The rejuvenating joys of Chiva-Som have made the Thai resort the wellbeing connoisseur’s health retreat of choice. After a hectic few months, Director took the opportunity to explore its gentle restorative ethos
The general election is always a whirlwind of frenetic activity here at the IoD, and barely had the dust settled after last May’s poll when an additional budget was submitted to parliament in July, sparking yet more feverish activity within these walls.
Exhilarating though such events always are, it all left me feeling a little weathered, to say the least. So I decided to follow my speaking engagement at Thailand IoD’s annual convention with a few days R&R at Chiva-Som, a luxury health resort in Hua Hin in the Gulf of Thailand.
I had heard about the famous spa, whose name translates as Haven of Life, many times and last year met its Chairman Khun Krip Rojanastien. Despite its enticing reputation, the reality still exceeds all expectations.
When you visit, the opulence starts almost immediately you hit the tarmac. A charter plane is available, but we opted to be picked up at Bangkok airport in an air-conditioned Mercedes Benz S350, which had WiFi as well as some of the welcoming treats we’d soon be savouring at the resort.
Two-and-a-half very comfortable hours later, we arrived at the resort: a self-contained cocoon of serenity that opens up onto a glorious beach and is surrounded by a bustling resort community.
Chiva-Som – which celebrates its 21st birthday this year, and has just unveiled 23 newly renovated rooms designed by illustrious architect Ed Tuttle – is set within seven acres of lush, manicured gardens peppered with ponds, waterfalls and outdoor sitting areas.
The ratio of staff to customers is colossal, and you feel looked after in a very warm and friendly way. As soon as you arrive, an atmosphere of gentle informality slows the pulse.
Wellness is taken seriously here. Chiva-Som is actually a registered hospital, with doctors, therapists, fitness instructors and nutritionists on hand, alongside service and waiting staff.
Over a cup or two of the resort’s signature lemongrass tea, new arrivals are given a private consultation with one of the holistic health experts, who then creates a bespoke approach to wellbeing that suits their age, gender and specific needs.
Wellbeing mental boost
Being in need of a restful mind rather than a bootcamp-style fitness bolster, I was given a programme that was more about flexibility and relaxed movement than physical exertion (my wife, who was less exhausted, approached it very differently, opting for rigorous stretch Pilates and so on).
I had classes in yoga and breathing, but nothing strenuous, and we both had a variety of thoroughly professional massages that made us feel infinitely better.
For me, Chiva-Som’s most appealing aspect is that its health ethos is gentle and beckoning rather than oppressive, dogmatic or forced. Nothing’s compulsory, and the experience never feels like abstinence.
Coffee and alcohol are available, but in these ultra-wholesome and blissful surrounds you just don’t feel inclined to indulge – although I could picture myself becoming addicted to that lemongrass tea.
I couldn’t help thinking of friends who have gone to spas and returned feeling wrung out – all pleasure had been drained from them while they’d undergone their gruelling regimes. This place couldn’t be more different.
A stay here is also a salutary lesson in how tasty healthy food can be. Thanks to the culinary guile of chef Kanyarat Thanomsaeng, you’re reminded with every bite that delicious fare can be concocted without sugar and salt.
Naturally, the emphasis is on lower-calorie food with vegetarian options and wheat-, gluten- and dairy-free dishes. But meticulously sourced steaks, lamb, chicken and fish can also be found among the abundant fresh vegetables, herbs and spices.
On top of 70 treatment rooms, gym and swimming pool, the resort has a kinesis studio, a watsu pool, flotation pool, bathing pavilion with Kneipp bath and an altitude training room, which forces your cardio-respiratory systems to work even harder by reducing the amount of oxygen in the air.
Since our stay, the resort has introduced new treatments for stress-related conditions including hypertension, migraines and cell vitality.
My strategy, though, was to calm down using simple yoga and breathing techniques, complemented by a delicious, wholesome diet in stunning, surrounds. It was, to put it mildly, a success. It’s normal to return from holiday feeling refreshed and replenished: here I also felt sharpened, more focused and brimming with vitality.
All stays are for a minimum of three nights and include individual health and wellness consultation, a tailor-made programme of daily prescribed treatments, complimentary physical analysis and skin consultation, all meals, fitness and leisure activities, steam, sauna and Jacuzzi and complimentary daily massage.
A three-night retreat in an entry-level Ocean Room based on double occupancy costs between around £1,200-£1,600pp, including tax and service. Alternatively, book a package through Elegant Resorts from £3,175pp for five nights, based on two sharing an Ocean Room. Includes economy flights from Heathrow with Singapore Airlines, car transfers and UK lounge passes.