All too soon our four days were up and it was time to take the sad buggy ride up the hill to the lobby. Despite it being our second visit; there is no question in my mind, reading back over this trip report, that I would gladly return again.
There isn’t a whole lot to do here other than eat, drink, relax and enjoy the views. You don’t even need to leave your villa if you don’t want to – and at the Conrad Koh Samui, that suits me just fine.