Spa in Thailand

Thailand is rapidly becoming the Spa capital of the world. In Conde Nast Travellers recent reader's survey Chiva Som in Hua Hin was in first place nudging last years winner Banyan Tree Spa in Phuket into second. Purely co-incidentally they were checking out the Lanna Spa the same weekend that we visited, and did photograph the suite I was staying as soon as I checked out. Could it be that next year we will have the top three spa rankings?

Spa culture gives an individual their quality time to make them feel good, a justifiable indulgence for the overworked. At the birth of Thailand's tourist industry American GI's came to Thailand during the Vietnam War looking for just two R's - rest & relaxation. The Spa tourist coming to Thailand today is looking for 4 R's Rest, Relaxation, Rejuvenation and Rejoicing life.

Five years ago few international travelers would of thought of Thailand as a Spa destination, so what are the factors causing the growth. Firstly the Kingdom grows the natural ingredients that not only make one f the world greatest cuisine's but that are also the natural ingredients for spa treatments. Secondly Thai's natural attitude to hospitality provides the pampering and feel good factor, a key spa ingredient. And thirdly they have refined the art of massage knowing exactly which buttons to press to relieve stress and strain while encouraging relaxation. Many of the Spa treatments offered in Thailand are a refined extension of what was originally provided by the monks in the temples.

Checking into The Regent Chiang Mai is a massage of the mind in itself. The indulgent tranquility of the resort makes it a sanctuary from stress. A Thai companion described it as a natural Disneyland, something beyond his dreams. The Lanna Spa was inspired by a northern Thai temple. The interiors are richly decorated in maroon, gold leaf, black and white; also feature specially commissioned artworks and sculptures. T here are seven treatment suites, including a Penthouse Treatment Suite, for individuals or couples. The total privacy is fueling a trend for couples to take their treatments together, sharing the experience. The philosophy of the spa is to promote general well being, a part of Thai lifestyle for generations. The herbs that are used in the treatment are bought in the local market, distilled and diffused. When mixed with steam is absorbed through respiration and the pores of the skin. The whole process is relaxed and unhurried.

I decided to try a Lanna facial, starting with deep herbal cleansing, exfoliation, massage for the face, neck, shoulders and hands. Then a revitalising mask was spread over my face using extracts of f Prai (the Ginger family), and Khanin (Cumin) to nourish, hydrate and balance the skin. It took an hour and the result did make me look and feel younger. Having had my face worked on it was now time for the massage. I opted for Orient Blend a pressure point massage based on the oriental theories of energy meridians. I was told this massage was effective in relieving tension, aches and pains. The combination of soothing aromatic oils and gentle kneading and stretching left my body feeling totally relaxed and refreshed. The lady giving me the massage professionally suggested that if I removed my underwear I would enjoy the massage more. So I slipped out of them and did enjoy the treatment but luckily it wasn't physically noticeable. Don't be shy when having a massage, being naked does make you feel better. When the treatment was completed I relaxed sipping hot ginger tea.

Back in the real world of Bangkok, I wanted to check out where I could spa without having to travel. The Oriental Spa is a short boat ride across the river from the hotel. I had found my sanctuary from the pressure and stress of Bangkok. Their temple of wellbeing is set in a gentile traditional teak house. I could very easily see why guests having found this collection of suites within a hotel would want to sleep over after their treatment. Given a duvet I would have happily done so, but alas its not possible. The Spa has its own Cuisine Minceur menu with dishes prepared in a separate section of the kitchen. The menu shows the calories and fat count for each dish so the guest can carefully monitor how they are fuelling their bodies. The privacy factor of each of the suites makes the experience more relaxed. The guest coming to stay at the Oriental just for Spa treatment accounts for 10% of the hotels total occupancy. The significant growth market is the number of male guests opting for spa treatment. Is it now real men do spa?

The Oriental is the unofficial guardian of Thai tradition and culture. As part of its well being programme some of the Spa staff have studied Traditional Thai medicines and are now offer a healing programme using traditional medicines. In High Season the demand for the Spa is so great that only hotel guess can be accommodated. A three day, two night package ranges from US$ 1,600 for The Oriental Pampering Programe to US$2,500 for the couples Romantic Getaway. The price includes three healthy meals a day, a superior room, an Oriental cooking class and culture programe and roundtrip hotel limousine airport transfer. All the guest has to do is relax and enjoy.

