LOS ANGELES, CA — While many people travel to Thailand for the beaches, the romance with this country’s culture, beauty and exquisite food need not stop there. Chiva Som in Hua Hin, an easy two-hour drive or train ride from Bangkok fits the order, no matter what the wish – especially if that wish is rejuvenation and pampering in an amazing beach spread overlooking the Gulf of Thailand.
Chiva Som is arguably the best destination spa in Thailand and a reason why many North Americans go the distance. The “haven of life” concept is practiced through stays ranging from three days to several weeks and adhering to custom-designed regimens that help the body detoxify and de-stress, build energy and boost beauty. Costs will average $1,000 a day, totally inclusive, with airport or Bangkok transfers in a stocked Mercedes. But the take-away from this journey is priceless.
The unwinding begins the minute the Mercedes hits the driveway to the resort. The sounds of cascading water, the fragrant flower garland gently placed around the neck, a cold and healthy nectar libation on check-in and the clock begins to tick backwards.
The Lanna-style cottage rooms are the closest to the lobby and offer a temple-like interior with separate shower and deep soaking tub, dressing area, plenty of closet space, a desk with Wi-Fi (sorry, no mobile phones allowed in public areas) and a private patio looking onto a courtyard. Other accommodations run from single to suite in a section of the resort that overlooks the sea. There are only 58 rooms and suites in the resort.
The next stop is the spa pavilion where a meeting with a medically educated wellness guide provides the right combination of pampering sessions, treatments, seminars and fitness classes. There are two types of stays at Chiva Som: A mix/match “credit” stay for three nights or more where you are given “credits” toward therapy sessions, classes, personal fitness training and pampering; and the Wellness Theme programs that lay it all out for you for a specific goal inside of a specific time frame. That might be the Inner Peace Retreat that starts at five nights and includes a massage daily, two tai chi or yoga sessions, a personal training session, a deep tissue massage and an intense eastern medicine treatment (this is where the hot cups and needles come out).
Currently, there are ten of these programs, from weight-loss to detox to eternal youth and they offer the most effective and value-focused way to go at Chiva Som. Nothing is in stone here though, except the smoothed pebbles massaging your feet in the Kneipp bath. Don’t like foot massages? Have a scalp session instead. Mixed in are the complimentary consultations for skin, facial, fitness, hair and spiritual health. But Chiva Som is more than a feel-better break in a stress-laden life. It’s a medical spa as well and there are acupuncture experts and cosmetic surgeons scrubbed and ready through the onsite Niranlada Medi-Spa.
But most guests just take this time so slow down, swim in the resort’s pools, get massages, do yoga, learn to meditate, find Buddha along the empty beach strands.
But for those looking for some intensive bodywork, Chiva Som has more than 150 treatments handled in a labyrinth of 70 treatment rooms. And many of these treatments will not be on the menu at US hotel spas: colonic hydrotherapy, South Indian body manipulation, crystal therapy, chi nei tsang (Chinese abdominal detox massage), Thai massage; Ayurvedic indulgences, such as jala neti, abhyanga, shirobhyanga and shirodhara; “caci” deep wrinkle sessions, moxibustion, natural fertility therapy, balneotherapy and others with names that may not roll off the tongue but are well worth a try.
Losing weight at Chiva Som seems effortless, and usually happens whether it’s desired or not. Dining is buffet style in the inside/outside Emerald Room for breakfast and lunch and off the menu at dinner. Dining also happens poolside. Dishes, such as perfectly poached sea bass in a light sauce of sesame, soy and lemongrass, make you reach for the cookbook (available in the gift shop). Most ingredients are sourced locally with many picked from the resort’s own organic garden. Expect South Asian and Mediterranean selections, all seeping with good energy.
Combined with some of the fitness classes on offer: Thai boxing, TRX suspension training, even a course in Gyrokinesis that incorporates yoga, dance, and Tai Chi among the choices, the pounds seem to melt on their own – no diet required. So it is not surprising that such names as Kate Moss, Liz Hurley, Elle Macpherson, and David and Victoria Beckham surface when discussing who’s been to Chiva Som.
Rates start at $2,300 for a single, ocean view room and a three-day retreat in a place that Buddha, himself, might have considered had there not been a bodhi tree.
Lark Gould is an author of eight books on travel and a journalist who has been covering the travel industry for more than two decades.
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