After hours, I switched off the computer and left my cubicle. When I looked out the office's window, I saw high-rise buildings and winding motorways. Cars were stuck in a traffic jam day in, day out. It dawned on me that something was missing in life. I did not know what it was, but I would like to sort out my mind. A few days later, I took a break and left the city for a tranquil retreat.
I once went to Hua Hin with college friends. Years went by, but memories of our laughter that night in this peaceful beachside town remain indelible. Just a three-hour drive from Bangkok, I arrived at a wellness resort in the late morning. Located on a 17 rai piece of beachfront land, Chiva-Som lives up to its name, which literally translates as "haven of life".
After checking in, I whiled away in the lobby to enjoy the leafy view. Under dense canopy, guestrooms perch over a lake, which is home to hundreds of orange carp. Vines overhang like curtains and almost touch the water, creating shade and giving an open yet private atmosphere. A gentle slope leads from a reception area to the Walden-like cabin for body and mind.
Chiva-Som sources vegetables from its own organic garden. (Photos: Thana Boonlert)
The Taste of Siam restaurant.
An ocean room offers a panorama of the beach and the sky.
Design and Facilities
Founded by Boonchu Rojanastien in 1995, Chiva-Som has grown from a weekend retreat for his family and friends. A staff member told me that in those days, it was only a resort with spa and fitness services. Since his son, Krip Rojanastien, took the helm, he has continued his father's vision and introduced many other programmes, developing the family's legacy into Asia's first wellness resort.
Guided by sustainability, the overall architecture combines traditional and contemporary elements. The resort completed a four-year extensive renovation in 2019, covering its fitness, restaurant and accommodation areas. Guests can choose between two types of room. Set in a lush garden, pavilions provide a private retreat for long stayers. For those who want to feel the breeze, they can stay in ocean rooms down the lane, which overlook the sandy beach.
Facilities are provided for vacationers to improve their physical and mental health. If they want to get fit, they can take group and private exercise classes. I always jogged in the park but worked out at home during the coronavirus pandemic. During my stay, I signed up for new activities, including yoga, tai chi, water exercise and suspension training. All of them helped improve my concentration.
A health and wellness centre also offers treatments and therapies. After consultation, specialists will suggest room for improvement and therapies for optimal results. I received three massage treatments. Performed in a dim-lit room, each 50-minute session helps release tension in the body. I highly recommend chi nei tsang. Rooted in China, it brings relief to internal organs around the abdomen and treats digestive problems.
The resort's library is home to the founder's personal collection of books.
An ocean room.
Bedroom with a cove.
The resort features its own health and wellness centre, offering treatments and therapies.
I stayed three days and two nights in the ocean room on the 4th floor of the beachside building. It includes a living room, a bathroom with a dressing area and a bedroom. A butler came in and offered to unpack my suitcase. Sliding partitions make the room more spacious. Made of bamboo and teak wood, the furniture exudes warmth and a homely atmosphere.
A comfy bed can accommodate two people. As I lay, I could see a cove in the shape of the gable roof. Old clocks and lamps stand on bedside tables. Don't worry about mosquitos because an anti-insect mesh door is perfectly installed. From a balcony, I was treated to the panorama of the beach. At night, fishermen turned on lights to lure marine creatures.
My bathroom was in white and with a transparent glass door. Its dressing space featured an open wardrobe with drawers for personal belongings. I was provided with dressing gown, pyjamas, slippers and sandals for outdoor activities. Guests are encouraged to use complimentary refill bottles and bring them home. Drinking water dispensers are available in the resort.
Located near an outdoor swimming pool, the Taste of Siam brings culinary wellness into a blend of local and foreign delicacies for all diners, including vegetarians. It can seat up to 100 guests with an additional seafront dining space. They can order à la carte from tables or choose a wide range of dishes from a buffet. On Saturday evening, they can join a barbecue party.
A chef told me that the portion meal plan will help vacationers design a healthy diet and manage daily calorie intake. Dishes feature vegetables and protein, followed by carbohydrates. Alternatives to sugar, including honey and coconut syrup, are provided. Food is served in small portions to ensure that guests can try various dishes without blowing their calorie budget.
My favourite dish was prawn gumbo, a twist on the New Orleans signature dish, served with sliced vegetable and home-grown-tomato sauce. I loved how the chef experiments with quinoa in many dishes, including porridge and pomelo salad served with betel leaves and crispy fish. After each meal, I could break the rules without feeling guilty. Desserts, like butterfly pea sorbet and khuy kai koa moul (young rice coated baby banana with sweet coconut sauce and ice cream), are delightful.
Fishermen go out to sea in the evening.
Fishermen turn on lights to lure marine creatures at night.
I went to the organic garden where vegetables are grown and used for wellness cuisine. Located on a 2 rai piece of land, the garden is not far from the resort. It features outdoor plots and greenhouses because each plant can grow well in different conditions. Some are more sensitive to weather and insects and thus in need of protection. It meets an international organic standard.
I also dropped by the Krailart Niwate Mangrove. The wetland restoration project is a collaboration between Chiva-Som and its partners. The area was once a wasteland. Launched in 2013, it is now home to around 10,000 trees, including loop-root mangroves and portia trees. It has installed an 800m boardwalk for public use. On the top of the mountain is a temple where guests can meditate during their stay.
Chiva-Som sources vegetables from its own organic garden.
Set in lush garden, pavilions provide a private retreat for long stayers.
On the last day, I came across the missing piece in life: joy. With the benefit of hindsight, my retreat allowed me to stay focused on my well-being. Little things from old clocks to well-crafted food made me happy. Of course, they will always stay with me. Chiva-Som is more than the resort, but a philosophy of wellness. As the founder said, "above all, enjoy your life".
Chiva-Som is at 73/4-6 Soi Moo Baan Nong Kae, Phetkasem Road, Nong Kae, Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan. Call +66 (0) 3253-6536 or visit chivasom.com.