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.

Overall Impression Built on a steep amphitheater-shaped hillside at the northeastern tip of the island of Koh Samui, Thailand, The Tongsai Bay was a secluded resort that successfully balanced the natural beauty of its environment with modern comfort and luxury standards. The suites blended so seamlessly they all but disappeared into the exuberant tropical garden rippling toward the sea. My own Villa was a vast contemporary space thoughtfully designed and appointed to ensure optimum enjoyment of my natural surroundings. Its large, partially roofed deck featured a king-size four-poster bed swathed in pristine mosquito netting for afternoon siestas or a night’s sleep under the stars. I found a welcome basket of frangipani and orchid blooms on the ledge of my oversized bathtub in the center of the deck and I promised myself a moonlight blossom-scented bath later that evening. A few steps up from the deck, the rear of the Villa featured all the air-conditioned appointments of a more conventional luxury suite. Both deck and suite had a spectacular view of The Tongsai Bay’s lovely private beach, a gently curved cove protected at each end by rock promontories, and the open waters of the Gulf of Thailand beyond.

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.

Children The resort welcomed children of all ages.

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.

Lobby And Common Areas . The main lodge was located at the top of a hill. All the common areas were decorated in contemporary tropical style with whitewashed rough plaster walls and polished hardwood floors. The lobby and restaurant opened through broad arches onto partially covered terraces with sweeping views of the gardens and the sea. The lobby was furnished with groupings of wooden sofas and a mix of wood and rattan armchairs around coffee and end tables with natural stone tops resting on green wrought iron bases. Each sitting cluster stood on a light beige oriental rug. Seat cushions and back loose pillows were covered in varied permutations of bright turquoise and tangerine cottons. In the evening, lighting was provided by overhead drums covered in tangerine cloth and celadon tables lamps with white parchment shades. The reception and guest relations’ desks were located at two long bar-height counters on opposite sides of the room.

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

Bathroom Behind the foyer, the bathroom occupied the rear quarter of the suite. The center wall held a long vanity with two sinks resting on a travertine top and a wall-size mirror above it. One side of the room featured a double-width mosaic-tiled shower with a glass front. The opposite side was a separate water closet. Unexplainably, the generous stack of bath towels was concealed on a rack above the commode. It took me a while to discover it.

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.

Food And Restaurants The Tongsai Bay had two restaurants: Chef Chom’s which offered a gargantuan breakfast buffet with a mix of Western and Asian choices, an open kitchen for cooked-to-order eggs and a great smoothie stand where an enthusiastic attendant stood among pyramids of tropical fruit. She invited guests to select their favorites, which she promptly turned into some of the best smoothies ever. In the evening Chef Chom’s had an exclusively Thai menu. Meanwhile down on the beachfront, the Po-Lad Beach Bistro and Bar offered a range of contemporary and international dishes for lunch and dinner. I enjoyed the casual beach atmosphere, the well-prepared, unpretentious dishes and the friendly and efficient service. I had most of my meals there. The coffee shop, Sip, proposed a variety of freshly baked cakes and pies along with complimentary loaner PCs connected to the Internet.

Amenities The deck pantry had an electric kettle, a bar sink and an ice bucket. It was stocked with an assortment of black, green and herbal teas, coffee, fresh milk in the refrigerator, a jar of freshly baked cookies and bottles of water. There was also a welcome bottle of chilled rosé, four wine glasses and a corkscrew. On the ledge of the open air bathtub there were bath salts, pump bottles of house brand shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, and a welcome basket of flower petals. The ice bucket was filled and the water and cookies replenished as part of the nightly turndown service.

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.

Fitness Center And Spa The fitness center was a 1,300 square foot (120 square meter) air-conditioned room located near the main swimming pool. It featured an array of modern exercise equipment.

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.

Other The resort’s founder was an enlightened environmentalist who strove to protect the pristine nature of the island, which was still sparsely populated and covered with forests and coconut plantations in the 1980’s. The Tongsai Bay was built around its landscape. Not a single big tree was cut down during construction, and conservation practices were implemented from the start.

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.

Cleanliness Excellent

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

Contact Information

  • Address:
    • 84 Moo 5, Bophut, Koh Samui
    • Suratthani 84320
    • Thailand
  • Phone:
    • + 66 (0) 77 245 480-500
  • Fax:
    • + 66 (0) 77 425 462
  • Website:
  • Email: