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Old Jul 28, 15, 2:05 pm
  #1434  
Weatherboy
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: New York / Hawaii
Programs: UA Global Services, HH Diamond
Posts: 4,198
Talking Resort Review & Trip Report

Just wrapped up a fantastic stay in Koh Samui!

I’ve stayed at the other crown jewels of the Hilton family chain, Conrad’s top-of-the-line, all-villa Conrad Maldives Rangali Island and Conrad Sanya Haitang Bay. I thought I’d go for a trifecta of upscale getaways by checking out the Conrad Koh Samui during a recent visit to Thailand.

While I was expecting to draw comparisons and contrasts to those two other stunning resorts, I actually found myself comparing the Koh Samui resort to the wonderful Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa located in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.

First, well before I arrived, I reached out to Stefano Ruzza, the General Manager of the resort to review my reservation, discuss options of villas to stay in, and plan other events (i.e.: schedule a dinner at their exclusive “Cellar”.) I’m glad I did –Stefano is the epitome of a warm, friendly island-host, with a clear customer-first focus that was refreshing. He and his staff coordinated my needs prior to arrival …and continued to work with me during my stay to make the most of it.

The hotel arranged for my airport transfers and a driver was waiting for me at the airport to whisk me away to the resort. Cold bottles of water and chilled face/hand towels were waiting for me inside the SUV that took me away. The ride from the airport to the resort is about 45 minutes. I can’t imagine renting a car or scooter here; signage on the island isn’t the best, and roads, especially in the villages near the airport, are filled with traffic and/or wild animals. On the way to the hotel, I witnessed one head-on collision between a pick-up truck and a scooter which required ambulance care; based on the condition of the roads and the amount of traffic, I’m surprised that was the only accident I saw.

The final stretch to the resort is indeed very steep. Guards at the top and bottom of the hill monitor traffic, allowing one-way direction at a time up or down. After we were cleared to ascend the cliff the resort is built on, we were on our way. Once we arrived at the crest, the open-air lobby photographed so well online was there. My bags were taken away while I took care of check-in duties.

I was offered a cold and delicious local drink, along with another chilled face/hand towel. The staff, Mr. Ruzza included, greeted me warmly. As an HHonors Diamond member, I was invited to pull from a basket of random prizes; I won a complimentary ice cream voucher from the eateries on the resort. Beyond the complimentary airport shuttle and daily breakfast at Zest, I was given a handful of free cocktail vouchers and coupons good for bonus points with spa and resort food spend. I was also given a 10% off coupon to the spa which came in handy. Guest Services Manager “Mod” then escorted me to my first villa.

I split my stay in two villas: a water-front pool villa and the Conrad Royal Oceanview Pool Villa, also known as their “Royal Suite” and/or “Presidential Villa.”

In terms of general floor plans, there are 4 types of villas here: there are 1-bedroom villas, about a dozen 2-bedroom villas, and a single 3-bedroom villa in bookable inventory. The 4th type of villa is a 1-bedroom “Royal Suite” that is unlike the layout of any other villa. The 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom units are considered the “Residences”, available for booking separate from the 1-bedroom villas. There are more villas than that, though, and they’re currently vacant: awaiting a decision from the resort owner/investor on whether or not to turn them over to Conrad to rent out …or to sell privately to those wishing to live full or part time at the resort.

Within the 1-bedroom villas, there are three “types” priced purely on where they sit on the cliff-side resort. The “Ocean View Pool Villa” sits at about the 200 level, with villas both above and below. The next level-up, price-wise, is actually a level down near the water; these “Water Front Pool Villas” feature the peace and quiet of the Gulf of Thailand as their only view, with no other villas or structures between them and the water. And then the next level-up from there, price-wise, are the “Retreat Pool Villas”, which rise above the Ocean View Pool Villas generally in the 300 level.
Before arriving, I assumed that “higher is better” but after spending time at the resort, I don’t think that’s really the case. Some villas are closer to different things (i.e.: the beach, the restaurants, or higher up closer to the main lobby), but because you need to depend on buggies to take you around anyway, it’s a wash when it comes to convenience of location. Higher villas do provide more privacy than lower ones; but the resort is so quiet and so villas are designed to be so private that it doesn’t make that much of a difference of where you are.
During one afternoon swim, I noticed a man in a villa located a row above mine, leaning over his infinity pool down to me watching me swim. But even with him leaning over, there was plenty of space in the pool and pool deck to get away from his peering eyes. Other than that short-lived (accidental?) invasion of privacy, I really didn’t notice anyone at/around their villas, never saw anyone else at/around their pools, and couldn’t really see much of anything through the thick foliage that surrounds the villas.

