From private pools, discreet locations, to restricted access. This is the way celebrities have been holidaying for years hiding from the paparazzi and fans. What if I tip you off on a location where this A-list perk can become a reality, and give you a taste of what it's like to holiday in total luxurious secrecy?
Infinity Resort perched high on the cliff surrounded by tropical jungle
Infinity Resort is on the radar for many celebrities who find the solitude and ultimate privacy appealing. It's virtually impossible to get through the jungle up the mountain, and helicopters and planes are restricted in the area. This is Samui's Secret Side - after a week I renamed it Samui's Secret Skinny Dipping Side. Curious?
If you think holidaying like a celebrity is not possible, then think twice. Resorts like Infinity are becoming a popular trend among travellers who are seeking total recluse - just like celebrities do. No mingling with other guests, no sharing of communal pools, no overcrowded beaches and away from the action, hustle and bustle. Like finding the perfect wine it comes down to the choice, the taste, and the experience.
The only place in Koh Samui where you can see the sunrise & sunset
So began my journey of holidaying like a true celebrity at a resort which is the only one of its kind in Koh Samui. A stunning location not only designed in a way to enhance the lush tropical gardens and coconut forests, but the only place where you get to see the sunrise as well as the sunset.
The resort consists of luxury suites and penthouses, (you had me at luxury) each over an area of 16,000 square metres with uninterrupted sea views, security, privacy and enhanced by your own private infinity pool. That's right - no sharing with other guests, now we're talking.
In true celebrity style, a driver picked me up from the airport and whisked me away in a black Toyota Fortuna 4WD. A balmy and humid night had locals out in full flight. Broken down cars and homes that looked like secondhand shops would be a collectors delight! Lots of food and clothes markets, pharmacies 7-11's and every second shop offering massage. The road was narrow, and overhead power lines looked like tangled vines entwined with dozens of cables.
I'd never seen so many scooters as many as 2 to 3 children as passengers, who as toddlers would be conditioned to ride on them. The ratio of no helmets to helmets was 10 to 1. It seems scooter pooling is rampant on this island, the more you can get on one the merrier.
The narrow road takes up the mountain to get to Infinity
Around twenty minutes later I arrived in Bang Po, the journey up the mountain was one I would become quite familiar with during my stay. The private, winding and steep uphill drive ascending through the jungle and terrain with only the jeep's headlights guiding the way, had me thinking this would make a great episode of "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Outta Here." It's no wonder they call this place Infinity, I had no idea where I was.
The Spirit House is beautifully lit up at night and stunning during the day
This was not a standard welcome I've experienced during my travels. Soft ambient lighting around the resort and pathways, with lingering scents from candles quickly switched my tense feeling to absolute calmness. I couldn't feel anything other than relaxed. It was ridiculously quiet, peaceful, serene. Greeted by warm smiles, a glass of champagne and a beautifully lit spirit house, check-in was quick followed by an introduction to who would be my closest friend for the week 'Buggy'.
Buggy like a close friend, was there to pick me up and down - so to speak. The resort is hilly, so Buggy is on call ready to take me wherever I needed to go. By now, the only thing on my mind was slipping into a light maxi-dress to try to get a grip of where exactly I was - in the middle of the jungle, in the middle of the night.
Buggy escorted me to my Seaview 2 Bedroom Penthouse, as if I'm a going to holiday like a celebrity I have to stay in one right? How impressive to have everything set just perfectly with such attention to detail. An oil burner filled the villa with a sweet tropical romantic fragrance, lighting as if it had been designed by a genius to create the perfect atmosphere, and the floor lit up like a runway leading to a stunning wooden Buddha carving. The Penthouse was over the top huge with two open plan living areas off a fully-equipped kitchen including a coffee machine - yes a coffee machine not the usual instant type in sachets.
