You know what I love almost as much as being on Koh Tao? Using it as a base to jump off and explore other parts of Thailand. Part of my three months back in Southeast Asia towards the end of 2014 was a little mini tour around some of my favorite parts of the country — Bangkok, Pai, and Chiang Mai. But when it came time to leave Koh Tao for my first stop on the tour, Koh Samui, I was struggling with separation anxiety. So I brought my Koh Tao crew with me.
For this merry band of expats, Koh Samui — the largest of the three island archipelago made up by Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui — is a semi-regular stop for either administrative business (customs and immigration are on the island, as is an airport) or McDonald’s runs. What? Sometimes a girl wants a McFlurry.
And by sometimes I obviously mean all the times ever.
But this was a trip of another kind — a vacation among friends, pure and simple.
Villa rentals are not a rare occurrence in our circles. While Koh Tao is an island paradise, we all live and work there, and so it feels like home rather than the reality-obscuring bliss of a vacation. Renting a villa is a fantastic — and often surprisingly affordable — way for a bunch of expats to truly check into holiday mode without going very far.
But Baan Ling Noi was about to take it to another level.
All six sets of our jaws dropped as we hopped out of our taxi in the hills of Bophut and started exploring the grounds of this gorgeous compound. We all agreed, with the infinity pool, the four private bedrooms, the ocean-facing great room, the views over Koh Pha Ngan and the lush garden surroundings, it was one of the most beautiful properties we’d seen in Thailand.
We quickly concluded that it would be a crime to leave Baan Ling Noi for a moment more than necessary, and made tactical plans to get our errands done as soon as possible. Brian and I went off to the west of the island to deal with admin at immigration and customs and to hit up Banyan‘s wholesale liquor store, while the rest of the crew went east to Costco. We laughed that for us, it felt like the greatest vacation luxury to stay home and cook every meal for ourselves. I’m pretty sure that for most people, going out to eat is one of the perks of a vacation.
But I mean did I mention the kitchen had a juicer? It was seriously well stocked.
So off we went to do our chores. Brian and I ended up racking up quite the liquor bill, much to the amusement of the Thai girls on staff. So much so that when I tried to add a can of Pringles to the bill, they waved me away — free gift with purchase! And with Brian being one of my oldest friends in Thailand (we actually met way back in my Cayman Islands days — we go way back!) I almost died when I heard him deadpanning to the giggling cashier, “It’s our honeymoon.”
What a romantic honeymoon that would be.
Back at the house, it was time to binge on lovely cheese, decent wine (this is Thailand, after all), and fabulous company.
The lazy afternoon morphed into a laid back night of singing and silliness. Who needs TV when you’ve got good friends and a guitar? Forgive me for so many of them, but these photos makes my heart swell. So many smiles!
The next morning, we woke up to a fair amount of cloud coverage — it was the rainy season, after all — and continued our quest for extreme relaxation. The day kicked off with the most indulgent breakfast spread I’ve been treated to in a long time, complete with mimosas.
And anytime a sliver of sunshine emerged, we fled down to the pool to soak up the view. It was paradise. And here’s the crazy part — in low season, like this was, Baan Ling Noi goes for $450 a night. That’s $45 per person if you fill it to capacity! Seriously, where else could you get a deal like that.
And can I tell you how much I miss these girls right now?
And our parade of indulgent meals only continued with lunch, a homemade chili that I’ve since made elected group chef Ian cook for me twice.
After food — and you may see a pattern emerging here — it was time for more pool.
And finally, our crowning achievement (and I say that as if I had anything to do with it other than eating) — a group dinner for eleven, with two friends who live on Koh Samui as well as a few more friends from Koh Tao staying with them joining us. Aside from the never-ending parade of delicious plates that kept appearing in front of me, it might have been some of the best company I’ve ever sat down to break bread with.
The weekend was pure bliss. We didn’t do much of anything other than drink, eat, and be together — but that was the point.
