Pampering body & mind
A visit to the award-winning spa at Kamalaya only one highlight of trip to Thailand
By JIM KERNAGHAN, Special to QMI Agency
Sunday, 14 March 2010
KOH SAMUI, THAILAND -
You've probably heard the old one about the guy who said he felt so good he was going to cancel his health insurance.
Well, after three days at the award-winning Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary & Holistic Spa, the line comes to mind.
One can only imagine how one feels after a week or two here.
The Kamalaya is one of four stops on this trip to Thailand. The others, the Felix River Kwai Resort, The Sarojin and the Peninsula Hotel each have different features that send you on your way feeling invigorated.
Since we dealt with the Felix River Resort in an accompanying article, first, the Kamalaya.
You could call the experience a full body, mind and soul rejuvenation achieved through a marriage of old holistic remedies and modern technology. It promises visitors "a synergy of healing therapies from East and West, a sublimely beautiful natural environment, inspired healthy cuisine and holistic fitness practices."
It made the Kamalaya the designation as best destination spa among 14 Asian and Australian nominees.
It's why executive chef Kai Mueller came after stops at upscale hotels in Spain and Los Angeles and on a Princess Cruise ship.
"I'm interested in healthy diets and nutrition," the 29-year-old Berliner explained. "I have a friend who goes to all the tribes to see what plants are used and how they are prepared - sevia leaves as a natural sweetener, for example. Diet is very important and the growing number of health spas is driving that train."
OK, so what, among the detox foods, is there? Well, a breakfast that involves pure honey on the comb, a wide variety of grain cereals with a choice of skim milk, coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk ... it goes on and on at three food and beverage areas.
All juices are fresh, of course. as are various tonics. There are extensive vegetarian options plus seafood, poultry and lamb dishes. There are customized meals for those on detox programs. Detox and cleansing, ideal weight and optimal fitness come after a full-body analysis is undertaken.
All told, there are 70 therapies to choose from, including traditional Chinese medicine, Naturopathy, Homeopathy, and various other holistic treatments. Yoga, Tai Chi, sound therapy are among the options. Those options are tied to goals -- weight loss, burnout recovery and just a general need to centre oneself.
So, what's the cost? It varies, depending on the programs selected. Essential detox retreats, for example, are about $1,800, with accommodation additional at about $200 a night, single, all in private villas overlooking the Andaman Sea.
Tom, a Briton who'd lost 30 pounds before coming, wanted to continue on the health path and was spending about $4,000 a week for three weeks.
"I want to cleanse my body and get going in a healthier direction," he said. "This place came up as one of the top five in the world. I just liked what it offered. It's been worth it."
One Dutch guest obviously thought so. He's staying for three months.
Everyone, whether they are in couples or single, asked indicates the place exudes a feel-good atmosphere. The singles tend to dine together at a long table and the laughter never seemed to end.
"You can go off by yourself to eat and return and nobody says anything," a 30-something Austrian woman said. "There's a great feeling of freedom from being judged in any way."
A fond farewell to the Kamalaya and its founders John and Karina Stewart and general manager Marc-Antoine Cornaz sends us on our way to a place where couples are the norm. That's the Sarojin, a one-hour drive from the Phuket Airport at Khao Lak.
Named the Romantic Luxury Hotel of 2009 in Asia, the Sarojin is more like a massive estate with four hectares of manicured grounds, pools and fountains and 11 kilometres of white sand beach set in tropical surroundings. Owners Andrew and Kate Kemp greet incoming guests with a cocktail party after they've been picked up at the airport (and provided orchids and cold beer by the van driver en route).
It's a favourite honeymoon spot, which provides a spectacular dinner on the beach featuring Chinese, Indonesian, Indian and Thai food and also a lunch for two -- linen, silverware, wines -- on the banks of a nearby river.
The hotel launch takes guests out to islands for snorkelling -- and another lunch in a jungle-like setting. A couple could be involved in two events a day. The rooms are extremely private and feature a his-and-hers bathroom with rainforest-like showers and large balconies with hot tubs.
Cost? A couple could spend $4,000-$8,000 a week.
The Sarojin is on high enough ground to have been saved from the tsunami of 2004, in which 5,395 perished as more than 2,500 homes and 98 hotels and resorts were demolished.
"Only 74 people survived on Koghow Island; my friend and her family -- six people -- all died," a Sarojin guide told me as we surveyed a scene where 50-tonne boats still sit on dry land a long way from the Andaman Sea.
It was another fond farewell and we were on our way to the airport and a flight to Bangkok and the Peninsula Hotel.
It has been said most journalists don't want to be millionaires, just live like them at times. The Peninsula provides a pretty good look. Ranked No. 3 in the top luxury hotels in Asia and 29th of the top 100 luxury hotels in the world, The Peninsula has 370 rooms averaging 46 square metres looking down on the Chao Phraya River.
The two-vanity marble bathrooms have separate shower and tub, with a television in the wall at the foot of the tub. There is full high-speed Internet and fax machine, direct dial phones with dual lines and bedside controls for the drapes and mood lighting. It was a spectacular place to watch the fireworks for the 83rd birthday of the much-venerated king of Thailand.
The cost? With discounts, you might get a room for $300 a night but think about $500 just to be safe.
Generally speaking, Thailand is a bargain at any price but every now and then you can get sideswiped. Across the river from the Peninsula, I bought a few bottles of water at the Oriental Hotel's waterfront barbecue. They cost 706 baht, or $21.
Even millionaires might quibble.
Jim Kernaghan is a London freelance writer.