The wooden carved Buddha is such a statement piece
The exquisite modern furniture of exceptional quality is up there with the best you can expect when it comes to luxury hotel world standards. Remember this is Thailand not Santorini, and the interior design is evident of the country's progression. Contemporary paintings, pillows, rugs, ultra chic floor lamps, a gorgeous white leather lounge, and colour accessorised with touches of black, gold and red. I'd been stalking the resort photos online for at least a year, and I wasn't disappointed.
Infinity apartment by day, luxury furnishings enhanced by splashes of black, red, and gold.
The pool lights alluring and enticing quickly changed my idea of slipping into a maxi-dress. Instead, I skinny-dipped in my own private infinity pool comfortable in knowing that I would not end up getting arrested. This is why I call it Samui's Secret Skinny- Dipping Side.
The resort equipped with mini bar meant I could indulge in snacks with a glass of wine after my liberated swim and relax on the terrace furnished with comfortable lazy chairs, outdoor dining table and candles. I still had no idea where I was - it was deliriously quiet. In the far distance I spotted a brilliant flash that flickered, then died. A few seconds later, a bigger flash filled the sky like silent fireworks. I was watching a thunderstorm in the distance, no rain, no thunder just lightning. I've never seen anything like it. Arriving into Samui after dark was such a pretty site.
Why draw the curtains when this is the view to wake up to. Stunning flower arrangements on the beds
The bedrooms decorated with 'happy honeymoon' in tropical flowers laid out with soft fluffy towels made into swans, showcased somebody in housekeeping has practised the art to get it right. Built in wardrobes, king size pillow-top beds and premium bedding with a choice of hard or soft pillow, leaves no excuse for a bad night's sleep. Each with their own separate bathroom tiled in black granite and equipped with soaking tubs and ... wait for it - rain shower heads. I even found an extra toilet off the kitchen. This was the epitome of luxury in true celebrity style.
By now, apart from the lightning in the far distance, the only thing keeping me company were the sounds of crickets and various night creatures coming to life. It was pitch black, I couldn't see the ocean. Lights in the far distance could have been mistaken for a little village after dark, only to realise they were fishing boats scattered on the water looking for a fresh catch to sell locally. Every second seemed like a minute, and just when I thought I had seen it all, I spotted a firefly nestling on the Jungle Jacks Plumeria. This was only the beginning and I was going to lap up every second, ever minute and every hour I could.
The morning after I could see how far up the mountain I had come
The bed incredibly comfortable had me out like a log. It was hard not to wake up at the sound of chirping birds at first light. They were having a field day frolicking in the lush green forest, while I could smell a blend of tropical flowers and dampness from the morning dew. I saw the glorious sunrise come up over the calm ocean, and in the far distance clouds were hovering over the neighbouring islands. I had slept with the doors open with only the ceiling fans keeping me cool. Curtains weren't drawn for a week there was no reason to. I wanted to savour every moment of this unforgettable view that I would wake up to every day.
Whether it be morning or night, relaxing on the terrace is the ultimate in privacy, soul expanding solitude with a touch of grandure
Trying not to get lost in the space, I made myself a cup of coffee, and what a cup of coffee it was! No aluminium pods but instead tea bag pods, enough to entice me to ditch my Nespresso coffee machine back home if the taste was anything to go by. Enhancing its perfection was taking in the spell-bounding natural wonderland.
Pure white butterflies seemed to have a field day feeding on nectar from the tropical selection of flowers around the villa. Just as I was admiring the oasis of coconut palm trees, another butterfly, this time a Monarch stopped to keep me company. Birds that replaced my alarm stopping by as if to become familiar with their new neighbour. The infinity pool sounded like an everlasting waterfall, and while it gave me a feeling of blissfulness, it was somewhat inviting me to take another dip. As tempting as what it was I had to get motivated as I was eager to get to the Sky Ocean View Restaurant for breakfast.
I didn't call on Buggy to pick me up, instead I walked from the villa up the hill to the restaurant. This was to become a regular routine, each day became easier as I combined some well deserved exercise into my break.
