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.