- Overall Impression
- Common Areas
- Fitness Center And Spa
From my suite, a pathway through the gardens led down to the beach, an easy few minutes’ walk below. Halfway down, an adults-only half-moon infinity pool was built on a rocky ledge overlooking the ocean. The private beach was large enough as to often appear quasi deserted. In addition to the usual sunning, swimming and bodysurfing, it offered complimentary water-sports, such as snorkeling, sea kayaking and wind surfing. It also featured a pleasant beachside restaurant and a lake-sized family pool with a special children’s corner. I continued on, a couple of minutes up the other side of the hill to the spa, Prana, which seduced me on the spot for its cool seclusion. I made an appointment for the next day and continued on, back to the main building at the top of the hill.
The spa receptionist had thoughtfully called for a baki (the local name for the electric golf carts, possibly derived from “buggy,” that were always ready to ferry guests about the property), and it was already waiting for me by the time I had walked the few steps up to the road. In the main building, in addition to Chef Chom’s, the property’s principal restaurant, I found a recreation lounge with a billiard table, an entertainment center, an extensive collection of DVDs, and games of all sorts. In the reception area, the guest relations’ desk offered concierge services, including arranging a number of excursions on land and sea around the island. However, I felt no need to venture outside the luxurious grounds of the property, and rarely did during my stay.
The Tongsai Bay had achieved what many resorts often only strive for, a pleasant tropical retreat where disparate demographics of residents can harmoniously coexist. At the beachside barbecue on the night of my arrival I found the various groups happily mingling. A Scandinavian mother of pre-teens confided that she considered The Tongsai Bay the family’s vacation home, where the children were happy to return year after year. Several mature European couples declared it a casual haven to shed the stresses of their daily lives; a quartet of Japanese girlfriends concurred, and honeymooners from all over seemed to luxuriate in the seclusion of their private tropical paradise. I too thoroughly enjoyed my stay. The Tongsai Bay made my short list of places to revisit whenever I feel like going back to nature, without forsaking the convenience of 21st century luxuries.
Class Of Accommodation Five star luxury resort
Connectivity In addition to designated Internet corners with loaner computers in the lobby and near the beach, there was complimentary WiFi connectivity in the lobby, beach and pool areas and restaurants as well as in my suite. The connection was reliable, with moderate speed.
General Manager Marc Harrison
Handicapped Access No
Length Of Stay Three nights
Location The property was a 20-minute drive from Koh Samui Airport.
Owned /Managed The Hoontrakul family. The Tongsai Bay was the brainchild of Akorn Hoontrakul, the property founder and a noted hotel senior executive. After his death in 2000, ownership and management of the property passed on to his son Thanakorn Hoontrakul, and daughter in law Saisiri. The managing director was Michael Holehouse.
Pets Allowed No
Size Built on a 25 acre (10 hectare) hillside, The Tongsai Bay consisted of 83 suites, Cottages and Villas, and extensive common areas, including a 650 foot (200 meter) private beach. The property employed a staff of 200.
Year Opened-Renovated The resort opened its doors in 1987. The latest major renovations were in 2008.
Halfway down the gallery leading to the restaurant, the recreation center featured a billiard table with overhead lighting. Four mahogany and natural rattan loveseats with lime green and tangerine pillows were arranged in a U-shape with a large coffee table in the center, facing a large screen entertainment center. The far wall was lined with floor to ceiling glassed-in bookcases that held an extensive library of American and European movies. The Chef Chom’s dining room carried on the decorating scheme of the lobby with a mix of round and square wooden tables surrounded by dark rattan armchairs and al fresco dining on the terrace
Room My 1,775 square foot (165 square meter) Grand Villa, Number 505, stood halfway up the hill on the right side of the property. It included an 870 square foot (81 square meter) deck. In addition to its four-poster king-size bed and outdoor bathtub, the deck had two lounge chairs with natural canvas cushions separated by a coffee table, a pantry bar that ran against the back wall and a dinning table with four dining chairs. To the left of the bar, a few steps led up to the indoor suite at the rear of the Villa. Its front wall was entirely glassed-in, while the rear wall had large sliding glass doors opening onto a small, tree-shaded walled garden.
