Koh Samui today looks every inch the polished holiday destination – with carefully manicured white beaches overlooking a clutch of stunning 21st Century hotels and resorts attracting a growing number of top-rated restaurants and exclusive clubs.
The island’s roads, however, have more of the 19th Century about them – progress from the airport to your resort can sometimes be disappointingly sluggish.
But bear in mind that it was only in the 1970s that the first road was built here.
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Taking time out to relax: Lisa switched off from her busy London life during a detox break on Koh Samui
Prior to that, Samui – as the locals call it – was a place that lived off farming and fishing, and crossing the island via the densely thicketed highlands, for example, used to take the best part of a day for what is only a 15-mile journey.
I’ve been back to Koh Samui quite a few times since my first visit 20 years ago, when I stopped off after living and working in Japan as a model.
I love going to Kamalaya Koh Samui to detox for an idyllic lotus-eating week spent doing yoga and relaxing. Kamalaya is an award-winning wellness sanctuary and holistic spa resort, which offers detox, yoga, stress and burnout, fitness and weight control.
It’s built around a cave that was once used by Buddhist monks as a place of meditation and spiritual retreat. There are plenty of things to do and see on the island, but once I’ve checked in to Kamalaya, I tend to stay put.
A place to switch off from everything: Lisa opted for a week at the idyllic Kamalaya Koh Samui resort
Everything you need to enjoy the perfect break is right there. If I can visit the spa every day and have lots of rejuvenating treatments, I’m as happy as a clam.
At Kamalaya I can also keep it nice and simple in terms of what I eat, and that means no animal products and a lot of fruit and vegetables.
But I don’t go hungry – I make sure I dine very well.
My strict regime also means that I drink no alcohol and no tea or coffee. It makes me feel really good and sets me up for the next six months.
I would like to pretend that my diet is as rigid in my daily life. However, in the interests of full disclosure, I must confess that when I’m presenting the Capital Radio Breakfast Show, I rely on a little coffee kick in the morning and succumb to the odd croissant.
My favourite meal at Kamalaya is a big ‘detox broth’: green soup with sesame and a mild flavour of seaweed, with loads of vegetables that have been double-boiled.
Not taking this standing up: Lisa puts herself through her paces during a morning exercise session
At dinner you can sit at a communal table and chat to lots of different people.
It’s a very sociable place. But if you don’t feel like chatting, you don’t have to – you can either eat in your room or have a table for one in the restaurant.
Nobody minds if you prefer to sit on your own and read a book while you have dinner.
And you don’t have to be a puritan at Kamalaya.
Guests can enjoy all sorts of options on the menu. It’s not compulsory to follow a weight loss plan or be there for a detox – you can just have a ‘normal’ holiday.
I don’t think I’d ever go to one of those health resorts where you are expected to survive on nothing but juices. As far as I’m concerned that would be miserable – I’m on a holiday, after all.
I choose to follow a healthy plan because I enjoy the results. I find that lots of spa treatments, massages and infrared saunas help to detox and clear my skin of any lumps and bumps, which seem to dissolve away.
Where two worlds collide: The Akaryn resort combines traditional Thai architecture with five-star comforts
As soon as I arrive, I am hooked up to a bio-analysis machine which measures the levels of water in my cells, and my fat ratio and muscle mass.
I am also weighed at the start of my visit and again at the end. They’ve kept my records over the years so I can see what’s happened to my body fat, recording whether it has gone up or down – and I’m pleased to say that my fat ratio has improved over the years which, frankly, amazes me.
The price I pay for following my healthy holiday routine is that the hotels I stay in elsewhere have to live up to Kamalaya’s standards. I have to know that there will be classes where I can do yoga, and that there is a good gym as well as a sauna or a steam room, and somewhere I can have a massage – these things are important to me.
I find detoxing is actually quite tiring. It makes me very mellow.
So when I’ve been exercising and doing yoga, I’m ready to wind down fairly early, which suits me.
One of the great things about holidays for me is getting to bed early to read. Mind you, on this particular trip I needed all the rest I could get, because after Kamalaya I was joined by two friends and we headed off to stay at Akaryn.
Retox after the detox: A few days at the stylish Akaryn resort allowed Lisa to re-tox on pizza and cocktails
It’s new and very stylish.
It was quite a different sort of experience from my first stay.
One of the things the girls and I liked was the swim-up bar, and we had fun drinking cocktails in the pool. The resort also had a great steak restaurant that we enjoyed.
In a way, I was retoxing after the detox week at Kamalaya!
However, there were also many really healthy dishes on the menu, including a lot of fish, and I have to confess that I loved their pizzas.
There’s a beautiful big wood-fire oven, and you go and get your pizza, put it in a box and take it back to your room – the ultimate takeaway.
We had a beautiful two-bedroom villa with a lovely long pool.
The bathroom had a very modern, freestanding bath, and probably the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in, with fabulous cotton sheets and wonderful pillows.
One day, we went out to the famous Fisherman’s Village, which is basically a long street with a range of different stalls and restaurants.
After shopping we went to this cool little restaurant called Starfish and Coffee, which was quirky and fun. Another night we went to Chaweng, one of Samui’s most popular beach areas. I hadn’t been there for 20 years and couldn’t believe how much it had grown.
Splendid sands: Chaweng Beach offers a pretty side of Koh Samui for those who want to take a little stroll
We went to a cabaret bar called Starz, which has a ladyboy show, and that was great fun for us all.
By then, we’d seen enough nightlife and headed back to our villa.
Our night-time entertainment became swimming in our pool, which was so private that we could have our own little parties.
In the morning, I would get up with the sun, and go out first thing for a walk on the beach or have a swim before breakfast. Then the girls and I would have yoga sessions in the shade of an oak tree.
Presenting the Breakfast Show on Capital means my life in London is pretty hectic, with crazy hours, so my latest trip to Thailand gave me the perfect opportunity to catch up on some much-needed rest and relaxation.
I have to say that I miss the unsophisticated tourist life that Thailand used to offer. I remember staying in a tiny little beach shack where you could get a three-course meal for about £3, with wine included.
When I was younger, I liked the hippy-dippy life of flip-flops and long floaty dresses, all really relaxed and just so chilled. I’m not really one for today’s Full Moon parties!
While I love Koh Samui, next time I return to Thailand I’ll do a little bit of island-hopping. I’ve never been to Phuket, for example, and there are many other destinations on my list.
A taste of local life: Bophut Fisherman’s Village offers a busy change of pace from resort relaxation
I first got the travel bug when I was modelling, and I was lucky enough to go to some amazing locations on photoshoots.
The problem is, the more I travel, the more I want to travel – so I’ll keep going until I’ve seen the world.
Travel Facts: Plan your own escape to Thailand
Kenwood Travel (www.kenwoodtravel.co.uk, 020 7749 9278) offers seven nights at Akaryn Samui (www.akaryn.com) from £1,055 including flights and B&B in a pool suite.
For information on Kamalaya, visit www.kamalaya.com.