The island of Koh Samui’s infamous Chaweng Beach is littered with hotels, but none of them comes close to The Library in terms of that all-out beach bliss-out factor. Standing out like a finely manicured thumb from the three-star crowd, this elegant and modern boutique hotel is most remarkable for its blood-red pool, the tall trees that seem to grow in, around and through the building, as well as the alabaster-white library complex that gives the hotel its name.
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A bottle of sparkling wine on arrival. Members booking a suite will also get free airport transfers; members staying five nights in a suite can also have a romantic dinner for two at the Page
Forty-six including 15 suites, 11 studios and 20 villas.
Noon, but flexible subject to availability and additional charges. Earliest check-in, 2pm. After check-out, guests can leave their luggage in storage and use the shower facilities at the Fit (fitness unit) to go sandlessly from beach to airport.
Double rooms from £165.50 (THB6,790), including tax at 18.7 per cent.
Rates include breakfast.
Villa guests also have access to the Index, an exclusive lounge with free refreshments and snacks.
At the hotel
Gym, library (naturally), film collection, free WiFi in the restaurant, library and pool area. In rooms: huge flatscreen TV, wireless headphones, coffee maker, minibar, and Macs with broadband.
Our favourite rooms
The Writer is the largest Pool Villa at the hotel at an impressive 359sq m; it has sea views and direct beach access. Bookmark Suite is closest to the beach and affords fabulous views of the sea and the ruby swimming pool from the comfort of the bed. All suites have Jacuzzis to bliss out in, and Writer, Editor, and the One- and Two-Bedroom Secret Pool Villas all have private saltwater pools.
Looking out over the beach and the bay, the Library’s eye-catching pool is lined with vivid scarlet Italian tiles, coloured to match the parasols and loungers on the wooden decking that surround it.
Leave your holiday reading at home. The Library lives up to its name, with hundreds of titles available to leaf through, as well as a wide selection of DVDs.
Under-4s stay free in their parents’ bed (breakfast is TBH650 a day). Cots (free) and extra beds (THB3,500 a night including tax; suitable for children from four to 11) can be provided on request.
Under-12s stay free in their parents’ room; cots (free) and extra beds (THB2,968 a night) can be provided. Breakfast for under-12s is TBH530 a day. There’s a kids’ pool, and an assortment of beach-based activities on offer. Babysitting costs THB250 an hour.
Beach-bum teens and young fashionistas.
The ground-floor Two-Bedroom Suites offer the most family space, as well as safe outdoor patios and a Jacuzzi bath.
All the sea- and beach-based fun active little tykes could wish for, including windsurfing, kayaking, and volleyball. The hotel has (unsurprisingly) an impressive collection of books for young readers too.
There’s a kids’ section in the main pool, which is open from 7am to 7pm.
The Page offers a children’s menu, as well as high chairs, and will happily prepare packed lunches or heat milk.
A babysitter can be arranged for THB400 an hour.
No need to pack
Cots are available free.
The Library was designed to minimise environmental impact, being built around rather than over the on-site flora. Recycling is de rigueur, and all waste plant matter is made into compost.
Secure a spot on the terrace, as close to the sea as you can.
Lazy beach garb all the way – with perhaps a summer dress or shirt upgrade for dinner.
The Page restaurant sources organic, seasonal ingredients to produce a sophisticated range of Thai and Western dishes, which you can savour alfresco on the deck, or in the high-ceilinged, white indoor dining area. The Drink Gallery is an alternative dining platform unseen in Koh Samui. The restaurant has both a sense of casualness and a sophisticated quality. Its approach on food is artistic simplicity with a homey feel; the drinks are tastefully layered, whimsical and form-breaking worthy of a night’s discussion.
The Page restaurant’s beach bar is a modern-minded chill-out zone, serving mean mojitos and zingy, zesty lychee caprioskas to a soothing soundtrack of Buddha-Bar-esque tunes. With a motley mix of over 20 signature cocktails on the menu at the Drink Gallery, there always seems to be one more drink to try before calling it a night. Looking for a little sustenance with your libations? Head to the tapas bar for sharing plates and spiced pad thai.
The ovens cool at 11pm, but the bar’s open until midnight (1am for the Drinks Gallery and Tapas Bar).
A variety of snacks and meals from the restaurant menu are served throughout the day and night.
Charter a private boat with Tours Koh Samui and discover the hidden coves and dramatic limestone caves of Ang Thong Marine National Park, a 42-island archipelago north-west of Samui. Stop at Mae Ko Island and make the 40-minute climb to Thale Noi, an inland saltwater lake on the mountainside: dramatic views make it worth the effort. Take the pachyderm express to the top of a waterfall: water cascades over purple rocks at Samui’s tallest and most impressive cascade, Na Muang, and an elephant trek with Na Muang Safari Park provides a breezy shortcut to the falls’ upper tier. For the even more adventurous, Canopy Adventures in Bophut can take you on a treetop-to-treetop tour of the jungle, swinging along 500m of cable.
Eat at Sense (+66 (0) 77 414 242) for an exquisite menu of authentic, healthy Thai food. Starfish & Coffee (+66 (0)77 427 201) – not the most obvious bedfellows – but this quirky café at 51/7, Moo 1, in Tambon Bo Phut, makes them seem the most natural of marriages, recreating Mediterranean chic within its brick walls. Nosh aside, this inimitable joint offers massages and boasts an attached boutique.
