Pioneer in wellness

Health sanctuary at Chiva-Som

Chiva-Som International Health Resort celebrated its quadranscentennial milestone last year as a pioneer in wellness retreats in Thailand. The brainchild of Boonchu Rojanastien, who was a former finance minister and banker, started out as his personal weekend retreat where he went with friends and family to escape from Bangkok's hustle and bustle. From 1995, the beachfront 17.7-rai property has evolved into an internationally renowned wellness destination that has welcomed many A-listers and collected many accolades, including "Best Destination Spa" by Condé Nast Traveller The Spa Awards 2020. 25 years in the biz. They must be doing something right.

A stay here is more like an experience as you step into a different world where your mindfulness is heightened and your body energised. The open-air reception area overlooks a pond with a colourful school of koi waiting for you to scatter feed for them with a coconut shell ladle. From this point on, the use of your digital devices -- phones, tablets, cameras and the like -- is restricted to within your room and terraces only to ensure privacy and a tranquil vibe. Consider it a digital detox, albeit not cold turkey. After a quick check-in, you'll be transported to your room on a golf buggy while enjoying tall trees, trickling water, manicured bushes and Thai pavilions during the short and pleasant ride.

First Impression

A wellness journey starts at Health & Wellness Centre where guests have an easy chat with a consultant. Mine asked me about my lifestyle and suggested a tailored programme during my stay. The resort has a weekly schedule with many activities from something mild like tai chi first thing in the morning, real calorie burners like aqua box to mindful activities like Anapanasati mediation. Their health programme is based on six modalities -- spa, fitness, physiotherapy, holistic, nutrition and aesthetics -- so you can imagine that it's quite an info overload but the consultant will help you find what fits you. There are other offerings that aren't included in the schedule and carry an additional fee.

The accommodation choices break down into rooms, suites and pavilions across 54 units in total. I stayed at an Ocean Deluxe Room whose terrace looks out to the outdoor swimming pool, Taste of Siam restaurant and the Hua Hin beach. It feels welcoming and spacious with overall wood hues while small details such as healthy snacks, an essential oil burner, morning lime ritual and amenity bag make me feel welcomed further. No need to worry about your daily schedule, though, as its summary will be printed out and neatly placed on the desk.

If you want your stay to be more like a sanctuary, opt for a Thai Pavilion where you can enjoy more space, as well as a view of the garden. It's your own weekend home with the addition of an entrance area, an outdoor sala surrounded by greenery and more.

Staying In

You have 10+ plus daily group activities that you can choose from if you stay from Friday to Sunday so you can easily fill your day with them. During my 2N stay, I started my day with Stress Class at the Yoga Pavilion, which can be more challenging than you think but may also make you realise that you're bendier than you think. A prelude to a more strenuous activity to follow. Aqua Box at Bathing Pavilion really worked up my appetite for lunch as the instructor led the class to execute boxing moves while having most of their bodies submerged in the pool. Another challenging class is Inner Core Exercise in Dance Studio where you strengthen up your abdomen, lower back and hips through various Pilates movements. The overall ambiance of these classes that I attended isn't intimidating at all. My classmates were regular non-model folks so I didn't feel too conscious about my body while the instructors guided us at a regular pace but also gently pushed. If you just want to be pampered, you can book a massage or a treatment at an extra cost. We're talking about a wide range of offers from internal organ massage chi nei tsang, holistic crystal massage to Tecar massage therapy. Ancient to technologically advanced.

All meals are served at the beachfront restaurant, Taste of Siam, where wellness cuisine is on offer and definitely was a highlight of my stay. You can enjoy all-you-can-eat healthy goodies to your stomach's content. Despite the restaurant's name, Taste of Siam serves a healthier version of your favourite Thai and international dishes such as Caesar salad, Australian beef steak with cauliflower puree (instead of heavier mash), creme brulee with couscous, som tam and pla neung manao, but not at the expense of flavour.

As part of checking out, I met with the wellness consultant again to check on my progress and learned that I dropped 3kg in about two days, but mainly due to the low-sodium diet from Taste of Siam. A lot of salt causes your body to retain more water. The more you know.

Final Verdict

If you have any trepidation with the word "wellness retreat", I can assure you that Chiva-Som doesn't feel like a boot camp at all. It's a tranquil getaway during which you pay more attention to your body and mind and learn wellness tips that you apply to your everyday life afterward. Chiva-Som can help jump-start a healthier you.

To celebrate the month of love, Chiva-Som offers All-Inclusive Wellness Vacations that come with a long list of perks, including one treatment per person per night of stay, a physical analysis and full board plus afternoon tea. Those who take advantage of this offer, also get -- subject to availability -- 10am early check-in, room upgrade and lunch upon arrival. Rates start from B12,500 net per person per night for double occupancy and B14,500 per person per night for single occupancy. They go down to B9,500 and B11,500 respectively with the Rao Tiew Duay Gun discounts applied. This offer is valid for stays until the end of the month.

Chiva-Som International Health Resort, 73/4 Phetkasem Road, Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan / email, 032-536-536,

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