Samui Wining & Dining
Simply Superb

Maximum enjoyment in the minimalist surroundings of The Library.

 

64This is Thailand. It’s a nation which takes itself seriously. And, apart from some of the chrome and concrete frights that you can see against the skyline of ‘The Big Mango’, most Thai buildings, no matter how modern, make some concession to their heritage and culture. Multi-layer roofs. Decorative carvings. Wooden panels with scenes from folktales. And so sliding into a gap in the wall in the southern part of Chaweng Beach Road – not far from McDonald’s and right next to a simple white statue reading a book – might bring you to a halt as you gaze around. Because this is not what you are accustomed to seeing in this land or on this island.

 

To say that it brings to mind a brand-new university campus hall-of-residence would be over-simplifying things – that’s far too crass. But that’s the first-glace impression before all of the subtleties start to sink in. The neatly-clipped rectangular lawns with acres of space between each building. The uniform white rectangular blocks of the accommodation. The startling glow of the orange/red pool. The simple icons-with-arrows that communicate ‘restaurant’, ‘house’, ‘library’, ‘gym’, ‘spa’. That’s the first glance.

 

But if your second glance should be inside one of the ‘houses’ then you’ll yet again come to a halt in astonishment with all thoughts of students instantly driven from your mind. This is somewhere between Swedish-Modern and New York designer-loft. It’s where you might imagine a busy White House political lobbyist to live. It’s top-dollar, top-class, top-of-the-range, comfy, minimalist, exclusive and state-of-the-art. From the facilities of a four-foot square multi-mood programmable light box on the wall, to the 42-inch plasma TV, the surreal iMac computer (and accompanying iPod Touch) and the remote-controlled floor-to-ceiling black-out blinds that whisper up and down at the touch of a switch – no way is this some kind of student pad. You’ve fallen down a whole new rabbit hole.

 

And it’s a rabbit hole that’s unique to Samui. The origins of ‘The Library’ reveal a surprising root. Here once stood an old and traditional hippie-style thatched-roof bungalow resort. It was handed down from father to son. But the son, Khun Kasemtham Sornsong, had his sights set on further horizons. Schooled in Bangkok and educated abroad, he returned to manage his heritage. This is the vision he created in 2006. And he did it with a simplicity and flair that rarely stems from the tradition-loving Thai nationals – he revolutionised his resort and the visual concepts that underlie it. There is nothing else like it on the island and only one or two places that share a similar ethos anywhere in The Kingdom.

 

As far as the layout goes, the concept is to divide and balance the spaces – a harmony between the amount of vertical surfaces on the buildings and the flat horizontal areas of grass. Dotted here and there you’ll see the ‘frozen readers’; reclining white statues engrossed in their books. The original massive fruit trees have been lovingly retained and add a green and amorphous contrast to the surrounding geometric planes. “The plan is to divide the space equally between indoor and outdoor areas,” the resort’s General Manager, Khun Jirapa Akkaraj, explained. “The intention is to be deliberately minimalist; clean, simple and uncluttered, with colours kept to a unified minimum. But the entire concept is based on the universal leisure activity of reading – hence the name. Everybody reads books on holiday. Here, there are no distractions of any sort.”

 

To bring home this point there is indeed an extensive library within ‘The Library’; a three-room block with floor-to ceiling books in several languages and a huge choice of videos and DVDs to complement this. Each element of the resort is uniquely titled – the ‘library’ block being the least enigmatic of them! The accommodation is a series of duplex blocks with a choice of a ‘Studio’ upstairs or a ‘Suite’ beneath it – each of the 13 blocks is called a ‘Page’ (Page 1, Page 2 and so on) with the exception of the 13th block which is auspiciously known as simply ‘Bookmark’.

 

However there is one more ‘page’ at The Library and this one has no number. The Page is also the name of the resort’s very laid-back fine-dining restaurant. As you’d expect, the décor is simple and the furniture an interplay of black and white with highlights of red. Quite possibly the only thing you’ll see at The Library that isn’t rectilinear and coloured black, white, grey or red is what’s served up on the plates! The cuisine here is quite superb and you can enjoy it from breakfast starting at 7:30 am right through to when the dinner kitchen closes at midnight. The menu is creatively Thai and International, with different selections for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But what happens in the kitchen is very much a team effort and the Head of the Kitchen, Khun Nopparat Suaprasit, will be the first to declare this. Several times a year visiting world-class chefs come here to hold workshops and all the chefs absorb these teachings avidly.

 

Although the dinner menu is outstanding, with specialities such as two different presentations of Wagyu beef, for example, plus a big vegetarian selection and even a children’s section, this is very much the sort of restaurant you can drop into at any time. There is a super beach tapas bar for snacking, and a happy hour (buy-one-get-one-free) from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm that extends to all beverages, including selections from the extensive range of Classic and New World wines, too.

 

The huge deck-terrace extends the available dining space to allow a panoramic sea view, shaded by those giant trees – and there’s a choice of regular tables or sprawling out on big cushions with low tables. Needless to say, the whole resort is kitted-out with complimentary WiFi, making it a perfectly idyllic spot – and a most unusual one – to visit for an hour or two to catch up on those emails and jottings back home. And everything’s even more visually impressive as the sun begins to set and the myriad red candles and lights bathe everything in their flickering glow.

 

Chaweng’s a busy, bustling place, filled with jostle and tangled jumbles of visual clutter. But just 30 paces away from this it all goes away. It just disappears. There’s an oasis in its midst. Some might even say a rabbit hole, leading to a minimalist haven on the beach. It’s clear, it’s fresh, but there’s lots going on in its own quiet way. It’s where less means a whole lot more!

 

Rob De Wet

 


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