What’s black and white and red all over?’ I ask Mr Smith in our taxi on the 10-minute ride from Koh Samui airport to our beachside retreat. He groans. ‘I’m referring to the decor,’ I tell him. ‘Bet you can read me like a book…’ Mr Smith is bored with my puns and we’re not even at the Library yet.
Blood-red pool, sleek Macs and monochrome suites referred to as ‘pages’ are just some of our destined den’s design headlines. I’m a sucker for the witty literature theme, but will too many book-related gimmicks relegate the hotel to Mr Smith’s form-over-function folder? I suggest a round of word association. ‘When I say “library”, you think…?’ ‘Hushed,’ mutters Mr Smith looking out the window at Chaweng’s main drag, a scrum of DVD, Hello Kitty T-shirt and knock-off Havaianas stalls. ‘Full of bookish types…’ he says ogling bar girls and good-time seekers. Another sigh.
Seasoned seen-it-done-it travellers might sniff at the mention of Chaweng Beach; as someone who stayed here in a few-bahts-a-night beach hut two decades ago it is undeniably developed. Ducking signs for Häagen-Dazs and Starbucks, we swerve around a couple of parked mopeds and into a discreet grey driveway. Spying the pin-drop-peaceful lobby and one of the beachside sanctuary’s white reading figurines, it’s as though we’ve been teleported to a modern art gallery. At the risk of facing a travel writers’ tribunal under cliché charges, I declare it an oasis.
‘Sawadee,’ chorus three gentlefolk at reception before handing us refreshing chilled facecloths and tiny bowls of orange sorbet. Given our ‘page’ key (with its pencil-like attachment – nothing humdrum here), we head past the tall grey wall and follow the discreet decking through bright green grass to our quarters in the lower half of one of the shuttered white cubes. Beyond, a ruby pool glistens, backdropped only by sparkling sapphire sea.
Pausing in our sleek black-floored suite just long enough to fling on swimwear, we manage to transform it from minimalist to ransacked. Yelps of delight are elicited by the huge sexy white computer, a shiny espresso machine and a giant flatscreen TV, and we concur it’s more American Psycho film set than the ensuite-less shack we last bunked in on this beach. Mr Smith wonders what director Mary Harron would make of that blood-coloured pool. Bret Easton Ellis–inspired serial-killer scenes may sound a tad jarring when celebrating a boutique paradise in a Buddhist country, but that crimson tide is pretty bonkers.
Our next debate is less controversial. Should we beanbag it poolside or on white powdery sand? Sun-creamed and flopped on a Fatboy, another perk to our Chaweng location is revealed: the people-watching. Mr Smith is distracted by a pert, well-endowed Signora Smith – wow. She’s oblivious to the notion that it’s not terribly Thai to bust out naturist tendencies in flagrante. Meanwhile, I’m ogling a sunburnt couple – ouch! Frolicking in the crystal-clear sea a few hotels down, they’re redder than our pool. A few two-for-one glasses of happy-hour rosé later and we’re still glued to our big black beanbags, but by now it’s the pastel-hued sunset that has our eyes on stalks.
Now, what’s not an obvious complement to this grown-up library-themed playground? Try adding a boisterous toddler. Nervous that we’re busting the relaxing vibe for the pairs of Mr and Mrs Smiths either side of us, instead of irritated glances, we are treated to an excellent kids’ menu and sandcastle-building pool boys. We succumb to our giant poolside cushions and paperbacks while Junior Smith splashes in the shallow end. The purchase of fresh coconuts from beach sellers is the only activity to winch us from our prone state.
Sure we came to Koh Samui with great plans to visit the Big Buddha at Wat Phra Yai, Bophut fishing village and take elephant rides in Lamai, but with the Library’s sleek gym and book- and DVD-lined relaxation rooms, we’re spoiled for distractions. Simply finding all the inspired touches in our bedroom keeps one afternoon occupied. (Top of the attention-to-detail league table are magnetic icons as do-not-disturb signs, secret snack jars in the outdoor living room and his ’n’ hers monochrome flip-flops to keep.) Little wonder our fellow guests – a mixture of European arty types and friendly well-to-do Asian families – stray from their parasol-shaded, red-towel-covered beanbags only to pad over to Page restaurant for some of the island’s finest Thai cuisine. (The evening take on tapas is particularly inspired.) Feeling intrepid, on our second night we take those two steps to the beach, turn right and end up at flower-filled Eat Sense for aromatic kaeng (curries) and spicy nams (sauces) all as prettily presented as the restaurant and its gardens.
Believers that the first meal of the day is the most important will especially love the Library. ‘Breakfast culture’ is its official label, but no eye-rolling please – this mighty spread is worthy of a marketing-spiely big-up. A slender tray with creatively cut fruit, a dainty basket of pastries and shot glasses of smoked salmon and artichoke tips and delicately diced fruit salad have me reaching for my camera. With this to look forward to, we don’t even mind our little one waking us up early. All this (plus cooked-to-perfection eggs) is washed down with a first-class cappuccino and a view of that gorgeous blonde beach. So smug are we, that we actually enjoy an occasional plane overhead – it’s a welcome reminder some poor blighters are off home while we’re only a few chapters into our epic boutique break. OK, Mr Smith, I’ll pack the puns in. But you have to admit, this trip’s been a proper page-turner. I’m just not sure I ever want to get to the ending…