Villa Riva: Ultimate Privacy in an Exceptional Tropical Setting

Passepartout Homes’ property portfolio showcases a very exclusive collection of unique luxury holiday retreats located in 18 countries on four continents across the globe. What’s unique about each of our exclusive holiday villas is that every one is a home which has been lovingly built, rebuilt or renovated by its proprietors who invested their hearts and souls into creating a unique and special atmosphere for their guests. In this interview series, we meet the property owners who tell us the stories behind their exclusive holiday homes.


The Thai island of Koh Samui is known for its idyllic white sand beaches and clear turquoise waters making it a favourite with beach lovers looking for a slice of paradise. The extravagant Villa Riva sits on the island’s northern shore, tucked away on a small, hidden headland with a semi-private beach, providing ultimate privacy in an exceptional tropical setting. The views from here across the bay to the nearby island of Poh Llangen and the dramatic crimson sunsets are simply breathtaking.

This luxury villa’s 7 bedrooms (which includes a children’s room) are spread out across the vast property, offering privacy to all its guests. It has a custom-built clubhouse with a private fitness and massage room, dry sauna, steam room and a huge Jacuzzi. The property also boasts a fabulous 32-metre infinity pool and multi-level sun terrace, tennis court and 12-seat cinema. An experienced private Thai chef is on hand to prepare delicious Thai and continental meals and the personalised concierge service takes care of all of the guests’ needs.

Villa Riva owner Efim Lev is a businessman based in Moscow working on several international projects across the world. He told us how this island paradise he lovingly created came to be…


How did you discover the area and what made you fall in love with it?

My first visit to Thailand was in 2004. It was December, the sun was shining and I was sitting outside in the sala (a open pavilion) having a cocktail and thinking what a paradise it was!

Since then I have been coming to Thailand for family holidays or just for a quick break in between my world travels. I won’t be wrong if I say that many people feel at home when then they come to the ‘land of smiles’.

Before building Villa Riva, I had stayed at quite a few private villas in the south of the island and the idea of having my own hub on Koh Samui crossed my mind a few times. I would come to this island a few times a year with my family and friends.

Back in 2009, Alexey, my friend and business partner, rang me and told about this amazing plot of land available at Bangpor on the hill with spectacular views and sent me pictures of it. I liked it so much that I agreed to buy it straight away without thinking for too long! I guess I just had a gut feeling that this land was something special as many people had tried to buy it from the Thai owner, a wealthy local lady who had previously refused to sell it.


Did you build or renovate the property? What was this process like?

My wife and I went on several viewings around Koh Samui and saw some nice projects which gave us a rough idea of our tropical dream home. At that time we had no idea that Villa Riva would become such an exceptional house as it is now.

Working on this project wasn’t very easy as there were some issues with two different builders which I’m sure many homeowners on Samui face from time to time. Only the third builder who came along finished the project in February 2012. However, we never even thought about giving up this project! We do not quit!

We initially thought of building a house for our own personal use as well as for our close friends who chose Koh Samui as their getaway from cold winters in Russia. But closer to the final phase of construction, a friend of mine suggested the idea of renting it for the rest of the year when I’m not there and I’m glad that with the help of my property manager Tatiana Ten and her great team we have managed to create such an elegant luxury getaway retreat for different types of clients.


What is unique about the property?

Like many other tourists, I fell in love with Thai style…that’s why we have chosen the typical Thai wai-style roof for Villa Riva. Our house combines Thai style with Asian contemporary, so some of the décor was sourced all the way from Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, and also from Bali and Burma.

All the materials our builder chose are of the best quality, like teakwood for all the interiors, and Jim Thompson fabrics for the sofas and curtains. The outside finishings are made of Mai Dang wood (redwood), lava stone and Balinese tiles in the pool.

As I mentioned, this house was built for our personal use and of course we wanted it to be comfortable, cozy, functional and inviting at the same time. That’s why we’re happy to receive all those comments from our guests that despite of its size, Villa Riva really does feel like home where members of a big group (up to 20 people including kids) can gather at the club house at that great round wooden table which makes family meals really special. Also people love the privacy of having their bedrooms in separate buildings. A group of 20 can easily stay for days without seeing each other if they don’t want to!


Villa Riva design elements are local Thai but with a lot of Chinese design touches which gives the villa a Thai, but also Asian feeling. Despite its atmosphere of elegant luxury Villa Riva is also a very modern holiday villa, fitted with the latest home technology and furnished throughout with unique pieces like the impressive, circular wooden table in the middle of the clubhouse and the huge sofa on the mezzanine floor poised in front of an LED Smart TV. The sliding doors in nearly all the bedrooms (except the twin room) open onto the meditative ocean.

The villa offers a wide range of fabulous facilities, like a 32-metre swimming pool, steam room and sauna within our own spa area, gym, semi-pro tennis court, table tennis, kayaks and paddleboard, an amazing cinema, and our own wine cellar. So you might imagine there is really no need to go out. I personally like chilling out by the infinity pool with my family or having a relaxing massage at the pool sala.


There are quite a few amazing views from the whole house: the view from the Master suite is nearly 180 degrees, overlooking the pool and clubhouse area and the Four Seasons Hotel. Also, the beautiful infinity view from our swimming pool definitely captures the attention of many guests!

What type of visitor does it suit?

So far we have had many family reunion groups with people flying from Australia, the UK, Hong Kong or Singapore to meet sort of halfway, as well as wedding parties pampering their immediate families before the big day. One of the best clients we hosted were corporate clients combining business and pleasure.


Did you have any notable guests stay there?

We have had Barney Cheng, a well-known haute couture designer from Hong Kong, and Sergey Zhukov, a very famous Russian pop star. Both of them stayed with their families and children and it was nice seeing them enjoying all the facilities at Villa Riva, its views and the fabulous sunset.


Interview by Isabel Putinja, Travel Writer.

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