Chiva Som in the Royal beach resort of Hua Hin is rated the best Spa in the world. I popped in to find out why. In a seven-acre beachfront site at the royal beach resort of Hua Hin , Chiva-Som offers just 57 Thai style pavilions provide privacy with a traditional charm.

Wealth without health is meaningless. Chiva-Som International Health Resort provides members and guests with the opportunity to enjoy life more fully, and very likely longer.

The secluded world of Chiva-Som - which means "Haven of Life" - is private, luxurious and exclusive. The Chiva-Som philosophy is based on positive mental and physical health . Their aim to encourage prevention rather than cure by helping the guest to take responsibility and action for the quality of their life.

On arrival , guests will receive a private consultation by a member of the medical staff to advise an appropriate treatment and activity schedule during your stay suited to your individual requirements and personal goals . A fully qualified teams of doctors , nurses , dieticians and other professionals are available for more specialist advice and guidance if required . Although Chiva-Som's positive health philosophy means that they accept well rather than sick patients , their programmes can be effective for treating certain ailments such as muscular and skeletal disorders , skin problems , stress related illness , cardiac rehabilitation and heavy smoking . In addition , we will be offering a special range of treatments aimed at improving the efficiency of the immune system , rejuvenation and anti-ageing.

Water plays an important part at Chiva-Som , with many pleasurable and aqua experiences. In the great outdoors is an aquamarine-tiled pool by the sparkling sea for swimmers and sunbathers. Water sports are also available. Other sports activities can be arranged at nearby facilities, including golf as some of the country 's best golf courses can be found in the Hua Hin area.

Chiva-Som aims to educate as well, and lectures by experts in different fields are scheduled on a regular basis. Contrary to popular belief , healthy eating need not mean boring eating. A meal of Chiva-Som's acclaimed spa cuisine of Asian and Western specialties proves that low-calorie , nutritious food can be a gourmet experience. One example is steam roasted garlic is served with the bread rolls rather than butter. Many of the fruits and vegetables used at the resort are grown in their organic garden.

The only alcoholic beverages served at Chiva-Som are wine and champagne. At first I questioned paying all that money to stay at the resort and not being allowed to drink, but then when why was I visiting it in the first place, to improve my health and my normal drinking level was not helping the cause. This policy of controlled moderation was in my best interest to achieve the goal of visiting Chiva Som - adopting a healthy life style.

The team that developed the award winning Banyan Tree spa have just developed a sister brand, the more affordable Angsana Spa proving that you don't have to be rich to spa. Again a tree has inspired the logo and philosophy. The tall Angsana is found in tropical rainforests. Noted for its golden yellow crown, the fragrant flower that blooms unexpectedly for just a day and will burst into bloom again without notice. It teaches us to live life spontaneously, savouring the moment.

The spa's design and landscape immediately transport the visitor to their desired state of tranquility. Guests are offered a variety of over twenty holistic non-medical treatments ranging from massage, facials, body treatment and scrubs that last anything from 25 mins to three hours. Treatments use such natural treasures as herbs, cereals, fruits, honeys and salts with a focus on particular conditions, needs or treatments.

All eight pavilions are spacious enough for two treatment beds and afford total privacy. The soothing background music completes the tranquil cocoon with the masseur's skilful hands awaking the tactile and aromatic senses. Massages range from B900-1,800++; Body Scrubs B900++; Body Treatments and facials B1,800++.

The Lanna Spa, The Regent Resort Chiang Mai, Mae Rim-Samoeng Old Road, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai 50180 (66 53 298181, fax 66 53 298 189,

The Oriental Spa, The Oriental Bangkok, 48 Oriental Avenue, Bangkok 10500, (66-2 439 7613-4, fax 66-2 439 7587)

Chiva Som 73/4 Petchkasem Rd, Hua Hin 77110 (66-32-536536, fax 66-32-511154)

The Angsana Spa, Dusit Laguna Resort Hotel, 390 Srisoontorn Rd, Cherngtalay, Phuket 83110 (66-76 324324, fax 66-76 324174,

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