Ask any Singaporean their opinion of a given famous restaurant, and the invariable refrain you’ll hear is “oh, the standard drop already”.
This romanticised, some would say fetishised view of the past seems to be firmly entrenched in our national psyche. While scripture warns of the folly of saying “were not the old days better than this?”, to many, the present can never quite match the past.
But perhaps I should be slow to judge, given my penchant to do likewise. After two memorable stays at the Conrad Koh Samui, I returned for a third time last month. By the end of the first day, I had grown disillusioned. They’d scrapped the free drinks coupons and lucky draw for Gold and Diamond members. There were no more personalised bathrobes or slippers. The bathtub shower was leaking. Room service lunch been underwhelming.
That’s it, I said to the MileLioness. This place has officially gone down the tubes.
Then over the next few days, the Conrad Koh Samui won me over again. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was. Was it the amazing breakfast, a curated spread of items the resort had grown or made in-house? Was it the service, which had a solution for everything and an uncanny sixth sense about what we needed, when we needed it? Or was it the breathtaking panoramas and sunsets which, though I’d seen them before, never got old?
I don’t know, but when it’s all said and done, the Conrad Koh Samui remains one of my favourite properties in the world.
If you’ve already been to Conrad Koh Samui before the pandemic and are familiar with the hardware, here’s a brief rundown of what to expect:
|🏖️ Conrad USM, post-COVID|
|Conrad Koh Samui Info|
|Includes restaurant menus, spa menu, excursions and activities schedule|
For everyone else, here’s the full story.
|🏨 tl;dr: Conrad Koh Samui|
|Delicately poised on the edge of infinity, the Conrad Koh Samui remains one of my favourite hotels in the world.|
|👍 The Good||👎 The Bad|
|🏖️ Sandbox Game|
Booking the Conrad Koh Samui
It’s probably never been cheaper to stay at the Conrad Koh Samui, with cash rates having fallen significantly from the pre-COVID days. The dates I was looking at were pricing at around THB 11,875++ (~S$584 nett), which came with breakfast. That’s perhaps half the pre-COVID cost.
All the same, I decided to redeem Hilton points, paying 94,000 points per night with the 5th night free (376,000 points total). I got 0.58 US cents per point, a figure I’m perfectly comfortable with.
As I was entering Koh Samui under the Sandbox programme, I had to add on a one-way airport transfer plus Day 1 and Day 5 PCR tests to my booking (Test & Go travellers will need to do the same, though the Day 5 test will soon be scrapped). Here’s Conrad’s fees for your reference:
- Airport transfer: THB 1,500 per vehicle (can seat at least four, in my estimation)
- PCR test: THB 2,200 per person, per test (should be standardised across Koh Samui, per my understanding)
The Day 1 test was done at Koh Samui Airport on arrival, and the Day 5 test was supposed to be at Koh Samui Hospital. However, I topped up 600 THB for a third-party service called Three Medical Solution (I can’t find their website, but you can email them at [email protected]) who came to the hotel, swabbed me in the room, and issued a fit-to-fly certificate for my flight back to Singapore.
You can read all about the on arrival and Day 5 testing experiences in the link below.
Conrad Koh Samui: Arrival
Let’s first talk location: if you want to stay at the Conrad Koh Samui, you’ll need to accept that you won’t be getting out of the resort a whole lot. The hotel is located in the relatively undeveloped Taling Ngam area, which was quiet before COVID, and practically deserted now.
This is either a feature or a bug, depending on how you look at it. The hustle and bustle of Chaweng Beach is a two-hour round-trip by car, and Lamai is about half that distance. There are a few decent restaurants in the vicinity, but safe to say, you’ll be mostly reliant on the resort for your spa and dining options.
If you’re entering under the Sandbox or Test & Go programme, you won’t have much of an arrivals experience. Once you finish the PCR test at the airport, you’re bundled into a van and driven straight to the hotel. Upon arrival, a buggy is waiting to whisk you off to your villa to complete the check-in formalities. Our villa host apologised for the rush, but said that under Thailand law she wasn’t permitted to stay in the room for more than five minutes.
