By the third day I wanted to shout at somebody, or rather I wanted to hear someone shouting, anybody. It didn’t matter whom. I had spent the previous two days walking like a Zombie from the wellness centre, where trained therapists were conducting a series of massages on my body, to the beach, where I would rest on the hammock I had commandeered, or to the dining room, where I would join my fellow guests on the community table.
Up to that point everyone had behaved with impeccable politeness. First introducing themselves before enquiring what I did and feigning polite interest as I mumbled something about being a writer. Always this was followed by the inevitable – “Is this your first time here?” – before the questioner proceeded to answer her or his own question, explaining how Kamalaya was simply the most wonderful place and how such and such a person – invariably some spiritual therapist – was simply divine, and had just changed her or his life.
I was finding it all a bit too much.
Then something quite remarkable happened. Halfway through dinner, one of the guests slammed a glass down on the table. Was something about to kick off? A collective intake of breath followed before the culprit – an English woman who had been coming to Kamalaya for 10 years – apologised. “Sorry, how clumsy of me.” She should have known better.
This is the glory of Kamalaya, a resort that offers various holistic wellness programmes for its guests on the beautiful Thai island of Koh Samui. Top executives come here to recharge, others come here to relax and enjoy the mix of pampering and excellent cuisine. It is just so calming.
I had opted for the detox programme – a decision I had already begun to regret as I saw some of my fellow guests drinking wine with their lobster meal. I mean, where is the sense of camaraderie in that?
Forget all those images of a Spartan regimen and fasting, Kamalaya wins awards for its cuisine. The latest of which was at the Asia Spa awards 2016 where it scooped the Spa Cuisine of the Year. Just avoid the three shots of energy boosts you take for breakfast each morning – ranging from almost palatable to disgusting.
Unlike many health and wellness centres, Kamalaya is not a female exclusive reserve. Around 40 percent of customers are men, drawn to the excellent fitness centre and the range of programmes aimed at getting your body as well as your mind fine tuned.
I had spent the previous day marvelling at the range of healthy choices on the menu, only then to deny myself most of them. Gone were meat, fish, egg, dairy, wheat and corn. Raw vegetables and lentils replaced a variety of other ingredients including tomato, aubergine and peanuts.
“Which day?” asks a German woman passing me at breakfast, having noted my preference for all things detox. “The first two days are really tough,” she confides, “but after that it gets easier.” I felt as though I had just enrolled at the Betty Ford Clinic as she explained how she had more energy than before. I almost expected to discover an ‘I took the detox course and survived’ sticker on her blouse.
As forewarned, the first day of my diet was accompanied with a dull pain at the back of my head, but truth be told it was no worse that the morning after a heavy night before. If anything, I felt reassured that the long-stored toxins had finally got the message that they had outstayed their welcome.
Actually, I found my new regimen a relative stroll in the park. Having avoided meat for several years, I derived a reassuring familiarity from the restricted diet. However, those with a more carnivorous mind-set might find it difficult to forego the steak and ostrich meat – it’s apparently very lean – offered within the “beware” section of the resort’s menu.
By the third day I felt positively rejuvenated. I had fallen into a familiar pattern of waking to the sound of birdsong in my green oasis, before taking the steep climb down to the wellness sanctuary for my next treatment.
I soon became confused as to whether it was my feet, hands, head or stomach that was due to be massaged, not that it mattered much as each treatment seemed to involve a mix of any of the above. They were also consistently excellent, and I found my mind drifting off into the beautiful lagoon that lay beneath on more than one occasion.
According to Kamalaya’s managing director, Marc-Antoine Cornaz part of the resort’s philosophy is to treat people like adults, “not like a boot camp”. Many guests are successful business people suffering from burn-out or seeking to overcome a recent trauma – hence the choice of red wine or carrot juice to accompany your steak or yellow lentil soup. But most important of all is for guests to enjoy their experience and to be one with the surrounding nature. “After all they are all on holiday,” he adds.
It is an approach that has reaped a plethora of international accolades such as Destination Spa of the Year: Asia and Australia at the World Spa Awards 2014 and, a Crystal Award ‘Best in Asia’ as well as its fifth Country Award ‘Best in Thailand’ at the Spafinder Wellness Travel Awards 2016 in London last November.
At the end of my five days I was totally rejuvenated both in body and mind. After the beach, I ran for an hour on the treadmill – something I have not managed for ages – and woke the following morning with no muscle stiffness. Whether I will still feel this fresh by the time you read this article is as much down to my willpower as to the efficacy of the editor.
The approach of Kamalaya is both holistic and slow. There is no magic wand of fasting followed by a colonic irrigation and ice-cold bath. Instead there are personal choices that continue after you leave Kamalaya’s cloistered confines. Not that I would have it any other way. After all, as Cornaz says, we are all adults.