Samui Wining & Dining
Samui Holiday Magazine
A Warm Welcome

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Congratulations! You’ve made an excellent choice of holiday destination. And if it’s your first time on this lovely tropical island, we’d just like to say – “Welcome to paradise!” If you’re a return visitor, then – “Welcome back!” And if you’re one of the many people who’ve chosen to make Samui their home – “Hi!”

      Samui’s normally all about long lazy days spent on soft sandy beaches being drenched in the hot tropical sun, followed by balmy nights of gastronomic indulgence in world-class restaurants with perhaps some shopping and a spot of dancing with a drink or two before retiring. And during November and December things aren’t much different – you’ll be doing all that with maybe the occasional drop of rain to cool things down a bit. But there will be three huge events also taking place during this period to shake things up a bit. And they’re Loy Krathong, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

      Loy Krathong is one of Thailand’s most beautiful festivals and it’s celebrated this year on November 6th. It’s a true spectacle and one that everyone can take part in. Christmas and New Year’s Eve need no explanation, other than to say that all the major resorts, restaurants, clubs and bars really go to town, and a great time is had by all. Although this is a Buddhist country, the Thai people are more than willing to join in when it comes to having fun, and hosting a celebration is just that!

So, whether it’s your first or thirty-first trip here, or if you’re a full-time Samui resident, have a wonderful time during this period of festivities and the very best of luck for 2015.

 
MANY HAPPY RETURNS
On December 5th, Thais celebrate the birthday of His Majesty the King


On December 5th, Thais celebrate the birthday of His Majesty the King

          

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great (Rama IX) is the world’s longest reigning monarch. He unites the Thais no matter who they are or what their station in life. If you are in Thailand on his birthday it’s guaranteed that you’ll see something of the celebrations; there are firework displays, exhibitions featuring His Majesty’s life and work, and just about everywhere large pictures of the King on display.

          

His Majesty the King was born in a Cambridge, Massachusetts hospital on the 5th of December, 1927. And this year the people of Thailand will celebrate His 87th birthday.

          

At His Majesty the King’s coronation he vowed, “We will reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people.”

         It is a commitment that he has maintained throughout his reign. He has been particularly involved in environmental issues, focusing on the lives of those at a disadvantage and those ravaged by the forces of Mother nature, and he has always been there to give aid and advice to those most in need. His Majesty has established six Royal Development Study Centres, also known as ‘Living Museums’ throughout Thailand, studying and researching solutions to problems such as soil erosion, deforestation and irrigation. His aim has always been to better the lives of farmers by giving them the tools to be self-sufficient, focusing on practical and highly effective methods, and only using costly modern technology as a last resort. To solve the problem of soil erosion he suggested growing vetiver grass as a cheap and simple solution for the farmers.

          

Drought is also a problem for Thai farmers, to which end His Majesty developed a rain-making technique that earned him a patent. It is a process that involves seeding a cloud with chemicals to trigger rainfall. The technique is particularly successful in that it can precisely target areas where the rain is to fall. Popular images of His Majesty often depict him crouching down in a muddy field studying charts and graphs while surrounded by local villagers who are voicing their concerns to him.

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DOUBLE BILL AT W
W Retreat Koh Samui adds high tea and film night to its repertoire.

W Retreat Koh Samui adds high tea and film night to its repertoire.

When it comes to food and entertainment, many hotels rack their brains in order to come up with ideas that are unique. But why re-invent the wheel? W Retreat Koh Samui in this instance has come up with two ideas that are staples in many people’s lives – sumptuous afternoon tea and a weeknight cinema treat. Nothing special, you might think. But then again, if you’ve ever been to W Retreat, you will know they’re very used to taking the conventional and turning it on its head. If you’re thinking high tea means scones and weak tea, or that their cinema is crammed into a carpeted room that smells of last year’s popcorn, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

          

Let’s start with ‘W T-Time’, as it’s called. Instead of the usual stainless steel tiers of sandwiches and cakes – the traditional way to serve high tea – the waiting staff arrive with a scaled-down chest of drawers. A bit of a surprise? Certainly. The drawers are made of immaculate and totally transparent Perspex, allowing you to take a look at the goodies inside. The chest is topped with fruit, macaroons and still more cake. Everything you’ll see is amazingly well presented, and however hungry you may be, you’ll find yourself holding back for a minute or two just to gaze at the chef’s handiwork. The display is simply exquisite.

