Recently, a friend visiting Bangkok sent me a text. “Wow. What a city! There’s so much going on here, it makes New York look sleepy.” I had to laugh, thinking of Bangkok’s frenzied buzz, a veritable onslaught of graceful clutter and motion. “Tranquility’s there,” I said. “You’ll find it around corners, in nooks—in the hearts of the people.”
Thailand, a country in southeast Asia best known for its beaches and ornate royal palaces, has abundant sections of undeveloped or protected nature in both the north and the south. But its unique quietude can be grasped most anywhere visitors have the opportuni-ty to connect with locals. With statistics reporting that approxi-mately 95 percent of the population identify as Buddhist, Thailand is a welcoming country, where reverence for others motivates most actions.
Thais, for example, greet with the wai, a ritual that manifests respect and goodwill. Pressing their hands together, they bow their heads, and say their standard hello: “sawasdee ka” (for women, or “sawasdee krab” for men). Generally, the younger person speaks first—the Thai esteem for elders is strongly ingrained as a spiritual practice. Truly, almost every aspect of Thai life reads as a spiritual act. Cook. Walk. Commute. Laugh. It’s all meaningful and relevant. Directly and effortlessly, that practice of caring and selflessness translates to wellness and healing. At Thai retreats and spas, this means guests benefit from an authentic ambiance of kindness and warmheartedness that passes through the layers to ensure any treatment or experience can embrace the sacred curative triad: mind, body and spirit. Below, these tested havens exemplify the joy of the Thai vibe.
Location is everything—or at least a stellar foundation. Case in point: the centuries-old monk’s meditation cave that lies at the heart of the Kamalaya, like a metaphor for its mission statement. Amid lush forest-scape, the Thai-invoking wellness center welcomes travelers in search of transformation and/or repose. Nestled on the southern shores of Koh Samui, the destination draws from global healing modalities, its experts meeting guests face-to-face to customize curative itineraries. Sleep issues, gut health, detox, fitness and yoga are just some avenues to be explored. Welcoming individu-al travelers, the facility also holds group retreats—some led by one of its founders, Karina Stewart.
PHULAY BAY: A RITZ-CARLTON RESERVE
On the shores of the Andaman Sea, the Krabi province sets a mystical tone with its vistas of the area’s distinctive limestone karsts, toothy mountains that soar from the sea. At Phulay Bay, architecture meant to evoke ancient palaces and temples heightens that mood, as do the sloped-roofed suites, many with private rumination gardens. With a goal to immerse guests in Thai culture, the swanky retreat presents a constant flow of regionally immersive activities from puppet shows to cooking demos, including longtail boat rides and kayaking jaunts through the famous
mangrove forests nearby. In the Spa, guests sip antioxidant-rich, blue-hued Butterfly Pea Flower (from the retreat’s own garden), and yield to special treatments, such as a massage executed with Thai-herb-filled packets or warm, local volcanic stones. ritzcarlton.com
BANYAN TREE PHUKET
The flagship hotel for the health-conscious Banyan Tree brand, poised near Bang Tao Bay, on the northwest shore of Phuket, this garden-like, all-villa enclave offers a variety of experiences. Most notably, its 12 Spa Sanctuary suites provide an opportunity to delve deeply into wellness. With personal pools and a dedicated massage space, the spacious rooms include complimentary, unlimited massage appointments, fitness classes and an optional detox menu. And, a newly minted Well-Being Pool Villa will offer guests customized, guided lifestyle enrichment journeys that go beyond spa to health and wellness. As home to Banyan Tree’s Spa Academy, the school that trains massage therapists for all of its hotels world-wide, the resort exudes heartfelt harmony. Perhaps that begins in the spa, where therapists start the day with morning meditation, chanting and positive visualization in order to transfer healing to their clients. banyantree.com
Meaning “haven of life,” Chiva-Som was once founder Boonchu Rojanastien’s private beachside residence, a weekend sanctum from busy Bangkok, in Hua Hin. Sharing his getaway with friends and family, he developed a mantra he wanted all to embrace: “Above all, enjoy your life.” Adhering to a six-pronged approach (spa, fitness, physiotherapy, holistic health, nutrition and aesthetic beauty), the refuge, celebrating 25 years this year, continues to evolve. Today, with contemporary Thai rooms, it offers wellness cuisine and more than 200 treatments and activities—from Tai Chi to Watsu. Its bespoke programs, ideal for goal-oriented travelers, range from mindfulness to detox to pain management. chivasom.com
SIX SENSES YAO NOI
A sustainable fantasyland, Yao Noi plays jazz to its chickens so they feel sexier (and thus lay better eggs) and opera to its rainwater barrels, which purportedly enriches the H20 used throughout the resort. The Phang Nga Bay-edged island experience begins with an arrival by boat, and continues with daily yoga atop a promontory, midnight movies screened on the beach, farm-to-table organic food and Thai butlers at the ready. In the Yao Noi Spa Village, ensconced in a classic thatched-roof Thai longhouse, rituals range from turmeric baths to a facial using natural silk cocoons to firm the skin. Overall, the spa’s intuitive philosophy tends toward leading guests beyond relaxation to inner transformation. As its brochure says, “we will take you as deep as you would like to go.” sixsenses.com