Three words that changed my childhood.
When I was kid I used to act on a set of superstitions which all my friends shared as well. For example, if I stepped on one of my colleague’s foot I had to let him step back on mine immediately to avoid death in my family. Also, while walking on the street, we used to jump over the draining system hoods that had an odd number of holes – walking on them would have brought bad luck. And so on.
All these rules, this ludic codex, were knitting a fence around us, kids, rendering us invisible to the parents and teachers. I blindly and quietly followed it for many years. Until one day, I opened Foucault Pendulum, which my mom had just bought. On the first page, Umberto Eco quoted these words by Raymond Smullyan: Superstition brings misfortune. I read them, and they confused me. When I finally shook off the confusion, I wasn’t a kid anymore.
This happened 24 years ago. Meanwhile, I often wondered whether Smullyan was right or not. I followed the destinies of the mystic-superstitious persons around me and also those of rationalists, I watched the impact the ritualic gestures of the football players had on their game, I even tried holding on various superstitious beliefs during some difficult times I had myself.
The only conclusion I got to until now is that superstition, same as any other belief, needs consistency. There is no point in being superstitious only when you’re playing a game or when you have to pass an exam. You would lack the training and stand no chance to being ordained before the myriads of micro-gods that make the transition between chance and bad luck. Be loyal, whether you choose to be on one side of the fence or the other. It is not the superstition that brings misfortune; it’s the lack of consistency in being superstitious. May Mr. Smullyan forgive me for daring.
The argument for my counter-theory has 45 million square kilometers and bears the name Asia. A curve line starts from the Golden Horn, takes over the Black Sea, turns East after the Dnieper and goes straight into the White Sea thus marking the border between Europe and Asia. The East, where every object is house to one spirit and where every gesture and thought actively partake in the thread of destiny, independently from human will, the East, I was saying, is that half of the world where superstition, divination, and karma management overwrite the laws of the physics. Does this bring bad luck? 4.5 billion fans can’t be wrong.
Le Meridien. The Feng Shui Pendulum.
Le Meridien Samui sits right on the border between these two worlds. The Western appetite for art and local culture found fertile land on this island filled with magic stories brought from overseas by the Chinese colonists. The Cartesian rigor and the extremely oriental supernatural float together like Yin and Yang in this resort, which asks not to be visited but read like a Feng Shui handbook.
As soon as you arrive you get the feeling you’ve landed in a fairytale. The roundabout at the entrance does not have the mere transitory role for cars and people, but it also functions as a lucky charm. Space is built in an octagonal shape representing the Ying and Yang previously mentioned, the idea of family and the eight cardinal and sub-cardinal directions.
According to Chinese numerology 8 (ba) is the luckiest number standing for prosperity and social achievement. Also at the entrance, to the surprise of the ignorant traveler, there are two niches in which majestically stands under the spotlights…nothing. But wait, as this is exactly the opposite of the Western Void, the opposite of the Emptiness; it is the Potentiality or, if you wish, the Future to which we need to leave some rooms in our houses and lives. A space full of objects does not allow Potentiality to unfold.
One more architectural element that needs to be decrypted from an Eastern perspective is the grand pool at the open-air lobby. Taking over a space no smaller than 20 by 20 meters, the marble pool with only a few centimeters of water on the bottom is not set there for swimming. It is a reflection pond, a window to the sky, stars and why not our thoughts. This is the place where paper lanterns are launched every evening at 19.19 sharp. 19 is another lucky number. The ceremonies held all over Thailand in celebration of the King’s and Queen’s birthdays start at 19.19 as well.
These are only three examples, three minor details. But the whole architectural project of Le Meridien was designed following the advice of Khun Kriengrai, a well-respected Feng Shui master from Bangkok. The resort is set at the base of a hill which ridge resembling a bat is thought to stimulate fertility, and then floats towards the sea into a cascade of elegantly balanced somethings and nothings.
Thanks to the decent scale of the property and to the fluid mode of thinking the spaces, the guests can reach any spot promptly, without stops or barriers, in just two or three minutes.
Buffalows and butterflies. The saga of the colonists.
Just as any other good read, Le Meridien offers a second layer of meaning – the allegory. May they be aware or not, the guests of the resort become characters in a saga that reconstitutes the history of the Chinese travelers who colonized the island of Samui fifteen centuries ago. This history is subtly encoded in the structure and design of each type of room, and the whole assembly reflects, on a metaphoric level, the social classes of an insular colony, no different than those of a five-star resort.
