Before now, most of my knowledge of Thailand had been gleaned from the film The Beach and from other people’s anecdotes.
“It’s amazing, you’ll love it!” they enthused, as my brain conjured visions of Bounty bar adverts, full moon parties and gigantic statues of Buddha.
I didn’t know whether to laugh of cry: The thought of an 11-hour flight with a six-year-old in tow was daunting but the promise of glorious beaches and relaxing amid the scent of jasmine and coconut was alluring.
Happily, it turns out ‘they’ were right. The flight, with Thai airways from Heathrow to Bangkok, was a doddle thanks to the in-flight entertainment. Non-stop films, TV shows and games, interspersed with some excellent food and beverages, made the experience far more pleasant than we’d dared hope.
Just over an hour after landing in Bangkok and we were on a plane to Koh Samui, flying across clear blue skies and breakfasting on carved fruit and mango juice.
Our jaws hit the floor for the first of many times when we saw our transport from aircraft to arrivals. It looked more like a kids’ ride – brightly coloured little carriages pulled by a little van. I was in love.
The first thing that hits you when you get off the plane is the heat; it was only 8am yet it was 80 degrees. The second is the overwhelming beauty. The island is a bit like a bigger version of something Robinson Crusoe might have discovered, save for a generous smattering of five star hotels and amazing beach bars.
When we arrived at ours, the Nora Buri Resort and Spa, just north of Chaweng, we were greeted with iced banana and mango smoothies – always a good start. Although we’d travelled through the night, our rooms weren’t ready so we relaxed by the infinity pool until we could unpack.
The rooms are vast, with queen size beds and enormous bathrooms. One word of warning though – if you’re travelling with a child, they won’t automatically get their own bed and the hotel may well charge extra for one being put in your room.
The hotel itself was an oasis of tranquility. On the first morning I saw a humming bird and dragonfly playing in the waterfall outside our room. The scent of coconut is everywhere and mostly the only sounds you hear when you close your eyes are the crickets chirruping. Heaven.
Our first glimpse of the beach actually brought a tear to my eye. It was breathtaking – miles of white sand with only a handful of people dotted around; a couple paddling, one or two snoozing in the shade of palm trees.
That evening we dined at the hotel; tired from the journey, we enjoyed the finest Thai cuisine to the accompaniment of a traditional musician.
The second evening, after a hard day checking out the three pools (and their happy hour times) we headed to Chaweng itself.
It was like a lovely version of bedlam. We sat in a bar scoffing noodles and drinking mojitos as scooters with multiple passengers whizzed by, and putt-putts advertised various bars and clubs with dance music blaring from their speakers. Talk about contrasts...
During the course of our week in Koh Samui we also did a half-day trip which involved a short elephant trek, which was utterly brilliant.
For less than £20 each we were picked up from our hotel, taken to the Namuang Waterfall where we rode an elephant, swam in a waterfall, learned how to make Thai curry AND watched a monkey show.
The Thai people are genuinely lovely – but beware when buying souvenirs as failure to haggle is unacceptable! And I’m ridiculously proud of getting two thirds off my purple silk elephant print bedspread...