Sai Kaew Beach Resort – Koh Samet – A Review By Punam Mohandas
The Sai Kaew Beach Resort, belonging to the Samed Group of Resorts, is located on Koh Samed (or Samet) which is a declared National Park. The Thai authorities are extremely vigilant in maintaining the status of the island as an ecological treasure.
Keeping true to this tenet, the resort is supremely nature-friendly and it is a sheer delight to see that the low-lying buildings have come up around the centuries-old trees. The Group, which owns several properties on this island with an undisputed monopoly, believes in using only natural materials such as rattan, wood, cotton, raw silk seashells and even, coconut shells, both in its construction as well as furnishings.
The hotel is accessed by a simple mud track; there are no tarmac roads on the island, which adds to its unspoiled charm. The lobby is small and functional, open on all sides, with hanging cane lamps in the form of spiral seashells.
Although it doesn’t seem like it at first glance, the Sai Kaew Resort has a mindboggling 158-keys to offer set in three zones named Hip, Hub and Hide, each offering its own swimming pool. Rooms are divided into the following categories: Deluxe, Deluxe Cottage, Premier, Premier Seaside, Pool Villa, Beachfront Villa and Family Room.
The Hide zone houses the Deluxe (30sqm) category set in units of three or four rooms per low-lying building, amid well-tended green spaces and lotus ponds. The Deluxe cottages (33sqm) as the name denotes, are units of cosy one-bedroom spaces with wooden flooring and a little daybed under the windows. The resort plans to do a soft refurbishment of this room category in phases. Some of the cottages have great views, with the beds placed facing the sea. Done up in a pleasing pastel green, the rooms have the traditional Thai vaulted ceiling, along with a ceiling fan as well as air conditioning. The shower is a separate room from the bathroom, outdoors but covered, with a skylight. All the cottages come with swings in the typical Asian style of narrow wooden seats suspended from sturdy ropes that lend a quaint country touch to the whole picture, however, sadly, the management plans to do away with these as there have been a few mishaps involving heedless western adult guests who are not mindful of their own safety.
At 45sqm, the Premier category is much larger and all are pool-facing rooms in the Hub zone. The colour scheme here is minimalistic white offset by wooden flooring. These rooms offer daybeds as well. The Family rooms (64sqm) are located near the beach (but don’t offer a sea view) the Poolside Villas, at 54sqm, are self-explanatory and come with rain showers as well, while the two Beachfront Villas offer 80sqm each of space and have a separate living area, a roof deck as well as a private terrace with outdoor dining table. Bath tubs are available only in the Premier Seaside rooms and pool villas.
The Premier Seaside rooms overlook the pool in the Hip zone, as also offer sea views. There is a rough, country-style finish to the wooden flooring here and all the furniture is wooden or cane, such as the cane hanging lamps or even, the cane dustbin. Instead of the usual paintings, the bed has a wooden frame backdrop that is back-lit with coloured fairy lights. At 48sqm, these rooms are larger than most city one-bedroom units and give an immense feeling of space and quietude. The bathtub is separated from the bed space by a large glass window that has roll blinds for privacy. The shower cubicle has one entire wall done up in lovely hues of purple, so different from the stereotyped blank, white spaces most hotels opt for.
All rooms come furnished with electronic safe, minibar, tea/coffee maker, two complimentary bottles of drinking water per day, TV, umbrellas, robes, soft slippers as well as rubber slippers for the beach, blue beach towels and a range of bathroom amenities. All rooms come with patios or balconies that have convenient towel racks to dry the clothes.
F&B options include the 150-covers all-day dining Zea restaurant with a covered as well as beachfront seating (60-covers) and the 30-covers Z Bar adjacent to it. The Zea serves a full breakfast repast daily, with a variety of western as well as Asian dishes. The Z Bar offers a most unusual and trendy design. Apart from the bar itself, cunning use has been made of the steps leading to the 30-covers Upper Bar offering a rooftop, open-air panoramic view of the sea, by designing a romantic two-seater space for couples as split-level decks covered by glass panes. The Mango is a small café and bakery set amid the gardens, beside the small lobby that is used for group check-ins. There is also a swim-up Pool Bar in the Hub zone.
