While I continue to recap the remainder of my endless summer, I’ve decided to jump out of chronological order and start sharing snippets of what I’ve been up to since I reached Southeast Asia this fall. Thanks for sticking with me!
It doesn’t matter who you are, what stage of life you’re in or where you are in the world, corralling a big group of friends together for a trip is not for the faint of heart. Yet one of the highlights of my time in Thailand last year was arranging a weekend in villa on Koh Samui for my big Koh Tao family, and we vowed to make it annual.
This year, we made good on that promise with a trip to Bay Villas in Koh Phangan.
After three fabulous days in Koh Samui, Ian and I were missing our Koh Tao crew. Rather than head back to our home island, all seven of us all hopped ferries to meet in the middle, on the beautiful jungle island of Koh Phangan.
I hadn’t really considered Koh Phangan for this particular trip, originally. It’s not an island known for excessive luxury — typically, those looking to stay at five star hotels or rent lavish villas head to Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan is more the territory of those seeking enlightenment at one of the island’s many yoga and meditation centers, or those seeking nightlife based on the lunar cycle (the Full Moon Party is just the beginning!)
But when I discovered Bay Villas, I knew I’d landed on something special. It’s the perfect compromise for those who love the sleek accommodation of Samui but prefer the laid-back vibes of Phangan. It’s the best of both worlds. And it was all ours, for a much anticipated weekend of kicking back and quality time.
Our plan to leave the villa as little as humanly possible was confirmed the moment we laid eyes on it. That kitchen! That pool! That outdoor seating area that we quickly converted into an amphitheater for a raging round of Cards Against Humanity charades!
Tucked away in the hills above Haad Salad, this chic four-bedroom villa prompted many wistful conversations about pooling our funds and either moving in forever or kicking off a lucrative future of property investment — and considering the villas are actually for sale, it was a pretty enticing daydream. Even more realistically tempting? In addition to the three gorgeous villas that currently make up Bay Residence, three luxury apartments are currently under construction.
Indoor and outdoor showers? That’s how you do life in the tropics.
Our first day on the island was a stormy one. But that was fine. After all, the fact that it was November and monsoon was what allowed a group of seven Koh Tao-ers, mostly working in the tourism industry, to take a few days off work for a getaway with friends.
I love low season in the Gulf of Thailand. Sure, it rains plenty and sure, things shift into a slower gear. But there is plenty of room for bargains, plenty of time for lingering conversations, and plenty of sunshine in which to dry out.
The next day, the sun rewarded us for our patience. We kicked things off with a mimosa-fueled breakfast and an intense debate over which of the many surfaces we’d spend the day napping and sunbathing on. For a bunch of Thailand expats with cooking setups that rarely consist of more than a hot plate and a few mismatched forks, being able to cook big group meals in an opulent kitchen is akin to picking the winning numbers for the powerball.
And talk about a table with a view.
After breakfast, it was down to a busy day of fun in the sun. I could have easily spent a week like this; reading, laughing, snacking, swimming, and sunning. Vacation, I think I like you.
Late in the afternoon, the girls and I decided to take a stroll down to Haad Salad. After three big meals we were running a little low on supplies, and so our mission was part aimless wander, part supply gathering mission. The beach was less than a ten minute walk away, and we marveled at the quiet beauty of this charming stretch of the island.
However, food shopping opportunities were fairly limited. If you’re lucky enough to head to Bay Villas yourself someday, do all your shopping in Thongsala before heading to Haad Salad. Makro is great for shopping in bulk, Tesco Lotus and Big C are good for packaged foods, and fresh fruits and vegetables are a gamble depending on when the last big shipment arrived.
Prior to this trip, I’d stepped foot on Koh Phangan three times. Twice for Full Moon Parties, in which I arrived not long before sunset and left not long after sunrise, never bothering to book accommodation; and once for a two-night girlfriend getaway to visit a recently relocated friend from Koh Tao. Despite our limited exploring over these forty-eight hours, they only fueled my fire to return again in the future.
Although really, I’d go anywhere with this crew. I’m so grateful for this group of friends, some of whom have been in my life for more than six years now. What keeps me coming back to Thailand year after year? It’s a long list, but my island family is near the top of it.
I can’t wait to see where our next low-season getaway takes us! Do you take an annual trip with friends? Tell me about it in the comments!
Many thanks to Bay Villas for hosting us on Phangan. As always, you receive my honest thoughts, full opinions and poorly written jokes regardless of who is footing the bill.