The foliage is so thick around some villas, though, that it begins to interrupt the view to the water from the infinity pool. The magic of an infinity pool is to have an unobstructed view from one body of water to the next; in some villas, one of mine included, I noticed trees growing above the height of the pool. While they provided more privacy, they also interrupted the magic of the pool. I’d encourage the resort to trim trees down to the bottom of the pool to preserve those unobstructed views of the Gulf of Thailand.

For the most part, the rooms were well maintained and in good working order. While I was at breakfast or out at dinner, housekeeping would do a very thorough cleaning. Housekeeping was excellent: towels/linens were always fresh, and they literally got on their hands and knees to wipe the floors clean with each visit. The room was always sparkling. The pool, while always crystal clear, probably could have used a cleaning during my stay. Nighttime storms blew debris into the pool; it would have been helpful to have a skimmer handy. The pool tile could also use a good scrub in places to remove scale build up and/or algae. To the best of my knowledge, the pools weren’t serviced during my visit.

Other than venturing into common spaces, such as Zest for breakfast, the pool/beach area for afternoon cocktails, or Jahn for dinner, I felt like I was on my own deserted island resort. Even when I went to those venues, there were only a handful of other people at most milling about. Even more surprising was the occupancy level during my stay –which varied from 70% to 100%. Even with 100% occupancy, the resort was awesomely quiet and peaceful.

I imagine the resort was so quiet because most stayed in their villas. After staying in mine, I can see why that’s the case.

My Oceanview Pool Villa was wonderfully equipped: there were 2 AC systems, one for the primary living area, the other for the bathroom area. It was easy to set and adjust them and the villa quickly got to the desired temperature. There was also an adjustable ceiling fan over the bed in the bedroom, which also made the villa perfectly comfortable. The bathroom is just as decadent as the website photos show it to be: modern fixtures, sumptuous showers, and oversized baths rule the resort. Both the bathroom and bedroom had great sweeping views of the water outside, providing front-row seats to great views …and stunning sunsets. And while you’re in somewhat isolated, detached villas, water pressure was perfect …as was water temperature. You could get water as hot as you wanted as quickly as you wanted without waiting for it. And despite each self-contained villa presumably having its own AC and pool filters, it was remarkably quiet both inside and outside the villa. Outside the villa was a perfectly sized infinity pool. The water was comfortably warm …and scattered rain showers that would come through at times would cool the water down if it got too warm. During my stay, the pool was never too warm nor too cold. Furniture inside and out was comfortable and well maintained. The bedding and towels were typical of Conrad resorts: both were very comfortable and of high quality. As with other Conrad resorts, you have your choice of bathroom amenities. While the villas come with Aromatherapy Associates products, you also have the choice of getting Shanghai Tang or Tara Smith products, which were refreshed daily.


Conrad Royal Oceanview Pool Villa (#127) was simply stunning and I encourage you to splurge to stay here for at least part of your stay if you can. While the standard villa is at the same level as the cart path behind it, this villa-suite is on two levels. The entrance opens up to a lawn with unobstructed views of the water. The lawn lacked chairs though, so it wasn’t designed to hang out and catch the views. The indoor/outdoor foyer on the “main level” offered a flight of stairs going down to the oversized villa itself. Once you enter through another set of doors, you’re welcomed into an indoor foyer in the villa. To the left was an oversized bedroom/master bathroom area. To the right was a spacious room furnished as a living room and dining room. Each had modern furniture and cool light fixtures. A “kitchen” was off the dining room, complete with a bar top with seating for a few. While it’s called a kitchen, it’s more of a prep area. Other than a Senseo coffee machine and a toaster, there wasn’t much practical there to use. The room did have ample wine glasses for whites/reds/champagnes, but no other cooking surface or supplies. But in a resort of this caliber in this location, it’s highly unlikely you’d be preparing your own food here. Behind the kitchen was a guest bath and a pantry, which also featured a rear exit to the entrance stairwell.

