Luxury Explorer Review

Luxury Villa Review



A private haven with a healing nature

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Koh Samui, Thailand

Travel Information

45 mins from Samui International Airport

Full Villa Details >

A private haven with a healing nature

Panacea, on the island of Koh Samui, Thailand, is a luxury villa/residence resort that offers a bespoke 5-star service with exceptional facilities set in a wondrous location. Nestled exclusively on a hilltop, it has unparalleled views: 360 degrees of tropical island splendour. It provides a uniquely personalised service and offers micro-managed customer satisfaction down to the finest detail; pre-requisites are sorted prior to arrival.

The resort is also fitness and wellbeing focused, cuisine conscious, and Zen-inspired, making it a sanctuary for your better being. However, it is also an exotic and all encompassing escape to high-end pleasure, offering up holiday-hedonism in spades, so that you can get fit with benefits. The list of facilities and services is endless and could easily fill up a month.

There are five private villas in total, ranging from 4 to 6 bedrooms. They all enjoy an exotic location and are fully equipped with glorious infinity pools, on-hand staff, as well as stylish and organic interiors. The prize jewel in Panacea’s crown is Praana: a vast haven of wish-list wonders. We stayed in Praana for just three days; we would have loved three weeks.

The first five hours….

Samui Airport is a breeze. A short flight from Bangkok and a tropical lushness hits you head on. Koh Samui is one of Thailand’s Lower Gulf trifecta: Koh Samui, Koh Pha-Ngan and Koh Tao. She is the slickest and most established of the three and has been a tourist hotspot for decades. It’s easy to see why. However this ‘renewed’ hilltop oasis has just upped the game  - big time!

Following a swift bag grab and exit we were greeted by our gracious Resident Host, Sunny. Within forty-five minutes we were winding our way up a spectacular drive bordered by exotic palms amidst a plethora of manicured rainforest bloom. Anticipation was high; I had heard so much about this hideaway. Our welcome greeting was heartwarming, with offerings of fragrant iced towels, jasmine scented Phuang Malai (a floral garland), and charming smiles.

We were led across a stone walkway raised above a lily-clad water feature. To the right was a soaring wall, with sculpted figures of Buddha recessed into enclaves, as if to bless our passage. The spectacular landscaping of the estate, as well as the waterfeatures and sculptures, were designed and created by Bangkok-based architect and designer, Bill Bensley, who is world famous for his original and exotic creations. Our legs were weary but our spirits were high. Passing a jade-green floodlit tennis court we started our ascent to the pinnacle of Panacea’s most resplendent villa.

On our way we gasped at a perfect palm-reflecting infinity pool, a formidable Muay Thai Boxing ring, a glimpse of another pool paradise through an archway, as well as more water features. All this and we hadn’t even reached the final step. When we did I turned to Kelly (my travel buddy) and asked if we could stop the clock: this was the celestial sphere.

The staff watched with a familiar patience as we floated spellbound around the vast open-plan welcome/ reception/dining hall, not knowing where to fix our gaze: jungle, island or ocean? Our limbs now weightless, we glided dumbstruck across the sweep of marble underfoot towards the tropical chorus of competing cicadas and frogs. The sun was starting to drop behind the folds of iridescent rainforest. This is the jungle view and it’s magical. Miles of lush palms envelop endless folds of undulating tropicana, right up to the skyline. The ocean moves but the jungle pulsates; they are both show-stoppers.

Probably Thailand's finest villa

Whilst you are awe-struck by the location of this extraordinary villa, you are also aware of its easy, uncomplicated,  ‘no compromise’ style. The palette of tangerine orange on brown rattan furniture against the verdant is striking. Whilst the wash of smooth stone floor surrounded by wraparound glass sides ensures Nature’s panoramic pleasures never ceases to please. The graceful young owner possesses genuine design flair: discerning, distinctive and eclectic.

After the sun slipped behind the darkening wilderness of the mysterious tropics, it left a blazing trail of fuchsia and marigold in its wake. Shimmering an inky blue under a blush of pink, the Bay of Samui on the East stage looked enchanting, but the show was far from over. The moon was full, and being notoriously famous in this part of the world, it was determined to steal the sky’s performances.