But let’s pretend you had time to linger. After driving up the winding hill, you’re met by a cobblestone driveway with a lily pond at the centre of a roundabout.
Approach the edge, and what do you see? Infinity.
It’s hard not to gasp when beholding for the first time. Nothing but endless ocean, above us only sky. Not since the Post Ranch Inn have I seen such breathtaking views.
The open-air lobby is where the welcome wagon used to be rolled out in the pre-COVID days, with garlands, cold towels and refreshing drinks. You can also get an idea of the lay of the land just by gazing down, with the villas, pool and beach visible.
Once you’re done gawking, load up the buggy and be on your way.
Get used to these, as they’ll be your primary mode of transport. While you can get around by walking, the resort is built on a very steep hill- so much so that in some places you feel like you might fall if you don’t engage your core and lean against the incline.
Conrad Koh Samui: Villa
The 81 villas at the Conrad Koh Samui are split into the following categories:
|Type||Size||No. of Rooms|
|1-BR Tropical Island Pool Villa||130 sqm||65|
|1-BR Ocean View Infinity Pool Villa||130 sqm|
|1-BR Premium Ocean Pool Villa||130 sqm|
|1-BR Five Islands View Pool Villa||130 sqm|
|1-BR Ocean View Pool Villa||130 sqm|
|1-BR Conrad Royal Oceanview Pool Villa||434 sqm||1|
|2-BR Ocean View Pool Villa||297 sqm||14|
|3-BR Ocean View Pool Villa||766 sqm||1|
If you’re in a 1-BR villa, you’ll be in any of the 1-series, 2-series and 3-series rooms. The 4-series, 5-series, 6-series and 7-series consist of 2 and 3-BR options, as well as the Residences (which is why you count more than 81 villas in the map below).
A few points to note:
- All villas have private infinity pools
- With the exception of the Conrad Royal Oceanview Pool Villa, all the 1-BR villas are the same size at 130 sqm. The key distinguishing factor is the location and view
- In general, the higher the room number, the better the view. That doesn’t always hold, though, as you want to be as central as possible to enjoy the view of the Five Islands
- All villas are west-facing, so you’ll be able to see the sunset regardless. However, some of the 1-series villas may have their views partially obscured by trees. For more data points on which villa to pick, refer to the master thread on Flyertalk.
- Points reservations book into the lead-in 1-BR Tropical Island Pool Villa (1-series)
As a Diamond member, I was upgraded a few days before arrival to the 1-BR Ocean View Pool Villa (3-series)- I didn’t get one of Hilton’s automated upgrade emails; instead I saw the room type change when checking the booking on the website. This is realistically the best you can hope for as a Diamond, although myth and legend have spoken of people wrangling beyond that.
We had villa 305, the same unit we stayed in back in 2019. I’d consider this to be one of the best villas on the property, as you have unobstructed views and great privacy in your backyard (because of the positioning of the other villas, no one can really look into your pool). You’re also close enough to walk to the breakfast area, though the staff won’t bat an eyelid if you request a buggy nonetheless.
The interior of the villa was spacious, with abundant use of wood and little trinkets and artwork here and there to give it a Thai feel. It’s bathed in natural light for most of the day, but the air conditioning does a great job of keeping the heat at bay.
Even though the Conrad Koh Samui opened in 2011, the villas haven’t aged all that much. I don’t think they’ve done any major overhaul, but there’s certainly been some touch-ups over the years. The furniture was in good condition, the floorboards were polished, and the only real damage I could see were minor scratches around high-touch areas like power outlets.
The King-sized bed was extremely comfortable, probably medium-firm. Sheets were smooth, and guests can choose from 13 different pillows including buckwheat, tatami, memory foam, and luxury goose down, should the default options be unsatisfactory.
Each bedside had a light switches and a power outlet (though only one side was universal). This villa was built before USB charging ports became ubiquitous, so you’ll need to provide your own adapter.