The master bedroom side of this massive suite features a circular bed with great views outdoors. Behind the bed area is a work desk, with ample places to keep your tablets, computers, and phones charged. Behind the work area was a large walk-in closet; somewhat larger than what is in a standard villa. And then next to the master bedroom was the huge massive bath; beyond a sunken circular tub and two spacious vanities, the highlight of the bath was a shower large enough for a whole family. With two giant rain heads, two spray heads, and two benches, the shower “room” was on a grand scale like everything else in this villa. The bathroom had a door that opened outside to an outdoor shower…and featured a walkway wrapped around the side of the villa to the giant infinity pool. Also in the master bathroom was a “Robotoilet”, the hybrid Japanese bidet/toilet that featured different washing, heating, and drying options.

The centerpiece of this villa though was the massive 22.5 meter pool; it spanned the width of this extra-wide villa, curving somewhat as it moved along the outer edge of the propped-up structure. On one side of the villa, near the master bath, loungers were actually built into the structure of the pool so you could lay there in shallow water, relaxing on the curved tile surface there. On the opposite side of the villa, just outside of the dining room, there was a sunken table and eating area into the pool, providing unique views to enjoy a snack/meal from. The pool was large enough to swim laps in, or just float and be lazy as you take in the views of the water on the quietest part of the resort.

The villas, and all common places, were equipped with high-speed internet. The internet was great: fast enough to watch streaming media, while also fast enough to give friends/family at home a video tour of the villa via Skype. There was one afternoon where the fiber optic line to the island was cut, killing broadband access to the Conrad and everywhere else. The front desk staff offered to set-up a mobile hotspot in my villa if I needed it, but the internet service was restored before that became a necessity.

I spent most of my time relaxing in/around my villas. Most of my day was spent outside reading or swimming. On stormy evenings, I curled up on the couch and watched some TV. There were a dozen or two channels to choose from, your typical international resort collection of HBO, assorted news networks, and regional programming.

Upon arrival to my villa, I was presented with a delicious fruit basket of tropical treats. It was not refreshed during my stay. Nightly, with turndown service, they brought a delicious pair of cookies to the villa, which helped end each evening on a sweet note. The villas were equipped with mini-bars with a mix of soft drinks, liquors, and snacks. Unlike the Conrad Sanya which offers free use of the minibar, everything was pay-per-use here. Prices for the mini-bar …and for in-room laundry, were typical of resorts with prices not much higher or lower than expected.


For dining, you have a few options. I decided not to leave the resort during my stay; as such, all of my meals were resort-provided. I ate at the Azure Bar/Grill, Zest, Jahn, and “The Cellar.” And I ordered in-villa room service a few times.

Zest is Conrad’s all-day casual dining venue, featuring an expansive international buffet breakfast. They also offer authentic Thai and Southern Thai dishes for their afternoon and evening menus, but my experience with Zest was strictly limited to breakfast.

Service was fast and friendly in the restaurant; I was always promptly seated and served. Beyond the buffet offerings, a menu was offered when you sat down, presenting you with other options to enjoy from the kitchen, such as local or typical Eggs Benedict. The rest of the breakfast spread was mainly a self-service selection of fresh baked breads, fruits, deli meats, candies, sushi, stir-fried rice and noodles, salad …and a “noodle bar” and omelet/grill station. At the noodle bar, a chef would prepare a noodle dish for you from the assortment of ingredients on display there. At the grill station, omelets or any egg dish were made-to-order; pancakes and waffles could also be made on-demand for you.

I found the breads in Zest to be world-class and to be oh-so-fresh. I don’t know how they’re able to keep breads and cakes and donuts so fresh, especially in such a tropical climate, but they do. I am a carb junkie and Zest allowed me to fulfill all of my doughy desires: delicious breads, rolls, croissants, donuts, tarts, danish, and more were all there. It is safe to say that these baked treats are the best anywhere in the world within Hilton’s family …and quite possibly rival some of the best patisseries in Paris. While these baked treats were to die-for, I found the rest of the food to be good to very good, but nothing else stood out for me. The quality of some dishes were better than others, and such quality was inconsistent from day to day and from dish to dish. As an example, one order of eggs benedict arrived with the egg yolk cooked solid through. On another day, the poached egg was perfect, providing delicious ooze onto the toast and ham. Sometimes omelets were fine, other times the cook didn’t cook-down vegetables thoroughly enough, leading to a crunchy, runny egg dish. I found the stir-fried noodles one day to be too salty and too overcooked, although saw fried rice next to it that was perfectly balanced and flavored. I may be being overly critical here, because Zest was indeed solidly good, but for an eatery at a Conrad flagship resort, each dish should be absolutely perfect, all the time.