I highly recommend Baan Ling Noi for its stunning property, great location (while technically we didn’t leave the house on this particular trip, Bophut is my favorite part of Koh Samui) and fantastic value. The only drawback we noted — which might actually be a plus, for some — is that the staff lives on property. While some might find this a huge perk we would have preferred more privacy. At one point I was startled to see three random staff I had not been introduced to saunter into the kitchen, and another time I opened the door to my room to check the weather in the very early morning and came face to face with another staff — while I was in my underwear! But different strokes for different folks — while we felt uncomfortable having some else do our dishes and so felt pressured to sprint up and do them immediately lest the maid leap in, another guest might love not having to get their hands dirty. It’s a good lesson for someone renting a place anywhere, really — ask if a property manager will be on location and if so how much privacy you can expect to have.
This weekend reminded me that down time with friends is just as valuable as all the other more adrenaline-filled adventures. And I’m making time for a lot more of it, moving forward.
Have you and your friends ever rented a place together?
Did you love this kind of getaway as much as I did?
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Many thanks to Baan Ling Noi for hosting us on Koh Samui. As always, you receive my honest opinion regardless of who is footing the bill.
This post is great! The property looks GOR.GE.OUS. and you look like you had so much fun with your friends! Glad to see you’re finding ways to still explore/try new things but also get the downtime you need. As an outgoing-introvert (I get my recharging energy from being SOLO) I totally get that going going going can burn you out very quickly.
I just spent this past long weekend (MLK day in the states) in a Tahoe house with some friends, hope to post about it soon! Funny how the basics are all we really need. 🙂
I love that classification of an outgoing-introvert. That’s so me! For example, I have no had a non-essential conversation with another human in three days and it feels GLORIOUS. I’m only just now starting to hear my own thoughts again. That said, I plan the majority of my time around being with my family and/or friends so it is a balance.
A weekend in Tahoe sounds fabulous! These lazy trips with friends have become one of my favorite ways to “travel” (Is it travel if you don’t leave the house? Ha!)
You are just such a great photographer Alex! Really brought the villa – and sillies! – to life! Thanks for sharing such a lovely story. Makes me miss weekend trips with my college friends! Le sigh.
Thank you so much Holly! And yes, those silly weekend getaways end up being some of the best getaways, don’t they? Excited to have a few planned this summer.
Holy moly THAT POOL. I want to be there right now! Your pictures are beautiful and that villa (scenery included) seems like the absolute perfect place to relax and just unwind for a few days. (Also, I’m pretty sure that’s my favorite color of pool chair padding I have ever seen.)
They were nice pool chairs now that you mention it, Marni! Ha. It was the perfect relaxation station for sure.
I feel like there needs to be more explanation on the staff using your underwear incident! Wow! Talk about awkward!!! LOL I absolutely love that place!
P.S. Is Brian your new man friend? =) You guys looks cute! Glad to see you happy! Keep on! I live vicariously through you.
Ha, no, sorry if that was worded unclearly — I was in my own underwear 🙂 Still awkward, but definitely less so than if they were, ha! And no, Brian is just a very good old friend! The honeymoon reference was made all the funnier for it 🙂
Looks like a great time. The views from the villa are breathtaking. Hope to get to Thailand soon!
Thailand has some stunning views, if you’re willing to haul yourself up a hill (part of the reason we decided to stay put for the weekend, ha!)
so great to see a post like this! renting a house or condo with friends is one of my favorite ways to vacay. i’ve done it all over california plus ibiza, beriln, montreal and surely some other places i’m forgetting. without fail, i’ve felt like i got more bang for my buck by a long shot. that said, i think there is an art to it but you guys def look like you nailed it here!
I feel like I’m just starting to get into it! Well, I definitely did it a few times in my earlier years but it was a huge stress coordinating and dealing with the money. Now that everyone is a bit more financially secure, it’s a lot easier. OR, best case scenario, head somewhere you don’t have to throw down for! (My family’s Martha’s Vineyard house, for example, or my best friend’s family’s Myrtle Beach condo we used to head to every summer.)
This looks like pure bliss. I can just imagine me and my girls having the time of our lives on a property like this.
