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You know what I love almost as much as being on Koh Tao? Using it as a base to jump off and explore other parts of Thailand. Part of my three months back in Southeast Asia towards the end of 2014 was a little mini tour around some of my favorite parts of the country — Bangkok, Pai, and Chiang Mai. But when it came time to leave Koh Tao for my first stop on the tour, Koh Samui, I was struggling with separation anxiety. So I brought my Koh Tao crew with me.

Baan Ling Noi Koh Samui

For this merry band of expats, Koh Samui — the largest of the three island archipelago made up by Koh Tao, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui — is a semi-regular stop for either administrative business (customs and immigration are on the island, as is an airport) or McDonald’s runs. What? Sometimes a girl wants a McFlurry.

And by sometimes I obviously mean all the times ever.

But this was a trip of another kind — a vacation among friends, pure and simple.

Koh Samui Ferry

Villa rentals are not a rare occurrence in our circles. While Koh Tao is an island paradise, we all live and work there, and so it feels like home rather than the reality-obscuring bliss of a vacation. Renting a villa is a fantastic — and often surprisingly affordable — way for a bunch of expats to truly check into holiday mode without going very far.

But was about to take it to another level.

Baan Ling Noi Koh Samui

Luxury Apartment Rental Koh Samui

All six sets of our jaws dropped as we hopped out of our taxi in the hills of Bophut and started exploring the grounds of this gorgeous compound. We all agreed, with the infinity pool, the four private bedrooms, the ocean-facing great room, the views over Koh Pha Ngan and the lush garden surroundings, it was one of the most beautiful properties we’d seen in Thailand.

Baan Ling Noi Koh Samui

Luxury Apartment Rental Koh Samui

Luxury Apartment Rental Koh Samui

We quickly concluded that it would be a crime to leave Baan Ling Noi for a moment more than necessary, and made tactical plans to get our errands done as soon as possible. Brian and I went off to the west of the island to deal with admin at immigration and customs and to hit up Banyan‘s wholesale liquor store, while the rest of the crew went east to Costco. We laughed that for us, it felt like the greatest vacation luxury to stay home and cook every meal for ourselves. I’m pretty sure that for most people, going out to eat is one of the perks of a vacation.

But I mean did I mention the kitchen had a juicer? It was seriously well stocked.

Baan Ling Noi Koh Samui

Baan Ling Noi Koh Samui

Luxury Apartment Rental Koh Samui

Baan Ling Noi Koh Samui

So off we went to do our chores. Brian and I ended up racking up quite the liquor bill, much to the amusement of the Thai girls on staff. So much so that when I tried to add a can of Pringles to the bill, they waved me away — free gift with purchase! And with Brian being one of my oldest friends in Thailand (we actually met way back in my Cayman Islands days — we go way back!) I almost died when I heard him deadpanning to the giggling cashier, “It’s our honeymoon.”

What a romantic honeymoon that would be.

Liquor Store Koh Samui

Back at the house, it was time to binge on lovely cheese, decent wine (this is Thailand, after all), and fabulous company.

Wine in Koh Samui

The lazy afternoon morphed into a laid back night of singing and silliness. Who needs TV when you’ve got good friends and a guitar? Forgive me for so many of them, but these photos makes my heart swell. So many smiles!

Villa Rental Koh Samui

Villa Rental Koh Samui

Villa Rental Koh Samui

Villa Rental Koh Samui

Villa Rental Koh Samui

Villa Rental Koh Samui

Villa Rental Koh Samui

Villa Rental Koh Samui

The next morning, we woke up to a fair amount of cloud coverage — it was the rainy season, after all — and continued our quest for extreme relaxation. The day kicked off with the most indulgent breakfast spread I’ve been treated to in a long time, complete with mimosas.

Villa Rental Koh Samui

Villa Rental Koh Samui

And anytime a sliver of sunshine emerged, we fled down to the pool to soak up the view. It was paradise. And here’s the crazy part — in low season, like this was, Baan Ling Noi goes for $450 a night. That’s $45 per person if you fill it to capacity! Seriously, where else could you get a deal like that.