The room’s TV is mounted on a flexible arm, so you can either watch it from the sofa or swivel it towards the bed. However, the picture quality is probably a generation out of date, and there’s no Smart TV functionality. I distinctly recall the rooms here had an Apple TV in the past, which allows you to stream your own content. I couldn’t find it this time round, so bring a HDMI cable just in case.
The following TV channels were available.
Below the TV was the mini-bar area, with a Nespresso coffee machine and two bottles of mineral water. Two more bottles were placed in the mini-fridge, and two more in the bathroom, and on the whole you don’t need to worry about running out of water here. More (complimentary of course) water is always just a phone call away. The MileLioness also appreciated the fact they put UHT milk in the fridge, instead of that nasty instant creamer.
A welcome amenity of fruit, cookies and coconuts was left on the table. Cookies are freshly baked in-house daily.
The work desk was located near the window, which meant strong natural light during the day. If it became too glaring, you could lower a set of translucent and opaque blinds.
No one comes to the Conrad Koh Samui to get work done (except me), but should you require it, the Wi-Fi network clocks in at a speedy 91 Mbps down and 89 Mbps up.
The generously-sized walk-in wardrobe allowed us to store all our clothes for five days- no mean feat for The MileLioness, I can assure you. An ironing board, digital safe and beach bag were also available.
The gorgeously-designed bathroom is another highlight, with sliding glass doors allowing you to access the outdoor pool area- useful if you want to head directly to the shower without getting the entire villa floor wet. The bathroom was clad in light marble, with plenty of natural light. Brushing your teeth with an ocean view? Yes please.
The deep soaking tub had been pre-filled with a rose petal bubble bath, as a sort of welcome back amenity. This could easily accommodate two people, with a small wall-mounted TV for entertainment. The hand shower leaked every time the faucet was switched on, which took housekeeping a few tries to fix (eventually they swapped out the whole unit).
His and her vanity areas meant no jostling for sink space, and additional pool towels were stored beneath the countertop.
Hand wash and lotion from Shanghai Tang were provided in pump bottles, as was a bar of Mandarin Tea bath soap. Dental kits, shower caps, shaving kits and mouthwash (with alcohol) were in a wooden basket.
While personalised bathrobes (they’d embroider your initials above the breast pocket) and slippers were once a perk of the Conrad Koh Samui, that’s sadly no longer the case.
The shower area had a large rain shower head with decent water pressure (though the hand shower was much stronger).
Shanghai Tang bath gel, shampoo and conditioner were provided in pump bottles. I have nothing against bulk toiletries, so long as they clearly label what you’re getting.
As a Diamond member, I received a selection of Refinery and Temple Spa products as a welcome amenity.
While an electric bidet would have made this the perfect bathroom, guests have to make do with a manual one. Also, it’s a small thing, but I really appreciate they chose a black phone for the toilet area. Many places go with white, which turns a sickly yellow over time.
As lovely as the bathroom is, it’s the outside area you’re paying top dollar for. Each villa has its own private infinity pool, which is more than a mere token puddle. At 10-metres long, you could do half-decent lap swimming here.
The pool gets plenty of direct sunlight during the day, so much so it’s even a little too hot to swim. But in the latter half of the afternoon the sun gets more benevolent, and then you have a lovely heated pool to enjoy (heated by the sun that is; for avoidance of doubt the water isn’t electrically heated).
Of course, what you’re really here for are the views. Villa 305 has a straight line of sight to the Five Islands, and on a clear day, you can see miles in every direction.
Two lounge chairs with a parasol provided a space to lounge, protected from the withering daytime heat. There’s also a small dining area, perfect for taking in some in-room dining (which I’ll cover in another section).
While the rules state that you’re not allowed to use inflatables, the staff had no issue pumping up the ones we brought along. Drones are big no-no, however.
I tell you, this pool is magical. One of the best things to do is pour yourself a glass of champagne and lounge in the water while you watch day turn to night. Conrad Koh Samui has always been very good with controlling the mosquito population around the villas, and even at dusk I wasn’t bothered by any (mosquitoes were present in some other locations, however, see the Odds & Ends section for more).
