Located in the Gulf of Thailand, Ko Samui’s inland is still awe-inspiring with its rugged jungle draped inland. Banking on its reputation as a holiday destination for relaxation, Samui is now as popular as Phuket, offering more than 80 spa resorts (and counting), plenty of reasons to say ah to Thai Spas in Ko Samui, Thailand.
Ah to Thai Spas Ko Samui, Thailand
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Sawasdee and welcome to Thailand’s Coconut Island! After trekking across Thailand’s mainland for two weeks, I arrived at Koh Samui Airport with my share of traveler’s tension. This was the trip of a lifetime to Thailand a few years ago, yet I’d already regretted tacking on a 3-day visit to Ko Samui (sometimes known as Koh Samui). Even with promises of beach time and spa treatments.
Only 700 kilometers south of Bangkok (435 miles), Koh Samui could be light years away with its picture-perfect coastline of white-sand beaches; coconut palms slightly lifting in the breeze; and the turquoise seas sparkling in the sunlight
I’d experienced my first authentic Thai massage in Bangkok, and something about the pitter patter of a tiny therapist on my back while being twisted into a pretzel did not make for a soothing experience. Yet the moment I stepped off my Bangkok Airways flight, I felt like I’d jumped into a chapter of the NY Times bestseller Eat, Pray, Love.
Starting with the quiet, hassle free airport, I began to de-stress in Ko Samui. Perhaps part of that meditative energy resulted from a quick stop at the Big Buddha (en route to our hotel), where I witnessed a monk chanting a family blessing.
According to my driver/tour guide “Moo,” Samui, known as the coconut island, supplied coconut to Bangkok, but now the island “grows resorts.” In 1993, just over a half million annual visitors came to Samui, and almost a million people a year pack onto an island only 21 kilometers wide as Thailand’s third largest island. Moo said it was good for his business that the small island was becoming so popular, but the traffic not so good.
Get Spa at Samui High End Resorts
Today, high end resorts are replacing huts, and the constant flow of backpackers is slowly being priced out with the demands of leisure travelers. Now Samui is Thailand’s second most popular island destination. Some say Koh Samui has lost its paradise personality amidst the luxury hotels and tourists, but like any other destination, part of the experience is stepping away from the familiar hotel brands and touristy areas. I would discover first hand with spa treatments at two Samui High End Resort spas, the Melati Beach Resort & Spa and Six Senses Hideway Spa.
Melati Beach Resort & Spa
That’s what I hoped for when we turned off the main road, just 10 minutes from the airport, and another few minutes down a rocky dirt road winding past a handful of cottages before finally arriving at the secluded sanctuary of Melati Beach Resort & Spa, on the northern most tip of Samui.
Located on nearly 20 acres, Melati Beach Resort & Spa emulates a tropical paradise, with its lush foliage crowding the walkways and edging the maze of 77 suites and villas, fashioned after a Thai Village. Each accommodation is a minimum of 77 square meters of indoor-outdoor space, with more than half also including plunge pools. Once I stepped into the destination resort and spa’s open-air lobby, I thought I’d hit a lucky 7 jackpot at Melati.
No time to soak in my surroundings just yet as I had my first spa treatment scheduled. A seamless check-in and then, the valet transported me via golf cart down an incline into the tropical landscape surrounding the villas. I barely had time to take in my oversized deluxe suite before changing into yoga pants and a T-shirt.
The Melati Spa was on the other side of the lobby, so back I went, this time a 5-minute walk on the winding path that snaked through the resort’s tropical foliage and up the hill, past the seven-level waterfall feature, up the stairs past a restaurant, through the lobby, and then across to the spa.
Melati Spa’s sign signals a walk through yet another lush Samui foliage-edged path again. Open the door and the jasmine floats into the air, and I decided it was the moment to succumb to its calming abilities – after all it was spa time.
Melati is the Indonesian word for jasmine. It’s only fitting that jasmine is the signature scent of the spa. Melati Spa, with a tagline of “the Essence of the Orient” is a merging of cultures – Thai, Balinese, Ayurvedic, Turkish –and another page in my Eat, Pray, Love déjà vu.
The spa reception showcases the cultures with soft colors, low lying tables and chairs while distinctive Thai classic woodwind and percussions softly play in the background. The award-winning spa offers a full range of treatment in 3 private luxury villas with indoor/outdoor treatment areas, private meditation platforms, Jacuzzi, and steam room.