And can I tell you how much I miss these girls right now?

Thailand Villa Rental

Thailand Villa Rental

Thailand Villa Rental

Thailand Villa Rental

And our parade of indulgent meals only continued with lunch, a homemade chili that I’ve since made elected group chef Ian cook for me twice.

Thailand Villa Rental

Homemade Chili

After food — and you may see a pattern emerging here — it was time for more pool.

Infinity Pool Thailand

And finally, our crowning achievement (and I say that as if I had anything to do with it other than eating) — a group dinner for eleven, with two friends who live on Koh Samui as well as a few more friends from Koh Tao staying with them joining us. Aside from the never-ending parade of delicious plates that kept appearing in front of me, it might have been some of the best company I’ve ever sat down to break bread with.

Villa Rental Thailand

Villa Rental Thailand

The weekend was pure bliss. We didn’t do much of anything other than drink, eat, and be together — but that was the point.

I highly recommend Baan Ling Noi for its stunning property, great location (while technically we didn’t leave the house on this particular trip, Bophut is my favorite part of Koh Samui) and fantastic value. The only drawback we noted — which might actually be a , for some — is that the staff lives on property. While some might find this a huge perk we would have preferred more privacy. At one point I was startled to see three random staff I had not been introduced to saunter into the kitchen, and another time I opened the door to my room to check the weather in the very early morning and came face to face with another staff — while I was in my underwear! But different strokes for different folks — while we felt uncomfortable having some else do our dishes and so felt pressured to sprint up and do them immediately lest the maid leap in, another guest might love not having to get their hands dirty. It’s a good lesson for someone renting a place anywhere, really — ask if a property manager will be on location and if so how much privacy you can expect to have.

Villa Rental Thailand

This weekend reminded me that down time with friends is just as valuable as all the other more adrenaline-filled adventures. And I’m making time for a lot more of it, moving forward.

Have you and your friends ever rented a place together?
Did you love this kind of getaway as much as I did?

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Many thanks to Baan Ling Noi for hosting us on Koh Samui. As always, you receive my honest opinion regardless of who is footing the bill.

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60 Comments...
  • Maddy
    January 22 2015

    This post is great! The property looks GOR.GE.OUS. and you look like you had so much fun with your friends! Glad to see you’re finding ways to still explore/try new things but also get the downtime you need. As an outgoing-introvert (I get my recharging energy from being SOLO) I totally get that going going going can burn you out very quickly.

    I just spent this past long weekend (MLK day in the states) in a Tahoe house with some friends, hope to post about it soon! Funny how the basics are all we really need. šŸ™‚
    Maddy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 23 2015

      I love that classification of an outgoing-introvert. That’s so me! For example, I have no had a non-essential conversation with another human in three days and it feels GLORIOUS. I’m only just now starting to hear my own thoughts again. That said, I plan the majority of my time around being with my family and/or friends so it is a balance.

      A weekend in Tahoe sounds fabulous! These lazy trips with friends have become one of my favorite ways to “travel” (Is it travel if you don’t leave the house? Ha!)

  • Holly
    January 22 2015

    You are just such a great photographer Meihoukai! Really brought the villa – and sillies! – to life! Thanks for sharing such a lovely story. Makes me miss weekend trips with my college friends! Le sigh.

    • Meihoukai
      January 23 2015

      Thank you so much Holly! And yes, those silly weekend getaways end up being some of the best getaways, don’t they? Excited to have a few planned this summer.

  • Marni
    January 22 2015

    Holy moly THAT POOL. I want to be there right now! Your pictures are beautiful and that villa (scenery included) seems like the absolute perfect place to relax and just unwind for a few days. (Also, I’m pretty sure that’s my favorite color of pool chair padding I have ever seen.)

    • Meihoukai
      January 23 2015

      They were nice pool chairs now that you mention it, Marni! Ha. It was the perfect relaxation station for sure.

