Baan Jakawan sits high on the hillside above Choeng Mon served by a network of private roads that link the various plots in the Narayan Heights Estate. Other villas were being built at the time of our visit (Jan 2010), although none, as yet, interfered with the views. The nearest beach is directly below the villa, but waves here can be higher than on other beaches and there are quite a few rocks beneath the water, so swimmers should be careful. The Bhundari Resort and Karma Samui are both nearby, but with your own impressive choice of private facilities and staff on site there's really not much need or advantage to be gained from venturing out.
A rocky stretch of coast backed by steep cliffs divides Samui's eastern and northern beaches. Choeng Mon beach sits in a deep bay that cuts into the rocky coastline, its soft sands considered some of the island's finest and the shallow waters ideal for year-round swimming and sunbathing. The beach here is lined with restaurants and boutique hotels. Inland, the small tourist town of Choeng Mon has developed along the main road with tailor's shops, restaurants, bars and supermarkets serving visitors. Chaweng, the island’s most developed tourist area, is around five kilometres south of Choeng Mon, reached via a long hilly stretch of cliffs and bays. Once you get there, the choices for food, entertainment and shopping are vast: the main strip lined with stalls selling copy goods and souvenirs, interspersed with restaurants, bars, boutiques, opticians and pharmacies.
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.
Ten minutes after arriving at Baan Jakawan we found ourselves planning a party with celebrity guests. After an hour, the party had started (who needs celebrities?). Surrounded by a cool combination of luxury, nature and high-end technology, we hardly missed the beach, even though we could see one from virtually every point in the villa (there are some properties under construction nearby, but as yet, none spoil the views).
The chef's extensive repertoire covered everyone's taste and from the fresh and filling breakfast, right through to post-dinner drinks, the knowledgeable English-speaking villa manager and her diligent staff made sure we never felt ignored (although the one night we did head out for dinner, there was no-one around on our return). The music and visuals in the lounge caused initial consternation, because no-one could work out which remote to use, but once we had the iPod pumping soothing tunes into the views, such minor irritations disappeared. Bedroom-wise, we preferred the upper level suite to the more luxuriously appointed master, mainly because of its dramatic location and views, which made waking up an absolute pleasure. Having said that, the bathroom in the master is definitely a cut above, with a double rain shower that could rekindle even the most jaded romantic flame.
For adventurous types, a hire car is a must. With one, you're ten minutes from the bright lights and endless dining and shopping choices along Chaweng Beach (east) or the more sedate, beachside pleasures of Choeng Mon (west). There are two or three resorts with beachside restaurants quite close to the villa but with a wide selection of dishes on the in-villa suggestion menu, eating in is a much more appealing option. The lack of a gym may concern more active guests, but the provision of a proper lap pool and the many steps at the villa more than justify your next meal.
Overall, Baan Jakawan stands out as an ideal private escape – especially for a group of friends or families with older children. What's more, the attractive rates allow you to celebrate your good fortune in memorable style!
Electronic gates open onto a car park and open-sided sala with 180° views. Three pavilions, separated by landscaped gardens, sit on three levels leading down to the 40m infinity pool. On the upper level, steps lead to a bedroom pavilion with covered balconies front and back. This suite features a centrally placed king-size bed below a vaulted ceiling, plus a desk, flat-screen TV/DVD, dressing area and ensuite bathroom with terrazzo bathtub and walk-in rain shower. The room is cooled by both ceiling fan and air conditioning. One level below the entrance, the open-plan living pavilion is spacious, fan-cooled (no air conditioning) and luxurious. The equipped kitchen is fronted by two sofas, then the room extends into a dining area (seating ten) and large lounge with wall-mounted flat-screen TV (satellite, DVD) plus a powerful stereo system with iPod dock. JBL speakers are fitted in the lounge and on the walls of the wide, wrap-around sea view terrace. Here, an outdoor dining table seats ten, while a lounge space is furnished with comfortable outdoor sofas. Glass folding doors surround the living pavilion, maximising the views. A separate two storey pavilion, connected by steps and a walkway to the living pavillion houses two more king-bedded rooms. These have the same configuration as the first bedroom, with central beds, built-in desks, flat-screen TV/DVD, dressing areas and sea view bathrooms. The upper bedroom has a bathtub and rain shower, the lower room just a walk-in shower. Both look out across the pool to the coastal views beyond. A sand-washed, covered terrace links three ensuite twin bedrooms which sit below the living pavilion. Although each room has its own distinctive décor, all share the same layout with built-in wardrobes, flat-screen TV/DVD, mini-bars and safes. The bathrooms all have walk-in showers, twin sinks, grey stone tiling and sliding doors onto private garden courtyards. On the generous pool terrace cushioned loungers are positioned to enjoy the seascapes and the vast infinity pool is divided into a rectangular lap pool that drops to a circular pool served by a swim-up bar. Attached to the bar is a well-equipped dining sala (seating ten). Steps lead down from this level to the ocean-view master suite. Situated below the circular pool this luxurious suite features a comfortable sitting area and bedroom furnished with a stylish four-poster king-size bed. A separate dressing area leads to an expansive ensuite bathroom with indulgent terrazzo bathtub and an open wet room with double rain showers.