I enjoyed lunch and afternoon cocktails at the Azure Bar/Grill. Here, the food from the relatively limited menu was fair. The cocktails were delicious, including some of the local mixed drinks that used regional fruits. This bar/grill, next to the resort pool and above the resort beach, had warm/friendly service. During the afternoon, they had a 2-for-1 happy hour for a few hours. I enjoyed the drinks better than the food here and relied on other venues for my “eats.” For an upscale resort, though, there were a few high-end touches that were missing from the poolside bar. To cool off on hot days, some high-end resorts (like the Le Royal Meridien in Dubai) provide small frozen treats during your stay: it could be a mini popsicle, an oversized spoonful of lemon ice, or some other low-cost cool treat that shows they’re going the extra mile to cater to you. Other resorts, like the Conrad Maldives and Conrad Sanya, along with places like the Hilton Northolme resort in the Seychelles, or even the Shore Club in Miami Beach, keep fragranced, chilled face/hand towels flowing. Such little “treats” remind you you’re in a luxury resort and it would have been nice to see such things here.

Another venue I tried was the exclusive “Cellar”, a wine vault located underground near the top of the resort. While the underground eatery had no windows, the view was impressive: the resort’s wine collection stored in beautiful dark wooden wine racks around an intimate dining table that comfortably sat 6.

Because I arrived at the resort solo, the resort General Manager offered to dine with me so that I could experience this unique dining experience. Similar to The Cellar experience at the Conrad Maldives, you have different menu and wine pairing options. They offered 4 different menus, each available with or without wines, from about 3,200 Baht to 10,000 Baht ($92 US to $287.) There were things I wanted to sample across menus, so I asked them to customize a menu for me and pair it with wines; the result was the 10,000 Baht / $287 dinner. This was by far the most expensive dinner I had in Thailand.

I started my meal with a Salmon Tartar which was paired with NV Follador Prosecco Brut from Veneto, Italy; my next course was a Beef Carpaccio with Rocket Salad and cheese complimented with a 2014 Schubert Sauvignon Blanc from Martinborough, New Zealand. I then had a Lobster Medallion that was paired with a 2013 Penfolds Chardonnay of “Kooninka Hills”, Australia. My main entrée was their beef dish: beef tournedos in Madeira sauce, paired with a 2010 Ridge Vineyard Cab/Merlot from the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Like its equally expensive sister meal at the Conrad Maldives, you’re paying more for the experience than the food. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the General Manager understanding the “behind the scenes” stories from the resort; that alone was worth the price of admission. But when it comes to the food and the caliber of the drink, I didn’t think it matched the price tag. Again, I may being overly critical, but when I compare the food to other $250+/plate meals I have in the US, it comes up short. The food was very good …and the portions were quite large. I’m not sure if it’s because of what I hand-picked for the menu or what, but I thought some items lacked some flair or local flavor to make them pop from ordinary to extraordinary.

One venue I ate at though was exceptional and extraordinary: Jahn, the resort’s upscale eatery. This is not a Thai restaurant nor is it your typical international resort venue; rather, it is an interesting hybrid of the best of Thai and western cuisine with incredibly fresh ingredients complimented by warm and polished service.

Be sure to have reservations here just after sunset; you can watch amazing Koh Samui sunsets from the outdoor lobby of this fine eatery. Or you can watch them at the next door lounge, Aura.

I visited on a Saturday night which featured fireworks at about 7:30; I timed my reservation to be there for it.

The menu isn't too large, but offers a wide variety of tastes and flavors to meet the needs of guests. The food menu is complimented by a very robust wine list, which features fine wines around the world. They also offer up tasting menus should you wish to put the decision making of food/wines into their hands.

For my dining experience, I ordered a Tomato and Alaskan Crab Salad starter and Wagyu Beef Massaman as my main entree. I also ordered the Coconut Creme Brulee as my desert, complimenting it with some fine 12 year old scotch. While I started my meal with a cocktail, I had a delicious glass of red wine with the beef.