In between Nature’s accomplished shows we were given a cocktail made with fresh pineapple and coconut, totally divine. Alongside our drinks was a selection of exquisitely presented amuse bouche, laid out on the banquet-sized table. They were veritable palate pleasers, marking the start of our noteworthy Thai gourmet journey. Panacea offers an extensive range of diet preferences from around the globe, however being in Thailand, we chose local. It was inspiring.

Our senses now on fire, we felt reluctant to move on, even to our boudoirs (we had six to choose from). We chose sea-facing suites with wraparound glass doors, each with large luscious marble clad bathrooms and private terraces. Again, they are uncluttered, elegant and pristine, with an organic and light ambiance, allowing Nature to triumph. Mine bragged an exclusive outside bathroom tucked inside a dry stonewall courtyard, complete with an enormous oval-shaped terazzo bathtub, and a jet surging Jacuzzi the size of many swimming pools.

Before sitting down for dinner, we sipped our French Chardonnay from the sunken stone stools within the twinkling water of the luscious pool. The villa is iridescent by night, reflecting its glory, size and sumptuousness across the Olympic-sized infinitely infinite stretch of water. It doesn’t get much better than this on the luxury villa front, and it’s actually comparatively good value compared to Europe’s finest.

We dined beneath the gaze of a dazzling lunar orb to a menu created especially for us. I had mentioned beforehand my favourite Thai delights, but to then have them presented, not only in picture-perfect presentation, but also down to the ingredient and way more besides, was again, quite remarkable; akin to waving a magic wand.

There was succulent chicken satay in yellow curry powder with coconut milk, along with peanut relish and Asian pickle; grilled Tajima Wagyu beef – seasoned in lime juice with a little fish sauce; poached tiger prawn salad with lemongrass, in a roasted chili paste. And so it continued… well into the celestial night. It was a veritable feast to remember for all time and, besides, we were going to have our own private lesson with the chef before we left. Thankfully, we could take home a little more than memory.

It was the night after Loy Krathong, one of Thailand’s most significant lunar holidays. We were given our own candle-lit Thai floating sculptures (Krathong), exquisitely ornate; using banana leaves and bright flowers, to mark this incandescent calendar event. As we set our floats upon the stretch of pool, we looked at each other and reflected: we were only five hours in.

Activities, pursuits and pleasures

You can choose how you wish to play out your days here but what we had still to discover was the size, the unbelievable magnitude, of this “villa”. It is almost 5000 m2; the size of some boutique hotels. Consequently, it can easily absorb two or more families that know each other well but choose to enjoy different experiences. Aside from the pools and aforementioned outdoor areas, there is another world of entertainment underneath the “villa”; a cinema complete with reclining black leather armchairs, a gymnasium, and a nursery with playroom, all in preparation for sunset or rainy days.

There is also a facility for a full-on nightclub session, including a karaoke setup, bar and dance floor. For the older children there is a computer games room, while dad checks out the elaborately stocked wine cellar. There is even more; a billiard and poker room and, to let off some heat after that, a sauna, steam room, and massage parlour. To top it all, let’s not forget - there are 20 staff to service this villa.

We chose to keep our bodies and souls adrift with the surge of our natural surroundings, and, as such, had an invigorating massage facing the jungle, followed by an hour of really gifted personal training. You can do Pilates or yoga, or both and Rui Zou possesses more healing in her being than most. For the full Panacea experience I could not recommend her more highly.

We had a cookery lesson with master chef Alec Lomas under the outdoor dining sala surrounded by our now soul-entwined vista of bay and wilderness. We learned more in that session than we have from any book, and thoroughly enjoyed savouring the spoils of ‘Babylon’.

With our time drawing to a close, we had the chance to experience the skills of one more local master class: the art of Muay Thai boxing. This took place in the bespoke pavilion, where the pristine ring stands proud and unique. Beside the ring is the other pool paradise. After watching the pros in action, we chose to languish in the beckoning, crisp, and healing water alongside.

With elbows propped upon the infinity wall, we kept our gaze on the cornucopia of palm-clad rainforest, and discussed how and when we would come back to this oasis. Firstly with our families, then, with our friends, and finally, we decided we would have to return to mark an important calendar milestone… which meant taking over the whole property.

This is Panacea, and I haven’t even got to the beach at nearby Fisherman’s Village, where Sunny took us the night before, where we sipped fancy cocktails facing the surf at the coolest of bars, Coco Tam’s, propped on kelim cushions by candle and lantern light, with our toes sunken in the cooling fine granules of powder-soft white sand. Next time.

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant