More than 100 years ago, merchant vessels laden with rice dotted the Venice of the East’s iconic Chao Phraya River.
These teak wood boats would also sail from the river’s mouth in Bangkok to the open waters to trade their wares, moving as far south into the Gulf of Thailand as Koh Samui island.
Little could their sea traders imagine back then that 31 of these vessels would be given a new lease on life in the 21st century at the new Meliá Koh Samui; 30 of them as elegant two-story boat suites sized 91 to 100 sqm and the other as an innovative kid’s club.
Marrying Thailand’s rich maritime heritage with a sleek contemporary design, the 30 intimate boat suites each feature a bedroom with polished wooden floors on their upper deck, and a dressing room and impressive bathroom, replete with a soaking tub and double showers, on the lower deck. These suites offer either views of Choeng Mon Beach, on the north-eastern tip of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand, garden vistas or direct access to a 1600 sqm lagoon pool that loops through the resort’s lush grounds like a river.
Before the boats could be converted into suites, their decayed teak wood structures required extensive refurbishment that was by no means an easy feat. To carry out the specialised task, the resort recruited craftsmen experienced in boat restoration to painstakingly restore the wood structures.
The craftsmen cut out old decayed wood and replaced it, piece by piece. They studiously attended to decayed wood in the keel of the boats, the bottom-most longitudinal structural element of the vessels. In the strakes of wood – that run along the length of each boat from the bow to the stern – on either side of the keel all the way up to the gunwale, the top edge of the hull. In the intricate ribs that support the hull and give the vessels their shape and strength, upon which the strakes of wood are fastened. In the bulwark of the boats. And then some.
In a method handed down the generations of sailors, the craftsmen used a special concoction of ingredients including rubber oil and red lime together with cotton rope to seal joints, gaps and holes.
“These boats were built to last due to the great strength and durability of the teak wood as well as the craftsmanship initially invested in them,” said Meliá Koh Samui’s general manager Ernesto Osuna. “In a fitting tribute to Thailand’s seagoing past, we turned to the tried and true methods of the shipwrights to provide the sturdy foundation of our boat suites, that really are one of a kind.”
The boat suites are part of the tastefully done nautical theme evident throughout the 159-room and 41-suite luxury beachfront resort. Located 15 minutes from Samui International Airport, the first property in Thailand launched under Spanish hotel group Meliá Hotels International is also home to two restaurants, an executive lounge, a swim-up bar, two-level infinity pool with sunken seating areas, spa, fitness center, and ballroom. For families, there’s the kid’s club – also housed in a former teak wood vessel – an outdoor playground and a mini water park.
The boat suites are among the resort’s rooms and suites belonging to ‘The Level’, an upgraded level of service and benefits, that provides access to the light and airy executive lounge shaped like a boat’s hull. The Level Lounge also boasts a vast open terrace with panoramic views of Choeng Mon Beach.
In the lobby, the aptly named Boat’s Bar is shaped like a long boat with a black hull topped with eggshell-colored marble. Sculptures and installations of boats adorn the lobby, including vessels that appear to be “floating” on the surface of the lobby’s floor.
Other nods to the sea-faring theme include big white ceramic vases, fashioned to look like they are festooned in barnacles, paintings of the ocean, and miniature wooden boats for sale at The Gallery. It is a not-for-profit social enterprise designed to help improve the lives of Thai communities by selling accessories and home décor items made by talented Thai designers and artists.
“We commissioned artists who created sculptures, installations, paintings and more that provide captivating interpretations of a way of life that sustained many in Thailand for centuries, that come together here at the resort to help tell our boat story,” said Mr Osuna.
An educational display in the lobby, comprising miniature boats in glass displays and a wall-mounted timber map of the Gulf of Thailand, outlines the history of the refurbished vessels for guests who are curious to know more about this boat story.
To contact Meliá Koh Samui or to make a booking, please email email@example.com