Samui Wining & Dining
Night Flowering

After dark at the legendary Poppies Samui


10-11 As the last pastel sky-pinks are fading to indigo, as the stars begin to flicker, as the ground begins to cool and all the bays are rimmed with lights – it’s then that Samui shifts. The dimensions change. Everything seems to become smaller, more compact; cosier, somehow. And that happens everywhere – wherever you are. But if you happen to be somewhere special to begin with, then the whole thing’s even better yet. There’s a lot of lovely gardens around, nearly all of them part of a resort. But one of the most impressive places to be at night is Poppies Samui. It’s nothing short of magical.

    Poppies is an island legend. At one time Samui had dozens of small beach-hut resorts and just a handful of hotels. But Poppies was the first, small, privately-owned resort that was designed to provide the same standards of quality and service as the hotels – and became what is now known as a ‘boutique resort’. And, ever since its inception in 1994, the resort has forged a reputation that’s never diminished. In fact it’s continued to grow stronger as the years have passed.

      On a small plot on Chaweng Beach, there are 24 luxurious villas, quite literally woven into the landscape. Even at the drawing-board stage it was designed so that there was maximum accommodation but also maximum privacy. A network of criss-crossing paths meant that you could never see more than a few of the villas at a time, and these were enhanced with rampant tropical greenery, streams, ponds, little waterfalls and tiny wooden bridges. Add to this the 18 years of growth that now forms an overhead canopy of shady, dense foliage, and – excepting the restaurant – you’ll have the picture


Dining at Poppies is a
joy on any night of the
week. But on a
Saturday it becomes
something to go away
and tell people about.


       The restaurant, also of the same name, was designed from the start to be a dominant feature. And, whereas some resorts were content to add-on a shed with a Thai chef installed, Poppies restaurant was set-up to be a showpiece – another aspect that was unique. It came complete with its first chef, Californian international celebrity-chef and restaurateur, Jeffrey Lord. And he was later followed by a line-up of 5-star chefs, specifically Yannick Tirbois, Jan Hollister and Greg Montanez. Following in these illustrious footsteps are the the current kitchen team of Khun Wantanee who oversees the Thai menu, and Khun Suwit, in charge of the international fare. Khun Suwit actually trained under all the aforementioned chefs. The menu-concept has always been the same; gourmet-quality international and Thai cuisine. And it’s always been successful.

       In the daytime it’s a laid-back, sleepy, tropical beachside resort. But at night the dimensions change. The proportions shift. It slips sideways into that ‘Alice in Wonderland’ realm, with bushes, shrubs and trees everywhere, all glimmering with tiny lights. Time and space seem to become denser; more compact somehow. This is not the same busy, bustling world that you just came from, back on Chaweng Beach Road.

       And, as you follow the twisty, shrouded path, another surprise. Suddenly the spaces shift again and you come out into a big, tranquil clearing. Well it seems big, and it takes a moment to adjust to the fact that the shimmering blue lake is the resort’s free-form swimming pool. And what seem to be the sandstone cliffs in the distance are, in fact, the restaurant and dining area, framed and thatched in sandy tones of tan and brown. The best night of all to experience this Tardis effect is on a Saturday. Dining at Poppies is a joy on any night of the week. But on a Saturday it becomes something to go away and tell people about.

       As you emerge from the greenery alongside the pool, you’ll pass a group of smiling musicians, sitting, playing cross-legged. You’re greeted and shown to your table. And then the menu arrives. Poppies has decided to keep to an à la carte menu and not run a buffet. “We’ve tried several different approaches over the years,” General Manager, John Ens, told me, “but come to the same conclusion every time. Poppies’ reputation stands on quality – both with the food and the service. And we’re just not willing to compromise. Each dish you order is individually cooked to your requirements and, judging by the number of reservations we get, that’s just what people want.”

       The variety of dishes on the menu is impressive. As well as the expected favourites, there’s loads of different kinds of fresh seafood, and also a ‘kantoke’ sampler set, if you’re not too sure what to have. And Poppies is also renowned for their splendid selection of vegetarian dishes, if you’re that way inclined.

       Then there’s the entertainment. Poppies’ show begins at 8:00 pm with five musicians, who play cheerfully and gently for 30 minutes or so. Then the spotlit dancers appear – dramatically – on a stage that’s been specially-constructed to fit over the water of the pool. And they continue, taking breaks for costume changes and refreshment, right through to 10:30 pm.

       This is the real thing. This is a ‘Thai Night’ with authentic instruments and original costumes, and it’s evident from the rapport between the musicians and performers, and their light-hearted exchanges, that all of them are involved in what they’re doing and enjoying every moment. And, to go with this, there is an array of craft stalls and handicrafts. There’s hand-made jewellery and mementos and souvenirs, including Khun Peung’s exquisite micro-woven bags, purses and wallets. There are live artistes at work, too, making soap carvings and leatherwork. And they’re all quality items at realistic prices.

       Oh what a difference a night makes. During the bright splash of the day this is a swimming pool, redolent of suntan oil, right next to the beach and with a sweeping seascape. But at night the difference is dramatic. You’d scarcely believe that you were in the same spot. Because at night – particularly on a Saturday – it all changes. At night, Poppies truly comes into bloom!


Rob De Wet


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