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How I Did It – Business Class to Thailand

Review: Bobby Vans Priority Pass Restaurant at JFK

Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class ~ New York – Hong Kong – Bangkok

Review: Hong Kong Disneyland

4 Days in Chiang Mai, Thailand


 

After spending 5 nights in Chiang Mai, our next destination was the island of Koh Samui island in southern Thailand for some rest and relaxation at the Conrad Koh Samui.

Getting There

While our flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was dirt cheap – only $32/each, flights to Koh Samui (USM) were much more expensive.  I’m guessing because Koh Samui’s airport is privately owned and was built by Bangkok Airways.

While there is a nonstop flight directly to Koh Samui from Chiang Mai, we opted for the one-stop route in Bangkok since it was ~$75/ticket less expensive than the nonstop.  The one-stop route left about 30 minutes before the non stop and we got there about an hour later than the nonstop.  I thought this was well worth the $300 in savings ($75 x 4 tickets).

 

Transfers

The Conrad Koh Samui is on the opposite side of the island from the airport.  But it’s a small island and only took about an hour to get there by car.

From a blog I read, Mr. Samui was recommended for the transport.  It was a breeze to setup – just text them using WhatsApp at +66 89 060 6440.  I gave them our flight info and was quoted 1000 baht (~$30) each way.

They texted us a map of the meeting area at the airport and confirmed with me the day before.  A 9 person van was waiting for us and away we went.

 

Conrad Koh Samui on Points

For our four night stay – we used 3 of the 4 free weekend night certificates we received as the welcome offer/bonus on the Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card.  Both my wife and I signed up for this card before it was discontinued in June 2017.  There was only a $2500 spending requirement in 4 months to get the 2 free weekend night certificates.

I also cashed in 95,000 points to add a 4th night to our stay.  With hotel rates in the ~$600/night range – I thought it was a very good redemption.

The Citi Hilton Honors Reserve card was discontinued since American Express took over Citi’s Hilton card portfolio.  In January 2018, our Citi Hilton Honors Reserve cards automatically got converted to American Express Hilton Honors Ascend cards.  There is currently a 100,000 point sign up welcome offer/bonus for the American Express Hilton Honors Ascend card.  You also get a free weekend night certificate after spending $15,000 in a year and also get Gold status with Hilton which gives you free breakfast (wait until you see the breakfast we had included below!).

 

 

Arrival

The Conrad Koh Samui was built into the side of a mountain.  The last mile of the trip brings up a very steep hill to the top where the arrival area is.

Conrad Koh Samui Arrival Lounge

 

Porters unloaded our luggage while we were brought to the arrival lounge to be checked in.  We immediately went to the balcony area to get a better view of this amazing property.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Arrival Lounge View

 

While our passports and credit card were processed we were given cool towels and a drink.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Welcome Drink

 

We were given an overview of the property – where and what time breakfast was, happy hour locations, the spa hours, etc.  We also met the Director of Operations – Marco Araujo who welcomed us.

Conrad Koh Samui Map

A golf cart was waiting to drive us to our villa.

 

One Bedroom to Two Bedroom Villa Upgrade

Three weeks prior to our arrival, we were contacted by the Conrad asking us to fill out a form with all of our guests names, expected time of arrival, if we were celebrating anything, what time we preferred make up and turn down service – even what type of pillows we wanted!

Since we were staying on free night certificates and points, we were only guaranteed the standard one bedroom.  Don’t get me wrong, the standard one bedroom waterfront villa looks amazing, I just wasn’t sure where the kids were going to sleep since all of the villas only have king sized beds.

After we emailed our preference sheet, the Conrad emailed me back recommending we upgrade to a two bedroom villa for 10,000 Baht (~$305) per night extra.  They emailed us a brochure of the two bedroom – and all I can say is WOW!  The 2 bedroom villa is spread over two levels and has more than 3000 SF of space.  I definitely wanted the two bedroom but thought it was a little too expensive.  There is a 10% service charge and ~9% tax on top of everything so I thought the 10,000 baht per night up charge would amount to ~$1500.

I checked the Hilton website and at the time the two bedroom villa was going for ~$240/night more than a one bedroom oceanview villa, so I grabbed a screenshot of the website and asked if they could offer the two bedroom for $150/night up charge (5,000 baht).

They responded with the following:

So I didn’t realize that the initial 10,000 baht per night up charge already included the ~19% service charge and tax.  But they graciously offered me the upgrade for 8,000 baht per night which amount to just under $1000 for the four night stay which I happily accepted.

 

Two Bedroom Villa Tour

We were assigned to villa 504 which is near the top of the mountain since all of the two bedroom villas and residences are near the top.  All of the one bedroom villas are located mid mountain and toward the ocean.