The Tomato and Alaskan Crab Salad was absolutely delicious. In addition to some delightfully seasoned greens, there was fresh crab Alaskan King Crab meat blended with Thai spices and put back into the leg shell. The crab had quite a kick to it, which made the tomato, which was there in sorbet form, the perfect way to cool down the mouth. It was perfectly prepared, looked/smelled awesome, and was delicious. And definitely delivered on the premise of Thai/Western fusion cuisine.

Before and after my starter, the warm and friendly wait staff also presented me additional treats. At the start of my gastric journey, they offered an incredible Amuse-bouche; in between courses, they had a light , soothing tropical fruit sorbet to cleanse the palate.

While I was awaiting the arrival of my dinner, the fireworks show burst into action. The fireworks exploded over the water in front of the restaurant, and every table, mine included, had a front-row seat to the show. They lasted about 5 minutes --so just enough time to enjoy, but not so long that you grow hungry during the show. I believe they have these fireworks once a week; be sure to call them to see if you can visit on their firework evening.

And while the fireworks were a treat, I was in true awe of the main event: that incredibly delicious beef entree I ordered.

I travel around the world and have become quite the picky foodie. I've had some amazing beef dishes in Japan and the United States, and have been to all the top-rated steak houses in New York City and beyond. With all of that said, this steak was by far the best I've ever had. Period. I'm not one to throw hyperbole around, so saying this was the best steak ever is quite a feat for them to pull-off.

The beef tenderloin was perfect in every way: it was a stunning slice of meat, it was perfectly prepared and seasoned (just the perfect amount of sea salt!), and it was cooked to a perfect medium. The steak just melted in my mouth.

The tenderloin was served with delicious small potatoes, onions, and peanuts; it also came with lemongrass rice (dyed green for show) and an interesting sweet curry on the side. It all came together so wonderfully!

After the dinner, they served a delicious mini ice cream cone to cleanse the palate for a final time. And then the Coconut Creme Brulee arrived. While the starter and main entree blew me away, while nice, the creme brulee did disappoint me a bit. I guess I was expecting a more traditional creme brulee; instead, they served a coconut custard inside a coconut shell and topped it off with a coconut crunch/crumble. It was OK and was another example of Thai/Western fusion, but it just wasn't for me.

On a scale of 1-10, where 10 is best, I would rate my starter a 9, my entree a 10, and my dessert a 6. I'd give service an 8.

And now the bill. Many others have described just how expensive this place is here on TripAdvisor. And they are correct: it is extremely pricey. My starter was 750 Baht, my beef entree was 1,800 Baht, and the coconut brulee was 450 Baht. My cocktail was 390 Baht, my glass of wine was 650 Baht, and my after-dinner scotch was 890 Baht. With a 10% service charge and 7% VAT, my dinner for 1 came to a somewhat budget-busting 6,026 Baht ($175 US).

But was it worth it ...and would I do it again? Yes on both counts. The scenery, service, and delicious, unique menu are worth it --even if you just dine here once during your Koh Samui holiday.

Even if you aren't a guest of the Conrad Koh Samui, I encourage you to dine here. I believe the hotel provides complimentary and/or reduced car service anywhere on the island to bring guests to/from the venue. If you're celebrating a honeymoon, dining with family, or world-traveling on your own, this restaurant is a Koh Samui must-see.

Would I do The Cellar again too? Probably not unless I was dining with special family/friends. While the venue was very interesting and intimate, I found the experience and food at Jahn to be better. Would I recommend The Cellar to others? Yes I would, especially if they enjoy decent wines …but again, if it came down to choosing the Cellar versus Jahn, I would select Jahn again.

While the pricetag for The Cellar and Jahn may be startling to some, the Conrad offers low-cost options beyond the Azure Bar/Grill. One of the best values is in-room villa dining, which sources a lot of their menu items from Zest. I enjoyed some delicious Tom Kha Gai, the Thai chicken soup with a coconut base. It was perfectly cooked and seasoned, and delivered piping hot to the villa fairly quickly. And under 400 Baht ($12 US), it was a steal. I also enjoyed Kang Jeud Woosen Gai Sub, a clear chicken soup with glass noodles and assorted vegetables. Again, the broth was absolutely delicious, and was served quickly to my villa. And on one night where I wasn’t feeling too adventurous and just wanted some western food, I ordered spaghetti Bolognese, which had the perfect blend of seasoning, vegetables, and wine in its meat sauce. Room service, in addition to being right-priced, was always served promptly by friendly staff.

