A stroll through Zazen Boutique Resort induces one “oooh” and “aaah” after the next, as an oversized cushioned swing in reception gives way to lotus ponds punctuated by graceful statuary. Set on the quieter west end of Bophut Beach, it’s a great option for honeymooners or anyone seeking top-notch service to go with a design that stays with you.
Hints of Thai, Chinese and Moroccan artistic influences join Japanese elements in a design that captures the imagination. The word zazen means “seated meditation” in Japanese Buddhism and often implies calming the mind, so we’ll give the resort’s web writers a pass for claiming that it means, “to find inner peace”. Luxurious tranquility is the name of the game here.
Every room is a freestanding villa, and no guest will feel like they’re missing out on the “better” rooms. You’ll find no multi-storey stacks of “superior” rooms that are so common at large resorts, including many expensive ones. The choice comes down to whether or not you want a sea view or are fine with being set back from the beach around a lawn filled with flowering trees.
The cheapest “garden deluxe” editions come in at 50 square metres and have the same dark-wood and terracotta floors, antique statuary and arches built into crimson walls that are found in the pricier rooms. We were swept away by a “garden villa” with framed photos of Thai monks and a Japanese painting hung above the bed. Sliding wood doors that open with the slightest push lead to a spacious terrace, and silk robes are hung beside a large bathroom with fresh air flowing through mosquito nets installed near the tops of the ocher walls. While we wouldn’t dissuade you from going for a pricier beachfront villa, we appreciated the peace and quiet of the garden.
The long list of in-room amenities includes outdoor flip-flops in addition to in-room slippers; parlour games; digital weighing scale, and a high-end sound system that can be enjoyed on wraparound sofas. While the option of a hammock would be nice, day beds and tables are provided on terraces. Bathtubs are also absent, with only rain showerheads coming in spacious bathrooms.
A relatively small swimming pool is set near the beach, while Le Spa Zen is hidden away with Thai-style pavilions beside a lotus pond. Zazen also boasts a cafe, lounge, bar and beachfront fine-dining restaurant where you can dig into one of Samui’s largest wine cellars. Dinner reservations, spa treatments, island tours and babysitters (yes, kids are welcome) can all be arranged without leaving your room via an e-concierge on the resort’s website.
Thai and foreign staffers dressed in white satin paused to bow and smile as we walked past, and we had a flawless experience when popping into reception unannounced late one morning. The location places you on the low-key western end of Bophut Beach, with the shops and restaurants of Fisherman’s Village reachable after a 20-minute walk on the sand.
Rates at Zazen change 11 times throughout the year; 30 to 40 percent discounts off the rack rates seem to be the norm beyond the couple of weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year. The nearby W Retreat, overlooking the east corner of Mae Nam, is a more mainstream luxury alternative. If Zazen is too pricey, you could opt for a more straightforward resort on Bophut, such as Peace Resort or Lawana Resort. You also may want to consider Saree Samui, an eco-minded luxury resort over in Mae Nam.
Check rates at Zazen Boutique Resort - rated 8.5/10 on Agoda.com.
Check rates at Zazen Boutique Resort on Booking.com.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 17th September, 2016.