Spas for Men: KamalayaChris Wain
Chris Wain visits Kamalaya in Koh Samui and reaffirms spas are both for men and women.
Spa - a woman's world? Although not a spa virgin, I have come to Kamalaya on Thailand's Koh Samui to see if a male can enjoy the spa experience as much as a female. Most spa-goers are couples or single women, with single men thin on the ground, but spa retreats really are suited to all.
My experience at Kamalaya
A lot of Koh Samui has been developed and built upon again but Kamalaya is located on a near-deserted stretch of coast in the south of the island - how Thailand was 30 years ago. I am on a fitness and toning package, which includes the obligatory massages plus some personal training sessions and time spent in the Far Infrared Sauna - where the deeply penetrating heat has a whole host of benefits.
First up though is a Wellness Consultation which, unlike some at certain properties which just act as a platform to sell you treatments and activities not included in your package, is actually useful and informative. This is followed by a 60-minute holistic fitness evaluation where it is concluded I am not as fit or as flexible as I hoped.
Lunch offers fresh, innovative and, most importantly, a healthy diversion - a buckwheat wrap with chicken, and the fresh coconut juice (hideously expensive in London, but growing on trees here!) fills the gap left since breakfast, which is also a smorgasbord of goodness. A 90-minute full-body oil massage, most of which was spent snoozing, is followed by 45-degree heat in the sauna before night falls and the 3rd healthy meal of the day beckons.
Kamalaya is not a prison - it allows guests to have alcohol, and to watch a DVD or movie - but as the personal training starts tomorrow it might begin to feel like one, albeit one of the easier open ones disgraced MPs tend to get sent to these days. I can have a beer, eat a steak and watch a film, not bad for a man staying at a full-on spa retreat...
The personal training sessions at Kamalaya last 60 minutes, but only 35 minutes of my first session was spent exercising, the remainder 'stretching'. I can spend 60-90 minutes on my own in the gym no problem so the thought of little over half an hour getting sweaty did not sound great. However the time was spent on core exercises, stomach crunches, weights and pulleys, followed by the best stretching my inflexible and non-stretchy body has ever experienced. It felt like I had spent hours in the gym, and I was advised that further sessions would be tougher...
Feeling achy and twice my age, 30 minutes in 45 degrees heat in the super sauna then worked a treat and a late-afternoon traditional Asian foot massage, (far, far better than many dished out on the streets of Bangkok by dis-interested 'masseurs') set me up for a superb light dinner of soup and Thai curry, both of the healthy variety.
The day's endeavours sent me early to bed, with no thoughts for manly pleasures such as beer, but only of breakfast at 07h00 followed by 3 hours of gym work, albeit condensed into 60 dreaded minutes. Kamalaya was beginning to work on me.
5 nights at Kamalaya have flown by. 3 personal training sessions have been the equivalent of 4 weeks worth of 'self-gym', each type of massage - lymphatic drainage, Thai, oil, hand, Ayurvedic - has been better than the previous one, time in the super hot sauna has flown by rather than dragged, group classes of aqua-aerobics, yoga, power walking and stretching have been great fun, and the food & staff have been what you would expect them to be in Thailand - world-class.
My fear was that the spa world is a female thing, but the truth is far from that - it is open to all, and few do it as well as Kamalaya. I have lost a bit of weight, feel more flexible and fitter than I have in a long time, and have slept like a log. Just imagine what one of the 10-day programmes could achieve.
Some DO's and DON'Ts for Kamalaya
- Don't be afraid to travel on your own - group classes and a sociable table at dinner are available for those wanting company
- OR Do bring somebody - girlfriend, wife, civil partner, friend - they will be eternally grateful to you
- Don’t be put off by travelling in low season - the weather is still good, all the facilities and classes still run and it is cheaper
- Don't worry about missing home comforts - alcohol and treats are available, but you probably won't have time to miss them
- Do request a room at the top of the resort if you don't want to have the personal exercise regime of climbing the steep hill to the restaurant twice daily
- Do rent a car - Koh Samui has a lot of things going on worth seeing
- Do go with an open mind, and be prepared to try new activities and treatments
- Do expect your life to be changed in some small way by a stay at Kamalaya
- Don't go if you want nightlife, noise, satellite TV and jet skis
- Do speak to an expert at Healing Holidays before you book to ensure you have the right programme booked for you