It makes me want to do something like this with all my various friend groups 🙂 So fun!
This looks and sounds like the perfect weekend! The villa is gorgeous and the photos are great, they really show you all having a great time! 🙂
Thanks Christine! It’s not always easy to force yourself to pick up the camera when you’re having such a good time, but then I look back at photos like this and it is so worth it.
This place looks amazing, and what a fun getaway with friends! I really miss Thailand; I never experienced it quite like this, and now I want to!
It’s the benefit of staying for so long and going back so often — a big group of fantastic friends to do stuff like this with. I love it 🙂
I am forwarding this post to all my girlfriends right now! That pool looks absolutely divine. And it seems like you guys had an amazing time. It’s rainy and almost freezing in Washington DC right now. sigh.
Let me know if you and the girls are inspired to do something similar. I bet you won’t regret it! 🙂
Wow! That is so gorgeous – I need some sun in my life right now! 😀
I know! This is almost cruel to anyone in the Northern Hemisphere to post in late January, right?!
If you keep making maxi dresses look so damn good, I’m gonna be convinced that I, too, can rock them, and THEN I’m gonna learn the hard way AGAIN that I actually can’t. Stop it.
Ha, I actually only own two of them — but I’ve managed to post photos of both this week 🙂 I do love them both…
“decent wine (This is Thailand, after all)” – I love it. I remember deciding to take a night off of buckets during a binge of Had Rin partying with a close friend who decided we should drink wine all night instead, telling her that the wine she picked out really tasted like shit, and examining the label to see what vintage it was or where it was from when my eyes were drawn to a declaration that the wine I was drinking was a product of Thailand that was “made with fruit product.” Nothing about grapes anywhere on the bottle.
Baan Ling Noi looks incredible. I’ve rented houses with friends a few times, the most memorable experience was a winter cabin in Breckenridge!
Ha, yeah, Thailand is NOT known for its fine wine imports. However, I know there are some vineyards somewhere North of Bangkok that I’m really interested to check out some day — you can take a bike tour to them! One of these days when I’m feeling extra adventurous and thirsty 🙂
That villa is BEAUTIFUL! I think I need to round up some of my friends and convince them to join me. Looks like it was a blissful weekend.
Do it, do it, do it! I guarantee you’d have a good time 🙂
Oh me too! I am a huge fan of vacation rentals. I rented a gorgeous house in Lake Whatcom, WA last spring with three girlfriends and we loved it so much that we are making it an annual tradition. We plan to switch up the location but the sentiment is the same. A little hideaway with a hot tub and a fireplace where we can eat, drink, and be merry! Bliss!
That sounds so fun, Whitney! My two childhood girlfriends and I felt the same way after our weekend in Martha’s Vineyard last summer. Though we will probably keep using that as our location, because, free 🙂
All of these photos are incredible (as usual), and yes, that would be a crazy honeymoon! hahaha! Okay, so can we just talk about how perfect your teeth are! haha, that is totally weird, sorry! 😉
Anyways, there is nothing better than spending some down time with some of your favorite people. Glad you had a blast!
Aw, I’m actually self-conscious about my slightly overlapping front teeth, so I really appreciate that 🙂 Ha, thanks Krystle!
Ahhh I can just feel the good times oozing from this post! Sometimes all you need is great company. And digs like this certainly don’t hurt!! I would love to be able to have an exotic trip like this with my college friends particularly. #GOALS!
Make it happen girl! Forward them this post and see what happens 🙂
Way to make me hate the rainy winter weather right now even more. I might have to unfollow…
Aw, don’t do that! But yes, this is dangerous to post in late January 🙂
Wow, looks stunning! I’m going to be on Koh Samui in a week. This place is a little out of my budget in high season but I can still dream of infinity pools! Looks like you’ve a fun group of people around you.
Don’t worry, I’ve done the flophouse hotels on Koh Samui and still had fun 🙂 Have a great time!
