Conrad Koh Samui, Resort: “Burn Avios, Burn” Cathay Pacific First Class and Amazing Conrad Suites

Index:

In my last post I focused exclusively on my room at the Conrad Koh Samui. The room deserved its own post because it was special in its own right, and also because the focus of a stay at this property is very much on one’s own villa. The hotel isn’t meant for meandering, you spend time in your room and then when you have a specific destination on property in my, they take you by golf cart, and then they bring you back to your room.

Here’s the entrance sign for the resort, we were met here and whisked away by buggy to handle checkin… in our room.

It does appear as though there will be a ‘front desk’ of sorts, it’s beside the entryway to the property, but it isn’t yet completed.

Still, the entrance to the resort features beautiful views — but then so does every spot on the property.

In fact, here’s a very similar view from further down the hill, the courtyard between the concierge and the main all day dining restaurant Zest where breakfast is served.

For a bit of context, here’s a map of the property from the back of my front entry door that led into the upstairs garden.

It shows not only the layout of the property with the location of the villas, but also the pathways. My villa, highlighted in red, is only one row back and three villas down from the concierge and breakfast. But you couldn’t reasonably walk there — it was about a five minute buggy ride — because you actually needed to take a path up the resort, past the 600-numbered villas, down past the 500-villas, and around the far edge of the property in order to swing back around to the center for breakfast. As I’ve mentioned, there are no stairways or pathways that cut through the center of the resort.

Here’s a pathway that you’ll take by buggy:

And the view, this one from my room rather than along one of my buggy rides although those are especially dramatic.

Here’s the outside of a one-bedroom villa (which is the entry-level room at the property, what you’d normally get on an award stay, and no officially they do not upgrade to the two-bedroom).

And a shot of the resort built into the hillside, taken from my villa.

Here’s the main pool, I never saw more than one couple there at a time, unsurprising since every room has its own (albeit smaller) pool.

Breakfast at Zest was free for me as a Hilton Diamond, it’s free for Golds as well. If you’re staying here and don’t have status it might be worth getting the Hilton Surpass American Express card, since that gives you free Gold status for a year which on a multi-night stay will pay you back for the $75 annual fee. The breakfast, for those paying, runs about US$36 per person per day.

I’m used to $20 and $25 breakfast buffets at nice hotels In Thailand, $36 is the true top end. At that price point you’d expect a monstrous and varied spread. Only that’s not what the Conrad is currently offering. I spoke with the hotel’s director of operations, who explained that they’re rolling out limited menu items and trying to get them right before expanding. Fair enough. The food quality was good. They have a library concept, with shelves full of food, shooter glasses with the likes of smoked salmon or avocado salsa and trays of breakfast meats and cheeses plus fruits and mueslix. Then there were center aisles with breads and a soup station. Off to the side was a cooked-to-order egg station offering waffles and pancakes as well, which also had homemade smoothies.

This was certainly enough food but not the degree of variety one usually finds at a Thai buffet, and by the fifth morning it was beginning to get boring. Everything was good, and I was much happier my fifth morning at breakfast here than with a typical ‘Hilton breakfast’ because of the high quality of ingredients. But they didn’t vary the dishes much across the week. There were outstanding noodles my first morning, they didn’t re-appear until my last morning, and they weren’t actually replaced with something else on the three mornings in between.

Zest offers both indoor and outdoor dining. Coffee service is individual French presses, and of course they’ll make cappuccinos and espressos as well, they bring around fresh baked croissants and juice.

We ate there one afternoon for lunch, everything is pricey (a Thai entrée was ~ US$20). There’s quite a bit of international variety, and it’s good but not great.

Here’s my beef massamun curry, which was very flavorful but the beef was dry:

Here’s my wife’s lunch, I don’t remember her order but it looks to me like pad see ew

Zest is also where they’ll hold cooking classes, the TV in the villa says that cooking classes are available daily but the concierge said Tuesdays and Fridays. I asked about one on Wednesday and they accommodated without difficulty. The charge is 2500 THB per person.

The resort’s executive chef met us, explained that the staff was just getting up to speed on the cooking class and so he would be supervising. He took us in a golf cart to the resort’s garden that had been planted to grow vegetables, in the future they plan to pick from the garden for the recipes and they’ll be using the produce in the restaurants but it’s simply too new.

We were given recipes, there was a vegetable station set up where we ‘went shopping’ to see and pick out ingredients. Although that was for show, since the ingredients had already been prepped and chopped for us. So we just had to combine ingredients into pots for cooking.

Each time we visit South Asia I do try to take a cooking class and then come home and practice the dishes learned. We’ll stop by the local Asian grocer for ingredients, and I’ve made tom yum goong, tom ka gai, cashew chicken, and roast duck curry signature dishes.

Here I am cooking:

And the dishes we made:

In addition to eating at Zest, we ordered room service (the pizza is surprisingly recommended) and ate dinner one evening at their fine dining Asian restaurant Jaan. We didn’t try “The Cellar” which does more European fine dining cuisine and tasting menus.

Jaan was our final night dinner. It was excellent, much better than expected, though worth noting that it’s also quite pricey. Entrees run from about $30 – $60. Even dessert is about $15 here. The restaurant is a beautiful space. We took the first reservation, they open at 6pm, and were able to watch the sunset from our table.

There were two amuse bouche courses, a mushroom veloute’ and salmon tartare.

My larb gai was in cucumber foam:

My wife had a pomelo salad

We were served a sorbet intermezzo followed by our entrees.

She had the lobster

And I had the beef massamun curry again, this time it wasn’t dry, it was deconstructed and made with wagyu beef.