Ancient remedies merge with modern techniques, giving Melati Spa the distinctive rank of Top 10 in Thailand. Timeless Journey – An Indigenous Coconut Experience honors the island’s affinity with the coconut tree, including a coconut shell massage. I’d opted for the signature treatment to relax and detoxify, the Melati Massage, recently recognized for outstanding achievements at the Koh Samui Spa Fair 2011.
The spa’s interior reflects the exotic beauty of the Thai culture, and my treatment room was just to the right of a soothing waterfall and pond. The royal purple accents and the distant sound of the waterfall fused with the jasmine to calm my traveling nerves.
My Thai therapist spoke little English and I spoke less Thai, but we utilized general hand signals along with simple English to communicate. Within minutes, she massaged warm jasmine aroma oil into my left leg, then my right, and I was caught in the magic of the combination Ayurvedic, Balinese and lymphatic drainage massage techniques. Smooth, pressure just right, massaging away the tension.
I can’t say for sure – as I was in that wonderful place hovering between oh-this-feels-so-good to dozing – but I think she even performed a mini-Thai massage on my back and shoulders, working with her feet and toes to de-stress.
The 90 minute, signature Melati Massage was over far too soon. I slowly made my way back through the landscaped paradise, past my villa to the pool bar and terrace. I ordered a glass of Chardonnay while my eyes followed the massive infinity pool, known as “The See,” to the cerulean waters of Thongson Bay and neighboring islands.
But my Samui spa experience wasn’t over. I’m already over the top relaxed, so I wandered through the lush landscape to the resort infinity pool, where the waters of the pool joined the ocean, and relaxed even more with a glass of Chardonnay.
Six Senses Hideaway Spa
Six Senses Hideaway Spa, just 5 minutes drive from the Melati Spa, was on the agenda the next day, and who was I to turn down two spa treatments in a row?
Another secluded boutique resort spa, Six Senses’ expansive open terrace is the hotel’s reception, with inviting overstuffed, tropical-colored bamboo furniture. As enticing as it was, it’s the alluring glimpse of water which gets your attention. I can’t help but step closer to the edge of the hilltop parking lot to discover that Six Senses is perched above the Samrong Bay with a breathtaking, panoramic view of the Gulf of Siam and neighboring islands. It’s a reminder of how small Koh Samui is in the big scape of the cerulean waters.
Rustic-timber beamed steps lead me down the vegetation-and scent-packed hillside (lavender, salt water, just “green” smells) to the Six Senses Spa reception. Upon check in, again I’m drawn to toward the edge to again enjoy that appealing view of the waters below you. Six Senses Hideway Spa is more compact than the Melati Spa, with less tropical personality in the décor. Or so I thought until the therapist lead me into my treatment room. And then wow, there it is again – that distracting view.
No need for trickling waterfalls or brightly colored furniture here. Rustic timber beams frame the windows, giving a picture perfect view of the Gulf of Siam — again. For a moment, I forgot my spa treatment.
The therapist asked me if I needed a minute to change, jolting me back into the moment. Within minutes, I’m stretched out on a simple, white-sheet draped table.
A Rattan Ball Massage sounded intriguing, so here I am again at the mercy of a Thai therapist although this treatment didn’t involve tiny feet tap dancing on my shoulders. Similar technique to a hot stone massage, the therapist used hand-crafted bamboo (rattan) balls to massage with oil blends (lavender this time) in soothing rhythmic strokes while applying deep pressure. The combination put me right back into deep relaxation easing that last bit of travel tension.
The finale of the Six Senses Spa treatment was the exotic Tibetan balls, apparently another nod to my Eat, Pray, Love theme — and another reason why I said Ah to Thai Spas in Ko Samui, Thailand.
Tibetan balls are a form of sound therapy whereas the instruments (I believe mine were tuning forks) are activated, producing sound and placed on my back. The touch was supposed to clear blockages while I relaxed and let the good vibrations wash over me.
The result was that I did walk away from Six Senses Spa feeling calmer, happy and very relaxed, but was that due to the sound therapy, or the fact that I received two amazing spa therapy sessions in a row?
Either way, visiting the island of Koh Samui and indulging in two spa treatments at Melati Beach Resort & Spa and Six Senses Hideaway Spa gave this traveler a happy ending.
NOTE: This article first appeared in Let’s Travel Magazine. Thailand Tourism hosted my Thai adventure; opinions expressed are my own.