The Tatler 10: Asia’s Top Wellness Retreats
September 14, 2018 | BY Singapore Tatler
Where you can find your zen in Asia and around the region? Singapore Tatler editors jetted to stunning resorts that boasted more than just breathtaking panoramas—they discovered an array of treatments and therapies that relaxed their minds, bodies and souls, and relieved the stressed of the daily grind
Amanoi - Ninh Thuan, Vietnam
Highlight Customised wellness retreats are best enjoyed at the two purpose-built spa houses, Thuy Lien and An Son. The former, where I stayed, comes with a hammam, steam room, Jacuzzi, cold plunge pool, ice fountain, relaxation deck and a 15m pool overlooking a serene lotus pond. An Son comes with a banya thermal facility.
Wellness Philosophy Since opening in 2013, Amanoi’s spa has reaped multiple awards, and the recent addition of two dedicated spa houses and a wellness programme centred on East Asian medicine therapy only strengthen the offering.Whether one chooses the detoxification, weight management or stress control track, each immersion is goal-oriented, requires a minimum of three full days, and tailored.
Each day is made up of movement: from a private yoga class to guided hikes within the property; treatment: a Vietnamese cupping massage, modern-day hammam ritual and more; and specialist sessions: such as guided qigong and meditation classes or meridian therapy; the specific components decided during the arrival consultation. They are complemented with a guilt-free immersion menu, plus twice a day serving of herbal tea, specially brewed to address one’s ailments.
Tatler Tip Book a reiki treatment with Shyam Goyal, Amanoi’s spa manager. Emotional well-being is given as much importance at Aman, and this amazing session will convince—and change—even the most jaded and sceptical among us.
Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort - Tangalle, Sri Lanka
Highlight The resort’s uplifting, holistic wellness journey typically ranges between three and seven days, and is tailored to your needs by resident Ayurvedic doctor, Jayachandran Thampi.
Wellness Philosophy The resort embodies the Anantara philosophy of “without end” with its extensive array of mind, body and soul-rejuvenating experiences. At the spa, you can indulge in a range of Sri Lankan, Western and other Asian treatments. Travellers like myself who are seeking respite from hectic urban life will discover a gem in Pinda Sweda, an anti‑inflammatory Ayurvedic massage to improve circulation in the body using warm bags of heat-generating herbs and spices.
To nourish my mind, I also partook in yoga and meditation at the secluded outdoor pavilion. I was surprised by how easy it was to clear my mind for two hours, focusing on the hushed voice of the teacher and the sound of the waves crashing onto the rocky shore. After four wonderfully relaxing days, I left not only with fond memories of my time at the resort, but also with an eight‑page personalised guide with tips on how to lead a healthier lifestyle.
Tatler Tip Take time to dine at the resort’s restaurants such as Il Mare, where fine dining Italian cuisine meet a breathtaking clifftop view of the ocean, and Verele, a seafood and Teppanyaki restaurant, which serves hearty Sri Lankan dishes.
Ayana Resort & Spa - Bali, Indonesia
Highlight The most expansive integrated resort in Bali boasts a holistic wellness programme that includes Asia’s largest thalassotherapy spa. For ultimate bliss, opt for a massage at its exclusive Spa on the Rocks.
Wellness Philosophy While Ayana Resort is best known for the Rock Bar, it has many other tricks up its sleeves to gratify the needs of jet-setting travellers—from its extensive collection of 19 restaurants to its 11 swimming pools. If rest and respite is what you’re after, the 100ha integrated resort delivers a peerless experience at Bali’s largest spa facility operated by Thermes Marin Bali, which boasts 53 treatment rooms as well as Asia’s most extensive thalassotherapy spa.Treatments at the Spa on the Rocks are all unique and created to bring in elements of the sea and make you feel one with nature.
My therapist for the day, Sri Ningsih, began the Dazzling Pearl treatment by gently washing my feet with rose flower, milk and sea salt lemongrass in a vessel outdoors, followed by a wild harvested pearl scrub, which left my skin glowing. Then, I lay down on the mattress for an hour-long Balinese massage. As Sri Ningsih undid the knots in my shoulders and rid my body of its stresses with her firm touch, I was lulled into a fitful sleep with the soft lapping of the waves serving as a soothing soundtrack.
Tatler Tip There are only two Spa on the Rocks villas available, so book beforehand for a guaranteed slot.
Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary - Phuket, Thailand
Highlight The resort’s flexible wellness programme is designed for travellers who want to dip their toes into this journey before making the full commitment. The number of offerings—50 to be exact—ensures that there’s something for everyone, whether you want to improve your physical strength, nourish the mind or simply just need a breather from the daily grind.
Wellness philosophy Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary’s wellness programme is anchored on the belief that your well‑being is linked to not just your physical strength, but also your social relationships, mental soundness and connection to nature. The resort offers 50 weekly activities that include practice classes, workshops and inspirational activities. My three-day retreat started with a consultation with the specialist, who, based on my preferences, crafted a cardio-intensive itinerary to improve my physical strength. This included a lot of weights, squats and the much‑dreaded TRX. After an intensive workout, it was a welcome change to be sitting in an air-conditioned room with an iced lemongrass drink for a daily naturopathy presentation, which reiterates the importance of a holistic lifestyle.
No stay at Banyan Tree would be complete without its signature massages. I opted for the newly introduced therapeutic massage that combines the principles of Thai massage and yoga. As I was lying on the massage table at the outdoor sala of my villa, my masseuse proceeded to knead my shoulders before stretching my back, arms and legs. At times, it felt almost like a workout, but the benefits showed themselves a few days later—I no longer felt the tension in my shoulders and lower back. I dedicated my last day to appreciating nature by cycling outside the 89-acre property, and spent an hour by the beach practising breathing exercises with master practitioner Rajesh Thazhe Thatathil.
Tatler Tip To fully experience the expansive offerings at Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary, stay at least six nights. This way, you’ll experience the different activities and workshops planned for the week. The packages also come with your choice of complimentary massage or facial each day, so do book a pampering session after a good workout.
Como Shambhala Estate - Bali, Indonesia
Highlight Achieving a lasting and holistic lifestyle improvement, in total privacy. There are 30 rooms, villas and suites scattered across the 9ha estate, so it sometimes feels like you’re the only guest.
Wellness Philosophy When it comes to destination spas, few do it better than Como Shambhala Estate. Heavily influenced by the principles of Ayurveda, the property touts itself as a “retreat for change”: wellness programmes are adjusted to each individual’s needs, and guests are educated on adopting lifestyle practices and healthier diets for a continuous wellness journey. These programmes—Cleanse, Be Active, Ayurvedic and Bespoke—last between three and 14 nights.
My Bespoke experience began with a consultation with Dr Prasanth, who recommended treatments, diets, and daily activities, from hatha yoga to hydrotherapy circuit training, to bring me closer to my wellness goals. Treatments at the Ojas Spa are indulgent—its extensive repertoire of treatments include acupuncture, reflexology, Ayurveda and Taksu, although the estate’s signature has got to be the full-body Como Shambhala massage. Using Como Shambhala’s signature blended oils, the therapist targets unique problem areas with a medium pressure massage and gentle rocking movements, allowing any tension and knots to melt away as I swayed to a calming rhythm.
Tatler Tip: Don’t miss the guided walks around the forested outskirts of the Como Shambhala Estate. The hike brings you to the estate’s many natural spring pools including the Source, a sacred spring that supplies water across the property, and also the site for the purifying water blessing ritual.
Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel: Niraamaya Retreats Surya Samudra - Kerala, India
Highlight Natural and holistic treatments that engage the mind, body and soul with an emphasis on mindfulness.
Wellness Philosophy Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Niraamaya Retreats Surya Samudra is a traditional Kerala‑style beachfront property. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Arabian Sea, the resort is naturally secluded and peaceful, away from the overcrowded beaches of Kovalam. The resort preaches the importance of mindfulness—something I certainly don’t cultivate enough in my extremely busy life. I was thus encouraged to partake in treatments that balance the mind, body and soul.
The award-winning spa offers a wide selection of international and traditional Ayurvedic therapies tailored to different lifestyles. But since I was looking for an internal transformation, I chose the mindfulness coaching programmes—a series of sessions designed to help guests escape the rigorous stress cycles of their daily lives. Developed and led by mindfulness coach and neurolinguistic programming practitioner M A Shaheerudheen, each session is personally tailored to each guest, and integrates a mindful living session (psychotherapy that aims to help you de-stress, realign and increase self-awareness), a personality analysis designed to understand your true essence and emotional patterns, as well as reiki healing and yoga nidra.
