Looking towards the sea, an empty plot lies to the left of Baan Hinyai, and to the right is sister villa Baan Hinta (large groups can book the two villas together). A small sandy cove lies in front, surrounded by giant boulders, and the beach is kept clean by villa staff. At low tide, rock pools are exposed, making for interesting exploration. A small road leads up to Samui’s main ring road, and from here, it’s easy access to several restaurants and a short drive to Lamai Beach.
Lamai is Samui's second busiest beach and tourist town and even though it’s shorter than Chaweng, it rarely feels crowded. Lamai Beach is a relaxed place to visit, with laid-back resorts and beachside restaurants lining the shore. The water is deep enough for swimming all year round and this area is also the chosen location for several spas and health resorts. Lamai has a very peaceful feel during the day, but at night the town becomes morelively with shoppers, diners and revellers enjoying a night out in one of the many bars and clubs. There's also a sleazy side, but that's easy to avoid as it's centred around the bars right in the middle of the main strip. On the outskirts of the town to the south Samui's famous Grandmother and Grandfather rocks are a popular sightseeing spot and stalls sell local souvenirs along the road that leads to them. Further south still takes you to some of the island's best authentic Thai seafood restaurants.
The third largest island in Thailand, Koh Samui is just 21km at its widest point and 25km at its longest. The hinterland consists of forested limestone hills and the shoreline is made up of countless coconut palm-fringed beaches and bays.
Traditionally a coconut plantation and fisherman's haven, in the last few years the island has grown into a major holiday destination with regular connections to Bangkok and direct flights from Hong Kong and Singapore. Despite rapid development, Samui is small enough to retain its charm and its modest size also makes it a convenient, laid back location even during busy seasons.
As well as fine beaches, Samui is known for recreation, relaxation and fine food. The blue waters of the Thai Gulf provide a wealth of possibility for water sports, while on land the island is well known for its professional and indulgent spas and health retreats. Fresh seafood is a specialty at most of Samui's restaurants, but you can also enjoy food from almost every corner of the globe thanks to the island's strong international influences.
Each beach on Samui has its own particular character and ambience. The east coast beaches of Chaweng and Lamai are busy, commercial areas with everything from beach vendors to fast food chains, while to the north, Bang Rak and Bo Phut have a more relaxed local village atmosphere. Beaches like Lipa Noi and Laem Set on the western and southern shores feel much more remote and untouched.
Koh Samui combines comfort and convenience with a sense of real escape and this has made it a popular choice for residential as well as tourist development. The island is an eclectic blend of nature and sophistication, one that draws repeat visitors every year to indulge in its tropical delights.
Although Baan Hinyai is undoubtedly spacious with its lofty open-to-the-elements rooms and split levels, we still found it cosy and intimate. Days were spent sunning ourselves by the pool, enjoying an alfresco lunch in the sala, exploring the rock pools and generally relaxing in an environment that’s hard to leave. Mundane chores such as grocery shopping are all but forgotten as the staff do this on your behalf (provisions plus 20%), and before we even knew we wanted a cappuccino, they were there to offer one, or top up our iced water.
The chef previously worked at five star resorts on the island before choosing to cook in the more personal setting of the villa where he can get to know his guests. Each evening, tempting aromas would waft from the kitchen, calling us from our bubble baths where we relaxed after another tough day of lying in the sun. We enjoyed a delicious meal of chicken and cashew nuts as well as a Thai green curry (both dishes were also adapted for a vegetarian in our party).
Baan Hintai is ideal for groups of friends or families with older children, who will enjoy its adventurous layout and beachfront location with onsite and nearby water sports. Set back from the Ring Road, the villa enjoys privacy and quiet, yet it’s not far from the action if you’re after a day of shopping or a night out on the town in Lamai or Chaweng.
From Baan Hinyai’s parking area, stairs lead to two buildings – one housing the villa’s open-plan living and dining area and one bedroom, the other a double-storey structure housing the remaining four bedrooms. The living areas and bedrooms are tastefully furnished incorporating natural elements with clean lines. Neutral tones using wood, stone, linen and raw silk are punctuated with splashes of orange and green in scatter cushions, occasional lamps and fresh flower arrangements.
The triple-height living and dining room is bright and breezy, open to the elements and cooled by ceiling fans. Sandstone floors, teakwood window frames, a soaring wooden ceiling, and a boulder protruding from the wall, all blend the villa into its natural surroundings. Two cream L-shaped couches face the home theatre system and shell-shaped bamboo chandeliers hang from the ceiling. A five-metre ‘slice’ of hard wood forms the dining table that can seat 16 guests, and is open to the modern, fully equipped kitchen. To the side of the living space, an ensuite bedroom with king-size bed boasts its own comfortably furnished balcony overlooking the pool and the sea beyond.
Sliding doors open from the living room to a furnished sandstone terrace with both shaded and open areas flanking a large, black-tiled pool elevated above the beach. To one side of the pool is an outdoor kitchen equipped with fridge and barbecue, plus a shady sala furnished with a 10-seater poly-rattan dining table and built-in couches. Music piped from the living room, fans and lighting makes this the perfect place to enjoy alfresco dining both day and night. Steps from here (built around the contours a giant boulder) lead to a small deck with two sun loungers for private tanning sessions, then down again to a lawn with two more loungers, and finally to the beach.
The remaining four bedrooms (three king-bedded and one twin) are housed in a separate two-storey building, also distinguished by its soaring cedar-tiled roof. All bedrooms (two on each level) are notably spacious and indulgent, with the twin room being only slightly smaller than the others. All have terrazzo bathtubs integrated into the bedrooms, as well as separate rain shower cubicles. Individually controlled satellite TV/DVD players are also installed in every bedroom giving everyone a free choice over what to watch.