Switch off the outside lights, and you’ll have a pretty decent view of the stars too.
Conrad Koh Samui: Facilities
The beachfront infinity pool is open from sunrise to sunset, and was largely empty when we stayed, due to low occupancy and the fact that everyone had their own private pool anyway.
Six cabanas were available on a first-come-first-serve basis. These had curtains for additional privacy.
The Conrad Koh Samui’s gym is open from 6 a.m to 9 p.m daily. Compared to pre-COVID days, it’s been relocated from the swimming pool area to the breakfast area, and upgraded for good measure. A full suite of cardiovascular and muscle-building equipment is available, including elliptical trainers, weight sets, and treadmills.
Machines are as high tech as they come, with Life Fitness entertainment systems that let you watch a movie, listen to music, or even tour a virtual location while you work out. They’re also compatible with the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch, allowing you to sync your workouts.
The gym was kept spotlessly clean, with fresh fruit and complimentary water available round the clock.
The Turtle Club is a place for parents to dump their kids while they go play Monopoly Deal and other wholesome adult pursuits. It’s open from 10 a.m to 6 p.m daily, and is a complimentary service (after-hours babysitting can be arranged through the concierge).
Children aged 4-12 are welcome, and activities include basic Thai lessons, Thai dancing, Muay Thai, sand castle building, baking classes, treasure hunts, and arts and crafts.
Conrad Koh Samui: Spa
The Conrad Koh Samui Spa is open from 10 a.m to 7 p.m daily, and the spa menu can be viewed here.
I remember that spa prices were frightfully expensive, so much so that I’d only go once per trip. But low occupancy has forced them to rethink that, and to give you an idea of how far prices have fallen, in 2019, a 60-minute aromatherapy massage cost THB 3,500++. That treatment costs just THB 1,400++ now.
They even extended to me a recently-concluded offer of 1,800 THB nett for a 90-minute massage. Given the ambiance, the convenience, and the quality of treatment, it’s a steal- why would you need to venture elsewhere?
Guests can make use of the sauna and steam room, regardless of whether or not they’ve booked a treatment. One tends to think of saunas as dark, claustrophobic spaces, but at the Conrad Koh Samui you get a sauna with a view. Facilities are normally gender-specific, but if you’re travelling with a companion they’ll block the whole thing off so the two of you can share.
Then there’s the steam room, which I swear smelled like tom yum. I later learned it was because they scented it with lemongrass.
To cool off, drench yourself under six rain shower jets cascading over a pebble floor. With the full height window, it’s as close to an outdoor bathing experience as you can get. Go ahead and get natural; it’s impossible for anyone to see you anyway.
Bath amenities in the spa area are from Aromatherapy Associates.
After enjoying the facilities, we took a quick rest in the quiet area. The sunlight can be very glaring here, so I’d recommend bringing shades.
Spa treatments take place in suites so large, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were originally conceptualised as villas.
I mean, the changing room alone had a deep soaking tub, an oversized shower, even an outside pool!
Needless to say, our therapists were amazing. They drew the curtains, made us comfortable, and the entire 90 minutes was bliss. We ended up going back three times, and even the foot reflexology (where you lie down on the treatment table- no lounge chair here!) was excellent.
Some cookies, cold towels and butterfly pea flower tea were served after the treatment, with a small Aromatherapy Associates bath oil as a token.
For the prices they’re charging right now, even the budget-conscious might want to consider multiple trips to the spa.
Conrad Koh Samui: Beach & Activities
The beach at the Conrad Koh Samui isn’t much to shout about, though it is exclusive to hotel guests which means a tout-free environment. There’s no powder soft Maldives-style sand here, instead it’s the more abrasive coarse grain variety.
The beach bar, called Seakret, provides a place for guests to grab a drink and lounge on the netting nearby. It closes surprisingly early though (6 p.m), which is a shame because I could imagine this being quite the spot for a manager’s reception or other sunset party.
A couple of hammocks provide a nice photo opportunity with the Conrad Koh Samui sign in the background.
