Former owner of Elegant Resorts, Barbara Catchpole, has travelled the world and visited countless luxury properties. Here, she explains why award-winning Chiva-Som International Health Resort is her favourite…
“Meaning ‘Haven of Life’, this world-renowned destination spa is more than just a luxury resort. It offers a total lifestyle transformation and, with over two decades under its belt, it is fair to say that the resort remains triumphantly at the top of its game as one of the leading wellness resorts in Thailand.
I am about to embark on my fifteenth visit, knowing too well that I’ll arrive tired, jaded and jet-lagged after a long journey, yet will leave ten days later feeling ‘a million dollars’, a few kilos lighter and glowing with health.
Located on the beach in Hua Hin, reached by car in under three hours from Bangkok, Chiva Som is truly wonderful and well-deserving of its many awards and accolades. It’s changed quite considerably – and much for the better – since my first visit in 2003. I would say that occupancy was approximately 80% female and 20% male in those days, whereas now it’s 50/50, since guests now appreciate that Chiva Som is all about dedication to total wellness and not just about pampering.
Arriving at Chiva-Som is like entering a haven of peace and tranquillity, enhanced by the intoxicating fragrance of frangipani flowers. The staff are warm and welcoming, and I’m whisked away through the beautiful Oriental gardens to one of the newly renovated Ocean Rooms, boasting spectacular views of the Gulf of Thailand. Designed by renowned architect, Ed Tuttle, the rooms feature wooden floors and natural materials to “enhance the ambience of oneness with nature” – a key element within the Chiva-Som philosophy.
“I am about to embark on my fifteenth visit to Chiva-Som, a haven of peace and tranquillity enhanced by the intoxicating fragrance of frangipani flowers.”
Once I’ve settled in, it’s then time for my first massage. Complimentary daily spa treatments and massages are provided during my stay, and I choose a ‘jet lag’ therapy, designed to erase the evidence of time zone changes with the power of Ayurvedic aromatherapy.
My next appointment is an individual consultation with my Personal Health Advisor to discuss my aims and aspirations during my stay. She/he will then construct a personal activity plan and make the appropriate appointments for me to adhere to during my stay – however it’s not cast in stone and may be changed at any time. So, the question is, do I want to lose weight, improve my fitness levels or learn yoga, Pilates or T’ai Chi? Do I want one-to-one instruction and do I have health or sleeping problems? Or, do I just want to lie by the magnificent pool, take long walks on the endless beach or indulge in the many treatments in the fabulous spa? There is so much to choose from and the great thing is, you can do as much or as little as you like!
I shortly get into my routine and enjoy the daily stretch class, soon realising how stiff I am! This is followed by aqua aerobics, power-walking on the beach and a one-to-one Pilates lesson with my wonderful instructor, who must be one of the best in the world, having worked at Chiva-Som for 16 years.
I couldn’t talk about Chiva-Som without waxing lyrical about its delicious gourmet spa cuisine – one of the key factors in the resort’s success. All menus are created by the brilliant Executive Chef, Paisarn Cheewinsiriwat, whose culinary achievements have earned him many awards and honours worldwide. Meals are plentiful and imaginative, using only the freshest herbs, vegetables and fruit grown in the health resort’s own organic garden. Menus include lean, succulent meat, fish delicacies, nutritious vegetarian dishes and delicious desserts and, furthermore, it’s all detoxifying and low in calories, saturated fat and salt. Three meals a day are included in the cost of your getaway and can be enjoyed in the Emerald Room or the Taste of Siam restaurant on the beach.
After a busy, but thoroughly enjoyable stay, it’s time to leave. A final appointment with my Personal Health Advisor is in order, to discuss my time at Chiva-Som and whether I have achieved my goals. Then it’s time to bid ‘au revoir’ to the lovely staff (many of whom have worked at Chiva-Som for up to 20 years), and then, feeling fantastic and thoroughly rejuvenated, it’s back to the airport and home…until the next time!”