  • Athena
    January 22 2015

    I feel like there needs to be more explanation on the staff using your underwear incident! Wow! Talk about awkward!!! LOL I absolutely love that place!

    P.S. Is Brian your new man friend? =) You guys looks cute! Glad to see you happy! Keep on! I live vicariously through you.

    • Meihoukai
      January 23 2015

      Ha, no, sorry if that was worded unclearly — I was in my own underwear šŸ™‚ Still awkward, but definitely less so than if they were, ha! And no, Brian is just a very good old friend! The honeymoon reference was made all the funnier for it šŸ™‚

  • Kerry
    January 22 2015

    Looks like a great time. The views from the villa are breathtaking. Hope to get to Thailand soon!
    Kerry recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 23 2015

      Thailand has some stunning views, if you’re willing to haul yourself up a hill (part of the reason we decided to stay put for the weekend, ha!)

  • becky hutner
    January 22 2015

    so great to see a post like this! renting a house or condo with friends is one of my favorite ways to vacay. i’ve done it all over california ibiza, beriln, montreal and surely some other places i’m forgetting. without fail, i’ve felt like i got more bang for my buck by a long shot. that said, i think there is an art to it but you guys def look like you nailed it here!
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 23 2015

      I feel like I’m just starting to get into it! Well, I definitely did it a few times in my earlier years but it was a huge stress coordinating and dealing with the money. Now that everyone is a bit more financially secure, it’s a lot easier. OR, best case scenario, head somewhere you don’t have to throw down for! (My family’s Martha’s Vineyard house, for example, or my best friend’s family’s Myrtle Beach condo we used to head to every summer.)

  • Miquel
    January 22 2015

    This looks like pure bliss. I can just imagine me and my girls having the time of our lives on a property like this.
    Miquel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 23 2015

      It makes me want to do something like this with all my various friend groups šŸ™‚ So fun!

  • Christine @thetraveloguer
    January 23 2015

    This looks and sounds like the perfect weekend! The villa is gorgeous and the photos are great, they really show you all having a great time! šŸ™‚
    Christine @thetraveloguer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 23 2015

      Thanks Christine! It’s not always easy to force yourself to pick up the camera when you’re having such a good time, but then I look back at photos like this and it is so worth it.

  • Lavi
    January 23 2015

    This place looks amazing, and what a fun getaway with friends! I really miss Thailand; I never experienced it quite like this, and now I want to!
    Lavi recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 23 2015

      It’s the benefit of staying for so long and going back so often — a big group of fantastic friends to do stuff like this with. I love it šŸ™‚

  • Jenia from HTL
    January 23 2015

    I am forwarding this post to all my girlfriends right now! That pool looks absolutely divine. And it seems like you guys had an amazing time. It’s rainy and almost freezing in Washington DC right now. sigh.
    Jenia from HTL recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 23 2015

      Let me know if you and the girls are inspired to do something similar. I bet you won’t regret it! šŸ™‚

  • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer
    January 23 2015

    Wow! That is so gorgeous – I need some sun in my life right now! šŸ˜€
    Chanel | Cultural Xplorer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 23 2015

      I know! This is almost cruel to anyone in the Northern Hemisphere to post in late January, right?!

  • Leah
    January 23 2015

    If you keep making maxi dresses look so damn good, I’m gonna be convinced that I, too, can rock them, and THEN I’m gonna learn the hard way AGAIN that I actually can’t. Stop it.
    Leah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 23 2015

      Ha, I actually only own two of them — but I’ve managed to post photos of both this week šŸ™‚ I do love them both…

  • Jason
    January 23 2015

    “decent wine (This is Thailand, after all)” – I love it. I remember deciding to take a night off of buckets during a binge of Had Rin partying with a close friend who decided we should drink wine all night instead, telling her that the wine she picked out really tasted like shit, and examining the label to see what vintage it was or where it was from when my eyes were drawn to a declaration that the wine I was drinking was a product of Thailand that was “made with fruit product.” Nothing about grapes anywhere on the bottle.

