Spas In Thailand

by Tom Aikins, Mar 23, 2002 | Destinations: Thailand / Bangkok
Flower blossom bath at the Royal Garden Resort.

Flower blossom bath at the Royal Garden Resort.

Flower blossom bath at the Royal Garden Resort.
Royal Garden flower blossom bath.
Fresh cucumber treatment.
Herbal body scrub.

Along with the almost overpowering appearance of Thai foot massage centers all over Bangkok, the massage for health theme has become more than a trend; it's virtually a way of life for all these days.

Such is the impact of the recently opened foot massage outlets that there seems little stemming of the tide. Most are always busy and new ones open up weekly. However the mind and body treatment trend goes deeper than simple foot massage. Thailand has joined the bandwagon of countries offering detailed spa treatments to visitors and boasts some of the best as well as some of the lesser-known original non-resort type centers.

Traditional Thai Massage "Nuad Phan Boran" combines yoga and acupressure techniques and is known to alleviate such ailments as epilepsy and speech defects as well as headaches, backaches and other tension-based pains. The worldwide popularity of this type of massage plus the obvious connection to Buddhist meditation techniques has created a basis for Thailand to be amongst the leaders in the introduction of health spa resorts. Traditional oils and the oriental herbal medicines only add to the " spice" as visitors flock to the kingdom in search of "wellness."

Meditation and Ayurvedic treatment centers have long been destinations for those in search of eastern treatments and herbal-based medicines. Ayurved Vidyalaya on Phaholyothin Soi 5, Bangkok is long established and Wat Khao Tham on Koh Phangan is perhaps the best known and best located of the many dozens of Thai meditation centers. Blind masseuse practitioners have long been recognized as the capitol's best and many establishments can be found throughout the city with the Yannawa Foundation being the most well known.

However, for now the trend is to pamper with more style and exotic treatments at a price. The war is on as spa treatments reach a crescendo of demand and passive fitness begins to take a grip.

Latest introductions in a line of new spas is Mandara at the Imperial Queen's Park, Bangkok and the Peninsula's in-house spa. The Oriental Hotel's Spa on the opposite side of the river from the main hotel, now offers 50 treatments to guests all using herbs grown in the north of Thailand. The Spa combines eastern remedies with European programming and American state of the art technology to offer a comprehensive health program. Similar all-natural and organic "E" treatments are also found at the Sheraton Grande on Sukhumvit Road.

Any four star property and above now must compete by having spa treatments. In Thailand, of course, the value for money that the baht can offer amounts to some incredible deals on high-quality, international-standard treatments.

Chiva Som in Hua Hin may well head the list as its revolutionary style treatments become a known name overseas. In house doctors and consultants prepare personalized treatment programs varying from iridology to Thai boxing and flotation tank therapy. Latest developments at "the haven of life" include stress management courses and liver-cleansing diets. Daily massage and fitness activities and three Chiva Som cuisine meals usually come in the nightly accommodation package. Health and beauty consultations are also included and rates start at around USD 300 per night.

Not to be outdone, the Hua Hin Sofitel now provides aromatherapy treatments at its newest wing and both Hua Hin Royal Garden properties have the Mandara Spa chain.

In Phuket, competition is fierce with Banyan Tree's "sanctuary for the senses" leading the way with Laguna Beach Club, Dusit Laguna, Sheraton Grande Laguna and The Chedi not far behind. The former now has pool and Jacuzzi villas to add to the list of available treatments. Thavorn Palm Beach's Nakalay Spa provides five private spa rooms with such enticing extras as the "ultimate pampering facial" treatment.

Krabi's Premier Rayavadee Resort is now the lap of luxury with 8 spa pavilions offering personalized mind and body treatments. Traditional Thai massage here is given an extra addition with the innovation of nighttime candlelit massage. Aromatherapy treatments are widely recommended and special menus of vegetarian dishes can be ordered at your private spa pavilion. With nightly rates starting at around baht 14,000, it's not cheap but it is high quality. With a huge variety of activities available such as sea-kayaking, sailing, climbing, rock climbing, water sports, snorkeling, scuba, etc. and with the stunning surrounding scenery it is arguably Thailand's most outstanding resort.

Chiangmai's answer to the super beach spas of the south is the Lanna Spa at the Regent Hotel. Situated amidst the tiered rice paddies there are seven treatment suites and a penthouse offering countryside views with outdoor showers and spa tubs, giving the resort a sense of the impossible health seeker's dream.

For those in the area looking for less pampering but with a serious edge to their ideal, the famous Sunshine House is located in Chiangmai town. The center, created by Asokananda, offers meditation, yoga, tai'chi and massage courses as well as accommodation at mountain retreats.

Of the many hot springs found in Thailand, only three really offer any serious treatments. The first of these is the Hin Dard Hot Springs in Kanchanaburi province where mineral steam baths can be taken to ease any general ailments.

In Ranong, the Raksawarin spa offers a similar therapy as well as a pleasantly designed shady arboretum.

Pong Duet Hot Springs in Mae Hong Son offers outdoor bathing pools downstream of the hot geysers.

Samui's Santaburi Dusit Resort boasts the island's only real 5-star spa. It offers an all-suite spa with sumptuous rooms and indoor as well as outdoor Jacuzzis and all-herbal treatments with body scrubs and body wraps as the specialities.

Shelley Poplack's Tamarind Springs at Lamai, Koh Samui, offers a cheaper version of the spa resort with daily visitors able to partake of herbal steam baths and Thai herbal oil massages at around USD 50 /day.

Another retreat at Lamai is the Axolotl Resort, offering yoga and meditation as well as vegetarian cuisine.

With further luxury spas opening and new retreats planned for Krabi and Trang, in addition to neighboring Malaysia's offerings at Pangkor Laut and Tioman Islands, the health business is big business. For the alternative traveler, some pampering is in order and the chance to get healthy could perhaps never be so accessible or as enticing as in S.E. Asia and especially Thailand, home of the traditional massage.

* * * * *

Note: TAT provides a free publication named Blue Horizon Green Heartland outlining what Thailand has to offer to the visitor in the way of health retreats, from the simple massage outlet to the luxury spas and everything in between. Call 694-1222 or email for a copy.

* * * * *