I’m not usually a fan of large hotels, I tend to stay in little traditional B&Bs that ooze local culture and tradition, but every now and then you go to a luxury hotel that just takes your breath away and the Belmond Napasai did just that! I could wax lyrical about the wonders of this hotel, but I actually think their own description sums it up best:
“Belmond Napasai is spread out among cashew and coconut groves, between hibiscus and bougainvillea. Be welcomed with coconut ice cream, then wander through our gardens to meet the resident water buffaloes. Teak furnishings and traditional weavings bring the feel of nature inside. You can’t help but feel at peace.”
The Belmond Napasai is located on the island of Koh Samui, Thailand’s second largest island after Phuket. Koh Samui is the ultimate paradise island, just like all the Thai islands, with mountainous tropical jungles leading down to white beaches fronded with palm trees and turquoise waters. There’s no better place to escape to for some much needed R&R, and that was exactly what I needed after 3 months living in Deepcut during the infamous Beast from the East snowstorm!
Samui Airport is probably one of the most charming airports you will encounter, made out of wood and bamboo, surrounded by orchids and unknown tropical plants, such as the fascinating canonball tree!
From the airport it’s a quick taxi journey to the Belmond Napasai, where, as they say, we were greeted with homemade coconut sorbet in coconut bowls – the perfect way to destress and relax after a long journey.
The hotel has been carefully designed to not destroy the perfect island views. One or two storey Thai style individual bungalows pepper the mountainside, hidden and camouflaged by the palm trees and cashew nut groves. The infinity pool is probably the most stunning feature, a place to while away the afternoons, gazing at the dreamy white beach beds and the peaceful sea – a reader’s paradise.
One of my favourite things about the hotel design was the lighting, every pathway was lined with torches and lamps, giving the whole place a soft and magical feel.
If you’re not into lounging, there’s so much to do at the Belmond Napasai other than swimming.
I’ve always wanted to try stand up paddleboarding, one of the biggest trends of the past few years and I have to say it did not disappoint! It took me a while to get my balance but as long as you keep your core engaged, you soon forget about trying to keep your balance and start moving. It’s a lovely, peaceful way to see the shoreline, I’d certainly want to keep at it, although perhaps not along the London canals.
Taking out the paddleboards, the kayaks and the hobbycats is free, so you can get out onto the water whenever you want. One of the days we kayaked all the way round the beach to the next hotel. Though, finding out it was not a patch on ours, hurriedly kayaked back!
I have spent many, many years training in Muay Thai, and I always feel sad that I stopped. I miss the adrenalin high, the real sense of a workout that you get from this explosive sport and the traditions and culture that are associated with it. I love Muay Thai so much that I actually won a scholarship from the Thai Government to go to Thailand and conduct research into links between Muay Thai and Buddhist Ethics.
When I found out the hotel offered regular free Muay Thai classes I was so excited, and this excitement only grew when I met Khru Lek, a skilled teacher with a sense of humour who made me work hard once he saw my more advanced level. No slacking allowed!
Every morning at 0800 there are free yoga sessions up at the top of the hill among the tree tops. I’ve always enjoyed yoga, but there’s something about doing yoga with a view of the sea and the thrum of the crickets that makes it a whole different experience.
Alisa was the best teacher we could ask for, catering to all levels and flexibilities. Her calming voice and tones, combined with the yoga was the best way to kick off the day!
At the entrance to the Belmond Napasai is a little farm which you can request to be shown around. Chickens, ducks, baby goats (which love being stroked) and water buffalo are all kept here. The gardener who walked us around allowed us to stroke the buffalo which has always been a dream of mine as I love water buffalo.
The hotel is close enough to a number of towns, or rather villages, so you aren’t isolated, unlike many other luxury hotels. It’s a quick taxi ride to the most famous of the waterfront towns of Koh Samui: Bophut.
Fisherman’s Village (Bophut)
The tourist friendly streets of Bophut are lined with stalls and shops selling every kind of knick knack you could want to take home. There’s an array of different restaurants, from seafood to the Thai-French fusion Cafe Darling, which I strongly recommend!
Every restaurant has a balcony and a view of the sea, and most have tables and chairs on the beach too. There’s no better way to enjoy the evening than with a happy hour cocktail made with fresh fruit juice, watching the sun go down.
Another place close to the Belmond Napasai – to the West – is Bangpor. A little less developed, and with more of a hippy clientele in mind, this little strip has a few simple restaurants and bars, but the real winner is the view. As it sits on a head, you get a much better view of the small islands to the north of Koh Samui and some truly spectacular sunsets.
So why visit Thailand over any other beach resort destinations? Apart from the interesting culture and very friendly people, it’s the food that wins it for me every time. Thai food is the best food in the world, with the perfect combination of the sweet, salty, sour and spicy flavours.
The food at the Belmond Napasai is incredible, the breakfasts are out of this world, with everything you could possible want on offer. You could pick any combination of fruits to be mixed and squeezed for you freshly – mango and watermelon was a personal favourite of mine. My favourite Thai fish is Tom Yum, and while they had some Chinese style soups on offer for breakfast there was no Tom Yum. After asking the breakfast manager if it might be possible, we then got every Tom Yum every morning!
The main cash crop of Koh Samui is coconuts, so make sure to drink as many fresh young coconuts as you can. I feel like every sickness and negative mood can be healed with coconut juice, it just makes me feel so very good.
Being an island, the obvious choice of food here is seafood. So if you love seafood, Koh Samui is definitely the place for you – from clams to lobster, fresh fish, prawns and anything else you could imagine, it’s all on offer, all incredibly good value and perfectly spiced and flavoured.
Other Thai specialities include my personal favourites: Kai Krapow, minced chicken with chilli and basil, a staple across all of Thailand, and Som Tam – fresh papaya salad.
This was one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on. There wasn’t much touring and culture hunting, but it was the perfect rest and reset that my body and mind needed to face the rest of the year. Swimming daily, vitamin D, sunshine, coconut water, yoga and Muay Thai and perfect food. What more could anyone want, and where else would anyone rather be than at this incredible hotel!