Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Koh Samui airport

There's a businesslike air about airports around the world. They are spankingly-immaculate, plush, tech-savvy, exude feverish energy and most have no-nonsense security drills. You feel the need to look spruced and alert when you walk their corridors. Koh Samui, in Thailand, is different. It's cute! Yes, that's an adjective rarely associated with airports. But Koh Samui then is a non-airport airport. It almost seems plucked out of a fairytale.

A popular island in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui is located in the country's southern part, and the airport is its show-window, swinging you into a buoyant mood almost immediately on arrival. So forget that gelled look; instead tousled hair and rolled up shirt sleeves is par for the course here.

 Officially known as Samui International Airport, the moment the aircraft touches ground it seems one has directly flown into a five-star resort. Lush and utterly pretty, its design puts aside all stereotypes of an airport. No steel and glitz here, instead there are landscaped greens—a profusion of the beautiful orchid too—and minimal construction which seamlessly blends with the picturesque tropical surrounding. Nothing overwhelming, all very welcoming.

 That the airport does things differently is noticed immediately on disembarking when the apron shuttle turns out to be a cheerful, open-air vehicle, resembling mini-trains found at fairs! Brightly painted multi-seater electric cars, akin to golf carts, are another option. This wonderful toyland impression continues while proceeding towards the arrival gate. The compact built area here is a series of sloping thatched roofs held by pillars and incredibly no walls. Flushed with natural light it comes across as a free-flowing space which in itself is a stress-buster. Customs clearance and baggage collection is a friendly and swift affair but you would want to linger on to let the eyes feast a little more on the artistic glass and wood architecture.

 The return flight gives you more time to enjoy the dainty airport. The departure terminal has informally arranged, brightly-cushioned cane seating, almost seeming like a personal living room. The bathrooms are spic with attractive fish tanks being a major element of their decor. An irresistible feature of the international departure gate is a 'courtesy corner' which provides scrumptious snacks and drinks on the house in a snug sitting area. Awaiting boarding is never such a joy, for what more do you need when food and beverage is unlimited and there's efficient wi-fi too. It all gets so cosy that the flight arrival announcement seems a bother.

The staff is polite to a fault and their aim is to let you relax. Even as you immerse yourself in a book or watch the telly, it’s the ground stewards who come around to your seat to check boarding passes. A small shopping arcade is another attraction and so is the opportunity to enjoy one more Thai massage before exiting the island at the extremely relaxing spa adjacent to the café, where nimble fingers work their magic in easing out body knots.

It’s no surprise to hear that Samui airport has been ranked amongst the most beautiful in the world a number of times. It’s won a clutch of design awards too and figures as a top favourite among travellers around the globe. 

This is an example of tropical paradise. It’s a wonder that places like this are conceptualised; where the fast pace of cutting-edge technology exists within mesmerisingly-serene contours. If you do get an opportunity, fly into Koh Samui, the airport should be reason enough! 

Published in TimeOut, April 2013  

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