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.
Yup, Ian had a little accident — more on that later. At least he got to recover in paradise!
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.
Oh my, Alex, you make me want to go back to Thailand and finally visit the Gulf of Thailand! I’ve absolutely been loving all your recent Thailand posts because they have installed such a longing to head back to your part of the world again! It also doesn’t hurt that your sunshine pics are a nice break from freezing Europe! 😉
I like to think it’s just an endless summer all the time over here on Alex in Wanderland 🙂 Stay tuned for more sunny posts coming up this week!
That looks like a lot of fun and sooo relaxing!! Every year my dad’s side if the family hangs out for a week in a big house house on long island!
That sounds awesome, Cate — I love family vacation and have so many fond memories of the whole family in a rented house somewhere 🙂
Amazing pictures! Especially the second last one, with the reflection in the pool.
Thanks Caroline! We were so lucky to catch that sunset.
This looks like SO much fun. As much I love solo exploring, having a chill getaway with friends is totally one of my favorite things. And the villa looks incredible!
Indeed. I get to travel solo and explore so often I almost take it for granted at times — getting together with my nearest and dearest, I’ll never not appreciate that!
Looks amazing. I’m jealous!!!!
Wish we could go back and do it all all over again!
Yep, I’ll take that outdoor seating area, please!
Surely a similar version can be installed at Casa Luna, no? 🙂
HOLD THE PHONE–Cards Against Humanity CHARADES?! WHAT EVEN IS THAT! This place looks insane, and comes with so many of my favorite things–mimosas, views, CAH, an adorable blonde blogger… 😉
Just take a moment to conjure your favorite Cards Against Humanity Cards… then picture miming them. That, my friend, is the beauty of Cards Against Humanity Charades 😛
Can I just live in that place? It’s gorgeous! And it’s so great you still have such a good group of friends living out there. I guess once people move to Thailand they don’t want to leave!
We really do have a great crew. There are so many people coming and going all the time, I really appreciate having a core group that is part of my little island family.
That place looks amazing! The views are incredible! I would so love to go there. This is definitely going on my bucket list when I go to SE Asia this summer. Ian sure did have a nice spot to rest and heal his injury.
I have a Southeast Asia bucket list too 🙂 It only seems to grow and grow!
I love to travel and Thailand is on my list!
Clearly I’m biased, but I think it’s pretty amazing Susan 🙂
Wow, it’s really not hard to see why you’d have such a good time there! Between the views, that seating area, and a getaway with friends, it’d be tempting never to leave!
Believe me, we were all contemplating refusing to go 😉 It was a dream!
It really is the people that make the place. I go to the suburbs of Baltimore every year because my best friend lives there! And it turns out Baltimore can be pretty cool. Though I will say that Koh Phangan and Thailand in general seems to be about 100 times as beautiful 😀
I go to many places to visit family and friends that I don’t think I’d go to otherwise. It’s a great method for choosing destinations!
Wow Alex – gorgeous images and what a beautiful place. We’ve never made it to Thailand in all or travels but you have me thinking about it now, especially as it’s middle of winter in Vancouver. Looking forward to reading more. 🙂
I can’t think of a better time to come — trade some white snow for white sand!
This is GORGEOUS. My husband and I are expats in Germany, and we’re taking a trip in May to Thailand. I have been researching your blog like crazy trying to get inspiration. We’re super excited!
Hey Michelle, that’s awesome to hear! So glad this blog has been a source of inspiration and advice while planning your trip to Thailand. Wishing you amazing travels! Let me know if you have any questions 🙂
AHHH! What even? This looks perfect..do you think it would be good for a family vaca as well? I’m planning a Holidays in Thailand getaway for me and my family next year, and this place may have jumped to the top of the list!
Definitely! Not sure if your family includes little ones, but there was even a crib in the downstairs bedroom. I love having the ability to cook when traveling in a big group.
Cards Against Humanity Charadas?!?!? Please explain haha.
From your pictures you would think you had the whole island to yourself!!!
Considering it was November… we kind of did! I love the Gulf of Thailand in the low season!
I have friends in Thailand and they keep telling me to visit. I just haven’t made it yet. Between their posts and this article, it is quickly working its way to the top of my travel list!
Come on over, the water’s fine 🙂 Thailand should be on everyone’s travel list!
You’ve got your crew. How come Brian looks so tame this time?
Ha, I guess we were all having a pretty mellow, laid back weekend… charades game excluded!
I don’t know how you ever left that gorgeous place! I love that you and your friends make these trips happen. I really try, but especially now that most of my friends are married and having babies and such it can be tough to get everyone together in one place even once a year.
I know… believe me, I am so grateful while I have it! Part of it is the lifestyle here in Thailand. I don’t even know if I could get a day trip in with some of my childhood friends back home right now :-/
O.M.G. That Villa is to die for! What an amazing place to spend a weekend with friends!
My high school girls and I have been doing an annual girls trip every year for 20 years. Sadly, this year I opted for SouthEast Asia while they all go on a cruise. I know we have fun no matter where we go, but I just couldn’t bring myself to spend a week of vacation time on a cruise ship visiting “fake Haiti.” It definitely gets harder as you get older – budgets, families and jobs have a big impact and even agreeing on a destination is tough sometimes!
I bet. I know how tough it can be just to balance serious boyfriends and girlfriends into the mix with my dear friends and I — can’t imagine how it will be when they are husbands and daughters… and kids come along!
Wow-the artwork in your room is amazing! I’ve never been big on annual get-togethers, but in the last couple years my friends and family have started planning some. I have one coming up in a few weeks, which will be my first Yurt trip, so I’m very excited!
Yurt trip?! That sounds amazing. I can’t wait to hear about that!
Funny. I just returned from Haad Salad and met a couple who owned one of the villas. As soon as I went up there I fell in love.
To make a long story short when I got home I bought one of the apartments they are building at this moment.
Yep! A dream come true.
Maybe someday I’ll see you and your crew hanging out…
Wow congrats John! Sounds like you nabbed yourself a piece of paradise 🙂 Enjoy!
Just saw this. Thanks!!!