Six lounge chairs were laid out beneath a shelter, with charging outlets and USB ports handy. Once we chose a seat, the staff brought an ice bucket with chilled water bottles inside.
For comparison, here’s what the beach area looked like in the past- notice the absence of charging ports and USB outlets.
Guests can rent kayaks or stand-up paddle boards for free, with snorkeling masks, lifejackets and sandshoes also available. The waters are generally calm enough to explore the bay, though you need to watch out for rocks in some places.
The resort has also gone and acquired itself a jet ski, which can be rented for THB 2,500 nett for a 20-minute ride, or THB 5,000 nett for a 40-minute ride. Two people can ride at the same time, and it’s fairly intuitive to use. They weren’t seeing much traction, so we were offered a free 10-minute ride just for stopping by.
If this beach isn’t impressive enough, you can arrange for a long tail boat excursion to Koh Matsum where the sand is much nicer.
If you had turned left back at Seakret instead of going down to the beach, you’d have found a promenade area with a little chapel. I suppose this makes a great place for wedding photography, with the Five Islands in the background.
In the mornings, yoga, Tai Chi, Thai boxing and stretching activities take place here. They’re free to join for all guests.
Closer to the end of the promenade you’ll find a boardwalk that stretches out about 50 metres or so into the sea. Again, it’s a great spot to take photos, or to simply admire the resort from another angle.
Conrad Koh Samui: Breakfast
Breakfast is served at Zest from 7 a.m to 10.30 a.m daily. It costs THB 1,400++ for adults and THB 700++ for children (aged 6-12) per day if not included in your rate.
If you must, you can try the in-villa floating breakfast (THB 1,990++ for 2 pax) just to get that Instagram photo.
But once you’ve got that out of your system, Zest is absolutely where you should be heading every morning.
Both indoor and outdoor seating are available. The indoor area has air conditioning, but the outdoor area has excellent views of endless ocean.
The last time we visited Conrad Koh Samui, breakfast was decent, but otherwise unmemorable. This time, it was something we looked forward to each day.
When we first arrived, Johnny (the new F&B manager) was making the rounds chatting with guests. When he told us about the hotel’s farm-to-table philosophy, I had to stifle a snort. You’ll forgive me for being skeptical, given how abused the term is.
But Conrad Koh Samui takes the concept very, very seriously. Like open your own farm seriously (more on that later). They cure their own salmon. They bake their own pastries. They roast their own coffee. They brew their own kombucha. They gather eggs from their own hens, milk from their own goats, fruits from their own garden, mushrooms from their own darkroom.
The staff can tell you where every ingredient in your dish comes from, the process by which their house-made bacon and sausages come together, and what the bakery is experimenting with at the moment.
And yes, you can taste the difference.
The bakery table is filled with a rotating selection of breads, pastries and spreads. Super moist banana bread is a particular highlight- I requested this again for the final morning and they gladly obliged.
Behind the bakery table is a chiller section filled with fruits, cheese, salad leaves, dressing (try the one with truffle), yoghurt, five types of milk, fermented coffee (you’ll love it or hate it), freshly squeezed juice, homemade butter, granola, and cold cuts.
I need to call special attention to the homemade smoked salmon, because it is sensational stuff. The curing process they use makes the salmon more moist and slightly sweeter than what you find in the supermarket. And don’t tell me the difference is all in my head- one morning they made the mistake of bringing out store-bought smoked salmon, and I could tell right away.
Another table held a selection of cooked dishes that rotates daily. During our stay, we saw red curry chicken, sweet and sour fish, brown rice, fried rice, chicken porridge, stir-fried vegetables, black pepper chicken, and clear soup with minced pork.
There was an egg station making eggs to order, and a carving station with honey-baked ham. Other accompaniments included roast tomatoes, house-made pork bacon and sausage, sautéed potatoes and baked beans.
Dim sum was also available, but if there’s something Zest can work on, it’d probably be this.
My personal favourite was the noodle station, which on the first morning served up a pork belly soup with flavours that just sang.
For those with a sweet tooth, a pancake and waffle station was located near the entrance.
