Eco-tripping: Tempus heads to Koh Samui's The Tongsai Bay
Thailand’s Tongsai Bay has been flying the green flag since it opened in 1987. Tempus travelled to Koh Samui to find out more
For those who have travelled to Thailand often, the premise of The Beach, the Thailand-set film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is a resonant one. The search for the perfect stretch of powder-white sand, swaying palm trees and crystal-clear sea becomes ever harder as more and more tourists investigate the country’s considerable charms. Since 1987, though, those in the know have made a beeline for The Tongsai Bay, the first five-star green hotel on Koh Samui. Set within lush tropical gardens on a hillside overlooking a secluded bay it consists of 83 suites, cottages, and villas. And unlike most of the island’s luxe spots, it’s still family-owned, which gives the whole place a genuinely friendly feel.
Add to this its impeccable eco-credentials – no trees were felled in its creation and no insecticides or chemical fertilisers are used in the grounds – and you have a property that truly stands out in an increasingly sophisticated tourist offering on this small island. Its story began in 1985 when Akorn Hoontrakul, then chairman of The Imperial Hotel Group, saw the bay from the sea and fell in love with it. Within seven days, Akorn purchased the land and slept at the beach for three months, planning his ideal resort. In July 1987, The Tongsai Bay opened and became the first five-star luxury green hotel under the umbrella of The Imperial Hotel Group.
Following illness in 1993, Akorn sold the Imperial Hotel Group but kept The Tongsai Bay, because he wanted to live out the rest of his life there with his wife Chompunute. When he passed away in 2000, the management of the property went to his son, Thanakorn, and daughter in-law Saisiri, who have continued to provide the highest standards of hospitality and service. In short, it’s the model that every eco-luxe hotel should aim for. Situated just 10 minutes from the airport and within striking distance of the main town of Chaweng, it offers both isolation and easy access to the rest of the island. The whole resort feels carefully integrated – it helps that it’s had decades for the mature foliage to really establish itself – and the buildings, many with beautiful terraces and private pools, blend into the natural surroundings.
Inside, suites are furnished with classic Thai darkwood tables, hardwood floors and beautiful paintings. Our balcony, complete with vast outdoor bath and day bed, offered a superb view of the bay and proved to be the perfect spot for post-beach, pre-dinner lounging with a glass of wine and a good book. The hotel’s restaurants are a delight and we swapped nightly from the traditional Thai offering of Chef Chom’s restaurant and the beachside Po-Lad, which is a more casual international affair.