Koh Samui sits prettily in the southern Gulf of Thailand, and at 25km wide is the country’s second biggest island. Its natural beauty is undeniable, with a rugged, tropical jungle at its centre and palm-fringed white beaches, but hotel options for design savvy travellers were limited until the 2018 opening of SALA Samui Chaweng Beach Resort. Huddled on the northeastern tip of Chaweng Beach – which is popular with both divers and energetic nightlife-hunters – the resort is surrounded by the palest sands and shallow, aquamarine waters.
While the island hosts many a luxury resort, the effortless use of local materials and modernist design elevates SALA Samui Chaweng into a league of its own. Conceived over a five-year period (last year saw the addition of the Garden Wing and solar-system inspired Sala Spa) by Onion, a local architecture and design studio, the 138-room property draws inspiration from the ever-changing nature of the moon – organic circles, spheres, arcs and curves reign.
The main building’s long, flat façade comprises a bright white concrete wall of arches and curves – reflecting the energy of a full moon. These architectural motifs continue into the interiors framing divisions between the sleeping, bathing, and swimming areas. Each room’s marble-clad private pool overlooks the ocean panorama, framed, like a piece of art, by grand arches. ‘Luxury is not about what we build; rather, it is about the space in which we decided not to build,’ say the architects.
The lack of angles makes for a tranquil atmosphere. Doors are arched, lights radiate from behind huge wall-mounted discs and the main ‘Moon’ swimming pool is composed of concentric rings that grow deeper towards the centre. Natural textures of wood and woven and wicker take centre stage, while marble surfaces add a sense of luxury. Local materials have been used in inventive and modern ways – traditional wooden blinds are fixed to the ceiling and walls in three-dimensional undulating waves in the lobby, thick bamboo stems are bent into curvy, minimal pieces of furniture and painted tree trunks form walls.
The region’s biggest export, the coconut, informs everything from the menu in the beachfront al fresco restaurant ‘The Tent’ (don’t miss the coconut brûlée) to the spa, where the fragrant oil is used liberally during massages. The smooth round shells even crop up in the interiors, where they are incorporated into lighting and furniture.
If you’re looking for colour, it’s in the spa. A take on the dark side of the moon, its entrance is a huge 'moon door’ framed within deep turquoise walls, setting a theme for the sculptural arrangements within. There are six treatment rooms. Guests walk along a gentle pink-tinged walkway, with giant bounder-like spheres wedged overhead, while prism-shaped cushions propped on the loungers add to the gallery-like feel. SALA Samui Chaweng Beach Resort feels like a wonderfully joyful and inventive approach to designing with nature. From £172 per night; salahospitality.com