Even though there were some ready-made pancakes and waffles on display, I appreciated that they whipped you up a fresh batch every time you asked for some. Pancakes and waffles just don’t hold up well under heat lamps.
But I’ve saved the best for last. One of the coolest features of breakfast was the make-your-own-smoothie station, with a twist.
First, you pick out what ingredients you want- fresh fruits, honey, nuts, seeds, juice, yoghurt etc.
Then, you mount the exercise bike, and pedal until your ingredients are blended and well mixed.
It’s a fun little concept that adds some interactivity and photo opportunities to breakfast. And while you won’t pedal nearly enough to burn off the calories from that smoothie, it helps absolve a bit of the guilt.
Conrad Koh Samui: Other Dining
|Dine Like A Member|
As part of Hilton’s Dine Like a Member promotion (currently running till 30 June 2022, subject to further extension), Hilton Honors members can enjoy discounts off F&B at restaurants across Asia Pacific as follows:
- Member/Silver: 10% off
- Gold/Diamond: 25% off
All restaurants at the Conrad Koh Samui are participating in this offer.
Azure is open from 11 a.m to 5 p.m daily, and has been overhauled from top to bottom since my previous visit.
The erstwhile anonymous poolside restaurant has been reborn as a Santorini-style eatery, complete with deep blue and pearl white shades. The only thing it shares with the previous incarnation is its name.
Changed too is the menu, which features dishes with a Mediterranean flair: think cucumber tzatziki and eggplant caviar for starters, grilled squid and fish or harissa chicken skewers for mains, and pistachio olive oil cake and mango & white chocolate kulfi to end proceedings.
All meals get a complimentary serving of homemade focaccia bread, salsa, farm-grown basil and olive oil. They’ll gladly top up the bread if you want, so no one should leave hungry.
We tried the eggplant caviar, which was an…interesting dish. The eggplant was cut into strips, almost like mushrooms, and was springy instead of creamy. It was tangy, and paired well with bread.
The porcini mushroom pizza came highly recommended, baked with hand-stretched dough from the in-house bakery, and mushrooms grown onsite. Superb.
“I’m going to eat healthy,” declared The MileLioness as she proceeded to order the braised pork rib empanadas, assuming it was some sort of healthy dumpling. Well, it certainly tasted good for the soul, if not the arteries…
Since the mushrooms were so good on the pizza, we tried the mushroom farfalle pasta too and it was equally impressive. The mushrooms are roasted first to intensify the flavour, then served with perfectly cooked pasta and sun-dried tomatoes.
However, I wasn’t a fan of the surf clam spaghetti, which lacked the distinctive taste of the sea. As it turns out, the clams were frozen- one of the few items not made from fresh ingredients. Avoid this one.
The grilled squid was also disappointing, arriving under-seasoned and in need of a more aggressive char. It was closer to boiled than grilled.
Those two misses aside, everything else was excellent and I only wish we had time to sample more of the menu.
Near the breakfast area you’ll find Ko Lounge, a cocktail bar with Instagrammable swings and memorable views. It’s open from 3 p.m to 10 p.m daily, though most people will come around 6 p.m to catch the sunset.
The indefatigable Kum Poo (who also hosts some of the farm tours) holds court behind the bar, mixing up all sorts of libations. “I do everything here,” she laughed.
We tried the Iris Bramble and Samuito. Both were great, but what really won me over was the attention to detail as demonstrated by the nuts. For many places, these are an afterthought, poured out of some generic bulk-purchased packet. At the Conrad Koh Samui, the nuts are yet another opportunity to add a local flair, coated in a delicious house-made spice mix and instantly addictive.
And yes, the sunset views are very special indeed.
Here’s the big news. Jahn is gone.
Well, not gone gone, but not how you remember it pre-COVID. Jahn now operates as a purely private dining venue, available on request.
