Sanctuary is just step from heaven

I’M NOT quite asleep but I’m in a dreamy place high above the earth, somewhere on the way to heaven’s gates I like to think.

An angel is gently rubbing lavender oil into my upper back, her touch as light as an angel’s should be.

The room is quiet apart from the low hum of soothing music, but outside I can hear a choir of cicadas singing joyously and there is no mistaking I am here on earth. But in a special place.

I’m at the Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary and Holistic Spa on Koh Samui, Thailand’s popular playground island.

The partying had been done the week before, but now here at Kamalaya, where wellness, holistic health, restoration and inspiration are bywords, something extraordinary has happened.

Within half-a-day of my arrival, I begin to feel better than I have in years. I’m far from being full of vitality – there is much work to be done before that is achieved – but, after just four hours at Kamalaya, I definitely feel improved.

This is due to a number of small but significant elements, including the magic touch of the therapist above me giving me a Vital Essence Oil Massage. In a few moments she is going to transfer her gentle administrations to my face for an Organic Facial Treatment. Little wonder I feel good.

But pampering is just one blissful component of the Kamalaya magic.

The sanctuary is more like an indulgent resort with its beach-front location and luxurious pavilions dotted in lush gardens climbing up palm-covered mountains. The villas are havens of comfort with timber floors, king-size bed, spacious sitting room and, the hedonism of it, a large al fresco bathroom complete with marble bath.

It was during the Body Bioimpedance Analysis an hour after check-in that first change took place. I had to be weighed.

For someone who hadn’t stepped on a scale in two years, it was a reality call. However, guilt and shock were quickly replaced by a surge of motivation 15 minutes later as I sat in front of Joanne Riley, naturopath and holistic wellness consultant, who without judgement or reproof, tailor-made a program for me that would instantly have me on my way to a better lifestyle.

Some of Kamalaya’s Detox Program and a little of the Ideal Weight Program were drawn upon to suit my unfortunate state, but there are also programs for Longevity, Emotional Balance, Healthy Lifestyle, Stress and Burn Out, Yoga and Awakening and Meditation.

Along with Kamalaya’s food regime, I was to have three training sessions in the gym and, just to make me feel good about all this new discipline, plenty of pampering.

So it was that within a couple of hours of being at Kamalaya I felt empowered. It was time to begin new habits.

“This place has that effect on everybody,” Ms Riley said. “It’s astonishing how people can be transformed here in just one week.”

While the serenity of the wellness sanctuary works its way into the psyche (stress stands no chance pitted against glorious ocean and mountain views), the super-friendly staff all work towards your well-being.

Chef Kai and his team present healthy cuisine with so much flair and inventiveness there is no realisation you are detoxing.

Dishes that normally belong in five-star restaurants are prepared with as much local organic produce as possible. Recipes are designed to ensure every dish is nutritionally balanced and brimming with vitamins and antioxidants.

Hunger has no place at Kamalaya, yet the appetite seems to melt away as quickly as the toxins. Coffee (decaffeinated) is permitted, even a glass or two of wine (organic) is not frowned upon.

“We do not believe in policing people here,” Ms Riley said. “We give them their eating programs, whether it is detox or ideal weight, and then trust them.”

Your fitness instantly increases here. As the resort climbs the hillside, so too must you. Getting to the air-conditioned gym requires you to mount a hundred or more steps, but the path takes you past verdant gardens where giant boulders sit at impossible angles and at every turn the sea and mountain views dazzle.

Tai chi, stretching and yoga classes are held at the top of the hill, where the views out over the ocean and palm-filled mountains could distract if not for the dedication of the tutors keeping you focussed.

In the gym, personal trainers Clack and Boy took my body through gentle but firm movements not experienced since childhood, and the intense stretching at the end of each session meant not a hint of muscle soreness the next day.

At the Wellness Centre at the top of another incline, gracious staff glide you off to private pavilions for blissful treatments, which include everything from royal ayurvedic massages and traditional Thai massages to lotus scrubs and blossom wraps.

In between eating, exercising and being pampered, rest is expected. Sun lounges wait at the beach and the pool, the steam cavern is open all day and, if you’re up for it, a dip into one of the plunge pools will give instant revitalisation.

Amit Restaurant, where lunch is taken, comprises a serious of pavilions in tiered gardens overlooking lotus-filled ponds and the tranquil pool. Breakfast and dinner are taken in Somo Restaurant, a timber retreat of traditional Thai architecture. Guests going solo can choose to eat alone or at the community table when the mood for company calls.

Kamalaya’s awards are multiple and too many to mention but include being named as one of the top 10 spas in the world.

This is a place to reset your clock, to cast off old bad habits, bring on good new ones. Here you will rediscover your vitality, and above all be enveloped in a tranquil slice of Koh Samui that will call you back over and over again.

Ann Rickard experienced three days as a guest of Kamalaya.

If you go

  •  Kamalaya, Koh Samui, Thailand. Kamalaya is located on the South Eastern side of Koh Samui, about a 45-minute drive from the airport.
  •  Airport transfers can be arranged.
  •  The only airline flying to Koh Samui is Bangkok Airways.  Visit: www.bangkokair.com.


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