Immediately after entering the front door, we were greeted with our very own private court yard with glass railing.

Conrad Koh Samui Two Bedroom Villa Courtyard

 

To the left was the second entrance door which brings you to the inside top level of the villa.  The top level houses the living room, kitchenette, dining room table, along with a half bathroom.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Two Bedroom Villa Living Room

 

Conrad Koh Samui Two Bedroom Villa Kitchenette

 

Down the stairs to the lower level, the master bedroom was located on the left side of the hallway.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Two Bedroom Villa Master Bedroom

 

Conrad Koh Samui Two Bedroom Villa Master Bathroom

 

The second bedroom with separate bathroom was located on the right side of the lower level.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Two Bedroom Villa Second Bedroom

 

Both bedrooms had sliding glass doors to the huge patio area and infinity pool.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Two Bedroom Villa Pool

 

Conrad Koh Samui Two Bedroom Villa Upper Level

 

For a full video tour of the villa – check out my youtube video:

 

 

Grounds

Since each villa has it’s own private infinity pool, the main pool located near the beach of the resort hardly ever have anyone at it.

Conrad Koh Samui Main Pool

 

The beach was probably the most disappointing part of the resort.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Beach

 

There were some hammocks and floating platforms in the water which were fun to use.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Beach

 

There was also another seating area just above the beach – it looked like a good idea – but the seats and overhand netting wasn’t very comfortable.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Beach

 

There also was a few other lounge areas as well as a small shop, library, and gym.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Lounge

 

 

Conrad Koh Samui Gym

 

But we usually just hung out at our villa’s pool.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Two Bedroom Villa Pool

 

Dining

Breakfast which was included for Gold & Diamond members was served from 7am to 10:30am each morning at Zest.  There was both indoor and outdoor seating with beautiful views.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Zest

 

Breakfast included a menu with a few entrees to go along with the extensive buffet area.  There was also a fresh squeezed juice station, a noodle station, and pancake/waffle area to go along with chef made omelets.  I loved the fresh squeezed juices.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Zest Breakfast Buffet

 

Conrad Koh Samui Zest Breakfast Buffet

 

Conrad Koh Samui Zest Breakfast Buffet

 

We usually ate breakfast late so we weren’t really hungry for lunch.

For dinners, we ended up trying 3 of the 4 main restaurants and also got room service one night.

Azure is the most casual of the restaurants.  It’s located off the main pool area.  We ate here the first night since we arrived in the afternoon and were tired from traveling all day.  It’s mainly burgers, pizzas, salads, etc – here is the menu.

Our bill came to ~$150 for our family of four.  This included a couple mojitos.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Azure

 

The second night we tried Zest.  This is the same place we had breakfast at each night.  It was definitely much nicer than Azure.  The menu was mostly traditional Thai dishes but also had a good selection of different pasta dishes that my daughters liked.  Menu located here.

This dinner was actually less expensive than Azure (~$125) probably because we had dinner right after the Manager’s Cocktail reception that had appetizers.  They also gave us a ‘to go’ glass of wine that we brought into dinner.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Zest Dinner

 

Our third night we opted for Jahn which Marco (Director of Operations) recommended we try as it was rated the best restaurant on the island.  Jahn only has 28 seats so reservations were required along with a dress code. The menu is geared towards a contemporary Thai cuisine with a focus on local flavors and high quality ingredients.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Jahn Restaurant

 

The food was presently beautifully as you would find at a fine dining restaurant.  For my main course, I had the KAI OOB FANG which was described as a sous-vide chicken breast with herbs, fresh wheat grain served with a smoky single malt whisky.  It was very good but not really filling.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Jahn Restaurant

 

We even ended with dinner with black ivory elephant coffee.  It’s actually processed by elephants (yes, they eat the beans and the beans are then collected a few days later) and brewed with this fancy contraption below.

Not sure I’d get this $40 coffee again, but glad I tried it.

Conrad Koh Samui Jahn Black Ivory Elephant Coffee

 

Needless to say, this was by far the most expensive dinner coming in just under $400.  So did I think it was worth it?  No.  I’m all for quality over quantity.  The food was very good but we all left hungry even after having an appetizer, entree, and a couple of shared desserts.

Activities

There was an activity schedule which included a couple of different activities each morning and a couple in the afternoon.  Activities rotated on a daily basis and included such things as:  Thai Chi, Thai Boxing, Kite Flying, Yoga, and Bocce (but with coconuts).  Unfortunately we did not partake in any of these activities.

There were also private workout classes (Pilates, Workout Detox, etc) available for an additional charge.

Since the beach area at the Conrad is not very good, they offer two separate beach excursions if you are staying 4 nights or longer at the resort.  First there is a shuttle bus to a local beach (Lamai Beach) that left the resort at 11am, 2pm, or 5pm.

