Thailand Wellbeing Getaway

Australian Natural Health

winter 2014

 

Backpackers might come to get amongst the pumping party vibe, checking out the bustling capital Bangkok and dancing until the sun comes up at the world famous full moon party in Koh Phangan. Groups of friends might travel to Thailand for the ultimate discovery journey, filling their itineraries up with everything from elephant trekking and waterfall visits to drinking fruity cocktails by the beach and roving through buzzing street food stalls in search of the country’s best Pad Thai. Couples, on the other hand, might choose Thailand for the ultimate romantic escape. Thailand really is the country that has it all...serene beaches, sprawling mountains, a pulsating city vibe...it’s easy to see why Australia tries to keep this gem for itself.

Interestingly, Thailand has long held a reputation as a health destination too, and lately, Australians are getting in on the buzz. It’s more than just Thai massages – there are a plethora of resorts with onsite spas that offer a gamut of traditional treatments as well as modern interpretations of Thai healings, which offer the health-seeking traveller the ultimate relaxation holiday; that is, an opportunity to not simply unwind, but also revitalise and re-energise.

Location, location

It’s vital to base yourself among beautiful natural scenery, somewhere tranquil. And in Thailand this is an easy box to tick.

Krabi, located on the west coast of Southern Thailand, is perhaps one of the most beautiful coastal regions in the world. The limestone cliffs that cumbersomely stick out of the ocean are gawkingly beautiful, their exquisitely peculiar shape and vivid greenery make for a view that just keeps on giving.

Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Krabi is the resort of all resorts.

It’s located on a private beach that feels as if it’s a private island (guests are taken to the resort by boat from the mainland and the only other way back is via a somewhat challenging hiking trail, known dotingly as Monkey Trail). The resort villas are scattered all around the straggly mountain – so the higher you get, the more spectacular the view (and the hike up the stairs does wonders for toning legs). From the uppermost villas you look down and out onto what could simply be described as paradise. Taking yet another glorious sunset in (sunsets here are often a vibrant kaleidoscope of brilliant purples and pinks) while relaxing in your own balcony jacuzzi...it’s enough to relax even the most tightly strung CEOs.

The reception area and Spa Cenvaree are all located at the bottom of the hill and the spa is where guests come to completely unwind (just in case sunsets and jacuzzis aren’t enough). Here, the treatments are referred to as spa journeys and they take inspiration from traditional Thai healing methods.

“Natural Thai healing is a holistic system that incorporates various practices such as massage, the use of herbs, stretching and even yoga to stimulate sen lines (energy lines similar to meridians in Chinese medicine) and restore balance,” explains Sutisa Yojew, spa manager at Cenvaree Spa.

Although no written evidence of traditional Thai healing remains, there are a number of beliefs. One is it that Thai people (who emigrated from the Guangxi province in China) brought their medicinal knowledge with them, which cultivated the practice of Thai healing. One thing is for sure, “It dates back thousands of years,” says Yojew. “Today, Thai healing has evolved and incorporates elements from other Asian healing traditions, including China and India. It varies from region to region and provides a dynamic framework for the practitioner to customise and tailor therapies to suit client needs.”

This personalised attitude is key to treatments across all Centara resorts. Although Thai massage parlours are abundant around the country and massages are generally cheap outside of resorts, working with specialists to achieve harmony and balance can help restore energy as opposed to simply making your body feel better on just a physical level.

Thai healing is a mix of Thai massage and Thai medicine (which includes the use of traditional herbs) – essentially the concept of letting oneself be free.

“It’s most likely related to the main religion in Thailand, which is Buddhism,” says Yojew. “The idea of peacefulness and happiness is related to the Buddhism ‘middle path’ or ‘walk the middle way’.”

This way of thinking applies to everything that Thai people do. They forgive quickly, never think in just black and white terms, and focus on respecting everyone regardless of where they come from.

Although achieving balance all the time while on holidays can be a little tricky (it’s very easy to overindulge with too much sticky rice and sweet mango or one too many fruity cocktails), the concept does begin to plant itself inside your head the more you chat to local people. Thai people, wherever in Thailand you may be, always appear happy and calm, and you soon find yourself approaching life the same way.

Wherever travelling around the country (the regions differ drastically in the experiences they offer), visitors should make an effort to immerse themselves in Thai culture and get chatting to the local people. This could be as simple as taking a Thai cooking class, visiting local markets or learning a Thai sport such as Thai boxing

At Centara Seaview Resort Khao Lak, a pleasant two-hour drive north of Krabi, there are plenty of activities available that are not only good for the soul (yes, there’s a spa here too) but also good for the body. Whether it’s Muay Thai (a Thai combat sport that incorporates both boxing and kickboxing), tai chi, yoga or water aerobics, a class will be programmed in at some stage throughout the week.

Numerous studies have found that the benefit of exercising while travelling is important for overall health. Although everyone knows it’s the ideal, it can be hard to include. Truth is, most people don’t want to exercise while on holidays.

By integrating Thai culture with exercise (for example, Muay Thai) and scheduling in the classes at a reasonable time (no early mornings or classes during meal times), Centara Seaview Resort Khao Lak has had quite the success rate with attendance. Of course, the Cenvaree Spa is the sanctuary that everyone escapes to after a class to give their sore bodies some care post workout.

“We have two kinds of massage in Thailand,” says Thitima Prayote. “The first is the one everyone knows about, what we call folk massage, meaning, traditionally, everyone can apply it to each other. During this massage, the practitioner uses their thumbs, hands, knees and even feet to massage and stretch the body. It’s important to understand the condition of the customer, as it can be quite tough on the body. The second type of massage is the royal Thai massage, and this is rare today. It refers to a massage that is given to the king, and the therapist massages using only her thumb. It’s a very specialist type of massage.”

Prayote laughs when asked if this special type of massage is available at Centara Seaview Resort Khao Lak. “It wouldn’t be very popular. People come here wanting the works – hands, knees, elbows, feet – they might have just done a Muay Thai class or they could be stressed from their work life.

“We recommend a special amalgamation we have here – a fusion where we use traditional Thai massage techniques with a herbal hot compress. We have different types of aromatherapy oils and the guests choose which they like best, and then we combine the preferred oil with the sand pouch and use it as a hot, scented compress. The Signature Salt Pot Muscles Melter is one of our signature treatments – it’s not traditional Thai, but it’s Thai style – a modern Thai massage.”

The Thai ethos of taking the best, tweaking it and creating a new and improved product can be summed up in one very well-known Thai saying: ‘Same, same, but different.’ 

The writer travelled as a guest of Tourism Authority of Thailand and Centara Hotels & Resorts. For more information go to tourismthailand.org and centarahotelsresorts.com.