Treat yourself to a culinary journey through Thai cuisine at Jahn, the resort’s culinary crown jewel. Expert chefs use a blend of traditional Thai cooking techniques and specially imported international ingredients to create memorable signature dishes. This exclusive candle-lit dining room for up to 28 guests provides a stunning view of the moonlit resort and overlooks the Gulf of Thailand. Our executive chef and sommelier work together to create carefully selected menus that pair the finest vintages with excellent cuisine.
24 hours advanced reservation is required
I wonder if the plan is to redevelop it into a different F&B concept, because it has some of the best views in the resort and it seems like a waste to limit it to a mere handful of guests.
In the meantime, the outside area around Jahn has been somewhat neglected. The fire pit area was covered with leaves, red ants were building nests, and the plants were creeping onto the patio in some places.
In addition to breakfast, Zest also serves as the resort’s all-day dining venue. Its menu, which used to be a hodgepodge of Asian and Western items, has been revamped to focus on traditional southern Thai flavours.
It’s a welcome change, if you ask me. Those who want a club sandwich can get it from room service, while those looking to sample Thai food (albeit at slightly inflated prices) can explore it in a non-threatening environment (if they ask you how spicy you want it, tell them Tham Thai Thai noi khrap– make it as you would for a Thai person).
We visited once for dinner and tried a seafood phad nam prik pao (which could have been more generous with the seafood for THB 635), and good old kang kong.
In Villa Dining
We ordered in-room dining three times, twice on the day of arrival (when we were waiting for our PCR test results), and once for a special occasion.
The first meal was bad, no two ways about it. We ordered a tom yum goong with jumbo prawns, plus a yellow prawn curry.
This was abjectly disappointing. The “jumbo prawns” in the tom yum were so tiny, I felt like filing a false advertising complaint.
For dinner, I requested to order off the Zest menu instead of in-room dining (I don’t see why this shouldn’t be the default, since all the in-room dining items come from Zest anyway!). This was much better, with the classic trio of som tam, Thai-style kang kong and basil pork hitting all the right spots.
They threw in two tom yum cocktails with dinner, a unique concoction I can heartily recommend.
To celebrate The MileLioness’ birthday, I ordered an in-room moo kra ta set (THB 3,190++). This came with half a lobster, prawns, sea bass, squid, clams, mussels, chicken, beef, bacon, pork sausage, vegetables and mushrooms, plus traditional Thai sauces.
Now, I can’t say that in terms of food quality, this is the best moo kra ta you’ll ever have. What I can say is that the atmosphere is unbeatable. Grilling your own food, sipping wine on the patio , dipping your toes in the pool and watching the sun disappear before your eyes. Experiences don’t get much better than that.
Conrad Koh Samui: Iris Farm & Botanikka
After enjoying the food so much, I had to see where it all came from.
As mentioned, Conrad Koh Samui used the pandemic-enforced downtime to open their own farm called Iris.
Iris Farm, the resort’s sustainable on-site initiative named after the Greek goddess of the Rainbow who carried messages from the Gods, features an impressive cross-section of fruit and vegetables producing some 950 kilos of food each month for consumption by guests and staff.
Geese and ducks roam freely to feed on the bugs and worms. The farm’s 150 chickens, reared locally, produce ample eggs daily to meet the guest’s needs at the Conrad Koh Samui. Lastly, the farm plays a big role in waste management by composting. Around 2 tons of food waste per month are composted, recycled, and reused throughout the property.
It’s fascinating, both from an operational and experiential standpoint. Running your own farm cuts out the middleman and reduces the cost of produce. But it also gives city-dwelling tourists who think eggs grow on trees and bananas come out of the ground in plastic wrap something to see and do during their stay.
Tours are held twice a day, and our guide Kum Poo showed us where the hotel gets its fruits and vegetables from. We ate berries fresh from the tree, plucked a few papayas, looked for ripe passion fruit, giggled at phallic-looking asparagus, and enjoyed the scent of holy basil.
Of course, there’s fauna as well as flora, and the highlight for me was playing with/annoying all the animals. They keep a lot of chickens on premises- not just for eggs, but for trash disposal. All the food waste generated by the resort becomes feed for the birds, who are a lot less particular about whether the pasta’s al dente and how the cook on the steak is.
