Now that it’s near the end of 2020, many of us wonder where a whole year of plans has come and gone. For nomads, it is especially painful when we think of all the places we could have been but are yet to go.
Thankfully, countries like Thailand have spearheaded the charge into managing a pandemic and bouncing back with tourism after a few month’s hiatus.
Locals have begun to step back out into its sun-drenched islands, taking socially responsible and well-distanced trips. Hungry to travel ourselves, we were lucky enough to catch up and talk to some of our favorite Thai influencers when they visited our villas last October.
First up was Inasia, an 8-bedroom, 8-bathroom property located on the white sands of Lipa Noi, Koh Samui. Guests are able to see Thailand’s glorious sunsets from its sea-view infinity pool when lounging in the late afternoon. As a special treat, the staff organized private Muay Thai classes for the group on the lawn by the beach along with relaxing in-villa massages. Barbecue dinners and special meals prepared by the in-house chef were also on the menu while in-villa cooking classes were also held for the kids for some well-rounded entertainment.
Read more: Villa of The Week: Inasia
Following the 3-day retreat at Inasia, our guests were then taken to The View. This 6-bedroom clifftop stay is called The View for a reason. Not only does it have direct access to the beach, but it also offers panoramic views of the horizon with its floor-to-ceiling windows and wraparound balconies from each bedroom. Here, our guests were treated to private in-villa yoga sessions with Shahda Yoga to perfect the aura of peace given by the property. During their stay in Samui, they were also able to visit the Samui Elephant Haven where they had the chance to learn about the work done by this ethical sanctuary and the elephants themselves while experiencing something new as a group.
Read more: Villa of The Week: The View Samui
Let’s meet our guests:
Cindy Bishop– model, actress, author, host of Asia’s Next Top Model, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Asia-Pacific, and mother of two to Leila Carmen and Aiden.
Emi Stames – entrepreneur, jeweler, influencer. She’s a business owner and co-founder of Zahira fine Jewelry. Her daughter, Raya, joins her on this trip.
Ase Wang – influencer, YouTuber, and mom-to-be. This actress and model is also a successful entrepreneur
Anisha Prachaseri – entrepreneur and marketing consultant. She loves the beach and is a proud dog lover.
Read on to know more about the insights of these intrepid travelers on what it’s like to navigate travel in the new normal. They talk about traveling with family, how things have changed, and what lies in store for those of us who will be venturing out (hopefully) sometime soon.
How do you plan out your family holidays? How do you usually prepare before you travel?
Anisha: We take a look at who is going and find the most comfortable accommodation that works for the group, usually a private villa with activities. We do a lot of research before to find what works best for everyone!
Cindy: We usually plan according to school holiday schedules and what destinations suit the best time. As the kids are getting older, we like to try new places and activities. If it’s a new place we’ve never been, I usually read up about the people, culture, and food so as to fully experience the trip. Otherwise, it’s just the usual prep such as hotel bookings, logistics, excursions, etc.
Emi: Our family holidays are based on finding a villa where we can let the kids run free (like Inasia, which was right on the beach, so the kids could run around without us worrying so much about them.) Also, children’s activities are a big plus. Now that Raya is much older, we don’t have much to prepare – we just wing it!
What essential items do you always carry with you while traveling?
Ase: Usually I bring all my beauty products because I love to feel at home when I travel. Definitely, bikinis, sunblock, sun hat, and anything light if it’s the beach.
Cindy: I like to be prepared so everything is an essential (lol)! Depending on the destination, appropriate clothes and gear, but usually essentials include phone, iPad… and for the kids: snacks and a first aid kit
Anisha: Gym shoes & a camera!
Emi: … and a book. That’s all you need!
You traveled with a big group. How do you find time to relax by yourself? What was your go-to activity for “me time” during the trip?
Cindy: I’m a morning person, so I like to get up early and go for a light run before breakfast and find a quiet spot in the garden or on my balcony for a bit of meditation or light reading. Actually, when it’s a large group, it’s a bit easier to sneak away for a bit of downtime as opposed to just a family trip when you have to be on mommy mode the entire time.
Emi: I like spending time in my room reading or just chilling when I need a little quiet time.
Ase: Retiring to the amazing rooms or sitting by the beach!
Anisha: Walks on the beach, reading and/or sunbathing with a view in different corners of each villa!
Any tips for traveling with kids?