Surprisingly, the Sai Kaew Resort also runs to conference facilities, offering the Leelawadee room that can take a 120-pax, as also the La Luna that offers a lawn space with a covered sala area, as also an open-air wooden floored patio. The USP of this area is undoubtedly the absolutely private beach cove, ideal for weddings. The total La Luna space can accommodate a 150-pax.
Recreational facilities include three swimming pools as mentioned. A ‘Spirit House’ leads to meandering pathways through the zones and thence to a small kids playground with slides and swings. A basic, functional Fitness Centre with weights, treadmill and cycles, is located in the Hub zone, overlooking the pool. The Zea restaurant offers live music every night, while along the beach fire dancers come out with their shows once it’s dark. There are two computers for complimentary guest use located inside The Mango café. The amount of novels that are available for guests’ reading pleasure in a variety of languages would put any five-star luxury resort to shame; not only is it plentiful, but is also scattered around the resort at convenient locations, such as the group check-in lobby, inside and outside The Mango, and within the fitness centre. There is also a little shop offering the usual items one requires on a beach holiday, on the premises. While the Sai Kaew Resort is, of course, on the beach, it is a public area and therefore there are private operators catering to a variety of sea sports options.
The resort also has its own spa. The Sai Kaew wellness centre is a study in how architecture can take into account existing Nature to create a most harmonious blend without destroying the environment. The spa has actually come up around the trees; the reception area as well as most of the seven treatment rooms (two single and five couple) have tree trunks live and healthy wending their way upwards through the skylight. A seashell chain hung outside the door indicates whether the room is occupied or not. The spa offers separate sauna and steam rooms for men and women, however, one must actually avail of a treatment in order to use these facilities.
I am quite favourably taken with the Sai Kaew Beach Resort right from my introduction to the guest experience which began from an air conditioned, private lounge on Ban Phe pier. A shuttle van then takes the passengers on to the pier and thence to the hotel’s speedboat, from which point on you’re in safe hands as, at every step of the way, you now have attentive hotel staff to worry about you.
There are a lot of boxes that this resort ticks for me and it would be remiss were I not to mention them. Firstly, given the fact that we are in Thailand where sudden rain showers tend to surprise one, there are plenty of umbrellas for guest use, not just in each room but also in the lobby and the Zea restaurant. Over a 100 sun loungers on the beach means that guests are not fighting each other to grab one. A poster advising emergency medical services is displayed prominently near the beach shop. Beach toys for children such as plastic buckets and spades are piled high in a basket, meant for complimentary use. Keeping to the eco-friendly theme, even the movable road barriers have plants growing on them, while all around the resort one can find separate trash bins labelled Recycle, Toxic or Garbage. For such an ecologically aware hotel, the pests – including mosquitos and lizards – are kept well under control and guests are not unduly disturbed by insects.
I am also hugely impressed with the quality of service at the Sai Kaew Resort. Not only is it efficient, prompt and smiling, but most of the senior level staff speak English. In my book, this property undoubtedly deserves a ***** (five star) rating, not just for its facilities but also its service levels.
Koh Samet is 45-minutes away from Pattaya by speedboat. While Pattaya does have its own airport, there are many more inexpensive options to travel to this island. Buses from Ekkamai in Bangkok leave every hour and the cost is 155 baht per person; travel time to Ban Phe pier is about three and a half hours, from where you take the speedboat or ferry (cheaper option) to Samet. You can also do the minivan from Ekkamai to Ban Phe which costs 200baht per person; the van load is 14-pax.
It should be noted that visitors to Koh Samet National Park who do not hold a valid Thai work permit are required to pay 200 baht per head, while Thai nationals and holders of Thai work permits pay 40 baht per head.
SAI KAEW BEACH RESORT
TEL: +66 38644195/197
FAX: +66 38644194