I’m going to be in Koh Samui in January next year and this is giving me ideas of where I want to stay! How gorgeous is this place!?!?!?! AHHHH I hope you post more soon, so I can kind of see where I’ll be living for a month 🙂
Hey Jenna! I won’t be doing any more posts on Koh Samui specifically anytime soon but I do have some in my archives — check out my Destinations page to see them all! And enjoy your time on the island!
Oh. My. God. Jaw-drop gorgeousness. So I’ve mostly backpacked throughout Southeast Asia but being a little older (I’m 29) I feel like I’ve grown out of it a bit… I’m much more drawn to this type of quality accommodation these days! Not all the time, obviously – but I mean… look at this place!! So worth it.
I feel ya, chica. And luckily Southeast Asia is one of the best places in the world for affordable luxury — check out my post today on where we just stayed in Bangkok!
GORGEOUS PICS! I went there 2 years ago and had the time of my life… and I definitely relieved some of my moments through these pics! On a separate note: I was wondering if your girlfriend will be happy to see the pic you posted of her with her undies riding up and cheeks sort of exposed lol. Just thought I should bring that to your attention in case you overlooked it… unless neither of you cares about it 🙂 Aloha!
Hey Lilokai! I actually had to look back at the post to see what photo you were referring to. I’ll ask her, but considering she kept it tagged on Facebook I don’t think she’ll mind 🙂 We live in our bikinis out there, so a little buttcheek is nothing too exciting around those parts, ha. By the way, I love your name! I met a Lilokai last time I was in Hawaii and thought it was such an amazing name to have.
Paradise extended. Nothing like spending time with people you love. Housekeeping staffs can make or break a good stay (Urgh!). I bet you miss your Koh Tao friends very much (every single day. thinking of them)
I really do. Happy to already have a return trip planned back to them 🙂
I’ve traveled to Thailand for work before – but never see anything close to the beauty shown in your post. I am actually planning to spend a month ( April ) in Thailand and now I just want it even more.
BTW thanks for the tip regarding staff living on the property.
That’s awesome Lev! You’re going to have a great time. Enjoy!
Beautiful photos and great story. However, I totally agree with you. it could be much nicer without the staff living on that property for the sake of privacy.
I actually think it is quite common for staff to live on property in villas around Koh Samui. However, I do think there could be some additional training to make the experience more private, and I’m sure if a customer set that expectation up at booking it would be honored.
This looks like the best group trip EVER. When I finally make it to Thailand, can I do so on your terms, please? =)
HECK YES! I would be honored to be your tour guide 🙂
With all the travelling I’ve done, I’ve still never had a holiday with friends like this. It looks SO MUCH FUN. And you’ve made me realise I need to make it happen, hopefully somewhere awesome like this!
Back home it is so hard to organize people for a holiday, it really bums me out. Even this took a bit of run around, but luckily it was low season and with lots of notice we were able to coordinate a few days off for everyone!
I love your blog and LOVE thailand! I am going for my 4th time this upcoming November. I was planning for Koh Tao + Koh Samui (thats how I found your blog!) but after research am finding that it may be rather wet over there and I should do Koh Lanta/Koh Yao Noi instead. Thoughts? I live in Hawaii so I know rainy season here isn’t ALWAYS super rainy…but there can be days of pouring. Any two cents you’d like to share? Thank you!! Love your blog, super inspiring.
November is indeed the rainiest month here… it can sometimes be fairly gloomy 🙁 The good news is that it is lovely on the other side. Any other month I’d say come to Koh Tao! But in this case I might recommend heading to Lanta and Yao Noi. Tonsai in Railay is also gorgeous!
Where, oh where, is this wholesale alcohol nirvana?! We are going back to Samui for Christmas and I feel like we need to find this place – those are some seriously well stocked shelves!
I’ve had a look online and can’t see anything, any further info you have to go on with this treasure hunt would be great ;). Thanks,
It’s called Sanphet Grocery and it’s near the Lomprayah Pier in Nathon 🙂 Enjoy!
Thank you so much! We will raise a glass in your honour on Christmas Day 😉
Ha! Have fun 😉