The bedroom occupied the right half of the suite with the other half divided between the entrance foyer in the front and the bathroom in the rear. The suite furniture was light teak, and the floor dark polished hardwood. Interior walls were painted cream and draperies throughout were made of heavy cinnamon-colored cotton. The foyer had a credenza table with a contemporary, art nouveau-inspired armchair. A large wall-hung mirror allowed it to double as a dressing table. To the left of the foyer, the outer wall was lined with louvered clothes closets. To the right of the foyer, a bedroom featured two double beds on low platforms, separated by a shared bedside table with a square wood and parchment reading lamp. Two matching floor lamps provided additional lighting. The headboards had decorative canopies draped with long pale-yellow silk scarves. On each bed a lime green silk pillow punctuated the gleaming white, high-count cotton bedding. By the front glass wall, two natural rattan wing chairs upholstered in taupe cotton faced each other across a square glass-topped coffee table. An open-arm sofa with taupe cushions and an entertainment center with a flat panel television, a DVD player and a stack of books on Thailand and Southeast Asia related topics filled the dividing wall to the foyer and bathroom.
The suite had an electronic safe, a universal converter plug, two golf umbrellas, two bathrobes, two pairs of slippers, an English language national Thai newspaper delivered daily and mosquito repellent spray and coil. There was a large welcome fruit basket and a plate of fresh pastries. Bathroom amenities included a magnifying mirror, a hairdryer, oral hygiene, shaving and sewing kits, a shower cap and bottled water. There were pump bottles of house brand liquid soap and body lotion on the vanity and shower gel, shampoo and conditioner in the shower, along with a fresh orchid blossom. All amenities were complimentary. Additionally, there was a well-stocked pay-for-use mini-bar.
Beach The 650 foot long (200 meter) private beach (a rarity in Thailand) curved between two rock outcrops. The sand was coarse and the slope sufficiently steep that the water became somewhat deep rather quickly, which made it excellent for water sports. Complimentary equipment was available for guests interested in snorkeling, wind surfing, sailing and kayaking. Dozens of teak lounge chairs with natural canvas cushions beneath tangerine canvas umbrellas were lined up at the top of the beach. At the beach and both pools, cheerful attendants were always on hand to offer fresh towels and bottles of chilled water.
Facilities Two restaurants, two bars, one Internet lounge, two swimming pools, a tennis court, a beach, a health club, a spa and a gift boutique.
Gift Shop Located next to the main pool, the gift boutique had a selection of beach items, swimwear, hats, wraps, t-shirts, bags, books, sun creams and other basic toiletries as well as casual jewelry. It also carried a line of attractive Thai handicrafts.
Pool The huge main pool was located just beyond the beach. It included a large children-only basin. In addition to the rows of lounge chairs it shared with the beach, it was surrounded by additional ones under thatched roofs. A 100 foot (30 meter) in diameter semicircular infinity pool was located a minute’s walk up from the beach. It was a quiet adults-only enclave and a perfect place to swim laps or enjoy the glorious ocean view. It was surrounded with lounge chairs and umbrellas identical to those of the beach and main pool.
The Prana Spa was an intimate facility nestled in jungle vegetation a few minutes’ walk up from the beach. It was accessed through a rainforest garden, its walls covered with soft green moss shimmering under gentle waterfalls. The walkway leading to the reception area was made of stepping-stones within a shallow pool. The small reception area was decorated in traditional Thai style with a heavy carved desk and a glass-front armoire holding an assortment of spa products. I was efficiently introduced to my therapist, Jureephon Orawat (Cha for short) who escorted me to one of the three treatment pavilions built into the hill. After the traditional foot bath, I settled into a steam room filled with aromas of ginger, turmeric and camphor before turning myself over to Cha’s steel fingers for a modified Thai massage with emphasis on acupressure. Prana employed up to eight therapists in the height of the season. In addition to earning the mandatory certification from the Ministry of Public Health, they received further in-house training from Master Somkiet, head of the Traditional Thai Massage Revival Foundation in Southern Thailand.
When rampant development of the island at the turn of the millennium began causing a serious threat to its environmental integrity, his successors continued his legacy of staunch conservation practices. They instigated the Green Project in 2003. Under the management of environmental expert Jultamart Tongphauk, the project’s mission is to preserve the balance among humans, animals, trees and the environment. Jultamart gave me a back-of-the-house tour of the impressive, multi-pronged initiative which in addition to strict measures in the areas of energy saving, animals and plants conservation aggressively addresses chemical usage minimization and garbage management. The project also includes an extensive educational component to build environmental conscience among the staff and within the local schools. The Green Project has become a model for new resorts that also understand the need to preserve the island’s natural capital for future generations.
Date Of Review October 2010
Reviewers Article and photos by Josette King
Service The room was serviced twice daily. Service was overall prompt and friendly, with the exception of the breakfast waitstaff at Chef Chom’s restaurant who was casual at best. On the first morning of my visit, although it was clearly established that I was alone, I had to eventually request that the superfluous place settings and a child’s highchair be removed from my table. And throughout my stay, catching servers’ eye for coffee or water refills sometimes felt like a game of hide and seek, even though the breakfast dining-room was not particularly busy.
Would You Stay There Again? Yes