One evening, I also had cocktails at the Aura lounge, which is adjacent to Jahn. With amazing views of the resort and of the nearby islands/water, it was the perfect place to watch the sunset. As the sun dimmed, waitstaff proactively provided insect spray to keep any mosquitoes away. Even before the spray was supplied, I had a bug-free experience there with great views and great drinks. (I recommend the Five Island Royal, a Long Island Tea – like mixed drink with a Koh Samui twist.)

When I wasn’t relaxing in my villa or eating, there were many other things to do at the resort. In addition to a full, modern exercise center, the resort provided various activities every day. Thai Kickboxing seemed to be a popular choice for many; personally, I preferred to be a total sloth and sip cocktails by the resort pool. Sometimes you’d see a few people out/about in the resort pool or beach, but for the most part, even at full occupancy, you’d rarely see people out doing things.

The resort set-up two hammocks just off-shore and two “floating islands” which each featured 2 lounge chairs facing the resort shore. While there was a small beach, and an elevated “sea terrace” that featured a sandy spot to rest in a cabana or lounge chair, not many people were there. Over a 6 day period, I think I saw them used by maybe 4 people. The beach that was there, and even the shallow water just off the coast, was fairly rocky. If you’re looking for wide, sandy beaches, this resort won’t be for you. But if you’re looking for a break from using your own private infinity pool or the resort pool, the resort does provide a nice change of pace at their beach to try out.

I spent a considerable time in the spa, having 4 different services provided including authentic Thai massages. The spa menu was priced on par with other upscale resorts around the world. While as affordable if not a tad more affordable than spas in places like the Conrad Sanya, it’s still expensive to Thai standards. Nevertheless, service there was warm and friendly and spa treatments were delightful.

I did venture off-site once and had room service cater my excursion for me. Through the concierge desk, I booked my own 3 hour private boat ride around the Five Islands visible from the resort, to the nearby beach/island the resort shuttles guests to complimentarily, and around 2 other nearby islands. The excursion was roughly 14,000 Baht ($400 US) and was worth it. The resort drove me to a nearby dock where I met my boat and its two crew. I had a lunch prepared which was packed in a cooler, along with a handful of ice-cold Thai beers. We motored off and explored the nearby waters, taking in the sights. I was pretty much able to “point and go”, showing the captain where I’d like to explore and visit. The captain offered to pull up to an empty beach for me to enjoy my delicious lunch. At the end of the journey, I returned to shore…and Conrad resort staffers took care of getting me back to my villa. I really liked this excursion: I could pick the places I wanted to go, the things I wanted to do (there was snorkeling gear on-board), and the time I wanted to spend at each. I was able to get up-close to the Five Islands that the resort looks out to; they are even more stunning and beautiful up-close than they are from the resort grounds. And as an added bonus, I was able to learn more about local events and customs from the crew on the boat.

During my stay, I was able to stay connected to my Guest Services Manager Mod and Assistant Front Manager Tann, as well as the General Manager, via email. I loved interacting with the staff via email and appreciated their fast responses to email conversations. Whether it was tracking down a package or finalizing a menu, I loved using email here. Longer than a TXT but just as accessible as one, I found email the ideal way to stay connected to the team on my own terms. I wish all resorts adopted such a friendly email service to their guests. Both Mod and Tann provided extremely warm and friendly service, answered any questions I had, and helped me make the most of my stay at the resort….in email and in-person.

Other random thoughts:

-Bugs
Some have asked about the bug life on the island. With a humid, tropical environment, I was prepared for the worst and packed DEET towelettes to keep me protected from mosquitoes and other pests. At check-in, Mod had mentioned to keep the door to the villa closed at/after dusk to keep pests out, which I did. Throughout my stay, I never had any bug problems on the resort grounds. My villa was always bug-free as was my pool/deck area during the day. After rain storms, I’d noticed some flying insects come out and about, but they were harmless. I saw plenty of harmless dragonflies in the air and some ants on the ground, but again, nothing of any concern. At night, I put on my deck light to see what the view was like at night. When I lit up the back, I saw that my sliding glass doors were covered in various flying bugs and mosquitoes. Fortunately, they stayed outside. I’d recommend against night swims if you’re not bug-friendly. But otherwise, at the outdoor eating venues and around the villas, beach, and pool, insects were –never- a concern.