    Baan Ling Noi looks incredible. I’ve rented houses with friends a few times, the most memorable experience was a winter cabin in Breckenridge!

    • Meihoukai
      January 23 2015

      Ha, yeah, Thailand is NOT known for its fine wine imports. However, I know there are some vineyards somewhere North of Bangkok that I’m really interested to check out some day — you can take a bike tour to them! One of these days when I’m feeling extra adventurous and thirsty šŸ™‚

  • That villa is BEAUTIFUL! I think I need to round up some of my friends and convince them to join me. Looks like it was a blissful weekend.
    Grace | The Beauty of Everywhere recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 25 2015

      Do it, do it, do it! I guarantee you’d have a good time šŸ™‚

  • Whitney
    January 23 2015

    Oh me too! I am a huge fan of vacation rentals. I rented a gorgeous house in Lake Whatcom, WA last spring with three girlfriends and we loved it so much that we are making it an annual tradition. We plan to switch up the location but the sentiment is the same. A little hideaway with a hot tub and a fireplace where we can eat, drink, and be merry! Bliss!
    Whitney recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 25 2015

      That sounds so fun, Whitney! My two childhood girlfriends and I felt the same way after our weekend in Martha’s Vineyard last summer. Though we will probably keep using that as our location, because, free šŸ™‚

  • Krystle
    January 23 2015

    Meihoukai,
    All of these photos are incredible (as usual), and yes, that would be a crazy honeymoon! hahaha! Okay, so can we just talk about how perfect your teeth are! haha, that is totally weird, sorry! šŸ˜‰
    Anyways, there is nothing better than spending some down time with some of your favorite people. Glad you had a blast!
    -Krystle
    Krystle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 25 2015

      Aw, I’m actually self-conscious about my slightly overlapping front teeth, so I really appreciate that šŸ™‚ Ha, thanks Krystle!

  • Kristen Noelle
    January 23 2015

    Ahhh I can just feel the good times oozing from this post! Sometimes all you need is great company. And digs like this certainly don’t hurt!! I would love to be able to have an exotic trip like this with my college friends particularly. #GOALS!
    Kristen Noelle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 25 2015

      Make it happen girl! Forward them this post and see what happens šŸ™‚

  • Bryan
    January 23 2015

    Way to make me hate the rainy winter weather right now even more. I might have to unfollow…
    Bryan recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 25 2015

      Aw, don’t do that! But yes, this is dangerous to post in late January šŸ™‚

  • Charlie
    January 23 2015

    Wow, looks stunning! I’m going to be on Koh Samui in a week. This place is a little out of my budget in high season but I can still dream of infinity pools! Looks like you’ve a fun group of people around you.
    Charlie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 25 2015

      Don’t worry, I’ve done the flophouse hotels on Koh Samui and still had fun šŸ™‚ Have a great time!

  • Jenna Clark
    January 23 2015

    I’m going to be in Koh Samui in January next year and this is giving me ideas of where I want to stay! How gorgeous is this place!?!?!?! AHHHH I hope you post more soon, so I can kind of see where I’ll be living for a month šŸ™‚
    Jenna Clark recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 25 2015

      Hey Jenna! I won’t be doing any more posts on Koh Samui specifically anytime soon but I do have some in my archives — check out my Destinations page to see them all! And enjoy your time on the island!

  • Oh. My. God. Jaw-drop gorgeousness. So I’ve mostly backpacked throughout Southeast Asia but being a little older (I’m 29) I feel like I’ve grown out of it a bit… I’m much more drawn to this type of quality accommodation these days! Not all the time, obviously – but I mean… look at this place!! So worth it.
    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 25 2015

      I feel ya, chica. And luckily Southeast Asia is one of the best places in the world for affordable luxury — check out my post today on where we just stayed in Bangkok!