While I knew after the trip I’d not be able to attend weekly Ayurvedic therapies or speak to a mindfulness coach on the regular, I was able to practise what I’d learnt throughout my stay. The resort aims to support you with valuable tools, advice and guidance to help you make positive and lasting life adjustments even after you leave, ensuring you’ll always leave feeling better than when you first arrived.
Tatler Tip Try the Niraamaya Wellness Moments, which includes a daily schedule of complimentary wellness rituals such as Walking Meditation, The Power of Aum, Cleansing Bonfire, Mindful Breathing, and a Cooking Without Fire class. These offer unique and simplified experiences of mindful living that aim to improve your emotional well-being.
The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui - Koh Samui, Thailand
Highlight The beautiful Spa Village tucked within the newly opened The Ritz‑Carlton, Koh Samui, and the wellness experiences that draw on age-old Thai healing practices for rest and recovery.
Wellness Philosophy Located along southern Thailand’s spectacular coastline, The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui promises stellar views of the ocean and access to two secluded beaches. But step inside the beautiful Spa Village, and you’ll immediately feel like you’ve been swept into yet another enchanting—and very private—world. Eight treatment suites, three massage pavilions and a yoga pavilion and health bar surround a beautiful adults‑only lap pool with cabanas and two crystal‑clear ponds. Inspired by the traditional therapeutic practices from around Thailand, the spa taps on the country’s rich culture and its idyllic environment to create holistic programmes, which include massages and yoga sessions.
The Songkran Shower, a signature pre-spa ritual, celebrates the spirit of respect and change. Just like Thailand’s annual Songkran festival, the therapist throws floral water on you as a form of welcome and blessing, followed by an exfoliating scrub and shower. For a truly unique experience, I opt for the Tok Sen Massage, which has its origins from the Kingdom of Lanna in northern Thailand. The therapist makes use of a wooden mallet and wedge to deliver rhythmic tapping along my body to clear “blocked passages” and provide all-round muscle relief. The repetitive motions caused vibrating sensations throughout my body, and I could feel the stress and tension held within my neck and shoulders ease away.
Tatler Tip There’s a wealth of activities like surfing, kayaking, tennis and more to be enjoyed, but for a quintessentially Thai workout, we recommend visiting the in-house muay thai gym. Called “the art of eight limbs”, the intensive session will see you utilising eight points of contact for close combat. Plus, you can always book a muay thai post-training massage at the Spa Village to soothe those strained muscles.
Rosewood Phuket - Phuket, Thailand
Highlight Taking wellness retreats beyond the established offerings, Asaya is the Rosewood Hotels & Resorts’ integrated wellness concept that offers a holistic approach, one rooted in the belief of self-acceptance and self-discovery. The immersive programmes offer thoughtfully designed treatments that blend world-class products, indigenous resources and targeted therapies, paired with a variety of alternative treatments.
Wellness Philosophy Situated along 600m of secluded beachfront at Emerald Bay, the 71-room Rosewood Phuket features all the extravagances visitors have come to expect from the brand, and also embodies its A Sense of Place philosophy that seeks to reflect each location’s history, culture and sensibilities. In contrast to Phuket’s typical mix of beachfront lodgings, chain hotels and the glaringly boisterous options in and around Patong, guests are quickly transported into a verdant tropical oasis, greeted by genuine Thai hospitality and a chorus of cicadas.
Many looking to escape the stresses of everyday life often go in search of first-class pampering, but if time isn’t on your side, consulting with Hollywood-approved resident wellness coach Steve Harvey is highly recommended. It starts with a conversation to ascertain your needs, and the process helps Harvey recommend more effective treatments during your visit. My path required energy-balancing alternative therapies, which started with a session of Watsu—water therapy designed to provide a deeply nurturing and relaxing experience—that was followed by a bespoke aromatic massage, which helped my busy mind, tense body and troubled old knees ease into the programme.
My personalised schedule also included mindfulness techniques and light fitness experiences, but there were days I wasn’t feeling up for a spot of yoga at sunrise or an hour of mat pilates. So I was prescribed a Chinese-Thai massage treatment called chi nei tsang that had the congestion in my abdomen unblocked. This was followed by a brief session of sound therapy—using Tibetan singing bowls to fine-tune my energy fields and bring my brainwave frequency into an alpha state. I found myself drifting in and out of a daydream, and by the end of the treatment, I felt calm and deeply relaxed but not sleepy. I could have benefited from a longer retreat, but I did come away feeling like I had begun my journey to better health and not like I just finished bootcamp.