The new settlers stay in the most affordable Verandah and Terrace units. They are the young ones, recently gone from home, the ones pursuing more fortunate horizons. The designers chose bright and cheerful colors in order to celebrate the joy of arrival and the enthusiasm of a new beginning.
Golden chicken and buffalos are painted on the walls as a reminder of the home left behind. Small surprises wait to be discovered in each corner of the rooms – they are welcome gifts from the older members of the community.
The Plunge Pool Suite is the next level, destined to those who are well settled and able to dig their own well. Yes, the most dramatic element of this type of room is the little swimming pool that connects the bedroom with the bathroom, a refreshing, and intimate oasis right in the middle of the house.
The second generation of settlers, an essential part of the community, have already learned to live together and to share everything with their peers. We find them in the Pool Access Suites, small ‘hamlets’ of 6-8 spacious rooms sharing an ample swimming pool. This is entirely suitable for a large group of friends willing to spend a holiday together but not necessarily in need of mingling with all the other guests of the resort.
Those who’ve met their destiny, grown their children, lived to see them making their own families, those who can honestly say they have achieved whatever goals they have set for themselves, those deserve a millennium of peace in the Pavilion Pool Villas. This is a sanctuary of 105 square meters where you have everything you need, including a private swimming pool and chef.
Finally, there are the seven Ocean Front Pool Villas which have enormous apertures to the sea and are destined to the colonists who not only met their material goals but transcended beyond matter and reached spiritual accomplishment. In the same suggestive tone, the walls of the villas are decorated with golden butterflies, representing the well-deserved freedom one meets after a life of hard work.
Tina Liu, the manager of Le Meridien Koh Samui, is as multi-cultural as the concept of the resort itself – Sino-Thai with American citizenship; while talking you notice a sophisticated minimalist discourse. She is cold and warm at the same time as a flower being brought up from marble. She was destined to work here. Or, who knows, the resort might have been built around its manager. Not only we, journalists, have the pleasure of meeting Tina. The management of this resort is not done behind the closed doors of the offices but among our guests, she says.
Every morning you can find her at the restaurant where they serve breakfast – here and now is where and when she can meet all her guests and talk to them. She remembers names, birthdays, anniversaries, wishes, complaints or kind words – it’s all part of her job description. I would go crazy after one breakfast like this.
All employees here at Le Meridien are polite and helpful in a very balanced manner. I am not very fond of the false servility the personnel show towards the guests of the 4 stars and above. The gardener who drops the shovel when I pass by, the waiter who comes to my table every other 15 seconds to ask if everything is alright or to present me the five different kinds of bread: white, black, buckwheat, white with seeds, rye with seeds, they drive me nuts, walnuts and peanuts.
Carry on, folks, mind your own business, I am sure each one of you has enough on his plate without having to deal with me saying hello 60 times per minute or trying to articulate everything is ok with my mouth full of that delicious bread.
At Le Meridien employees say hello in the most discreet way, sometimes only nodding their heads, don’t apologize for their presence and respect your personal time and space while you wolf down portion after portion of delicious food.
There is no such thing as perfection, so I have to reveal the one thing that is not so right about Le Meridien, as it is the case for all Lamai area: the beach. That is if you can call a beach that tiny stripe of goldish-greyish sand, full of rocks and meant to disappear with every spring tide or stormy night. The water, on the other hand, is full of algae and corals.
To compensate all this, Le Meridien throws into the game a 270-meter long floating deck at the end of which you can swim, snorkel or feed the fish. At night, the same deck turns into a bar and restaurant where the honeymooners can enjoy a very romantic Starlight Dinner.
On the Le Meridien website, a Verandah Suite starts from 180 EUR per night, a Plunge Pool Suite at 186 EUR, while a Pool Access Suite is priced 200 EUR pn. For an Ocean Pool Villa you would pay 450 EUR a night.
To get the best prices for Le Meridien Koh Samui keep the following in mind:
a) The resort has a Best Price Guarantee policy, so if you find cheaper rooms on Booking.com or Agoda.com, the Le Meridien team will match it.
b) The resort practices a dynamic pricing system, similar to that used by airlines. The fares vary according to occupancy. It is, therefore, advisable to book your room well ahead of the intended check-in date and/or to schedule your stay for those months with good weather and fewer tourists (May, June, October).
c) Starwood group, of which Le Meridien is a member, offers a very advantageous loyalty program. If you stay with them throughout the year, you can spend your earned points for a holiday at Le Meridien without having to pay with cash.