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OVER THE MOON
The sky is now the limit, with Samui’s superb football arena!

The sky is now the limit, with Samui’s superb football arena!

The Thais are a nation of football fanatics. They just love it. All over the country, in the cooler part of the day, when work has stopped and the sun is lowering, you’ll see them at it. In the back streets, on waste ground, in the parks, out on school pitches (with real goal posts and not just a pile of shirts for the goal) – there they are. The fastest and the fittest of Thailand’s young men, pitted against each other. Every small town has its own football club with dreams of rising into the Thai Premier League. They worship the top English clubs, and hire floor space in Bangkok’s shopping malls to watch late-night games on giant TV screens. Yes, when it comes to enthusiasm, Thailand takes some beating.

          

And all of that is true for the island of Samui, too. But there’s a big drawback – we’ve never had a proper pitch, never mind anything like a stadium. The best on offer has always been one of the lumpy bumpy pitches found at most of the schools. But all that’s changed. We now have something that’s the envy of many – a spanking new arena with two floodlit pitches of Astroturf, roof-screened from the sun, with changing and shower facilities and space for spectators. This is still in its comparative infancy (it came into being in October 2011) and can be considered as ‘phase 1’ – because there are a lot more plans in the pipeline to make this even better!

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SHAKE A TAIL FEATHER
Fun, fantasy and fabulous food at Zico’s Brazilian Grill & Bar.

Fun, fantasy and fabulous food at Zico’s Brazilian Grill & Bar.

Imagine this. Take a 5-star hotel that already has three excellent restaurants. Select a generous handful of their fully trained underchefs and kitchen staff. Handpick some of their best Englishspeaking waiting staff. Bring in an international chef to oversee it all. Move them into a grand venue that’s lofty and spacious, with a big air-conditioned room, as well as an enclosed courtyard and cosy bar. Select the best imported cuts of beef and lamb, plus pork, fish and seafood. Prepare these, marinate them, and spike them on yard-long skewers over a bank of charcoal grills to cook. Add a banqueting table that has more than 70 plates of soups, salads, cold cuts, dressings, toppings and dips. Add another table with hot dishes of potatoes, fries, gratin, feijoada, grilled and marinated vegetables and stews. Charge one set price of 899 baht for all you can eat, all night. And add a couple of very lively, beautiful Brazilian dancers. How does this sound?

          

Well, to those in the know it sounds exactly like Zico’s! To call it a ‘buffet’ would be misleading. This is the mother and father of all buffets – tables groaning under their lavish loads and passing ‘passadors’ laden with sizzling lances of meats. This is unique. Indeed, the entire ethos here is unique. Firstly the building itself is dramatic. The high concrete exterior, flanked by Greek-style pillars, doesn’t prepare you for what’s inside. You’ll enter up a broad set of stone steps – and find yourself suddenly in a courtyard that’s open to the sky. To your right there’s a pleasant elevated bar, and on the left is the large airconditioned glass-sided main dining room.

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ART SCENE
You’ll find a few creative folk inspired by Samui’s scenery, and you’ll discover art for sale as well as lessons if you’re feeling inspired.

You’ll find a few creative folk inspired by Samui’s scenery, and you’ll discover art for sale as well as lessons if you’re feeling inspired.

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” – Pablo Picasso.

          

A world without art would most certainly be dull. But what is art? The dictionary says it’s “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles of what is beautiful, appealing or of more than ordinary significance.”

          

Well that just proves that beauty, or art, is in the eye of the beholder. Artists are inspired by many things – experiences, sights, sounds, smells and emotions, and Samui has drawn many artists to practice here, including locals, expats and even those on holiday looking for a creative break from a mundane life. Beautiful scenery, vibrant colours at the temples and markets and an interesting culture offer inspiration to both budding and professional artists alike.

