Frequented by the likes of Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham, Elle Macpherson, Jude Law and Serena Williams, Thailand’s famed Chiva Som Resort is a holistic health oasis catering to every facet of lifestyle enhancement. The retreat combines classic Thai hospitality with world class health facilities to deliver personalized programs focused on everything from weight loss to smoking cessation to anti-aging skin rejuvenation. With the help of a personal consultant, guests can customize their experience to be strictly fitness-oriented, be “pampered into oblivion” (in the words of Liz Hurley), or anything in between.
Program length and “type” is selected upfront at the time of booking from a menu of thirteen diverse choices such as Tension Release, Detox, Optimal Performance and A Taste of Chiva Som, the most flexible option. On arrival, guests sit down for a check-in consultation with a resident wellness advisor to further tailor their program to their goals and book treatments to their desired schedule. The advisor will guide you through Chiva Som’s catalog of over 120 treatments, ranging from 1-on-1 personal training to acupuncture to indulgent milk baths (a luxurious soak infused with wild organic honey and lavender oil), making suggestions that accord with your specific goals. During this holistic consultation, your body measurements, weight, blood pressure and medical history are also recorded (physiology-focused treatments on offer include food intolerance testing, body composition analysis, and micronutrients profile blood testing). Guests are provided with information about visiting specialists currently on site and the group activities schedule, which spans a comprehensive array of personal improvement pursuits such as aerobics, pranayama, pilates, tabata, tai chi, Thai boxing, boot camp, TRX circuit and every conceivable type of yoga.
A stay at Chiva Som comes with unlimited use of the resort’s gender-segregated Hydrotherapy Suites. Perfect for rainy days that prevent lounging by the beachside pool, the Suites contain steam rooms, saunas, Jacuzzis, plunge pools, relaxation lounges and heated water beds. Water-based treatments in general come highly recommended at Chiva Som. Flotation therapy in the resort’s unique domed float room induces a profound state of relaxation as you free float in body temperature water saturated with healing mineral salts. Watsu, a passive technique derived from Zen Shiatsu and performed in a warm water pool, is another popular water-based treatment - a therapist uses the buoyancy of the water to support you while your joints are mobilized and muscles gently stretched in a flowing sequence designed to foster emotional as well as physical release.
Appropriately for a Thai resort, Chiva Som’s massage list is extensive, including detoxifying abhyanga massage, deep tissue, foot reflexology, manual lymphatic drainage, traditional Thai massage, shirobhyanga (Ayurvedic scalp massage) and Chiva Som’s signature aromatic oil massage. Massages are given in outdoor pavilions or indoor treatment rooms, per guests’ preference.
Chiva Som makes it a point to stay at the forefront of holistic healing, integrating new age techniques with traditional therapies that have been “rediscovered” and are again cutting-edge. Nuad Bo Rarn, a traditional Thai therapeutic treatment that combines acupressure along the 10 Thai meridians with assisted yoga-postures, herbal compresses and an herbal steam, falls in the latter category. So does Chi Nei Tsang, a newly popular traditional massage technique focused on the navel and surrounding abdominal areas where stress, tension and negative emotions are believed to accumulate, blocking the circulating energy of the body. Chakra balancing, craniosacral therapy and reiki are on the regular menu, and visiting specialists include practitioners like Paul Emery, founder of the psycho-sensory, meridian energy-based Quantum Emotional & Physical Release (QEPR) technique for managing stress, grief, and fear.
Notably, Chiva Som houses a fully equipped “medi-spa” where certified dermatologists and doctors perform the latest aesthetic treatments and micro-invasive cosmetic surgeries, ranging from CACI treatments, cryotherapy facials, fillers, and laser skin resurfacing to hair and fat transplantation. All guests receive a complimentary VISIA complexion analysis from a medi-spa doctor during their stay. Despite the sophisticated services available, the Chiva Som vibe is more peaceful than clinical, with the medi-spa discreetly tucked away among banyan trees in a corner of the resort.
Accommodation at Chiva-Som consists of recently renovated suites in two buildings fronting the beach, and more expansive traditional Thai style villa complexes set in the green interior of the property. Guests have a choice of two restaurants: The Emerald Room, serving low-fat, low-sugar international fare, and A Taste of Siam, the poolside Thai eatery overlooking the beach (vegetarian-only at lunch hour). As is often the case at dedicated health resorts, the cuisine can fall somewhat short on flavor, but the daily spread always offers some selection of appetizing dishes, certainly greater than what is available to the many guests on strict fruit, vegetable and broth-based cleansing diets.
Visitors looking for excitement will likely be disappointed, as there’s not much to do in quiet Hua Hin. Chiva Som even bans phones and laptops (along with children and cigarettes) in public areas, to preserve a work-free atmosphere and protect the privacy of guests. But a full self-improvement schedule in the tranquil surroundings, where virtually every pool boasts a flotilla of pink and white lotus and solicitous staff ensure your lemongrass tea is never low, should hold the attention of any wellness traveler.