There are two ways of looking at it. One is that life on Samui is fun, fun, fun. There are bars, clubs, nightlife, parties, beach clubs and lots of things going on. And if that’s what you’re after, you’ll stay close to the hub. You’ll want a resort that’s upfront and hip. But then there’s the other side of the coin. And this view of Samui is far more serene. Tranquil quiet sand. Shady palms and lanes. Languid locals. The real Samui, the island life – sunny, quiet, refreshing, relaxed. It’s actually all around, but it’s not always out in full view.
Enough philosophy! Let’s get practical. It’s no accident that many of the 5-star resorts that have sprung up in the last ten years have set-up out of town. One or two are hovering around the edge, sure. But as for the rest, if you didn’t know where they were, you’d never find them. There’s something perfectly seductive about having 5-star quality and service, yet being hidden away right on a deserted tropical beach – particularly when there’s all the shopping and nightlife you can dream of just 20 minutes away. And that’s what you’ll discover when you make your way to Silavadee Pool Spa Resort in Lamai.
Heading out of Chaweng towards Lamai, the turning to Silavadee is one of the first things you’ll see as you level out on the straight after the roller-coaster of hills. Turn off down a tiny concrete side-road on the left. And right away you’ll soak up the charm of Samui; little houses and huts on each side of the lane, the smiling folk sitting in their doorways, sweeping views across the bay, here a small resort, there a tiny shop. You’ll drop down towards the sea past the twin landmarks of Banyan Tree and Renaissance and turn into the lushly-landscaped entrance to Silavadee at the end.
You’ll need to ask for a buggy at reception: the hillside below is a maze of little winding paths that wend their way between the walled pool villas. It’s boldly yet subtly architected, lavishly fitted and modern, but with a flavouring of Thai tradition, being designed to key into the natural elements of the landscape, and fitting in, around, and amongst the huge rocky outcrops and big mature trees.
You’ll be heading for the restaurant. And that’s where the buggy will stop. And if you pause for a moment to take it all in, you’ll discover that there are actually three dining areas here, all of them effectively together in one block, although it’s not obvious from this viewpoint. They’re titled Sun, Moon and Star. And you will have just arrived outside the quietly-modern glass-walled Moon. Sun is above, a breathtakingly-elevated dining deck with sunset skies to marvel at. Similarly, Star is a laid-back rooftop bar, just perfect for sitting, sipping and snacking. But Moon is a cool essay in wood and glass – through which the massive boulders that characterise this part of the island contrast dramatically with the infinitely-smooth planes of sea and sky.
The cuisine here is superlative, just as you’d expect from a 5-star hideaway. There’s nothing trendy or hip about it: simply the very finest of ingredients creatively combined to provide a world-class culinary experience, with the evening dining emphasis on Western cuisine. It’s not a new approach. But what is new is the Executive Chef, Khun Jumpol Hiran, otherwise known more simply as Khun Bee.
He originally hails from Krabi, on the south-west coast of Thailand. And his beginnings were humble, starting as a general helper in a small Thai eatery.Twenty years ago, things were simpler – most cooks were women. But when Khun Bee moved over to a local resort he was impressed to see a chef, a man, running the kitchen. Encouraged by this, he began to look and learn, was promoted to chef-helper and began his culinary career in earnest.
“Suddenly I was hooked on a whole world of food that was unknown to me,” Khun Bee explained. “The ingredients, the sauces, the techniques, the interplay of flavours; all these things were more subtle and complex than I was used to. I’ve since worked in city hotels helping with banquets, in seaside resorts that had Italian restaurants and then went on to become the demi-chef in charge of French cuisine in a huge international resort. But my most valued experience came when I was invited to work in Cyprus. It opened my eyes to a different way of doing things, not just in cooking techniques, but particularly in the ordering and costing of the menu. It upset me that costing and profits were what drove the kitchen and shaped the menu. It was too cold and dispassionate. It meant that some of the best dishes were thought to be too expensive and thus cut from the menu. And that’s not the way I work at all!”
Khun Bee then worked in Sweden before returning to Thailand, where he became the Executive Chef at the Dewa Phuket Resort, before eventually ending up here at Silavadee. “For the first time, I’m now in complete harmony with the outlook of my managers,” he smiled happily. “At Silavadee, guests’ satisfaction and happiness comes before finance and profits. I’m encouraged to work with the very best of ingredients – 120-day grain-fed Angus beef, for instance, or imported lobster and scallops. My cooking now focuses on the delicate flavours of each, and I make my sauces to enhance this, not merely to accompany it. And I can spend more time on the individual presentation of each dish.”
And to celebrate Khun Bee’s presence, Silavadee is featuring a Chef’s Table every Sunday. This is an exclusive event with just five tables, and Khun Bee right there with you, creating three original dishes each time around. Obviously booking is an absolute must. But why don’t you make a point of dropping in one day anyway to see what’s on offer? If you don’t dare to venture out, then you’ll never know the delights that await you at Silavadee!
For reservations or further information, telephone: +66 (0) 7796 0555.
Rob De Wet