Unlike other destinations such as Phuket and Pattaya, Samui has remained low-rise and remains largely unspoiled and under-developed – it’s essentially a small mountain with flat bits around the edges. And, whereas the flat coastal circumference has started to fill in with tourist attractions, not only is everything still mostly rustic and charming, but almost the entire southern half of the island has remained unspoiled. Beaches with no jet skis or irritating vendors. No trace of bars or beach clubs. No coaches with day-tripping tourists. Just a maze of little side roads and small beachside villages, where the same families have fished and tended their nets for generations.
And so it’s hardly surprising that one or two discerning developers have caught on to the appeal of this part of the island. Chaweng is party town, high octane, high-energy, and mostly filled with young and energetic people to match. But the deep south of the island remains a getaway. It’s where the more mature and gentile of our visitors are drawn to. Especially now there are high-end and quietly-luxurious retreats such as Shasa Resort & Residences, right down on the most southerly tip of the island.
Shasa appeared in 2008. It has all the style of a 5-star beach resort, but also blends effortlessly into its lush green setting. The striking décor and styling – black glass, chrome, marble, scrubbed concrete – is softened by contrasting elements: cascading pools with murmuring waterways wend their way through the tropical gardens, and natural textures and fabrics abound.
There are 17 exclusive sea-view suites, and one sumptuous beachfront pool villa. There are three swimming pools, all faced by a stunning seascape, with one of them having a specially-designed hydrotherapy spa pool. The health club has its own sauna, and is fitted with the latest state-of-the-art equipment. The spa offers pampering and re-vitalising treatments. And the restaurant, Beyond the Sea Siamese Brassiere, is an essay in elegance all by itself, and features some of the best cuisine around.
Beyond the Sea is the right name for this restaurant. There’s an ethereal quality to it, both in the décor and the location; way up high with a cascading vista framed by the landscaping on either side. It’s truly idyllic. Inside it’s air-conditioned with a wall of glass facing the sea. The outer balcony is a shady haven, cool and peaceful. The décor is earthy and simple, the smooth wooden planks of the decking contrasting pleasingly with the vertical slabs of rough-hewn timber on the outer wall, the black glass walls and ceiling, and the floor-to-ceiling windows above which offset this, clad tastefully with Mediterranean-style wooden shutters.
The emphasis is on Thai cuisine – but with a creative slant. Firstly, nothing but the finest ingredients are used. Several of them (such as the Australian strip loin) are specially imported. And if you’re already used to eating traditional Thai food, the difference in flavour and texture will really make an impression. All the seafood is fresher-than-fresh, and caught locally each day.
Then there is the fact that the chefs here have subtly tweaked some of the items, and included one or two unexpected ingredients to further enhance the flavour. You’ll see some authentic southern dishes which are hard to find: the ‘gang
som pla’ (sour curry soup) not only features big chunks of prime sea bass, but is enhanced by a different balance of ingredients than usual – the special sauce is something of a secret! Likewise the signature Panang Beef Curry: the red
coconut-cream-based sauce is utterly delicious, and it’s served in a shallow dish with halves of fresh mango. This menu is actually quite broad, and features dishes from all over the nation, not only the south. There are ever some typical Isaan
items for you to savour if you like your food spicy, such as the Laab or the tangy and hot prawn-based Som Tam Goong.
But it’s not all Thai cuisine, there’s a complementary International menu, too, including pasta, pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and fish and meat, all prepared western-style. Although one really intriguing section boldly twins the two cuisines – the pizzas! Here you’ll find six or seven offerings including massaman, tom yum, plus curry and stir-fry choices. And, happily, also a big vegetarian menu that runs to several pages, too. Plus another attraction – there’s a separate menu just for kiddies. There’s also a superb wine list, with hand-picked labels, both New World and classic, plus a good range of sparkling wines, and champagne by Krug, Dom Pérignon and Veuve Clicquot.
You won’t stumble across Shasa by accident – but that’s by design! It’s deliberately been tucked away, secluded and serene. However, because of this there’s a pick-up-and-return shuttle bus which will come and collect you from your resort or home. Whether you’re heading that way for wining, dining, or romance, you’ll experience an elegantly-bold world of style, on the hillside beyond the sea, at Shasa Resort & Residences!
Rob De Wet
For reservations or to book your complimentary transport, telephone 0 7791 3888.