I could go on and on about the Ton Hock Beng architecture, the spectacular view from the lobby, and the Alec Monopoly artwork on the 26-acre W Retreat, but the other Trip Advisor commenters have already festooned those retreat features with superlatives. Let me go straight to the heart of what makes the W Retreat Koh Samui experience so special - the enthusiastic and engaging staff.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by Bow with a smile and a purple butterfly pea drink. I almost tripped on the stairs leading up into the hallway while staring out at the mesmerizing view of the Gulf of Thailand and Koh Phangan.
One of Bow's co-workers greeted me in the lobby lounge area and gave me an engaging schtick about his trip to W headquarters in New York and his tour of Ellis Island. Emma Lazarus would have been proud to have heard his speech. I got a little misty-eyed when I thought about all "the huddled masses yearning to breathe free" in my own family who never sailed passed Lady Liberty, but disembarked from the bowels of a Liverpool steamer uneventfully in Boston several days before. Maybe I'm a sentimental chump, but I did enjoy his effort to engage me.
The co-worker also mentioned that he was from the Silom district of Bangkok. He enthusiastically asked me about clubbing at Maggie Choo's and partying in Bangkok during the week before arriving on Koh Samui. Then I remembered that I had made the mistake of handing my business card to the maitre d' at Maggie Choo's when she asked. I knew then that I shouldn't have handed her my card. But you should have seen her (or him?). I briefly felt like I had been data-mined and surveilled across Thailand by an algorithm with my name on it. Luckily the fine establishments in Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza are not in the Starwood Preferred Guest affiliate network yet.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Squaw, the unsung hero and switchboard operator of the W Retreat Koh Samui. I tortured poor Squaw with my room service requests and she rose to the occasion each and every time. I envisioned Squaw as the pregnant Native American woman in the movie "Little Big Man" who courageously gave birth during a U.S. cavalry raid. Squaw probably envisioned me as the stupid farang who couldn't flip a switch to get the villa sound system to play music off his iPhone. She also patiently explained the similarities between the terms 'chips' and 'fries' to some drunk guy who thought he had made a very reasonable "whatever/whenever' room service request.
The next morning I was greeted by Phrang on my way to breakfast at the Kitchen Table. 'Phrang' apparently means haystack in Thai, and melody in Chinese. During an escorted trip to the restaurant, Phrang gave me a quick lesson in the five tones of the Thai language and also recommended the W Signature Omelette for breakfast.
The wait staff at the Kitchen Table were all excellent, attentive and doting almost to a fault. After asking about a local newspaper in passing one morning, two of the wait staff made it their holy mission to find a copy of the Bangkok Post for me. In light of the fuss, I almost wished I hadn't asked for it; but I did really want to know about the protesters and military crackdown. They delivered a current edition of the newspaper within a half hour. The following day, the wait staff had a copy of the daily newspaper waiting for me as I arrived. Impressive.
After a long morning swimming laps at the Wet infinity pool, and a few Thai vocabulary lessons from the pool staff, I meandered down to the beach area of the resort. As a first-timer, I slowly came to realize that almost all Thais are deathly afraid of getting a suntan, and the tourists can't be bothered to venture out of their villas until sunset. This essentially meant that I had the entire beach area to myself. All the hammocks, all the beach chairs, and all the day beds were mine for the taking and 'selfies' in the making. After an employee scampered out to lay some towels on the day bed, chat awhile, and then ran away, I didn't see anyone else for a couple of hours. Perfect.
After a profoundly relaxing snooze on the beach, I walked over to the SIP Bar and got down to business. The staff at the SIP Bar are awesome. They made all the difference between a great stay and an awesome-amazing stay at the W Retreat. As soon as I arrived, the SIP Bar bar manager came over to introduce himself, welcome me and chat me up. He dropped back in from time to time to see how I was doing and chat me up some more.
Meanwhile, some of the bartenders taught me Thai slang expressions; and especially, the proper diminutive nicknames for their national, beloved Singha Beer. I was ordering 'Sing-lek' like a local in no time. Meanwhile, the waitresses were giving me Thai language tone lessons and schooling me on the important differences between 'kao suay' and 'kao neao.' They even let me order one of my favorite Thai dishes, Lop Gai, off menu. Whatever/whenever! Wow.
And for the record, the employee Oak was absolutely right when he told me that the Lop Gai is not 'a-roi mahk.' It is "Sep I-Lee Duuuuuhhhhhhh!"
Later on, Robert, the gentlemanly and professional F&B Director and resident Alpha Male, came over, introduced himself and chatted me up. At one point during our conversation, he asked me what I had planned. I told him "hopefully nothing at all." After a week of Koh Samui taxi drivers, the Koh Phangan song thaew mafia, and inter-island ferries and boat tours, I wasn't going anywhere, except back up to my ocean villa to smoke Monte Cristo #2 and Cohiba Siglo VI cigars and to drink more Black Label.
I could go on and on about how great the staff are at the W Retreat Koh Samui. But you get the picture.
Here's a word of advice to other first timers: learn at least 20 basic, rudimentary Thai expressions, understand basic sentence structure and how to form a question, learn 50 common vocabulary words, and be able to count to ten in Thai. It's easy. It's fun. It's incredibly useful everywhere you go. And it will make your trip a much better experience.
Kop Kun Kop Ashwani Bajaj and W Retreat Koh Samui!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- On Koh Samui Thailand's most pristine beach whose golden sands give way to the Island's most idyllic sunsets, W Retreat Koh Samui is the quintessential escape, with 74 private retreats - each with its own dive pool. Explore new levels of refreshment at AWAY(R) spa, and enjoy insider access to worlds of culinary WOW at our 2 signature restaurants. Then wink your way across Samui's most scenic playground - WOOBAR(R) - where W lights up the night with peerless mixology, live DJs, and signature W Happenings celebrating our passion for fashion, music and design. Whether for a wedding or a wish, Whatever/Whenever(R) has arrived. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- w Retreat Koh Samui Hotel Mae Nam
- W Koh Samui Ko Samui, Thailand