  • Lilokai
    January 23 2015

    GORGEOUS PICS! I went there 2 years ago and had the time of my life… and I definitely relieved some of my moments through these pics! On a separate note: I was wondering if your girlfriend will be happy to see the pic you posted of her with her undies riding up and cheeks sort of exposed lol. Just thought I should bring that to your attention in case you overlooked it… unless neither of you cares about it šŸ™‚ Aloha!

    -Lilokai

    • Meihoukai
      January 25 2015

      Hey Lilokai! I actually had to look back at the post to see what photo you were referring to. I’ll ask her, but considering she kept it tagged on Facebook I don’t think she’ll mind šŸ™‚ We live in our bikinis out there, so a little buttcheek is nothing too exciting around those parts, ha. By the way, I love your name! I met a Lilokai last time I was in Hawaii and thought it was such an amazing name to have.

  • Julia Nix
    January 24 2015

    Paradise extended. Nothing like spending time with people you love. Housekeeping staffs can make or break a good stay (Urgh!). I bet you miss your Koh Tao friends very much (every single day. thinking of them)

    • Meihoukai
      January 25 2015

      I really do. Happy to already have a return trip planned back to them šŸ™‚

  • Lev
    January 24 2015

    I’ve traveled to Thailand for work before – but never see anything close to the beauty shown in your post. I am actually planning to spend a month ( April ) in Thailand and now I just want it even more.

    BTW thanks for the tip regarding staff living on the property.
    Lev recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 25 2015

      That’s awesome Lev! You’re going to have a great time. Enjoy!

  • Rahman @ Iran Tours
    January 24 2015

    Beautiful photos and great story. However, I totally agree with you. it could be much nicer without the staff living on that property for the sake of privacy.
    Rahman @ Iran Tours recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 25 2015

      I actually think it is quite common for staff to live on property in villas around Koh Samui. However, I do think there could be some additional training to make the experience more private, and I’m sure if a customer set that expectation up at booking it would be honored.

  • Camels & Chocolate
    January 24 2015

    This looks like the best group trip EVER. When I finally make it to Thailand, can I do so on your terms, please? =)
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 25 2015

      HECK YES! I would be honored to be your tour guide šŸ™‚

  • Jade
    January 29 2015

    With all the travelling I’ve done, I’ve still never had a holiday with friends like this. It looks SO MUCH FUN. And you’ve made me realise I need to make it happen, hopefully somewhere awesome like this!

    • Meihoukai
      January 29 2015

      Back home it is so hard to organize people for a holiday, it really bums me out. Even this took a bit of run around, but luckily it was low season and with lots of notice we were able to coordinate a few days off for everyone!

  • ashley goodwin
    October 4 2015

    I love your blog and LOVE thailand! I am going for my 4th time this upcoming November. I was planning for Koh Tao + Koh Samui (thats how I found your blog!) but after research am finding that it may be rather wet over there and I should do Koh Lanta/Koh Yao Noi instead. Thoughts? I live in Hawaii so I know rainy season here isn’t ALWAYS super rainy…but there can be days of pouring. Any two cents you’d like to share? Thank you!! Love your blog, super inspiring.

    • Meihoukai
      October 6 2015

      November is indeed the rainiest month here… it can sometimes be fairly gloomy šŸ™ The good news is that it is lovely on the other side. Any other month I’d say come to Koh Tao! But in this case I might recommend heading to Lanta and Yao Noi. Tonsai in Railay is also gorgeous!

  • Ashlie
    December 8 2016

    Hello Meihoukai!
    Where, oh where, is this wholesale alcohol nirvana?! We are going back to Samui for Christmas and I feel like we need to find this place – those are some seriously well stocked shelves!
    I’ve had a look online and can’t see anything, any further info you have to go on with this treasure hunt would be great ;). Thanks,
    Ashlie x

    • Meihoukai
      December 11 2016

      It’s called Sanphet Grocery and it’s near the Lomprayah Pier in Nathon šŸ™‚ Enjoy!

      • Ashlie
        December 15 2016

        Thank you so much! We will raise a glass in your honour on Christmas Day šŸ˜‰