A much-frequented destination that I enjoy for its fine Sino-Portuguese architecture, delicate Peranakan culture and beautiful azure sea and white sandy beaches, Phuket has never been on my list of great places to go for personal wellness.
That, however, has now changed thanks to Amatara Resort & Wellness and its holistic wellness programmes that are guaranteed to make any future trip to Phuket a rejuvenating one.
Nestled in the secluded bay of Cape Panwa, Amatara Health & Wellness is the new incarnation of the Regent Phuket Cape Panwa and 45 minutes by car from Phuket International Airport and 15 minutes from Phuket Town.
My pool villa number 32 is a one-bedroom with a step-down to a spacious living room, an ocean view balcony plus a dedicated bathing wing that’s connected to the outdoor pool. Enjoying the late afternoon sun in my private pool, I start mentally running through my wellness schedule for tomorrow: morning yoga, Thai Hammam Experience, wellness lunch, Kati Vasti warm oil treatment for my lower back pain and Spa Cuisine Dinner.
After months of trips and hectic deadlines, a few glasses of wine with cheese and sinfully delicious chocolate for dessert before tomorrow’s journey to holistic wellness seem not only politically correct but also well in order.
Walking from the hotel lobby up to the Wellness quarter, which is perched atop a small hill, is a great way to warm up for my yoga class held in an open-air pavilion facing the majestic ocean. The class is led by Uttam Ghosh, (Yogi Rishi Raj) from Rishikesh, the city of yogis in India, and because our group is made up of yoga practitioners of various levels from real beginners to intermediate, the one-hour session is given over to basic but challenging asanas. My joints crack, my muscles tremble but as the class progresses, my mind focuses on the instructor’s voice and stretching and flexing my muscles and I start to feel relaxed and peaceful.
After a short break, we head to the spa reception for our Thai Hammam Experience. Hammam, a Moroccan steam room similar to a Turkish bath, is an Arabic word for “public bath place” so it is common to share the Hammam room with others of the same gender.
“What kind of mud do you prefer? Therapeutic thermal mud treatment with Ghassoul and seven herb clay from Morocco or High mineral therapeutic Hungarian Moor mud?” the receptionist asks.
Mud sounds like fun but we are all new to the Hammam and have no idea which one to choose.
The receptionist explains, “Ghassoul clay detoxifies and enhances skin clarity and elasticity while Moor Mud helps to detoxify, improves circulation and reduces inflammation, thus reducing aches, pains and muscular stiffness. Just choose the one that suit your needs.”
Picking the mud of our choice, the four of us are led to the Hammam quarter downstairs. True to the private nature of Hammam, the entrance is discreet and typically windowless.
“At our Hammam, males and females are admitted at separate times but couples can also book their own private Hammam. There is however an additional fee, as we have to close this quarter for their use,” says Phoebe Boonkerd, the Wellness Director of Amatara Resort &Wellness.
The four of us are led to the locker room to change into spa outfits – disposable bikinis – then my therapist leads me to a traditional sauna.
“I thought it would feel awkward but sitting here chatting is actually a nice experience,” says one of the girls in the group.
Chatting also makes the time go fast and we are all surprised when our therapists knock on the doors asking us to walk through a waterfall chamber to cool down.
My therapist warns me that the marble floor of the Hammam can be slippery and advises me to hold her arm for support. Lying down on an internally warmed stone bed, I have a hair treatment applied followed by a scalp massage. Black soap is applied all over my body to prepare the skin for exfoliation then my therapist leads me to the Thai herbal steam room to soften the skin and relax the muscles.
From the steam room, I am led back to my internally warmed stone bed for a full body massage and exfoliation using an authentic kessa glove to unclog pores and remove dead skin cells.
“We all know the adage ‘no pain no gain’ but if the scrub is too harsh please let me know immediately,” my therapist says.
I almost cry out during the first rub on my leg but after some adjustments, the process is comforting. Rinsing my body with warm water, she then leads me to the ice station.
“Please rub ice all over your body to stimulate the circulation. Then I’ll apply mud to your back and lead you to the thermal mud room. Make sure to completely cover your body with the therapeutic mud. It will help detoxify your skin,” she instructs.
I find my new friends sitting on a heated stone bench in the thermal mud room and all four of us get busy applying mud all over our bodies. Waiting for the minerals in the mud to be absorbed into the skin, we resume our sauna conversation.
Rinsing the mud off is a bit tricky but once it is done, my skin definitely feels softer and smoother. I slip into a bathrobe and walk to the last room, a Himalayan Salt cave, where negative ions are released into the air. The salt elements in the air of the salt room are apparently beneficial for the respiratory system.
The calming atmosphere in the salt room and the remarkably refreshing fresh air make it hard to keep my eyes open.
Maybe I should spare my nap for my Kati Vasti treatment in the late afternoon.
Yes definitely, I think, as my eyes start to close again.