Cindy: Well it’s usually a negotiation of making sure they aren’t sitting around playing Nintendo or on their phones. Our family rule on vacation is no screens before noon, and by then they are usually engrossed in some outdoor activities that they forget about it anyway. They are allowed a bit of screen time in the afternoon if they are tired or a movie to wind down at night.
Emi: You bribe them with ice cream, haha. Why not? You’re on holiday! 😉
Speaking of ice cream, what food did you enjoy during your trip? Any culinary specialty you discovered at Samui?
Anisha: The food at the villa, especially Inasia, was amazing! We went to a selection of local southern restaurants and going to Coco Tam’s is always fun!
Emi: I loved having an in-villa seafood barbecue. It’s the perfect way to spend evenings at the villa and Thai seafood is the best!
Ase: The View made amazing spaghetti Bolognese, too!
On Instagram, you’ve posted about yoga, Muay Thai, cooking lessons, as well as your visit to the Samui Elephant Haven. How was the experience?
Cindy: Well I always enjoy a good massage on holiday, and so do my kids now! But Muay Thai was definitely a first for me and, I must say, taking lessons by the beach was a bonus! And the Samui Elephant Haven was a real highlight of our entire trip.
Although I still can’t decide who was naughtier, — my son Aiden or the brand new baby Haven who kept trying to make a quick escape out of the enclosure. I hope they continue to get much-needed support for their conservation efforts. We’ve already decided that upcoming birthday gifts for family members abroad will be in the form of a birthday platter for the elephants! What a great idea 🙂
Emi: It was really nice to visit Samui Elephant Haven. However the highlight of the activities was Yoga with Era (the instructor from Shahda Yoga), between her energy and the view of the location, the whole experience was very magical.
I would definitely recommend Era and a day out to the elephant sanctuary as it was a great learning experience for the whole family.
What was your favorite part about the villas? Your favorite areas to lounge in during your stay?
Emi: I loved that Inasia was beachfront so we could paddleboard and just have that to ourselves. It’s really special.
Cindy: Oh, everything! Both villas were lovely and both had their own particular charm. I loved the cozy and homelike atmosphere of Inasia, especially the lush garden that extended straight to the beach. As for The View, I mean, what a place!! The kids spent most of their time in the pool and especially loved the indoor waterfall. My favorite experience would have to be the morning yoga in the living room overlooking the spectacular ocean view.
Anisha: I think both the villas were incredibly nice and each had a different type of charm that would appeal differently to different types of trips. Inasia had a very cozy vibe right on the beach. The View on the other hand was completely breathtaking but more for groups who like lounging by the pool with a view. Both very different and very hard to pick one against the other!
Would you say your stay at the villas elevated your Samui experience? How so?
Ase: Definitely. It completely elevated our experience and made us not want to go home!
Anisha: I go to Samui a lot and used to spend a lot of time on the island, I have hardly found villas like Inasia on the island. The staff was probably one of the best groups I’ve experienced.
Cindy: I was definitely impressed with the level of attentiveness and heartfelt service on behalf of the villa staff. They went out of their way to accommodate our every need and even entertained the kiddies with a pizza-making class which was a welcome break for us parents!
Given the current situation, what was travel planning like this time around? Did you have to take additional measures to ensure your family’s safety?
Cindy: Staying in a villa was ideal as many of the hotels are not operating at full service. We prefer to stay in and relax so didn’t miss much in the area of outside activities, but it would have been nice to visit some local shops or restaurants. Make sure kids wear masks, wash hands all the way, and stick to your immediate group.
Emi: We mostly try to stay away from crowded places. It isn’t hard to plan or travel within Thailand but we just have to be extra careful and attentive. Even though Thailand has low Covid numbers everyone has to play their part and follow the safety measures. We are quite lucky to be in a country with such beautiful destinations and be able to travel around. The best part is that all the villas are private and isolated so you feel secure.
What was the best part of your trip, the part that made you think, “I need to come back here!”?
Cindy: Oh dear, tough one. If I had to choose it would be one of the family dinners where everyone was together enjoying a good meal and some laughs. Felt good to be able to get away from all the crazy in the world at the moment.
Emi: I am a big fan of the beach so having a beachfront property like Inasia is perfect for me. Laying around reading a book and having the sea in front of you is just the best.
You heard the pros, folks! While some things remain difficult, being able to go back to almost normal is not impossible. It gives us hope to know that when managed properly and with full cooperation, travel can bounce back.