By Megan Leon
Aug 23, 2022
JUST A 15-MINUTE DRIVE from Koh Samui airport but tucked away in quiet Mae Nam is a secretly sprawling verdant oasis that has stood strong, flexing attitude and oozing glam for 12+ years: the W. Though I’ve traveled to Koh Samui dozens of times, even lived here at one point, this is my first visit to the W. As Thailand’s second-biggest island fully shrugs off the pandemic blues (you should see the airport flight board), I thought it was time to finally experience this stalwart – especially now that they’ve a new, young and sharp female general manager and, on the occasion of my visit, were co-hosting Samui Summer Jazz Fest, offering a taste of the resort’s dynamic creativity.
The property owner, Ashwani “Sunny” Bajaj, had been coming with his family to this quiet peninsula for years, back when it was an undeveloped hidden tropical gem, with shallow waters and million-dollar views across the strait. When he got the chance to buy the land, he jumped, and his goal in building a resort here, he told my editor, was a luxury stay that maintained that old unhurried and uncrowded chill of his memories. Which certainly sounds good to the anxious and harried side of my personality.
As W is known for their uncompromising contemporary designs, I am not surprised to arrive in an open-air W Lounge that is tented by a geometric-like ceiling with little loungy nooks everywhere you turn. Bold, artistic touches are everywhere from the color-splashed front desk to the massive graffiti-style mural painted by famed New York street artist, Alec Monopoly. What I really want to see, however, is the outdoor deck that could easily be the most Instagrammed resort view in Samui. Think round, sunken lounges that line an infinity pool placed just right to take in the sweeping views of the Gulf of Thailand’s azure waters.
En route to my Jungle Oasis villa, my buggy makes its way up and down some swervy, leafy paths, and I feel a touch thankful I didn’t go by foot. The door opens to a sun-kissed, elongated room that is sleek, playful and inviting all at the same time. Floor-to-ceiling windows line the entire space from the bed down to the bathroom. Light-wood panels meet splashes of red from the lamps, the bean bag in the mini living space and the teddy bear on my massive king-size bed. The closet, which I sillily can’t locate at first, is cleverly hidden by a sliding door that also opens up to a work desk.
All top-notch bathroom amenities are there–an oversized bathtub, a semi-outdoor rainforest shower–but I am most tempted to ooh and ahh at the deluxe toiletries from famed brands Davines MOMO and /skin regimen, which include everything from makeup remover to face wash. It’s the little things, right! I step out onto my private pool patio, which overlooks all greenery, and instantly decide to take a quick dip and laze out on the oversized daybed for some much needed vitamin D.
I make my way down to SIP Beach Bar for an aperitif and, importantly, a chance to dip my toes in the warm, crystal-clear ocean. The bar sits at the edge of the 14-kilometer beach stretch, where I take a brisk walk over the warmth of the powdery soft sand, and before I can even order my drink, I find myself lying in one of the hammocks scattered idyllically under the cooling shade of the coconut palm trees.
Dinner is at Namu restaurant, which is the fan favorite Japanese restaurant on the island. Inventive reinterpretations of Japanese favorites lace the menu like the giant Thai-style spider roll, an incredibly addictive tuna sashimi tart topped with ikura and hints of truffle, and the signature, ever-so-creamy lobster udon which is bursting with umami goodness. It feels like I try everything on the menu and, of course, pair it all with a super smooth sake for the win.
Slightly buzzed from the good meal and drinks, it’s time for jazz. Samui Summer Jazz Fest is a weeklong music review that last took place eight years ago, and its official kick-off is conveniently at W Koh Samui’s famous Woo Bar. Blue skies that seemingly kiss the reflection of the infinity pool and stretch out far onto the horizon are the dreamy backdrop for the open-air stage. The place is buzzing with locals and travelers who have long-waited for the return of Koh Samui nightlife, something I hadn’t witnessed in a long time and the W hotel staff do a good job at keeping the place hopping with life. With drinks in hand and worries all but gone, I find a spot, grab a mini cheeseburger (sure, it’s time to eat again!) and take in the melodic tunes of Dutch headliners, New York Round Midnight Orchestra.
After a good night’s sleep, I’m off to The Kitchen Table, the main hotel restaurant, for breakfast which also ends up being my go-to for lunch. The international menu is available all day long offering everything from pizza to some of my favorite Thai southern dishes like the spicy gaeng som and stir-fried melinjo leaves with egg. I ended up choosing a chicken briyani after learning the chef is from southern India and it was so comforting that I returned the next day to try his butter chicken.
On my departure day, I’m booked for a massage at the Away Spa, an experience in its own right. As a spa junkie, I’ve experienced everything you can think of but never have I tried or heard of a Temazcal sauna. Inspired by the Mexican Temazcal ritual, which has nothing to do with the agave spirit, W Koh Samui was the first to introduce this experience in Asia back in 2015. Inside a dome-shaped structure is a dry sauna, where I spend half an hour switching from the heat of the coals indoors to the private, temperature changing rain showers right outside–the goal is to cleanse and purify the body, mind and soul.
Refreshed, revived and enamored not only of the spa, but also the charming personalities and friendly faces that I’ve met in every corner of W Koh Samui, I feel regretful that I hadn’t stayed sooner. But there’s an easy fix: I book my next visit even before checking out.
marriott.com/en-us/hotels/usmwh-w-koh-samui/overview; Jungle Oasis villa with king bed from Bt14,700.