Tatler Tip Indulge in a mindful eating programme, which does more than just pack the required nutrition. It’s about eating the right things at the right time in the correct combination for optimal results. If you feel like you can’t stomach that for more than a day, ask for a bespoke Asaya menu—it’ll likely be vegan, but you get to start lunch with a chocolate dessert.
Sangha by Octave - Suzhou, China
Highlight With the belief that knowledge is the catalyst to lifting the mind, body and spirit, Sangha by Octave aims to provide a mindful space to help you find harmony between your inner self and the outer environment. The holistic wellness sanctuary comprises three sectors coming together: At One Wellness Retreat; The Village, an interactive learning community space; and Sangha Homes, a collection of private residences available for purchase.
Wellness Philosophy With a holistic approach to wellness that combines Eastern wisdom with Western science, Sangha by Octave believes that the rejuvenation of the mind, body and spirit can be achieved by adjusting six lifestyle habits—eating, breathing, sleeping, movement, thinking and spiritual practice. Wellness programmes here range between two and seven days. Guests can experience a combination of treatments at the At One Healing Spa; Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine treatments; health awareness workshops with a life coach; lakeside yoga and sound healing, among others.
My wellness journey began at the At One Holistic Wellness Clinic, for a health assessment that included a body composition analysis, cardiovascular health and targeted energetic assessments. From the results, what stood out for me was the over activation of my parasympathetic nervous system, indicating either a high level of stress or a poor sleeping habit. While I do admit to being a poor sleeper, it was disconcerting to see this reflected on a chart—making the health effects of sleep deprivation even more real.
Thereafter, a healing plan was customised to my needs, paying particular attention to my request for stress release and easing muscle tension. I was treated to a selection of massage therapies, from the signature Sangha Rebirth Massage, which integrated the most effective tension-release disciplines with subtle bodywork, to the Abhyanga Ayurvedic massage, with herbal infused hot oils, all made in-house, applied on the body in long rhythmic strokes, and later paired with the Polti hot compress massage. It was no wonder that I had the best sleep in years.
When it was time to leave, I sat down with general manager for wellcare, Barry Warrington to run through my holistic wellness assessment report, which had tips from the doctor on keeping good lifestyle habits. Armed with that knowledge, I was ready to take on the world—starting first with a lifestyle intervention.
Tatler Tip Be sure to schedule a hydrothermal session before any treatment to enjoy the facilities at the At One Healing Spa such as the jet pool and sensory lounge, as well as the infrared, salt cave and Finnish saunas. My favourites include the Kneipp Walk, where you step barefeet on pebbles with alternating immersions in hot and cold water to boost blood circulation; and the herbal steam room, which utilises steam from boiling herbs such as rose, bergamot, elsholtzia, platycodon and angelica to address ailments such as colds and acute gastroenteritis.
Six Senses Fiji - Malolo Island, Fiji
Highlight A wellness sojourn at Six Senses Fiji begins with a health screening that allows the specialists to tailor a bespoke programme. It includes regular spa treatments, meditation and personal training sessions, all balanced with healthy and delicious gastronomic options.
Wellness Philosophy My experience at Six Senses Fiji started with a health screening that gave me a jolt of reality. The results weren’t good: my well-being score was 60 per cent, based on the key physiological biomarkers of my body such as my metabolism, oxygen distribution, heart function, circulation and stress parameters. These results enabled the wellness team to recommend a programme specially tailored to help me de-stress and revitalise my mind and body.
My journey began with a tropical hibiscus coconut body exfoliation, an important first step that removes dead cells, boosts blood circulation, aids detoxification and preps the body for other treatments. This was followed by a holistic massage and meditation class to help me still my wandering mind and be mindful of the present. The next two days were filled with personal training and yoga sessions, more massages, a yogic intestinal cleanse and ended with a 24K gold age-defying facial to inject an instant glow to my face. I was also bowled over by the comforting goodness of the dishes that followed the Eat with Six Senses programme espousing a low-sugar, low-fat, gluten-free and hormone-free cuisine.
While I have always been sceptical of wellness programmes that promise to turn my life around, I left with a well-being score of 70 per cent, and the motivation to continue my own journey to wellness at the end of my stay. It has been two weeks, and I'm still diligently following the lessons I've learned: that I can't cheat on rest, and to exercise and meditate regularly.
Tatler Tip Those with elimination issues will benefit from learning the yogic cleanse. The process of alternating drinking water with specific yoga poses is a simple practice fit to do at home.
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