Wellness among the Chiang Rai hills
Museflower Retreat and Spa is perfect for those seeking to rebalance their life
Mention a retreat centre with purely vegetarian offerings and you might imagine just a range of meditation activities and food that can be a bore. That is not the case with Museflower Retreat and Spa in the northern province of Chiang Rai.
Yoga class on the lake.
Museflower is Chiang Rai's first all-inclusive vegetarian wellness centre, and is situated 30 minutes from the small city in the cool and green hills, in contrast to the stereotypical sandy, skyscraper-shadowed spas of the south.
Owner and director of the spa Tania Ho said her retreat approach comes from two sides. Ho specialised in spa and wellness at Cornell University Hotel School in New York and subsequently the Hong Kong expat worked for years at various spas in southern Thailand. She is also a trained practitioner of Reiki and Japanese Hado Counselling.
She envisioned opening a retreat following her father's death and the personal healing process that followed. Ho wants Museflower to be "a comforting space for people to heal and reconnect with themselves and nature".
Museflower's facilities are simple, but that doesn't mean treatments aren't luxurious. The afternoon detox session began with 30 minutes in the herbal-infused steam room, which hovered around 44–46C and smelled of sweet lemongrass.
Head therapist Watchararat Srichamoen then expertly executed a firm hour-long oil massage using a combination of Western and Eastern techniques.
Prior to the session, guests have the option to choose from specially blended oils that are inspired by the "five" seasons: autumn, winter, spring, summer and of course, monsoon. The winter blend, juniper berry and lavender, held its refreshing scent as the therapist finished the oil massage and transitioned to an invigorating pink Himalayan salt scrub.
I was then left to relax, cradled in a warm body wrap, before the session concluded with a pot of organic tea served in the garden. Museflower offers many spa treatments to choose from, including clay wraps, body scrubs, oil massages, Thai massage or Indian head massage.
In addition to the steam and treatment rooms, a Chromotherapy (colour relaxation) Room and Himalayan Crystal Salt Bath will open in 2016.
Guests here can tailor their time to be as rustic, new-age or spa-centric as they would like. Various guest teachers and retreats rotate through the centre, which also hosts its own in-house workshops.
My spa package was part of an all-inclusive four-day yoga retreat, led by visiting teacher Tammy Hayano who guided most activities in the meditation pavilion by the waterside.
In addition to yoga, Hayano led classes in line with Museflower's vision, including a Qi Gong class, Inner Dance, Journey Dance, an oracle card reading and a tension-trauma releasing exercise (TRE). The TRE therapy targets the psoas muscle and is meant to simulate the shakes experienced by threatened or stressed children.
"Trauma comes in so many forms, whether its injury or surgery or abuse that's physical or emotional or even just stress. If we don't release the trauma our bodies will carry it, carry that tension, forever," Hayano said.
With a maximum capacity of 36, the small group sizes and open spaces allowed attendees to relax and shed self-consciousness.
Retreat visitors stay in a crescent of bungalows across from the pond and organic vegetable garden. In the early mornings, the kitchen crew gathers fresh produce after stopping at the adjacent duck pond to collect fresh eggs. The meat-free meals are dished out next to the spa at the Soul Food Corner and are prepared with a combination of grown-on-site and locally-sourced food. Museflower makes vegetarianism work with Thai-inspired clean cuisine, minus the piles of salt and sugar.
Those who are in need of a detox, or simply a breath of fresh air, but are apprehensive of heading up to the hills should fear not. The retreat isn't totally off the grid. For example, solar panels are used to heat the shower and pink Himalayan salt pool water, but backup generators are in place just in case.
Wi-Fi and air conditioning units are on site. You can wind a bike through the trees or spiral up the studio staircase to the fitness centre machines. Museflower Spa and Retreat toes the line between conservation and comfort.
The four-day yoga retreat package with Hayano costs 17,490 baht (in the superior room) inclusive of the spa package, three meals a day, two hours of yoga daily, two afternoon and two evening workshops, and transportation. Visit www.musefloweretreat.com.
Himalayan pink salt body scrub.