Secret Pool Villas, The Library, Koh Samui, Thailand
Koh Samui was once a backpacker destination linked to the mainland only by an overnight ferry, but now backpackers are joined by more affluent travellers who jet into the island's airport to stay in a string of luxury hotels or resorts. The secret to the island's success is variety, with sleepy fishing villages like Bophut, the old town of Nathon with its streets of original wooden shophouses, and party beaches like Chaweng with beanbags and beers in the sand. The Library is a 10-minute drive from the airport and right in among the busy bars and shops of Chaweng Beach.
The Library opened in 2007 with the 26 "Pages", white, cubic villas lining green grass with the signature red-tiled pool sitting right on the edge of the sand, with the bar and restaurant on the right. The Secret Pool Villas opened on November 1, with further villas due in March, and they have a lot of fun with the "secret" concept. After passing the main Library, guests are led into a dimly let stairwell that leads up to the big reveal: corridors of walnut duckboards with 20-foot-high black slate walls with hidden doors that you push to access your rooms, or "Chapters". The pool villas have their own reception, "The Index", a brooding space with canapes and cane chairs that looks onto a second, more private, "red pool" with Chaweng Beach beyond. There is also a communal gym (The Fit) and the eponymous library, a white box with a great selection of reads from novels to architecture journals.
My two-bedroom villa has soaring white walls 4.5 metres high with a gym, long wooden dining table, and lounge area upon entry, plus a kitchenette and mini bar with its own wine fridge. The villa has the two bedrooms running either side of a green-tiled plunge pool, each bedroom ending in a bathroom big enough for a sports team – a huge black granite Jacuzzi finishes off the square that encloses the very private pool.
The bed is 10-foot wide, surrounded by white curtains with a headboard made from a geometric glass design that reaches the ceiling. Your "en suite" has two huge black mirrors, a double shower room and a smart toilet that knows when you are approaching. Decor is a monochrome affair with black, Chinese-inspired furniture and statement lamps.
Offering some of the best food in Chaweng, The Library has two dining options: The Page and Drinks Gallery. The Page, situated on the beachfront, offers Western and Thai fare but the standout is the old world fare that celebrates dishes from Thailand's distant past, look for the word RARE next to these lost dishes. The Drinks Gallery facing Chaweng's main street is all about Thai tapas, think spicy tuna cubes shaken in a glass jar by your table, classic shrimp toast, or lychee creme brulee; everything is beautifully plated so guests can get their Insta on.
Chaweng itself has little to match the Library's luxury, but Samui Central shopping centre is convenient for cash and diversion, or you can wander the beachfront to check out beach life. Easily circumnavigated in under two hours, get out and explore the wider island where you can visit the Big Buddha Temple, or go to the quirkier Wat Khunaram which is home to the sunglass-wearing Mummified Monk, who can tell your fortune (spoiler alert: mine was not good) and a gong that can tell if you are pure of heart (less of a spoiler: I'm not). The Library can also arrange a catamaran to take you for a sail to the small offshore island of Koh Sum, or a Thai cooking class.
I am the usually the Steve McQueen of resort stays, always looking for a great escape, but The Library's superior food offerings and varied locales had me staying happily captive. The whimsy in the secret pool villas is infectious whether it is the twinkling stars hidden in the black walls that "come out" at night surrounded by mist, the "pool secret" – an aquatic surprise I won't spoil – or the white sculptures of people reading dotted throughout the property. The minimalist villas could use a bit more whimsy, but plans are afoot to include installations from guest Bangkok artists.
14/1 Moo 2, Chaweng Beach. A two-bedroom secret pool villa costs THB22,800
Coming back to the villa, cranking your own tunes through the quality stereo in the outdoor pool area, and jumping in.
Is there a secret to turning off all the lights? Even with a master switch by the bed you still have to hunt out the night light, individual lamps and the overhead coloured neon that is operated by a remote.
Paul Chai was a guest of The Library.