          

 Khun June, well-known local and owner of the very popular ‘June’s Art Café’, not only supports local artists, but is an artist herself. Located shortly before Big C when travelling from Fisherman’s Village, it is a favourite expat and local haunt. The café is quaint and cosy, with art by June as well as other artists adorning the walls, and handicrafts for sale. June works with mixed media, and many of her pieces are small enough to pack in a suitcase. If you’re looking for a smaller memento, she’s turned copies of previous work into postcards, which can either be posted, or a collection of them framed and hung together. Art aside, the food is fantastic, and you’ll see why there’s a steady flow from the time they open for breakfast at 9:30 am, until they close at 6:30pm. And on a side note, if you’re visiting June’s Art Café and feel inspired to get your own creative juices flowing, there’s a great art supplies store just a few doors down.

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A TRAVELLER’S WARDROBE
Psylo surpasses expectations creating carefree comfortable clothing.

Psylo surpasses expectations creating carefree comfortable clothing.

Filled with world travellers, the streets of Chaweng mark a territory where cultures intermix, stories exchange, and explorers meet. Among these carefree adventurers are men and women, who wish to express themselves through fashions that reflect their individual lifestyle. But a fashion this unique can be hard to find. An outfit that meets the demands of comfort and mobility, while also making a statement, is usually compiled of single clothing pieces from many stores.

          

Not anymore. Originally founded in Bali, Psylo now stretches from London and Mexico, to right here in Thailand. The store, home to comfort clothes that scream distinctive, is a traveller’s paradise for shopping. Located in the middle of Chaweng Beach Road, it has been open for four years, and a second store, located in Central Festival opened six months ago. This expansion shows the popularity of this alternative store, but the numbers are only the beginning.

          

Designed to match the comfortable, unique style of the clothing, their main location is decorated in parallel with the stores ideals. With natural wood, antique accents, high ceilings and textured walls, the décor wows its customers, allowing them to experience a place where their lifestyle is written on the wall. Don’t believe me? Stop in. Your shopping experience is sure to be an adventure in itself.
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SPIRIT OF SAMUI
The Wharf brings a warm and vibrant community centre to Fisherman’s Village.

The Wharf brings a warm and vibrant community centre to Fisherman’s Village.

Koh Samui – island of dreams. At first, there was fish and coconuts. Then there were hippies and beach huts. Then came resorts and restaurants. The airport arrived. Chaweng filled up. Hypermarkets came. Then all the famous fast-food names scrabbled for a stake. But the best thing – Samui didn’t sink. All of this just got added to the island – tacked onto the surface. We didn’t get gobbled up by progress. And the old, slow, island life, laid-back and cheerful, just carried on like it had always done before.

          

Of course, you have to get away from the big tourist traps to discover this. But Samui is only small, and ten minutes out from the hustle and the neon, you’ll find crystal waters and unspoiled sand. Picture postcard beaches, little villages of wooden buildings that are still full of families of fishermen. Just a generation ago, the main village in Bophut was like this; a line of boats and buildings along the beach. But this has changed, too. Between the solid, old, wooden houses, gaps have been filled with buildings of brick. The pier here attracted more trade; people on their way to Koh Pha-Ngan. Another café. A bar or two. But guess what? Nothing much was demolished – spaces just got filled in. The old beachside dirt track became concrete, linking the quaint, the rustic, the small the large, the old and the new. The result? Fisherman’s Village.

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TREASURE ISLAND
Nature Art Gallery has a storybook trove of semi-precious stones, jewels and ornaments – enough to fill dozens of treasure chests.

Nature Art Gallery has a storybook trove of semi-precious stones, jewels and ornaments – enough to fill dozens of treasure chests.

Every decent palm-fringed island should have its own treasure, usually consisting of silver, gold and precious stones, and Samui’s no different. But you won’t find old caskets messily crammed with goodies, nor will you have to brave all sorts of adventures just to get to them. Handily located on Chaweng Beach Road, opposite Central Festival, you simply walk through the door to confront an exquisite display of gems, stones and jewellery – yet they’re worthy of any derring-do saga.

          

Inside the store, you’ll be quietly amazed at the sheer number of items on sale. Yet there’s no clutter whatsoever; order reigns throughout Nature Art Gallery. It’s brightly lit, too, and a pleasure to spend time in. People are welcome to browse to their hearts content, and it’s the kind of place where you just don’t notice the passage of time. That’s partly because the staff are welcoming and helpful, without ever hovering, and partly because what’s on offer simply draws you in. Even if you have no interest in jewellery or gems, Nature Art Gallery is still a fascinating place because of the sheer creativity that’s gone into it. There’s a good range of prices too; you can pick up something wonderful for as little as a few hundred baht. Or you can splash out a bit and take home some hand-crafted jewellery that’s destined to be a special part of your collection of accessories. But most of the items are definitely not what you’d call pricey.

