The Difference with Kamalaya, Koh Samui
By Cathy Finch
“It is the sound of the early morning breeze that I miss the most, rustling through the branches and stroking palm fronds. Sometimes the tiniest details leave the grandest of impressions.”
When I arrive at Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary and Holistic Spa on the Thai island of
Koh Samui, I bring with me more than the average baggage.
As a working journalist I have been sent to critique many wellness spas and health retreats. In fact, an editor quips before my departure “Cathy, there are so many spas around these days and you’ve had so many massages, how can you possibly become more well?”
I don’t really have an answer to that question as I pull up to the entry of Kamalaya, wondering what does in fact set one exclusive retreat and heavenly massage, apart from another. Thankfully I have five restful nights ahead to ponder my response.
Unassuming in make-up, but with a prevailing sense of peacefulness, the simple but elegant architecture of Kamalaya blends into a rocky hillside surrounding what used to be a cave temple served by Buddhist monks as a place of meditative retreat.
Located on the south eastern shores of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand, the spa’s story began in 1982 in the far jungles of the Himalayas, when Kamalaya founders John and Karina Stewart first met. Together with their many years of experience in Asian healing, spiritual studies and traditions and Traditional Chinese Medicine, they joined with Marc-Antoine Cornaz from a hospitality management background, to turn their visions into reality with the opening of Kamalaya in November 2005.
Kamalaya means Lotus Realm, an ancient symbol for the flowering and perfection of the human spirit. With a long list of awards and named as one of the top 10 spas in the world, the sanctuary has certainly achieved its aim of creating a platform where guests can reconnect with life’s potential.
I settle into my free-standing king sized suite which overlooks the ocean and is perfectly balanced with local elegance and five-star luxuries. Flaunting a charming bricked bathroom open to the stars, I also have a large sitting area and outside balcony with daybeds overlooking the pool, ocean and lush surrounds.
It’s then time to see the Naturopath for a Body Bioimpedance Analysis which is an interesting and telltale assessment of the health of my cells, body mass, measure of energy, water levels etc. From this analysis, a program suited for me to get the most out of my stay is set in place, complete with a heavy dose of pampering.
With an emphasis on personal well-being and inner health, there are over 70 treatments incorporating holistic medicine and complimentary therapies from Eastern and Western traditions. The principal of synergy is at the heart of the Kamalaya experience, combining the different treatments, therapies, activities, environmental aspects, cuisine and people.
With so many dedicated professionals on hand, there is access to a wide variety of consultations, classes, seminars and health treatments. Treatment suites and open-air massage spaces are placed high amid the granite boulders that catch the warm sea breeze and I indulge in a totally self-absorbed amount of pampering. Every day I also make my way to the open air yoga pavilion to participate in something from the Holistic Activity Schedule that varies from Pilates, yoga, chi gong and mediation to adventure hikes and core fitness classes.
Of course there is always time to lull in the series of plunge pools perched on the cliff edge with stunning views of the surrounding islands and ocean.
The most beautiful thing about Kamalaya is that no judgements are made; the path is really up to you. There are detox menus, ideal weight menus or an al la carte menu. You can even enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine without being frowned upon as the sanctuary’s philosophy is realistic - it seeks to inspire rather than dictate.
Talking with Executive Chef, Kai Mueller leaves me understanding why the food here is such an exceptional experience. Kai clearly is not just cooking for a career. The Kamalaya concept has changed his life. “You have to experience something to give it to someone else. The use of fresh ingredients is truly the food of the gods. If you can go away a little more motivated and eat healthy because it’s good for you, not because you’ve been told to do it, then I’ve done my job. I want my food to be at a level where I can hear it. Take away all the headache tablets and vitamins; the food you put inside yourselves is the healer. It’s a real reconnection with mother earth.”
Of a morning and evening as I sit in the Soma Restaurant, overlooking the sea and surrounding islands, I experience a range of fresh, organic foods served close to their natural state and indulge in delights such as boneless rack of lamb on spicy lemon garlic sauce with water-chestnut puree and white asparagus.
Lunch is served poolside at the Amrita Cafe, amid lush gardens and ponds of lotus flowers, all with ocean views and refreshing mocktails such as Hibiscus Lemonade or my favourite Mojito – pineapple, limes and mint crushed together with green apple juice and a touch of ice.
The cuisine is outstanding and we all know that in Thailand, you can instantly judge a restaurant by the quality of their Pad Thai and sticky rice desert. I challenge you to find a better fresh mango and sweet sticky rice served with mangosteen sorbet anywhere in the country.
Sometimes just the thought of Kamalaya makes my mind go blank. My head space becomes free and clear. I place myself high on that hill once again, in the open yoga pavilion, on a polished wooden floor. The dark black silhouette of my Tai Chi instructor looks out calmly over the open ocean. I listen to the wind in the palm trees. I feel the humidity on my skin and smell a million smells. I can taste the sea.
I have been enveloped by a tranquil space and treated with caring hands, restoring vitality, energy, and a sense of self. But for me the difference is that Kamalaya fused all of my senses. It’s more than just a memory now. It’s a feeling. Something that time does not dull and no-one can take away from me.
Cathy Finch was a guest of Kamalaya and Thai Airways.
Getting There: Thai airways flies 45 times a week from Australia non-stop to Bangkok, Thailand with connecting domestic flights to Koh Samui. www.thaiairways.com.au
The Sanctuary: Kamalaya is located on the South Eastern side of Koh Samui, about a 45-minute drive from the airport. Airport transfers can be arranged. www.kamalaya.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org