There is also a complimentary boat excursion to an nearby island that we signed up for.  Since the boat only holds 8 people you had to sign up in advance for this – it also had three departures per day (10:00am, 11:45am, or 1:45pm).

The excursion lasted about an hour and a half and had two stops.  First on the way to the beach island, we stopped for 20-30 minutes of snorkeling at a nearby reef.  Then we headed for a very small island that had a nice beach and a small hut for snacks/drinks.

Conrad Koh Samui Boat Excursion

 

Conrad Koh Samui Boat Excursion Beach Island

 

Conrad Koh Samui Boat Excursion Beach Island

 

The island had ‘swimming pigs’ like in the Bahamas.  We had fun feeding the wild pigs.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Boat Excursion Island

 

Spa

Between 9-11am and 7-9pm there were a few special spa promotions going on.  We took advantage of one of them our last night.  The ‘Harmony Extreme’ included a couple’s fresh herbal steam, real aroma massage, and a Conrad mini facial for 8,900 baht.  After service charge, tax, gratuity, it ended up being ~$320.

The spa was located at the end of the property about half way up the mountain and offered amazing sunset views.  Our appointment was right at 7pm.

 

Conrad Koh Samui Spa

 

Conrad Koh Samui Spa

 

Gold / Diamond Benefits

I have been a Hilton Honors Gold member for a while thanks to having the American Express Platinum card.  About a month before our trip, Hilton was offering to match your status of other programs.  Luckily I had leveraged my MGM Platinum status into Wyndham’s highest level Diamond status right before Hilton made this announcement.  So I was able to match Wyndham Diamond status to Hilton’s Diamond status before the trip.

  • Breakfast – both Hilton Gold and Diamond members both receive free breakfast.  This saved us at least $400 (assuming breakfast buffet was $25 per person x 4 people x 4 days).  Breakfast probably cost more than $25 per person but we never saw a bill.
  • Complimentary Cocktails – during check in we were given 4 coupons that were good for cocktails, local beers, house wine, etc at the Azure bar or main lobby lounge.  These 4 drinks were worth ~$40.
  • Bathroom Amenities Selection – during check-in they brought over 3 or 4 different types of bathroom products that we apparently got to choice from because of our Diamond membership.  Frankly I don’t even recall receiving the selected products in our villa.  Value – $0
  • Manager’s Cocktail Reception – We were invited to the manager’s cocktail reception held on a Friday night.  The wine was flowing along with canapes.  This was a nice reception and we really enjoyed talking with Marco (Director of Operations) and the other group heads.  The servers will quick to refill our wine glasses and even sent us away with a ‘to go’ glass that we enjoyed at dinner.  Value ~$50
  • Welcome Platter & Cake – I’m not sure if everyone is offered a welcome fruit tray or if it is only reserved for Gold & Diamond members – but it was nice to have considering we rarely ate lunch – it was nice to grab a piece of fruit to tie us over until dinner.  They also sent us a 40th birthday cake and decorated our room – both my wife and I were celebrating our 40th birthdays.   Value ~$25

 

Conrad Koh Samui Diamond Benefits

 

Points Earned

Even though I booked this stay with free weekend certificates and points, our folio ended up at ~$2000 at this resort.  Most of the cost was from the two bedroom villa upgrade charge ($1000), the spa, and the restaurants/dining.

But for that $2000, I earned almost 65,000 points worth about $322 if you value Hilton points at 1/2 ¢ each..  I love how all of Hilton’s bonus and promotion offers stack.

 

 

 

Final Thoughts & Need to Knows

The absolute best thing about our stay (other than the amazing two bedroom villa) was the staff – top notch!  Every single person we encounter was not only professional but very kind and welcoming (even better than the Park Hyatt Maldives).

  • While most inter-Thailand flights are cheap, be prepared to pay a bit more to get to Koh Samui island since it is privately owned with limited airlines serving it.
  • The Conrad Koh Samui is a beautiful resort built into the side of mountain.
  • While the beach isn’t the best, be sure to go on the complimentary boat excursion for snorkeling and a visit to a beautiful island beach .
  • Be sure to get Hilton Honors Gold status before you go for hundreds of dollars worth of benefits from free breakfast to cocktails.  Don’t forget just having the American Express Hilton Honors Ascend card gives you Gold status.
  • Don’t expect a room upgrade with your status since most of the villas pretty much the same one bedrooms.  But you can upgrade to a 3000 SF two level two bedroom villa for a negotiable up charge.
  • Food prices at restaurants are more expensive that other restaurants in mainland Thailand since it is a high end resort but not obscenely expensive.

 

Have you been to Conrad Koh Samui?  Or another place at Koh Samui – what did you think?

 


 

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