The restaurant located on the edge of the mountain is in a league of its own. Breakfast was a smorgasbord of cold meats, cheese, smoked salmon, nuts, dried fruit, cereals, yoghurt, tropical fruits, breads, pastries and croissants. Even a choice of Asian delights like dumplings, noodles, sausages, bacon and made to order eggs and omelettes. Celebrities aren't the only ones who follow a strict diet, and to my delight I ordered an egg white omelette with my choice of filling. I could also indulge in local fruits such as rambutan, mangosteen, dragon fruit, along with rockmelon, kiwi fruit, strawberries, watermelon, pineapple and even my choice of smoothie or juice. Let's not forget about the bottomless cups of coffee.
Following the more than filling breakfast, I was curious to head below the mountain considering I had no itinerary and was free to explore at my own leisure. Buggy took me down to Bang Po Beach and while expecting to see lots of hawkers, tourists and action - I instead found a charming, unspoiled, quiet peace of paradise. A deserted beach lined with coconut palms, a place where I could walk, clear my head and smile at locals setting up for the day. A place I could see fishermen cast their nets. A place where celebrities could go unnoticed. A place that serves real coffee, made from real beans. A place where the local restaurant owners would get to know me by name not number. A place with no over inflated food and drink prices. Instead, a gem of a Thai seafood restaurant voted the best beach restaurant in the world. This laid back little town reminded me of Port Douglas in FNQ 20 years ago.
Coffee at 4 Monkeys Coffee Bar on the water's edge became a ritual. It wasn't hard to become regulars at family owned Had Bang Po and Relax Restaurant located on the beachfront in adorable bamboo salas weaved with coconut leaf rooftops. Where big lavish properties line the beaches in Australia, this secret rustic place prides itself on their salas, each different, each unique, and each special to their owner. Individually accessorised with their own colours, cushions, lanterns, textiles, tropical flowers and hammocks, it was about chilling-out to the sounds of groovy music and making sure to try every traditional Thai dish on the menu before I left the island.
Ever had a massage on the beach during a tropical rainstorm? It's exhilarating! Ratty located next to Had Bang Po Restaurant has studied traditional Thai techniques, and I struck gold when I found her. Tropical rainstorms don't dampen the mood of locals it's just another day in paradise for them. You may even spot a local repairing a leaky roof on a hut with a fresh coconut palm leaf - no calling tradespeople on this island. What these locals call home, visitors find the practical simplicity endearing.
How does a beach walk barefoot sound where the water's edge is lukewarm to the point you think it's set perfectly for you? Not even a celebrity can demand this it's mother nature at its best. Whether it be early morning or evening, there's no running away from the cold southern ocean here - instead it was about relishing the moment with nobody in sight. The silky-soft sand in between my toes didn't feel like an exfoliating scrub, instead the warm golden grains gleamed in the sunlight. From deserted beaches to my own private pool, I had the best of both worlds.
Back to my world up the mountain, an oasis of indulgence celebrity style was waiting for me at The Wellness Centre. Highly skilled therapists offer modern and ancestral techniques, and a variety of anti-ageing therapies with natural skincare products. Before each massage, a choice of oils and a cold cup of refreshing Butterfly Pea Tea. It comes from a flower grown in the region with compounds known to strengthen hair, condition the skin, improve eyesight, provide antioxidants and boost the immune system. So much did I love the tea, I bought some back to Australia with me.
The Centre is enhanced by the panoramic ocean views redefining the standards at this exclusive luxury resort. It's the first time I've seen tropical flowers while face down on the massage table, and definitely more appealing than staring at a floor.
A choice of massage oils with butterfly tea and and a view of flowers during a massage
I always looked forward to cocktails at the Sky Ocean View Restaurant as it would have to be one of the most perfect vantage spots on the island to see the sunset. It had me thinking that maybe I would spot the likes of Hiddleswift, Leonardo DiCaprio or even Rihanna relaxing on an oversized bean bag around one of the two outdoor pools - either with cocktail in hand or updating their social media. The possibility seemed never ending considering the privacy.
