Back then and now, love at first sight – The Tongsai Bay, Koh Samui, Thailand
Not a single tree was cut down and no damage was caused to the beautiful natural surroundings when Khun Akorn Hoontrakul started building The Tongsai Bay in 1986. Tongsai was the first green resort on the tropical island of Koh Samui and is still known today as the most romantic spot of the island. We interviewed the owners Khun Gob and Khun Goya Hoontrakul to find out more about their story.
Green Pearls: What is your first memory of Tongsai Bay?
Khun Gob: My father first discovered Tongsai Bay in 1986 when I was 12 years old. I joined him on this particular trip. We arrived on a Royal Navy Ship to survey prospective land to buy. We stayed at Chewang Beach which was not what you see today – it was stunning, quiet with crystal clear water and soft white sand.
Tongsai Bay was the original name of this bay. My 12 year old mind didn’t really appreciate its beauty, the sand was coarse and the water was not crystal clear because of the very deep bay. It was my Dad who saw the potential and later said to me: “It was love at first sight”. He purchased it within a week. At that time the land had eight Bungalows on it and a hut for cooking. I have to give it to my Dad, age won over youth on his thinking here, I am a true fan of Tongsai today and appreciate our private bay.
GP: How did Tongsai Bay develop from the eight original bungalows?
Khun Gob: My Dad literally spent three months sleeping on a bed in the middle of the beach right under the stars. From here he dreamt up his resort on his ‘love at first sight’ land. Tongsai initially opened in 1987 and we have continued to expand over the years.
GP: Khun Goya, when did you first visit The Tongsai Bay?
Khun Goya: I first arrived in 1998 as a guest. I knew about The Tongsai Bay as Khun Gob and I were friends. I thought Samui was really special, it was so peaceful and quiet. I loved that this feeling extended in and throughout The Tongsai Bay. It felt like I had found such a tranquil setting where stepping inside was like escaping from the day to day world. Whilst the island is now much more developed, I still feel that Tongsai has that sense of a little haven where you can lose yourself from the outside world.
GP: The Tongsai Bay’s sustainable policy was not always in place. Was there a defining moment where you decided that Tongsai Bay should adopt a more ecological way of operating?
Khun Goya: the origin lies in learning from our mistakes. A neighbour complained about our waste management and we discovered that one of our staff had decided to dump and burn non-biodegradable waste on our land. This understandably affected and upset our neighbours and the community. While the staff member did this with the best of intentions there was simply no understanding or education on how to correctly manage waste. After personally seeing what we were doing we started researching and learning how to better manage our waste. Our first priority was to minimize waste and then to learn how to dispose of it in the way to best preserve our environment and that of the greater community. After this we naturally evolved in learning and practicing energy efficiency and the preservation of our wildlife and nature. One of the things I am really happy about is that the area where our waste was originally burnt is now a fertilizer house that is part of our organic garden.
GP: We love Thai food. What do you consider a balanced Thai meal?
Dinner Thai style is enjoyed in a ‘family’ or ‘share’ style where various dishes are placed in the middle of the table. The best combination is to order different flavors, such as dishes that are salty, sour and sweet to provide contrast. Rice is of course a must to complement dishes but it also fulfills the purpose of mellowing the fiery spices. A dip of ‘Nam Prik’ is most commonly seen on a Thai table for dinner, and they vary from region to region with the common factor of them being spicy in flavor and served with raw vegetables for dipping. Nam Prik is a really clean and healthy dish due to the raw vegetables so this is an added bonus!