For a pre-dessert we were served pistachio ice cream cones

My wife had bananas four ways

I had a rice pudding with jackfruit

And the evening ended with petit fours

Now, as much as I love food, restaurants aren’t the only facility I took advantage of (outside of my villa, of course!) at the resort. I also made good use of the spa.

As I explained earlier, as a Diamond member the hotel provided a complimentary hour-long Thai massage. I didn’t actually want a Thai massage (assisted Yoga?) and they explained it wasn’t exchangeable for a different service although they still took another massage off of my bill in lieu of it. In addition, we received 20% off of all other spa services.

We had two hours of treatments on our second day at the property, 90 minutes of treatments on our fourth day. I have no complaints. The facility was good, the treatments were good. It wasn’t the most memorable, best I’ve ever had but I had no complaints at all. Except that the spa is expensive, on average about US$100 per treatment hour. The 20% discount helps, but that just brings it down to the exceptionally pricey level of the Westin Siray Bay in Phuket which back in February I thought was out of this world high for a spa in Thailand.

I’ve had outstanding resort spa treatments at around $40 per hour. Of course quality non-hotel spas in Bangkok will offer treatments for less. I expect to pay roughly $50. With the 20% discount $80 is high but I’ll still indulge, and the treatments and spa facility at the Conrad Koh Samui were certainly superior to what was offered at the Westin earlier in the year.

Overall the Conrad Koh Samui was priced for food and services like what I would expect from an upscale hotel in a mid-sized city in the United States. Which means it’s impossibly expensive for Thailand. The resort is phenomenal, there is still a bit of teething going on, the executive chef told me he thought it would be February before all of the kinkds were worked out. But if you like a resort where the focus is the room, where the base-level room is a villa, then this could be an excellent choice — albeit not an inexpensive one. Although using Hilton HHonors points it’s hard to imagine getting a better value for your miles. I look forward to returning, though expect I’ll be relegated to a one-bedroom villa when I do because it’s hard to imagine a repeat of the Conrad Koh Samui Residences listing their rooms for award redemption.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Very nice, detailed post. Thanks for sharing.

    You seem to have quite enjoyed the property. The dining looks better than I would have expected…though it sounds like the prices were commensurately higher than expected.

    Is the beach swimable?

    NB: The link to the post with the rooms is not working at present.

  2. Gary,

    Thank you for this post, cannot wait to check this property out.

    Is there a lounge for Gold/Diamond members? Some sort of mid-afternoon tea or late afternoon drinks as similar to Contrad in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bali?

    Thank you,

    PedroNY

  3. @NYBanker thanks for the heads up on the link, fixed. I didn’t ever go down tot he beach but it looked fine, I didn’t go down there but my impression is entirely from how it appeared from my pool, the whole point of the resort was the villa and I was happy with that.

  4. Another great piece, very detailed. Thanks for sharing Gary! From other reviews I found online, it looks like this is not a beach destination, but like you say the whole point is to indulge in your villa.

  5. @Sean from afar the beach looked FINE, much better for instance than Westin Siray Bay in Phuket, but I never did get down there..

  6. Gary,
    Having been to Thailand and Tahiti, which would you prefer. My wife and I have been planning to go to Bora Bora for a while and we are waiting on the last batch of CC miles to post so we can start booking the trip. However, in the last few weeks we have started wavering and are now considering Thailand instead. Since you have been to both places, if you could only go back to one, which one would it be? Thanks.

  7. @Eric, let me put it this way — I’ve been to Thailand at least once a year since 2006. I haven’t gone back to French Polynesia. Bora Bora *IS* far more stunning. It’s a postcard. But everything is expensive there, food and spa treatments etc. And to me you MUST do an overwater bungalow on Bora Bora, which isn’t easy to obtain with points (though you can often buy up). Whereas at the Conrad Koh Samui that base room is a villa 🙂 Service is much better in Thailand than French Polynesia and most things are cheaper. Plus I enjoy Thai food 🙂 But that’s just me. Again, Bora Bora IS gorgeous. And I suppose worth doing once.

  8. I found that having a car at the Conrad KH added ALOT to my stay. We got to have our spa treatments OFF premises, which saved alot of money, and we got to explore other resorts (the Four Seasons has GREAT food and is really nice). But one thing I must say about the Conrad was the internet access was fast, and GREAT. Most resorts in SE Asia have HORRID internet access. This made passing time sitting at the pool, doing a bit of work easy…and not a waste of time workwise. The internet is also fast enough for VOIP, which worked great from my TMobile BB.

  9. Really enjoyed your post today. I backpacked thru SE Asia in 1985 as a student and have such fond memories of Koh Samui – no hotels back then, barely electricity, just a lot of funky bungalows, and wonderful beaches. I love the way I travel now, but those times were fantastic. Thanks for such a complete report.

  10. I actually went there in Oct, but did not like it, then checked out after 1 night. It was so windy and very hard for us to get around with baby. The funny part was, we changed 3 hotels while we were there, it’s not because of service, it’s just not a baby location after all. Hah 😛

    @Sean, Samui island is not a beach destination, It’s not swim able, but small surrounding island offers nice beach.

  11. Your trip inspired me to make a four-night reservation for next winter! While I think 145k points for four nights in $1k/night villa is a great value, it seems there’s hefty taxes that one still has to pay. Will I really be responsible for $200/night (20% of corresponding price) in taxes?

  12. Where did you do your cooking class? I am looking for some either in Bangkok, Phuket or Koh. Any recommendations?

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