The resort's pool leads down to a private beach.
The resort's pool leads down to a private beach. CONTRIBUTED

Get used to pampering, Thai-style

Experienced culinary travellers we may be, but we have never tasted bird's nest soup. It has eluded us even during our travels to China, where it is regarded as one of the most gourmet of all culinary pleasures, the most expensive animal product consumed by humans.

The Five Islands, off the Taling Ngam coast of Thailand's Koh Samui, are where these nests are found, built in the walls and roofs of caverns on the islands by swifts, tiny birds similar to swallows.

The nests are harvested in the ancient way, men climbing on flimsy bamboo scaffolding to the lofty walls and high roofs of the caves. It's a dangerous job, which often results in falls, broken limbs, and even death.

These nests are fiercely protected - bird's nest soup is a highly prized delicacy in China, where most of the nests go.

It's big business - and woe to any unwitting visitor who hires a boat and heads out to the Five Islands by himself. (Guards, guns ... enough said.)

Sea gypsies are the only people who live on the islands, there to protect the nests from poachers.

We learnt all this from the luxurious comfort of the Conrad Koh Samui resort, overlooking the Five Islands where the sun sets on the Gulf of Thailand offering a luminous display of sky and water each evening.

We awoke each morning to the view of the islands rising serenely from the sea with their precious gift of nature's nests, inspiration for us to get up and head down to Zest, the resort's all-day dining venue with those same unrivalled views. Eating your eggs Benedict with the Gulf of Thailand stretching before you is going to set the mood for the day.

Conrad Koh Samui is a luxury pool-villa resort perched on a secluded hill on the south-west tip of the island. The resort is about escaping, unwinding, de-stressing. This happens automatically at check-in when you are handed a lemongrass drink on a tray scattered with orchids.

One, two and three-bedroom villas are dotted among 10 hectares of contained jungle and manicured gardens. At every turn there is lush growth to remind you that you are in Thailand. Comfort is everywhere. The Aura bar/lounge, with its sofas, day beds and swinging lounge chairs, is just one venue to linger over a cocktail, to watch the setting sun.

The signature restaurant is Jahn, where floor-to-ceiling windows, timber ceilings and soft-glowing lanterns form the backdrop for contemporary Thai cuisine, presented in a series of unforgettable culinary journeys through multi-course menus matched with premium wines.

Then there is the spa, perched at the highest point of the resort, where you are greeted like visiting royalty in the fragrant lobby and given a menu of tea choices before being quietly escorted to a spacious treatment room, again overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. All the spa choices are there from body scrubs to a tailored-for-you four-hour moonlight experience.

The pool and bar area spills on to the private beach, where staff have politely put hammocks on poles in the sea as well as sunbeds over the pool. Oh, the decisions... pool or sea?

You will likely not want to leave this luxurious resort, but if you do, there are curated itineraries lasting one, three or five hours to take you anywhere on the island on adventures of discovery.

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