Koh Samui: Conrad and Beyond

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Previous Posts from my South East Asia Trip Series:

Asiana First Class Suite JFK-ICN Flight Review 

Angkor Without Temples: Tuk Tuk, Massage, Lady Boom-Boom?

Siem Reap, Cambodia: Ten Tips for the First-Time Visitor (Frugal Travel Guy)

Siem Reap: Angkor Wat and Other Wats, Intro

Siem Reap: Angkor Wat and Other Wats, Day One

Siem Reap: Angkor Wat and Other Wats, Day Two, AM

Siem Reap: Angkor Wat and Other Wats, Day Two, PM

My second leg on Bangkok Airways was from Bangkok to Koh Samui. My flight was at 6AM, and I asked the hotel to call me a cab. It was too early for the Airport Link and I wasn’t dragging my luggage at 4 o’clock in the morning to the street to save a few bucks. I also remembered that I was supposed to tell the driver not to use the highway (there is no traffic that early in the morning) but of course I forgot. Even so, the ride cost me less than 500 Bhatt, just about $15, and the toll added less than $1.50 to the final fare.

I had more than enough time to spend time at the Bangkok Airlines economy lounge at BKK. They let me in after checking my boarding pass and never asked for the proof of my Flyer Bonus membership , Let me tell you this: while this economy lounge won’t win any decoration awards, its snacks offerings and blazing internet speed put most US premium domestic lounges to shame.

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Here are a few more pics. They even have a Kid’s Corner! Did I mention that your coach ticket gives you access to this lounge? I don’t think there is another airline in the world that does it for their customers. I would love it if they joined One World or Star Alliance one day.

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After a one-hour flight (and a mandatory breakfast, LOL) I arrived at Koh Samui airport. It’s a very nice small airport, although I had to wait for almost an hour until my Avis gal arrived. There is no one to blame; I had rented my car for 8AM, since I expected to wait to get my checked baggage. Instead, I had my baggage in about 10 minutes upon arrival. Don’t know how they do that.

Conrad is located on another side of the island, and finding it for the first time was a challenge, especially that my phone GPS refused to give me turn-by turn directions. I saw the signs for Conrad several times during the drive, but not at the actual turn. It took me about 1.5 hours to find the darn place instead of the normal 45 minutes, although I did stop to buy supplies along the route.

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A lot has been said about Conrad Koh Samui, so I don’t want to repeat everyone else or myself (please read my Conrad review at Frugal Travel Guy). Conrad, Koh Samui is a Category 10 resort, the category that has only ten hotels around the world in it, and it’s a phenomenal property. The funny thing is, it would be hard for me, as well as I’m sure for many others, to put my finger on why I loved it so much. It wasn’t just the view–I’d seen views before. It wasn’t just the universal friendliness of everyone you see there, or just great service, or just a beautiful room, or just my own private pool. There is something about this place that puts you in peace to the point that you don’t want to leave it  even for a day tour. I almost never went out during the day, and I wasn’t bored even once there in four days. This is not like me; I don’t normally fly half across the world to stay at a hotel.

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I’m sorry if all the above sounds like infomercial, but I don’t know another way of saying that I really, and I mean really loved it. OK, here is a critical note: they should clean up the seaweed. I mean, how hard is that? Considering how small the beach area is, that would surely make the water more inviting.

Notice how I said  “I almost never went out during the day”. The nights are a different story. The resort is secluded. There is nothing to do there at night, and the nearest town called Lamai to sample some “night life” is about 30 minutes away. I was really happy that I had opted to rent a car. Now, there are a lot of reviews that state that a car isn’t necessary and it might be true, but I enjoyed the freedom to go out whenever I felt like it without paying exorbitant taxi fares. And I usually felt like it every time the sun went down.

Lamai Main Drag: mind the scooters

Lamai Main Drag: mind the scooters

Driving in Koh Samui is not too bad, but you need to be focused and mindful of hundreds of scooters, especially after dark, and especially when you drive through towns. The condition of the road varies widely, from reasonably good to very bad, and besides, it’s badly lit in many places. Still, I haven’t seen any horrific potholes like on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic, for example. If you are an experienced driver, you will be fine.

Best (not just better) Exchange Rate Booth in Lamai

Best (not just better) Exchange Rate Booth in Lamai

I booked four nights at Conrad right before last-year devaluation for 145,000 HHonors points, and I’m really happy that I’ve got to experience that resort. My Citibank Hilton Reserve Visa got me the Gold status that took care of breakfast, which was excellent and would easily tide me over until dinner. All in all, it was an unbelievable bargain.

The most difficult part of this report has been choosing photos. There are plenty of them, and they don’t do this place justice.

My villa was number 304 and it afforded excellent privacy. It’s the highest level at the resort; the next three levels make up Conrad Residence.

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Breakfast Spread

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The Villa and he Room

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Sunsets at Conrad

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I spent the last two days at another resort, Mai Samui, which–I thought–would give me an opportunity to get out, but unfortunately, I caught a nasty bug that limited my mobility, so to speak.

Mai Samui bills itself as a 5-star resort, and it very well might be. The resort is truly beautiful and it’s built around several gorgeous pools, to make you feel like you’re on the island. It’s on the same side of the island as Conrad, but farther to the north, and thus closer to the airport, which is about 30 minutes away.

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Mai Samui, another 5-star resort on Koh Samui

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I have to say this, however, if Mai Samui is five-star, then Conrad is at least seven. 🙂 Not that Mai Samui is not a fabulous resort. It really is!

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More Koh Samui Sunsets

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My next post: Wrapping Up My Cambodia and Thailand Trip. Car Rental Dent, The Wing HKG and Tonnes of Lounges, Cathay First Suite to JFK.

I’m also going to post the Cathay behind-the-gear camera landing video as soon as I figure out how to cut it in half (huge geekish factor!). 

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