Why now is the perfect time to check into a wellness retreat
The detox diaries.
After a quarter of the year spent in quarantine, Thailand is open for business again. At least, it is if you live here. Aching to get out of town but wondering what that means mid-pandemic? The BK team hit the road this June to tell you what to expect when you travel. We were invited by Chiva-Som, Hua Hin’s luxurious health resort, for its reopening this month. Here’s a report of our two-night stay at the wellness retreat—the third in our five-part series exploring destinations close to Bangkok.
When Chiva-Som says they will offer complimentary round-trip pick-up and drop-off, we expect a typical hotel minivan, not a gleaming black Mercedes stocked with healthy snacks, flasks of cold water, hand sanitizer and face masks. But here we are, settled into an immaculate vehicle complete with plastic shields to separate us from the smartly-dressed driver (business suit and tie, plus sanitary gloves and face mask—the spitting image of a taxi driver in Japan). After a smooth three-hour journey out of Bangkok with hordes of other escapists, we arrive at the resort’s grand entrance, greeted by the Chiva-Som team, as well as the “new normal” associated with entering any public building. The famed wellness retreat takes its health and safety measures up a notch. There’s a ceiling-mounted temperature scanner and an automatic hand-sanitizer dispenser, as well as several de-sanitizing foot mats around the resort. We’re also asked to fill out a health and travel history form to check off any Covid-19 symptoms you might have.
Set on a secluded beach near Khao Takiab, the sprawling health resort stretches deep from the city’s main road all the way to the beach. We’re given a walking tour of the newly renovated facilities: from the sauna, steam room, plunge pools, Jacuzzis and treatment rooms to the gymnasium, dance and Pilates studios, re-functional studio and warm water private pool used for Watsu sessions, a form of water therapy that helps relax the body and mind, as well as the outdoor sala or pavilions, used for different group activities like yoga, stretching, meditation and Tai Chi. After a lengthy orientation, we’re shown the room types, starting with the spacious and decadent Thai Pavilion room (B30,131.20 per night). Surrounded by lush gardens, this room features an outdoor pantry and its own outdoor private glass-walled sala, ideal for those who come in big groups of five or more. The staff also showcased another Covid-19 safety measure that consists of running a UV light contraption for an hour before guests enter their suites. Finally, we get to see our abode—the 39-sq-meter Ocean Room Deluxe (B28,248 per night)—which offers a terrace overlooking the beach and the resort’s picturesque palm trees and glistening outdoor pool. After three months of staring out at Bangkok’s gray urban sprawl, this is a feast for the eyes.
Chiva-Som is all about its holistic wellness, and so we’re put through the ringer. But, like, in a good way. We’re offered a retreat option called the “Weight Management Program” (sure to be popular as a post-lockdown option), which starts with a consultation with a private wellness advisor and a comprehensive survey of our health, before said advisor arranges a health and wellness regime for the rest of our stay. They also provide a booklet with the week’s classes, which you can book a la carte. Highlights include the 50-minute detox massage focused on the stomach, which helps ease digestion problems, constipation, bloating and reduces cellulite. The skillful therapist gently massages our stomach in circular motions with the spa’s own herbal essential oil and presses at various trigger points. It’s like she’s kneading bread but with our bodies. This is a good thing.
Two other stretching sessions really limber us up—the first one is a group stretch class that involves active stretching with a fitness instructor to decrease muscle soreness, improve flexibility and reduce stress, while the second is the 50-minute “Super Stretch.” Performed on us by a personal trainer, this involves twisting and stretching our bodies into shapes and positions we didn’t know were possible to achieve. We’re also treated to a 50-minute reflexology session that almost cradles us to sleep.
To top it all off, the program includes three wellness meals per night. During our two-night stay, we get to indulge in some of the finest and most nourishing food in Hua Hin. The whole menu comes with nutritional information, too.
It feels like we’re living in Spike Jonze’s “Her” universe—a utopian world where all humanity’s physical problems seem to have been solved. Everyone is happy, well-fed and here to get well. With all the health and safety precautions to protect guests from Covid-19 and spacious facilities making social distancing an inevitability—use of cell phones or taking pictures are also not allowed here; a true detox retreat!—it feels like Chiva-Som is the safest place in the world right now. We can’t even find a reason to leave the resort grounds.
If you want to replicate this experience, check out the resort’s reopening promotion. Dubbed the “Thai Wellness Tourism Promotion” and available to all Thai residents (that includes expats with valid long-term visas), the package starts at B12,000/night and includes three healthy meals per night, as well as access to daily wellness classes and other facilities. For those who want to stay longer―up to three nights or more―daily rates are discounted to B10,000.