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MUCH MORE THAN RAUNCHY ROCKS
Exploring the area around South Lamai and Hua Thanon.

Exploring the area around South Lamai and Hua Thanon.

If there’s one tourist attraction on Samui that will have people giggling, pointing, shying away from or taking too many pictures of, it’s the Hin Ta and Hin Yai rock formations, also known as Grandfather and Grandmother rocks. Located on the rocky coastline between Lamai and Hua Thanon, off Route 4169 on Samui’s south-east coast, these two rocks cause a great deal of chuckling, and sometimes embarrassed glances, from many tourists. They were discovered by locals many years ago and if you haven’t seen them yet, head down and pay them a visit, because these two rocks look like male and female genitalia - the resemblance is truly uncanny.

          

Legend tells of a tragic story and is described on a sign near the rocks: “A folklore of Samui Island tells the story of an old couple by the name of Ta Kreng (Grandpa Kreng) and Yai Riem (Grandma Riem) who lived with their son in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat. Since their son had come of age, they felt that it was time he got married.

          

One day they decided to sail to the neighbouring province of Prachuap Khiri Khan to ask for the hand of the daughter of a man named Ta Monglai. During their sea journey, their boat was seized by a storm. The old man and his wife were unable to swim ashore. They died at sea, turning into rocks as proof to the would-be bride’s parents of their true intentions. The rocks stand there to this day.

The rocks are easily seen from the many boat trips that circle Samui on day trips so you can choose to view them this way, but if you visit them on foot, the views of the surrounding area are nothing short of spectacular. Nearby there is a small sandy beach that is ideal for swimming and cooling off if you’ve spent too much of your day in the sun. There are many street stalls set up around the rocks viewpoint selling postcards, drinks and snacks.
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I DO
Your Wedding in Paradise at KC Beach Club.

Your Wedding in Paradise at KC Beach Club.

The ring is on your finger. You’ve said yes to the man on one knee at the restaurant down the street. The one man who makes you laugh and who can stop your tears. The one man who knows you like honey on your toast, how many sugars to put in your coffee, that you are a night owl and not an early bird. The one man who now needs you to plan the day that marks the rest of your life together - your wedding day.

          

But where to start? There is the florist, the caterers, guest list, food and drink menu, date, venue. The venue. You roll your eyes to no one but yourself. Obviously, you should start there.

          

You fiddle through your memory, thinking of places to make your eternal vows. After a few days thought you decide to go somewhere. Somewhere warm, on the beach. A destination wedding. Then it hits you. The place where you met. Thailand. And without another thought you remember seeing a wedding at KC Beach Club, the sound of the waves as the couple took their vows, and you just know.

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U NEED 2 B SMART!
Ease your mind with the comprehensive hi-tech security of B Smart Systems.

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Sorry about the snappy title – but at least it’s bang up to date! In the last few years, more and more private homes have been built on Samui. These have taken the form of small landscaped estates, imposing walled townhouses and, of course, sublime stand-alone villas. And they too, are all bang up to date. But, sadly, with increased prosperity, also comes the risk of increased crime. Samui has seasons – not just with the weather, but with residence and occupancy, too. Low season doesn’t just mean fewer tourists, it means less work for the locals. This unfortunately causes the crime rate to rise. And this in turn has led to some very smart security systems being installed to combat this.

          

My first introduction to all of this came about by accident. A couple of years ago I bought a second-hand table through a local paper. I phoned the seller and was given directions. I ended up in a tiny side-street with some very new and expensive walled townhouses on either side. I rang the bell outside the house. No answer. Then my telephone rang. “Oh hello,” came the seller’s voice. “I see you’ve arrived. We’ve gone out into town. But I’ve put your table outside for you. Just a moment, let me open the gate.” The high metal gate rolled open. “Load the table onto your truck, then you can put the money round the back. There’s a Kleenex box on the table in the garden.” And then the seller watched me load up. He was watching everything I did on his iPhone. “Ah,” he said, “sorry, my wife must have moved the tissues. Just tuck the money under that magazine.” I gave a wave at the camera on the roof as I did so. And, as I went back to my truck, he used his phone to close the gate behind me. I was impressed.

