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Thailand’s Chiva-Som is renewed and refreshed

cn traveler 2019-11-07 15:02:23
The view from Chiva-Som's Ocean Room

There was a moment when I was walking back to my room from the spa shamefacedly feeling #blessed. Correction. Every moment spent at Chiva-Som was this clichedly tagged. Sure, it’s a world-class, award-winning wellness retreat. However, it’s the way guests are consulted and treated that makes you feel different, blessed even. 

Unlike other wellness spas, where consultations have been gentle but judgemental of my lifestyle, Chiva-Som applies the mind-spirit-body wellness approach right from the beginning. As you check in, you fill in a detailed questionnaire to map your current health and associated concerns. It leads to a long and, in my case, very fun meeting and chat, with one of their many health advisors who charts out your wellness plan and diet based on any one of their six retreats or plans. Each retreat is created around six modalities—physiotherapy, holistic health, nutrition, fitness, spa, aesthetic beauty. Nuttawan Graham, my health and wellness advisor, was amused and firm about the changes I had to make to my extremely disobedient eating and non-existent exercise habits. The physiotherapist found my “writer’s shoulder” (yes, I made up a name for my stiff shoulders) a challenge, but marvelled at how flexible my lower body was. The Chinese medicine therapist assured me my digestive system, in spite of being abused by truckloads of ramen and black coffee, was working fine. No, it was ‘strong’. After three days, I left feeling the best version my overweight, pigmented-but-glowing-skin, stiff-shouldered self. 

Chiva-Som is located in the seaside resort town of Hua Hin, home to the Thai royal family’s summer palace and about 2.5-3 hours from Suvarnabhumi airport. It has always been known for its exceptional therapy, thanks to its access to highly advanced physiotherapy, ably assisted by therapists who are always training to update themselves. Their most popular facility is still iso-kinesis, where machines give you a detailed analysis of your body’s abilities and weaknesses and therapists can accordingly advice and direct your healing and training. Hydrotherapy is also very much in demand, with the addition of a new hydrotherapy and floatation chamber. It’s worth signing up for the Watsu treatment—think of it as shiatsu in a heated pool where your joints and muscles are worked and relaxed by a therapist.  

The sprawling resort sits on the edge of the Gulf of Thailand, its calming bamboo-inspired beige colour scheme beautifully realised in Thai architecture, with soaring roofs and wide open pavilions. The renovation boasts fewer but larger rooms (54 now), of which their 17 Thai pavilions have the most lush bathing spaces, as well as private kitchens in case you want their chefs to rustle up a private meal in the sala. Why would you want that though? Executive chef Sinchai Srivipa’s has designed a gourmet menu of just 1,200 calories to support those in the weight loss programme—gorgeously plated and served in the elegant The Emerald Room restaurant. Their seaside restaurant Taste of Siam’s lavish buffets still made me lose 1kg in the three days I was there, regardless of how many sticky black rice and mango puddings I ate every day. .

On 1 December, chef Srivipa along with Michelin-star chef Dan Bark will be hosting an eight-course, wellness-inspired cuisine dinner with a selection of four wine pairings or wellness drinks. It’s a fundraiser for Krailart Niwate, a mangrove preservation and environmental wellness project, where the hotel has collaborated with a local temple to preserve and grow the last remaining mangrove in Hua Hin. 

Chiva-Som has spent the better part of its almost 25-year-old existence sweeping up awards. It is celebrating its quarter century by inaugurating the Zulal Wellness Resort in Khasooma, Qatar, their Middle Eastern outpost. Unlike the Thai resort, which doesn’t allow children under 16, Zulal can accommodate kids in an adjoining resort.

You can spend a few days, a week, months, or even take a lifetime membership at Chiva-Som. Either way, you will have spent blissful days without watching anyone take pictures of their food, or of the sun rising or setting—Chiva-Som is blissfully electronic free (you can use your laptop, Kindle and phone etc only in your rooms and not in any public area). That is probably the best therapy a retreat can gift anyone.

Doubles from THB54,000 (Rs1,26,600) per night; minimum three-night stay. Website

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