Kamalaya, Thailand Review by Frances Geoghegan24/06/2013, Frances Geoghegan
Healing Holidays has just returned from a visit to Kamalaya in Thailand.
Arriving at Koh Samui airport is always a treat, straight away I am in a happy mood. With its open-air terminal building, palm trees and thatched roof, and the welcoming hot breeze, it always brings a smile to my face. The Kamalaya transfer staff are waiting to meet us, with ice-cold face towels, and bottles of water. They sort it all out for us, and we are en route to Kamalaya...utterly exhausted. It’s been 16 hours since we left the hell that is Terminal 3 at Heathrow airport.
We arrive at Kamalaya, having driven through Chaweng (the very seedy side of Thailand), to a serene peaceful haven on the side of a hill. Birds chirp and the palm trees sway in the breeze as we are led to our villa on the beach. They have very thoughtfully left us a delicious supper in our room - homemade chunky vegetable soup, wheat and gluten free bread with garlic and olive oil, and the biggest coconuts I have ever seen oozing with chilled coconut water.
I have now settled into my beach villa, which trumps any spa room I have ever stayed in; it has glorious views of the sea and is nestled amid ancient granite boulders covered in tropical vegetation. I have a huge wooden deck, where I have great plans to have lots of sleep and downtime. Overcome by jetlag, we head to bed and sleep for 5 hours. I get up feeling knackered.
There is a huge climb to get to where breakfast is served, and even worse to get to the gym and wellness centre. You certainly need to have some level of fitness just to get from A to B. Breakfast is a buffet, with lots of colourful fruits and detox juices, as well as a menu of freshly-cooked hot options. Feeling sated, I head for my health consultation, which starts with a bio-impedance analysis. Electrodes are attached to my fingertips and ankle, on the right side of my body only, and a machine interprets and prints out important indicators, such as how healthy your cells are, your fat-to-muscle ratio, your hydration level and your BMI. The machine is meant to take the guessing out of the diagnosis. I had something similar done at Longevity, which did both sides of my body.
I was told my hydration was not ideal but given I had a 16 hour journey the day before this was hardly surprising. My overall diagnosis was ok, but far from perfect. I told my consultant that I was here to relax, to de-stress and to improve my sleep, and from that my programme was prepared. Acupuncture and treatments with the Chinese Doctor, lots of massages, Yoga and Pilates.
I start with a blissful 90 minute oil massage, rolling the tension out of my muscles. I sleep for at least 60 minutes of the treatment. I wake and have no idea where I am, or what day it is. I stumble down the hill for lunch. Lunch is a la carte, and I opt for spicy larb chicken and a coconut water. It is zingy with a chilli kick, followed by the calming taste of mint. A true explosion of flavours. The food at Kamalaya is always beautifully presented, colourful and interesting, and plentiful. Throughout my stay I gorge on exotic salads, freshly baked fish, wonderful miso soup laden with fruits from the sea, and all the time you know they are all healthy and nurturing. This is one of the greatest joys of going to Kamalaya.
In the afternoon I relax by the sea before heading up the hill again for my first session with the Chinese Doctor – Andre Tse. He looks about 12, but it’s clear he is a man of great experience and knowledge. He is very gentle and kind, someone who wants to heal, but not pass judgement. He chats to me for 20 minutes, gently probing, unravelling my life, getting to the core of my issues. He then takes my pulse and says my liver and kidneys are not functioning properly - they need some stimulation. He suggests we start with some acupuncture. I remember little of this, as I am asleep again within 5 minutes. I wake feeling calm and revived. I can’t wait for my next session with him tomorrow. I go for a long walk on the beach, and then it’s an early dinner, followed by bed, and a restful nights sleep.
I have an early morning private Yoga session which limbers me up for my day ahead. The Yoga pavilion is an idyllic place to practice; high up, the deep azure sea is always on your eye line, and all the time you are gently fanned by a cool ocean breeze.
I am booked in for a Chi Nei Tsang treatment, an abdominal massage, which works on the energy of the internal organs. It’s based on the Chinese belief that unresolved emotional issues are stored in the digestive system and that ‘poor emotional digestion’ is one of the main reasons for ill health. It works on deep massage strokes in order to train the internal abdominal organs to function more effectively and to improve your physical and emotional health. It’s also the perfect preparation for my next treatment – colonic irrigation. A nurse and her assistant prepare me for my colonic - it’s painless and any discomfort is eased by my tummy and back massage, which is performed throughout my 60 minute treatment. I spend the afternoon relaxing, sleeping and resting. Before dinner I go for a long walk along the sea, Kamalaya lends itself to deep relaxation. It definitely has a unique energy, there is something very healing and calming about the resort. The staff are happy.
After a stretching class in the Yoga pavilion, I head to Andre for more Chinese medical treatments. He decides to do a massage on my shoulders which he says are full of knots. It is one of the most excruciatingly painful massages I have ever had, no sleeping through this one. It lasts for what seems like an age, and I am truly spent after it. I know I am going to be very sore tomorrow, he soothes my pain with some tiger balm, and off I go to lunch.
I have an Ayurveda massage in the afternoon by a gorgeous lady from Kerala; my limbs are anointed with oil, and I fall into a deep sleep. It is followed by some Reiki, which really has no effect on me at all. I am meant to feel calmness, but I am merely bored. He tells me I need to improve my breathing and let go…
I go to the gym in the afternoon, but can’t focus as there is training going on beside me, and it disrupts my rhythm. I have a private Pilates class with Boy, who is firm but fair. For someone who does Pilates twice a week, I have learned much from Boy. He constantly watches your moves and the position of your back. I know I will ache tomorrow.
And so it’s my final day at Kamalaya, and I want to get as much in as I can before my lunchtime departure. I start with a Yoga–Ying class, which focuses on stretching and alignment of the spine. Looking around the class, there is a great mix of people - old, young, fit, not-so-fit, couples and singletons. Kamalaya does really work for all sorts.
I have a very relaxing Indian head massage, followed by more acupuncture from Andre. I am now finally calm and relaxed.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Kamalaya is a great place to go to revive, refresh and renew, to find yourself. It’s a very spiritual place, with an ancient monks cave at its centre. The staff are all delightful, friendly, polite and funny, and the treatments are good, notably the acupuncture and moxibustion with Andre Tse. Kamalaya is not strict, you can order freely from the menu, there are no calorie counters on food like Chiva Som, you can even have alcohol, so if you don’t have great self-control, you may well struggle. Exercise is also at your discretion.
Contact our wellness consultants to start planning your own Kamalaya retreat, or call 020 7843 3597.