Oversized bean bags around the pool area. Due to the design and landscape, guests can still relax in privacy
You can't see the sunset from the busiest beaches on the island's east coast, but of course at Infinity you can. Each night it's as if the sunset was putting on a show trying to outdo the last. Some nights it was bright orange and red with soft clouds that looked like fairy floss as it sunk into the horizon. Other nights more dramatic with a fiery red glow, the clouds later in the evening releasing their force and putting on a display of lightning as an encore.
You can see why this hideaway is Samui's Secret Side
Dinner at the restaurant was a culinary delight. The ambience enhanced by incandescent lighting, candles, and carefully selected music could be voted as one of the most romantic places to propose. Reminiscent of a movie scene, it was as if the restaurant was booked just for me - celebrity style. No waiting for service, no guests on nearby tables, and no chance of being rushed. The night balmy and still, with relaxing sounds of waterfalls from nearby pools a welcomed third wheel on this occasion. The menu's seafood dishes using the best Thai ingredients varied from tiger prawns, blue crab, squid, scallops, tuna, rock lobster, snapper, sea bass, black cod and mackerel to lamb, duck breast, beef and chicken. This was a blend of Asian and international cuisine, and each dish had my taste-buds working overtime - they were simply delicious.
The resort's turn down service includes lighting oil scents and a delicacy of evening sweets
Heading back to my villa in the evenings, staff would make sure candles, lights and oil scents were lit and Thai sweets left to enjoy with a cup of coffee. To say I used to look forward to 'just relaxing' is an understatement. I didn't have to worry about security or anybody watching me take my liberated swims. I didn't feel the need to hang at crowded bars with loud music in the main capital Chaweng Beach. This was my time, my place, and my solitude. If you're looking at holidaying this way, then this is the resort.
If you want to experience the nightlife Chaweng has to offer it's only 20 minutes away. I went one night to check out a Ladyboy show, and if you like Kings Cross in Sydney, this is what you can expect. Chaotic, busy, and loud. I even caught the annual international Muay Thai competition at Bangla Stadium featuring Australia's Jordan knocking out his opposition.
I frequently visited the Fisherman's Village in Bophut not far up the road where the Fisherman's Markets on Friday night is buzzing with lots of food and market stalls, entertainment and a great place to pick up something special from the funky boutiques and gift shops. I ate the best coconut ice cream on the planet. Restaurants are a little up-market than the quaint ones at Bang Po, and a little more pricey.
Thailand's most popular islands Phuket and Koh Samui offer different experiences. If you prefer crowded beaches, shopping, getting out and about, nightlife, highly developed high-rise hotels and bars that line the beaches then Phuket is for you. If you don't like crowds, and prefer a tropical, relaxed, romantic, secluded villa/beach bungalow feel, Koh Samui is ready to welcome you.
Would you rather look at at rubber plants in Phuket or eat the freshest coconut on earth? Give me coconuts, Infinity and Samui anytime.
HOW TO GET THERE: Daily flights from Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur with Bangkok Airways.
RESORT FACILITIES: On site restaurant serving elegant Thai and western cuisine, spa and wellness centre, gym, room service, babysitting, kids club, 2 outdoor swimming pools, concierge, transport and 24 hour security. Free shuttle to Mae Nam beach, restaurants, and shops. Free use of mobile phone for contacting Buggy.
ACCOMMODATION: Spacious modern luxury apartments and penthouses with one, two, three and four bedrooms, each with king size bed, private pool, terrace and sea views. LCD TVs with satellite channels in living areas and bedrooms, fully equipped kitchen including microwave and coffee machine, mini bar, safe and free WiFi.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR: Fisherman's Village Markets on Friday night for the coconut ice-cream. The resort offers a shuttle service.
MOST DARING THING TO DO: Skinny-dip in your own private pool.