This is the first post in a multiple part trip report of our long weekend trip to Koh Samui, Thailand.
Koh Samui: Part 1 – Any Hilton in the World
I’m a sucker for a deal. I really am. And I’m all about maximizing value. So, knowing that I had a soon to expire certificate for a free weekend night at any Hilton in the world, I wanted to find the most expensive Hiltons in the world to choose from. As plenty of other people have earned these same certificates from the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, there is a lot of information out there on where to use them. Conrads are Hilton’s top hotel brand, and so that’s where the search began. While they are certainly a minority in the family of Hilton properties, there are plenty of Conrads in great locations to choose from.
Of all the Hiltons in the world, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island seems to get top rating among bloggers and miles and points enthusiasts. It seems that the Maldives is the Mecca of that crowd. It’s the absolute dream beach vacation – top notch resorts only reachable by sea plane with nothing but crystal clear water and white sandy beaches. It’s the ultimate vacation that only the richest of the rich can afford, but it can be done somewhat easily with miles and points. The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is one of the places that miles and points enthusiasts flock to. If Dawn and I weren’t already headed there next month on points, the Conrad Maldives would have been the easy choice for spending these Hilton certificates.
Besides the Maldives, there are Conrads in Tokyo, Bangkok, Bali, Hong Kong, Istanbul, and plenty of other places. Besides the Conrads, some other incredibly beautiful and expensive Hiltons are located in London, Rome, and Bora Bora. Bora Bora is way too far away from us here in Doha for a short trip, so that wasn’t even really considered. Dawn and I would both love to visit Bali at some point, but I’m pretty sure there are other inexpensive lodging options there that we could choose from. Istanbul is in the same situation. At this point in my life, I’m not extremely interested in returning to Western Europe because I’ve already visited many of the cities there (including both Rome and London); plus it’s an easy trip from the States. Tokyo is on my travel list for sure, but Dawn isn’t as interested. Plus, again, with cities there are always more options to find cheaper accommodations.
When choosing where to use our certificates I considered all of the things mentioned above, but it really was a pretty easy decision. After our trip to Cambodia last fall we both fell in love with Southeast Asia. Thailand was high on our list of countries to visit, and so the Conrad Koh Samui came in easily as the next best Hilton behind the Conrad Maldives. The property just looked absolutely gorgeous. Instead of the rooms being just rooms, each ‘room’ is actually an individual villa built up on the side of a mountain overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. Each villa comes with it’s own infinity pool. Of course there is a main pool where you can hang out, as well as a a small ‘real’ beach that goes out into the sea and a small ‘fake’ beach with lounge chairs in sand that overlook the water. Plenty of bloggers had made the pilgrimage to the Conrad Koh Samui, and none had been disappointed. The place seemed to exceed everyone’s expectations. It didn’t hurt that the weekend I was looking at visiting, rates were around $700-$800 per night, so I was pretty excited about the value I’d be getting from the free night certificates.
The only hesitation I had in booking it was that in all the reports I had read they mentioned how far away it was from everything. Most people recommended staying at the resort the whole time. I’m really not a resort kind of guy. I’d much rather be out hiking in a forest or checking out a local market than lounging in front of a pool with a book. I like the beach, but I like beaches where there is a lot of activity. I want to be in the water swimming or walking up and down the beach to see what’s going on. We were going to be there for 3 nights and most of 4 days. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to sit still and do nothing for four days. Dawn was very good with doing a whole lot of nothing except relaxing at the pool though. Our own personal pool and the free breakfasts were more than enough to sell Dawn on the place. I figured a good compromise was to book a rental car so that we had the option of leaving the resort to check out more of Koh Samui if we wanted. Plus, I didn’t really want to pay resort prices on all of our meals, and I wanted an easy way to get out to those famous Thai street food vendors.
As the certificates were only good for weekend nights you can only use them on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights no matter where you are in the world. I actually found that a little strange as the weekend here in the Middle East is actually Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday. While Dawn and I had each earned two certificates, due to the weekend night requirement, we could only string three certificates together for a single stay. Knowing we’d want to use 3 of the certificates together, Dawn and I used one of my certificates back in November for a single night stay at the Conrad Dubai. For this trip we could have used some of our Hilton points to tack on an additional night, but I needed to make this a short trip due to work obligations so I kept it to a three night stay. I also didn’t feel much like burning 95,000 HHonors points for just an additional night.
Our 3 night, 4 day stay would allow us plenty of time to enjoy both the resort and whatever else the island had to offer. While it was just a long weekend, we were certainly excited about staying at a place we would never be able to afford if we had to pay cash for the stay.