          

I suppose if you’re some kind of jet-setter, living in expansive and walled luxury somewhere in Europe (or Johannesburg, maybe) this kind of thing is usual. But not here. Well, not until the last few years, anyway. Sure, we’ve always had alarms that nobody bothers to respond to (not even neighbours),

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SNAKES ALIVE!
Nobody likes creepy-crawlies, but snakes are probably the least of your worries on Samui.

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Many people who come to Samui are scared of snakes. No, that’s not quite right. They’re scared stiff by the idea of snakes – and that’s not the same thing at all. I even once met a touring couple who told me that their friends wouldn’t come with them because of this. This whole subject is more complex than it seems. Because, on the one hand there are the facts: snakes are scared of people; no tourist has ever died from snakebite in Thailand; there’s hardly anything nasty on Samui, and so on. And, on the other hand, there’s the primal fear of snakes, deeply rooted and undeniable, that’s not easily dispelled by any amount of facts or logic.

          

Even so, the temptation to have a go anyway is just too great! Did you realise that you have more chance of being killed by a falling vending machine, than dying of snakebite? (The average number of deaths-by-vending machine is 15 each year.) In fact there’s far more risk of a plane crash or even being struck

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A CHANGE IS AS GOOD AS A HOLIDAY
Experience Samui’s latest attraction at Escapology.

Experience Samui’s latest attraction at Escapology.

At some point in our demanding lives we dream of escaping to a tropical island and finding sanctuary on its peaceful shores. But what about escaping on an island? Why would you leave your palm-fringed hotel pool, and volunteer to be locked in an room with a clock counting down to indicate you have less than an hour to solve a world crisis, or escape from being sold into slavery?

          

If that isn’t stressful enough, your captors have taken charge of your phones and valuables. You are even paying money for this! Escapology may be the last thing you thought to do on your island getaway, but for many of us, having an adventure can be as good as a holiday.

          

Escape room games are new on Samui, but they’ve become popular with tense overworked professionals all over Asia in the past few years. They are a retro-fit concept, based on online games now manifesting as 3-D hardware. That’s a fancy way to say you play with real people, in a series of actual rooms that resemble an ‘escape-the-room’ computer game, decorated to fit a theme, and littered with the clues that are going to help you escape. Games are themed settings that sometimes include prisons, hospitals or other life-and-death scenarios, with laser beams and sharks!

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Noi, Noi, Noi!
Head five minutes out of Chaweng for fabulous festivities at Impiana Resort in Chaweng Noi.

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In a way, Chaweng is a problem! It’s the major focus of the island. So a great many people stay there. Or, if they’re staying elsewhere, they come over to visit. And the problem? Well, this means that most folk don’t really notice those places that are right next to it. To be realistic, there’s really only one place like this. It’s that first kilometre or two of hilly ring-road, just as you leave Chaweng, heading towards Lamai. Or, just before Chaweng if you’re coming the other way. And this nice little bay, just south of Chaweng is called Chaweng Noi.

          

To many it’s known as ‘Chaweng south’. Although in reality, the Thai translation means ‘little Chaweng’. And the other reason that most people don’t take notice of it is that there’s actually not a lot to see. Well, that’s the way it seems, compared to the end-to-end bustling street stalls and shops of Chaweng. There’s none of that here, in Chaweng Noi. There are however, perhaps a dozen or so really top-notch resorts, reaching down the hill onto the clean, quiet sands. And one of the most notable of these is Impiana Resort.

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PERFECTLY POPPIES
An in-depth look at a Samui legend – Poppies resort and restaurant in Chaweng.

An in-depth look at a Samui legend – Poppies resort and restaurant in Chaweng.

Not so long ago, Chaweng was small. You could see the sea – and walk to it – from the beach road. The beach road was a dirt track full of holes; muddy when it rained, and a dust storm when it didn’t. There were no fixed opening or closing times for bars. Big motorbikes were so rare that people stopped and stared. There were only a couple of big Chaweng hotels, but lots of little beach resorts with wooden huts. No Tesco, no Pizza Huts or Big Macs, and there weren’t any taxis to be seen anywhere. There weren’t any 7-11s either, except for one in Nathon. And only one ATM, also in Nathon.