-Buggies
This resort is built into a steep cliff and you need to take buggies around to get from place to place. The steep nature of the buggy paths will be challenging to even the most fit. Case in point: while heading up to the lobby one day, we came across a young, very fit couple covered in sweat and struggling to breathe on their way up the resort. We of course gave them a lift to their destination. While I found some walking strenuous but doable, such as from the beach up to Zest and back, I found it best to simply buggy around. Buggies were always prompt …and there were often many waiting at the busy venues (like the Main Lobby or Zest.) The longest I waited for one was 10 minutes, and that was from the air conditioned comfort of indoors.

-Problems
Moreso than other resorts I’ve stayed at, the team at the Conrad Koh Samui is absolutely customer-focused and will do anything to remedy any problems or issues that pop-up. I had a few minor hiccups during my stay and I let staff know immediately; they rectified things immediately. My advice to anyone at this resort or elsewhere: if things aren’t completely to your satisfaction and/or understanding, let them know. I found the staff here eager to remedy the smallest glitch. While they were proactive on many fronts, they aren’t mind-readers. I appreciated their efforts to make sure everything was as perfect as I wanted it to be.

-Children
There were some families at the resort, some with small children. I think this place caters to couples looking for solitude, although there are activities and facilities for young guests. The staff seems to do a lot for little guests; as an example, at the resort pool, I watched some kids and hotel staffers enjoy a good remote control boat race in the pool. While some have said this is an unsafe property for kids due to steep cliffs and the proximity to infinity pools and beaches, I think this property is no more unsafe than any other property on flat ground. When visiting this resort, you probably don’t want the distraction of a child, but if you do bring them, I’m sure you’ll be safe with plenty of things for all to do.
-Swimming Pools
The pools use modern salt water filtration systems which generate chlorine rather than the more old-fashioned liquid/tablet chlorine systems which tend to be more chemically. Salt water pools tend to feel nicer on the skin when you come out, and the pools at this resort were no exception to that.


When comparing this resort to Conrad’s other jewels, the Sanya and Maldives properties, I find that there are strengths/weaknesses to all. When it comes to best villa of the bunch, I’d rank Maldives first, Koh Samui second, and Sanya third. When it comes to best beach of the bunch, I’d rank Maldives first, Koh Samui second, and Sanya third. For best villa pool, Koh Samui is definitely the leader of the pack, with Sanya second and Maldives third. When it comes to best food, I’d rate Sanya first, Koh Samui second, and Maldives third. When it comes to spa, I’d rate Maldives first, Sanya second, and Koh Samui third. When it comes to service, I’d rate Koh Samui first, Sanya second, and Maldives third. When it comes to overall value (room + food + drink), I’d rate Sanya first, Koh Samui second, and Maldives third (a distant third at that.) Of course, I recommend that you visit all three and experience what the best of the Hilton chain has to offer their guests.

And like I had mentioned previously, this resort …and the island in general… really reminded me of Hilton’s Northolme resort in the Seychelles. At that Hilton, villas are staggered along the cliffs of the resort…with a few closer to the water, and the size/layout of the villas were very close to the Conrad’s. While the Hilton villas lacked the pool the Conrad in Koh Samui has, I found the food venues, spa, and beach to be of comparable size and cost. Koh Samui has better food and service than the Hilton in the Seychelles, but the Hilton is still a very good resort. The geography of Koh Samui and the Seychelles also seemed very similar to me, as did the weather.

In closing:
-the Conrad Koh Samui is a stunning resort with exceptional service, beautiful villas each with incredible private pools and sweeping, unparalleled views across the Gulf of Thailand.
-there’s a good variety of food and dining options at the resort: I strongly recommend a visit to Jahn, a definite top restaurant in the world
-the staff is warm, friendly, and accommodating –moreso here than possibly anywhere else in the Hilton system. Be open and communicative with them so that you too have a perfect stay
-the Hilton chain has quite a family of wonderful resorts and these villa resorts Conrad has are the cream of the crop. I recommend you visit each to sample the wonderful things they offer in terms of sights, foods, and services.
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