for more information please visit http://panaceasamui.com
Koh Samui is like a well-established Hollywood celebrity: she's outrageously manicured, has lovely blonde tresses and has gracefully removed all of her wrinkles without more than a peep in the tabloids. She's been in the tourism business longer than almost any other Thai island, but rather than becoming passé, she's embraced a new generation of resort goers, many of them upscale and looking for A-Lister glamour.
Behind the glossy veneer there's still a glimmer of the girl from the country. Look for steaming street-side food stalls beyond the beach, backpacker shanties plunked down on quiet stretches of sand and secreted Buddhist temples along the backstreets. It's then that you remember you're in and not a globalisation-induced trance of a Photoshopped beach vacation. To really get away, head to the south or the west of the island where you'll find authentic Samui family-run seafood restaurants, tourist-free towns buzzing with descendents of the original Chinese merchant settlers and long stretches of refreshingly wild and shaggy coconut palms.
Panacea is regarded as the most exclusive retreat on Koh Samui and it didn’t take us long to discover why this stunning venue deserves to be listed amongst our dream destinations.
From the minute you land at the airport you realise the attention to detail the owners have gone to make sure your experience exudes luxury. While others load their bags into the back of beaten up taxis, our charming chauffeur whisks us into our private air-conditioned car with cold water, an orchid corsage and flannels to soften the blow of the immense heat. A short drive later we enter the estate through the imposing gateway with the mandatory salute of the guard. As we drive through the ornate tranquil gardens and tropical landscape the sheer scale of this secluded private clifftop residence becomes apparent.
The staff are all lined up to meet us on arrival. Enough staff to run a small ocean-liner and including chefs, concierges, cleaners, house managers, gardeners and many more who blend seamlessly into the background yet are always there to fulfil your smallest request wearing a smile.
Panacea Retreat’s five luxury private villas seamlessly blend traditional wooden furnishings with contemporary design touches. We stayed in Praana, the headline villa with 6 en-suite bedrooms each with king-size bed, rain showers, outdoor bath tubs, and all the mod-cons you would expect from a London 5-star hotel and some you wouldn’t.
Covering 4,700 m2 (over half a football pitch) the villa comes with 20 full-time staff to serve you and is ideal for a family or large group. The interior is defined by exceptional quality and luxury. Everything here is as good as it can be with the owners travelling the world to source inspirational furniture, linens, materials and artwork. The finish and the layout are both perfectly planned to make staying here a practical, as well as an enjoyable experience. It was clear from the outset that this would be a truly unforgettable visit.
Your first choice each morning is where to eat – either in the open plan living rooms affording views of the mountains, or al fresco in the poolside Sala with Bophut Beach and Big Buddha Bay in the distance. Whichever your choice you will not find a more beautiful backdrop, and the quality of food further enhances the experience. The menu has been designed with focus on simplicity, freshness of produce, and the health benefits of the ingredients, without sacrificing flavours.
The charming executive chef is classically trained and highly experienced in a number of cuisines and always on hand to advise on all your dietary requirements. One of the highlights of our stay was a private cooking class from him where we learnt how to make Tom Yum Soup and Thai Green Curry. The table was adorned with all sorts of ingredients from Thai herbs and spices to the freshest of seafood as we learnt how to cook traditional dishes. Though we have tried to recreate them back in England from the menus provided it never quite tastes as good as it did when we made it from this stunning hilltop retreat.
There are many variants on the menus, you can enjoy a raw menu for a week, or opt for an impressive choice of pre and post work-out sports drinks, protein or nutrition shakes, detox and power juices, plus many smoothies made from fresh fruits and vegetables. For wine connoisseurs the basement cellar boasts an impressive portfolio of the finest wines from around the world.
Should you wish to leave the resort for dinner then your concierge will make all necessary arrangements. Furthermore you only need to mention that you are staying at Panacea to ensure the VIP experience follows you - it has already gained a flawless reputation amongst the locals as the leading destination for VIP guests.
The villa has a host of activities on offer with your concierge on hand to arrange your daily schedule. Named after the Greek goddess of healing and a cure for all life's ills, Panacea promises to revitalize and rejuvenate you during your stay. Every morning is a new experience at here, you might for the upbeat boxing lessons in the on-site Muay Thai Boxing Ring or prefer a tranquil yoga session in front of one of the two infinity pools. You can also enjoy the floodlit tennis court with ball canon for lone players, or the state-of-the-art gymnasium.
For those looking for more gentle activities you can make use of the Steam Room, Sauna or the peaceful surrounding of the in-house Spa with expert masseuse. We can certainly recommend the traditional Thai Massage, a perfect to balance your mind and body. The venue hosts a billiard and poker room, HD Cinema room with reclining leather seats and a comprehensive movie library of over 500 films, and Computer Games room.
If you are travelling with friends then Panacea boasts a stunning nightclub and bar with design inspiration taken from 5 Hertford Street in London. For those of you with young children this has also been thought about, with a bright and colourful Nursery/Playroom and Kids Club with nannies available on request. If you are worried about keeping on top of your email then head to the office suite or simply use the complimentary WIFI and work from your sun lounger whilst enjoying the sun and cocktails by the pool.
The charming village of Bophut is just 3km away, whilst the pristine white sands of Chaweng Beach are a 15-minute drive. Samui Airport is 8km from the hotel. The island hosts an array of activities from sailing and fishing, to scuba diving and jet skiing. Some highlights include:
Big Budha Temple: One of the better known landmarks on Samui, a 15m tall sitting Buddha Statue, situated on a man-made peninsula in Bang Rak beach.
Spas and Massages: Koh Samui has always attracted those in search of a place to relax and recharge, with many new age centres established years before Spas became mainstream. The alternative venues with liver fasting and meditation are still around, complemented by an increasing number of sophisticated new Spa resorts, many located in hotels. Asian beauty secrets, traditional massage, de-stressing body treatments...Samui is the place to find them.
Natien Butterfly Gardens: These gardens house thousands of butterflies representing an extensive range of most species found in the region.
Secret Garden: A hike to the waterfalls and a trek atop an elephant will take you to the Secret Garden. Situated on one of the highest peaks in Samui it is the brainchild of a local farmer who dedicated his twilight years to sculpting deities from Thai mythology.
There is a degree of variety to the nightlife in Koh Samui. Alongside the buckets of cheap whiskey and cheaper beer are sophisticated gourmet restaurants with stunning beachfront views; while classic Thai dancing and Muay Thai Boxing boxing can be found a short distance from the country’s famous transgender cabaret shows.
Avoid the rainy season from mid-October to mid-December if you want to stay dry, with November taking the brunt of the monsoon.
June is a great time to visit as the weather is good with little rain and not too much heat, but visitor numbers are low as most holiday-makers are waiting for the European school holidays of July and August to come to the island. During the European summer, the island is hectic and all flights to Samui are packed.
The hottest months are March to May and even the ice-cream vendors on the beach disappear as it’s too hot to patrol up and down on the scorching sand.
Christmas and New Year are busy, but mid-January to end-February is a good time weather-wise, and the festive season crowds wearily head back to work and school.
With in-depth experience and recommendations, please contact your concierge or our travel team to learn more about Panacea or to request a brochure to be sent to you.