          

But, right down in the southern part of Chaweng, with mostly sand dunes on either side, a new resort was forming. It was a joint venture between John Taylor and David Hill. John had already set up something in Bali, which was at that time unique – a small, family-owned resort, but with the cottages fitted-out to a high standard. And he and David decided to open something similar here. This was to become Poppies. It took the Bali concept one step further, and became Samui’s first small bungalow resort designed to European standards. Accommodation with hot and cold water and air-conditioning, luxuriously fitted, equipped and furnished. It first opened its doors in 1994. And today it’s still going strong, copied by many, but equalled by only a few.

          

For a small resort like this, the biggest problem has always been how to ‘maximise’ things. How to fit the maximum number of cottages into the space, yet still retain a sense of privacy and individuality. David and John spent a very long time designing this, and to stunning effect. The landscaped path twists and turns, shaded and screened with greenery, and every one of the 24 lovely family cottages are woven into it as if they’re tucked away into a far bigger plot. Drop in during the day and it’s delightful. But call in at night and it’s sheer magic – the glowing pools of subdued lighting adding to the effect. It’s been said that, when you come in off the road and into Poppies, the dimensions somehow seem to shift. It’s true – but you need to experience it for yourself!

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FLYING TO 12
Baan Haad Ngam Resort celebrates its 12th birthday this year with something luxuriously special.

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Some visitors to Sami have problems with long Thai names.But Baan Haad Ngam Boutique Resort & Spa is easier than it looks – just say it ‘ban had nam’. There are now hundreds of resorts on the island, but the chances are that this is one that you haven’t heard too much about. Well, unless you’re Italian, that is, and more of this in just a moment!

          

It’s discretely tucked away in the quieter part of Chaweng Beach, at the northern end, where the beach road starts to rise and twist a bit. As soon as you come off the main road, the feeling changes - you drop down into a narrow street that feels quite European. It twists sharply to the left, with dense foliage on either side, and that Mediterranean feeling gets stronger. And, just on that bend, with barely room to squeeze a car between, are the twinned parts of the resort, just metres from the beach. There’s a cosy feel to it all, and if you didn’t know better you’d swear it was a cobbled lane in Tuscany. To the right, a gap in the greenery permits a peep through the cool and shady restaurant, with the blue of the sea behind. And on the left, low-rise, compact, shady and intimate, are the steps rising up into the U-shape of the resort itself.

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A HOLE IN MORE THAN ONE
The complete low-down on golf around Samui – and it’s not just for the experts!

The complete low-down on golf around Samui – and it’s not just for the experts!

There comes a time in the affairs of men, as Shakespeare said, when they need to get away from the beach for a while. Being in the tropics with average temperatures around 30 degrees is not always good fun. So trips out on a boat or up the (very much cooler) mountain are high on the list. There are a great many activities to fill in your time here. But there’s one that’s not only hugely popular, but it ranges from the sublime to the err . . . enjoyable, too! It comes in the form of an internationalstandard championship course right through to fun for all the family with a Frisbee. And it is, of course, golf.

          

Let’s begin by being serious. Samui boasts a championship-level,18- hole, par 72 course over on the island’s north coast at Maenam, which is managed by Santiburi Samui Country Club. It’s a magnificent course, as you might expect, with panoramic views and a dramatic layout and design. It was jointly created by Pirapon Namatra and Edward Thilele, and the course ranges widely in terrain, not only rising and falling but scenically, being dotted with waterfalls and ravines, too.

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THE ONLY PLACE
The very best of all worlds at The Cliff Bar & Grill!

The very best of all worlds at The Cliff Bar & Grill!

It’s getting harder every year. There are a hundred on the beach. There’s lots more tucked away. For every one you can see, there are many more you can’t. Yes, everywhere you look on Samui there’s another restaurant. You’d think this would be good, wouldn’t you? And, in many ways, it is. But the big problem is that you’re utterly spoiled for choice. There are just so many good restaurants now that it’s not easy to pick out the great ones. But there’s one that everyone agrees is way up there on the list. It’s perched overlooking the sea, on the twisty hill-road between Lamai and Chaweng. And its name is The Cliff Bar & Grill.

          

This excellent restaurant has been collecting accolades ever since it opened, back in 2004. In fact, during this time, it’s picked up the Thailand Tatler ‘Thailand’s Best Restaurants’ award – a guide that has become a trusted companion for gourmands living in Thailand – no fewer than seven times, and with the latest of these coming over the last three years consecutively. And to drive home the point, on the 17th August this year, The Cliff was host to the Porsche Club Singapore; 32 immaculate cars and their drivers, who undertook a four-day round trip in order to spend an afternoon of fine dining and company, at what they had previously judged to be the best restaurant on the island!

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THE HEART OF THE MATTER
Nurturing each light brightly at SCL International School in Lamai.

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What do you remember about school? One particular teacher, perhaps? The good parts? The highlights or moments of glory? The friends you made? Interestingly, it’s harder to recall the bad bits – our minds have a way of filtering them out. But here’s an interesting fact, and one that applies to us all. None of us were really at school. We were in school. Immersed in it. Totally submerged by it, in fact. Occasionally, sadly, even drowned by it, although most of us found ways at least to swim along with the rest. The point is – very, very few of us ever came to see the bigger picture. We never had a need to, even later, as adults. As a student, the approach, philosophy and attitudes of your school and its teachers simply weren’t a consideration.

          

And then – in the blink of an eye – you’ve got kids of your own. And so for the first time in years you’re having to think seriously about education. But this time in a very different way. The chances are that now (and possibly for the first time ever) you are looking at the whole process from the outside. You’re looking into how schools are run, what the overall thinking is and what the intentions are – what the school is aiming to provide your child with. You want your child to be happy, treated with respect (yet firmness), and have his or her individual needs taken into account. But, as well as this, you want your child to be equipped to pass exams and become qualified, too.

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A LITTLE SPICE
Beachfront entertainment completes the hidden castle of Hansar.

Beachfront entertainment completes the hidden castle of Hansar.

My motorbike scuttled on the concrete beneath the night sky, wooden fences and sporadic trees on either side. There, on the right pillar, a white rectangular sign reading ‘Hansar’ had led me to this darkened road. Happy to be away from the traffic and bright lights of the ring-road, I welcomed the quiet, but wondered if I had in fact been correct in turning where I had. Maybe the sign was old and had not yet been removed. Maybe I had read it wrong. I continued.          

Within moments I was met with what I had been looking for, as rays of light protruded out from behind letters forming the name HANSAR. Walking in, grey floors soothed my eyes as warm wood and white accents completed the modern look. Masterfully designed, the space looked twice its actual size with its open layout.        

Leaving the lobby I walked to the main terrace. Situated in a cornered crescent moon, like a rectangle without its fourth side, 54 rooms, as well as the main restaurant, and ocean bar, make up Hansar Samui. In the centre, a salt-water infinity pool looks out onto the ocean along with greenery and beautiful paths intermixed. Designed to allow everyone a seaside and pool view, no guest is offered anything short of perfection.

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PAMPER ME!
Samui is fast developing a reputation as the place to come for a little ‘me time’ and indulgence.

Samui is fast developing a reputation as the place to come for a little ‘me time’ and indulgence.

Pamper: To indulge with every attention, comfort and kindness.

          

Isn’t it strange that somehow we feel guilty for spoiling ourselves these days? And really, can giving back to our bodies what we take out of them on a daily basis be considered spoiling? In the same way that we have to recharge our mobile phones in order for them to function as we want them to, surely our own bodies need to be recharged too.

          

In today’s modern society, with its ‘work hard, play hard’ philosophy, many make time for the ‘work hard’ part, but fail to allow time for the ‘play hard bit. And those that do make the time, tend to play hard by way of over indulging – too much food, alcohol, cigarettes and late nights.

          

All this working and playing to the extreme has to take a toll on our bodies, and there’s a realisation that living an excessive lifestyle requires taking time every so often to ‘spring clean’ the body, both inside and out, as well as our minds. With this train of thought, there’s a trend now to book pampering holidays, or at least holidays where some time is allowed for pampering. And Samui is known as a top Asian destination for doing just that.

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