Bo Put, Moo 4
A casual hotel restaurant along Chaweng Beach, one of Samui's most popular locations on its east coast, Poppies' roots on the island go back to the mid-’90s. It's a great spot for a good lunch with a view, and it’s known for traditional Thai cuisine (the grilled fish here is excellent) with a Western twist. Afterward, check out the hotel’s tropical gardens or go for a walk on the beach to complete the Thai postcard fantasy.
10/9 Moo 5
Sala is a departure from the traditional thatched bamboo villas of Samui. The look here is streamlined: all white and mahogany wood décor with minimal accessories. It still has everything we love for an indulgent stay, including bathtubs that could pass for small swimming pools. The pristine spa offers traditional Thai, Swedish, and a Chinese-Ayurvedic-Thai combination massage on its menu. Ask your clinician to have your treatment outside, where the ocean sounds will put you in a blissful state between sleep and consciousness.
Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui
219 Moo 5
Maybe it's the emerald jungle cliff on which it sits. Maybe it's the oceanside villas with private infinity pools. Or maybe it's that you can walk out of your room and take in what looks like the entire Gulf of Thailand. Whatever it is, this is one of those rare hotels that make you forget there is an outside world. Adding to that feeling, each villa has a private butler on hand for whatever you need. And what you need might be the fresh grilled island fish, spicy chicken satay, and a creamy mango smoothie. And while you’re at it, maybe an appointment at the spa? Get the lava shell massage. A skilled clinician will get your comfortable on a warmed bed in an oceanside veranda. She'll rub away any tension, stress, knots—you name it—with a heated lava shell filled with algae and seaweed gel. It's odd; it's therapeutic; it will leave you feeling like butter.
99/9 Bophut Bay, Tambon Bophut, Moo 1
We fantasize about making a permanent move to Anantara. The resort is on the larger size—106 rooms—but still feels quaint and private with its thatched roofs and intricate walkways woven through lush greenery. (And the greenery is everywhere.) It’s a playground for the active and curious. There's Muay Thai, paddleboarding, yoga, cooking classes, Pilates, weight training...we could go on. If you're looking to stay supine, the spa, with its ornate Chinese décor and pristine treatment rooms, is where you’ll have one of the most intense (in a good way), invigorating massages of your life.
99/9 Moo 4
Follow the island's eastern shoreline until you get to a secluded bay. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you get to a place that looks like it could be in a James Bond movie. Look up and you'll see private villas attached to stilts on the rocky hillside. This is Banyan Tree. It's more pared down than some of Thailand’s more opulent resorts but still totally considered, with individual swimming pools and hammocks, rain showers, and an incredibly attentive staff. The wellness program is the star here. And by wellness, we mean a huge spa that focuses on hydrotherapy (ask the staff to recommend a treatment that’s in line with your goals) and Thai massage. There's also a respected yoga practice. This is where you come to recharge. For a little more action, a hotel shuttle will bring you to Lamai, a charming little city five minutes away.
Wat Chedi Luang Temple
103 Prapokkloa Rd., Amphoe Mueang
In the middle of Chiang Mai, just west of the Ping River, is the Old City, where you can visit a cluster of ancient temples, including Wat Chedi Luang. This gigantic, monastic temple is profoundly humbling. When you crank your head to look up the steps, it feels like the gods are watching from above. It’s even more epic when the sun goes down and the structure is dimly lit.
Doi Ang Kang National Park
Doi Ang Khang National Park, Mae Sun, Fang District
Within about a three-hour radius of the city are some of the most breathtaking national parks in Thailand (or, for that matter, the world). It's hard to choose a favorite. Doi Ang Kang is one of the most popular—and once you see the lush evergreen forests of the Himalayan foothills and waterfalls that look like curved crystal, you'll understand why. It's about two hours southwest of Chiang Mai—you can hire a local driver to take you—and is named after the late King Inthawichayanon, who had a love for nature. It's huge, so you'll want to dedicate a full day to exploring (and allow for travel time to and from the city). Head to the visitors’ center when you arrive, which is just past the entry point from the rural road 1009. This will tell you more about the various waterfalls, trails, and mountains to see. It's too huge to see all of it, but anything you do, whether it's the short trek along the wooden trails to the summit of Doi Inthanon (the highest peak in Thailand) or exploring the waterfalls (Suriphum is our favorite), will be memorable. There…
Wat Umong Meditation Center
Mueang Chiang Mai District, Doi Suthep
Located in the foothills about forty-five minutes northwest of the city, Wat Umong is a Buddhist meditation center based on the ancient Vipassana practice—silent, self-observing mental training. Come here prepared for a deep dive into the practice, which will last a minimum of ten days. The goal of the practice is to hone the mind-body connection, clear the conscience, and assuage inner turmoil. (Much like a trip to Chiang Mai in general.) This isn't a luxury retreat, but you will be well taken care of. Guests are asked to wear only white (particularly comfortable cotton shirts and pants), bring only essential belongings (medication, toiletries, etc.), and refrain from using any smartphones or electronic devices. What you sacrifice for your stay—TV, small talk, a connection to the outer world—you'll gain in peace, perspective, and mindfulness.
The Oasis Spa
9/6 Soi 1, Wualai Rd., Doi Suthep
If you want serious relaxation, go for the Oasis Four Hands. Two massage therapists work together, intertwining their hands to cover a greater body mass, resulting in a more intense massage. It's unique and a little odd, but it feels incredible. If you want more restoration and rejuvenation, ask for a Tok Sen, a treatment native to northern Thailand. A clinician taps your energy meridian lines with a special wooden hammer to help circulate energy and release any blockages. Then they rub your muscles with balm and give you a really good stretch. You'll feel looser, lighter, energized. And if you had a stiff neck or clenched jaw, it will probably—miraculously—be gone when you leave.
163/2 Cholpratarn Rd., Doi Suthep
The name means "the inner power of the Lanna." This is a place for anyone who is very serious about massage. In fact, it's not overstating to say that this is one of the world's most renowned massage centers (it’s trained massage therapists around the world). The treatments are extensive, reviving, and invigorating—and will leave you in a state that feels pleasantly between sleep and consciousness. Maybe that's total bliss. The luxurious, ornate dark-teakwood architecture makes a visit here even more special.
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