British financial analyst Liam Hayes wanted to do something special to mark the arrival of his thirty-fifth year. Having lived and worked in Hong Kong since he turned 30, the tried and tested formula of dinner, drinks and dancefloor had become something of a birthday ritual for him and his friends, so he wanted to break the mould.
"My birthday is in February around Chinese New Year and not long after we all get our Christmas bonus, so I asked around to see if anyone was interested in a long weekend away," he said. "Not just a night on the town or a three-day bender in another city like we had done before, but more of an adventure with some activities planned in to keep us on our toes."
Liam and his girlfriend Sara soon found six eager travel companions to join them, so rather than book 4 rooms in a hotel they decided to share a private villa so they could make the most of the holiday without being disturbed by (or disturbing) anyone else.
"I had been to Koh Samui in Thailand before with Sara on a romantic break and although we didn't really move from the sand on that trip we both remembered there was lots to do besides lie on the beach. We also remembered friends telling us there were villas for short term rent there and we soon found the perfect holiday base online, a 4-bedroom pad with its own pool. So we emailed the agency explaining that we wanted to mix chill time with a bit of adventure and they replied immediately with a list of suggestions."
The birthday break that resulted was half action movie, half tropical dream. A birthday bonanza that Liam and his friends are still talking about more than a 12 months later and plan to repeat this year.
"We arrived at the villa quite late, but managed to control ourselves with a few drinks by the pool and a midnight swim," he explained. "The next day we'd booked on a snorkelling trip to Koh Tao that left early in the morning, which was an amazing way to start a birthday weekend. The speedboat trip to get there was incredible and the two coral reefs they took us to were bursting with colourful fish and marine life - a far cry from the streets of Hong Kong. We got back in time for a shower before sunset drinks, then the villa staff laid on a delicious seafood barbecue. They even surprised me with a cake, which was really nice of them. That night we just stayed by the pool chatting and looking at all the photos from the snorkelling trip, then we all slumped in front of the flatscreen to watch the Blue Planet, which co-incidentally they actually had in the villa."The next two days followed the same format — an island adventure during the day, drinks at sunset and a feast prepared by the villa staff. On day two, instead of snorkelling the whole group went canopy riding and then took ATV tour through the coconut plantations. "Both were great fun," said Liam. "The canopy runs were right up in the forest on the side of a mountain so there were incredible views out over the sea. We saw a sign and stopped off at the ATV safari on the way back. The guy that took us on the tour could do all sorts of amazing tricks, so we got some great photos. Of course we tried but failed to copy him." To calm things down a little on the final day, Liam had booked himself and some the party a round of golf on Samui's famous Santiburi Country Club course. "Four of us played and the others went to the beach in Mae Nam," he said. "It's a stunning golf course right up in the hills with more amazing views. Not easy mind you. I must have lost about 7 balls, but no-one was really counting and we finished off with a relaxing beer at the clubhouse. The food was so good at the villa that we ordered another barbecue for that final night. We'd done so much in three days it felt like we'd been there for a week or more. It was definitely the best birthday I can remember." by LVH Marketing