Guests can gather their own eggs for the following morning’s breakfast. The chickens, surprisingly, had no issues with me invading their home and taking their offspring. Benefits of being an apex predator.
Oh, and there’s goats. They keep them around for the milk, and there was a new calf born just a month before we arrived. You can feed them banana leaves through the fence.
The best part is getting to eat the fruits of your labour- literally. They cut the ripe papaya and passion fruits we harvested and brought it to the room, and turned the unripe papaya into a som tam served along with our dinner (all at no charge).
All in all, a very special experience, so much so we visited twice.
Botanikka is the other source of the hotel’s produce, an eco-cafe and garden that’s built out of a converted two-storey villa.
On the top floor is the cafe area, where you can get an espresso or latte, or try out some of the hotel’s homebrewed kombucha.
Downstairs is the planting area, where a hydroponics system grows peppermint and other herbs.
The villa’s pool has been turned into a koi pond, and guests can throw in pellets to spark a feeding frenzy.
Here’s where you also find the house ducks, which serve as a pest control system and provide eggs for certain dishes. Duck eggs tend to have richer yolks than chicken eggs, so they’re great for dishes where you want to emphasise creaminess like carbonara (no cream allowed!).
Inside a darkened room is a mushroom growing area (no, not those kinds of mushrooms), which produces hen of the wood and other fungi. Mushrooms feature prominently on the menu of various restaurants, and you really should try them.
I mentioned that the hotel roasts its own coffee, and here’s where it’s happens. I’m not a drinker myself, but renowned coffee snob The MileLioness conceded it was rather good.
Conrad Koh Samui: Odds and Ends
With the COVID downturn, some of the Residence villas have fallen into disrepair. Walk past the 6-series villas, and you’ll see quite a number with damaged facades, overgrown greenery, empty pools, and construction debris.
They’re eyesores, but you wouldn’t come across these unless you deliberately set out to find them. Remember, the path to the 1, 2 and 3-series villas (used by the hotel side) is different from the path to the 4, 5, 6 and 7-series villas (mainly used by the residences).
Even so, I deeply suspect the construction debris and empty pools are providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes. While I never had issues with mosquitoes in the past, there were a few areas (near the promenade, on the pathway near the residences) where I got bitten. Thankfully, the villa area (at least for 305) was unaffected.
Conrad Koh Samui: Service
What can I say about service at Conrad Koh Samui?
From start to finish, impeccable.
On arrival, we were introduced to our villa host Amy, who gave us her WhatsApp number and served as our single point of contact for all requests. Whether it was getting a buggy, ordering room service, hunting for a rental car, making a spa appointment, or arranging a birthday surprise for The MileLioness, Amy was prompt and responsive, often replying before I even put the phone down.
At one point, I remarked about how the personalised slippers and bathrobes were no more, and she arranged a pair of souvenir slippers for us to bring home instead- good quality ones.
It was also uncanny how the staff seemed to know our schedule at the back of their hand. When sitting down for lunch, they would ask how we enjoyed our farm visit the previous day. When heading to the beach, they reminded us of our spa appointment later in the day. Buggies were prompt and we never had to wait more than five minutes.
They also remembered our preferences, knowing that we needed additional pillows at the breakfast area for our aching 30-something backs, and liked to have mint in our smoothies.
What more can I say about the Conrad Koh Samui? It’s one of those places I could visit every few years and never grow tired of. The views, the villas, the service- everything about it is special, and everything is done with finesse.
This resort is all about experiences, and whether sipping a drink in the villa pool while watching day turn to night, roasting in the sauna while staring at the endless sea, or reconnecting with nature at Iris Farm, you’re going to make some lovely memories here.
While veterans may mourn the loss of certain pre-COVID amenities, it’s only fair to point out that the hotel has reinvested in other areas, most notably F&B which has gone from also-ran to memorable experience. Hopefully they’ll show those disused villas some TLC as visitors return, restoring the entire resort to its former glory.
One of my best stays ever, and I can’t wait for the next one.