Find out what makes Thailand’s leading haven of health so magical.
By Ashima Sethi
As a working Millennial, there are only a few hours a week that I can say I dedicate to my well-being. I exercise, I try to practice positive thinking, and in the last few months, I’ve decided to become more conscious of the food I’m eating. But when I think about the optimal version of who I am, I can confidently say that she’s still firmly out of my grasps.
So when I was given the opportunity to visit Chiva-Som, the famed, internationally-recognised wellness sanctuary tucked away on a private enclave on Hua Hin’s pristine white beachfront, I felt a glimmer of excitement in being able to finally dedicate some time to better understand how to become the best version of myself, both physically and mentally.
In the 25 years since its establishment, Chiva-Som, which translates to ‘the haven of life,’ has grown to become one of the world’s most celebrated destinations for wellness and vitality thanks to its impressive repertoire of specialists and world-class facilities that can aid in maximising one’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual states of being. This winning combination has resulted in the five-star resort gaining an impressive customer base, the majority of whom are return guests who have simply fallen in love with the Chiva-Som experience and keep coming back. So what makes Thailand’s leading destination spa so magical? I was about to find out for myself.
Despite the resort being spread across seven acres of lush gardens, Chiva-Som manages to retain an air of exclusivity and privacy due to its meandering walkways, elevated pavilions, and inspired traditional Thai structures that merge harmoniously with the surrounding landscapes. There is also a ‘no phones in public’ policy, which might seem like a challenge. However, every time I shut my smartphone off to head out for the day, I felt an immediate sense of liberation.
Last year, Chiva-Som completed a five-year phased refurbishment, ushering in a new chapter for the eminent resort. The Fitness Centre was expanded to include a versatile stretching area, new, top-of-the-line equipment, private training room, and two dance and Pilates studios. The Re-functional Studio, a space dedicated to aid recovery and rehabilitation, is now home to a private Neurac Room and Functional Assessment Room.
The elegant Orchid Lounge has been transformed into an indoor-outdoor space that’s ideal for relaxation, and every afternoon, guests are invited to enjoy tea and fresh juices. Tucked in a corner is the intimate Library, which offers refuge from the tropical sunshine if you’re looking for a comfortable space to unwind. Other notable changes include the revamped Niranlada Medi-Spa, additions to the separate male and female water therapy suites, the cutting-edge floatation pool, beachfront swimming pool, signature indoor bathing pavilion, among many other improvements.
In the past, visiting Chiva-Som meant committing to multi-day retreats with options spanning three nights, five nights, seven nights, or more. However, this year marks the introduction of the resort’s Half-Day and One-Day Wellness Experiences for those who want a taste of what Chiva-Som has to offer, as well as the resort’s all-inclusive Two Night Wellness Getaway Retreats catered specifically for Thai residents and expats.
I had the pleasure of experiencing the latter, from which I chose my preferred Stress-Relief Retreat from a list of five options, the others encompassing Weight Management, Immune Resilience, Restart Fitness, and Indulgent Spa. Each retreat includes three meals daily, afternoon tea, arrival and departure consultations, access to an array of leisure and fitness classes, and a selection of treatments that align with the goal of your chosen getaway.
Regardless of what retreat you choose, optimal wellness lies at the heart of each experience. Chiva-Som’s specially curated programmes are founded upon six wellness modalities: Spa, Fitness, Physiotherapy, Holistic Health, Nutrition, and Aesthetic Beauty, to emphasise holistic health.
Every Chiva-Som experience begins with a personalised Wellness Consultation to ensure the experience helps you achieve your personal objectives. Before my arrival, I was asked to fill in a detailed questionnaire that I would discuss with a healthcare professional to develop my individualised wellness programme.
Unlike doctors’ appointments I’ve had in the past, my consultant was warm and relatable, which made opening up about my areas of concern much easier. Personally, I struggle with stomach acidity, poor posture, and a tendency to have stress physically manifest as pain. My doctor suggested I use the next few days to better understand gut healing foods, mindfulness, and relaxation exercises.
Next, I met with a physiotherapist for a Physical exam—a full-body analysis for trouble areas, stiffness, joint pain, and so forth. After identifying areas of weakness, she recommended how to combat them, alter posture, adjust to genetic abnormalities, and cope with existing injuries.
These one-on-one consultations with Chiva-Som’s many professionals, whether personal trainers, yoga instructors, nutritionists, Ayurvedic specialists, or others, are a key facet in why the experience is so successful. By being able to identify what areas need work, one is able to begin building the foundation to resolve them.
Chiva-Som offers over 200 specialised treatments spanning holistic health, fitness, spa therapy, and more. My two-night programme included several recommended treatments that would help me tackle feeling overwhelmed.
Some of the standouts from my programme were the Five Elements Massage—a geothermal massage involving hot volcanic stones and cool marble stones that are strategically placed on the body’s meridian points to restore balance and improve blood flow. The Maya Massage is a deep cleansing massage designed to help the colon rebalance through gentle strokes per-formed on the abdomen; Shirobhyanga is an ancient Ayurvedic scalp massage that uses Dosha herbal oils and pres-sure point work to alleviate tension and release muscle pain around the upper back, shoulders, head, neck and face. Finally, the Super Stretch is a unique one-to-one stretch combination that aids muscle recovery.
In addition to your set programme, specialised add-on therapies are also available. My doctor suggested I’d benefit from one of the hydrotherapies that use water to stimulate the body. I chose the Detoxifying Balneotherapy, which uses 180 massaging underwater jets to improve circulation and lymphatic flow, simulating ancient rituals that use ocean currents to treat the body.
Every treatment at Chiva-Som is performed at an unparalleled level of professionalism, but what really made the difference is the equal attention given to care and warmth. Every professional I met added something special to my experience, whether it was hands-on guidance or a friendly ear.
Chiva-Som houses 54 guestrooms and suites, all of which have recently been refurbished. Rooms are split into two distinct categories—the Thai Pavilions tucked between towering banyan trees and Ocean Rooms with views of the Gulf of Thailand. Each suite is unique, and range from the spacious Leelawadee Suite and traditionally-designed Golden Bo Suite, to the Thai Pavilion Suite with a private, glass-enclosed sala and the Anchan Room with its large outdoor terrace.
Each room boasts interiors crafted using Thai teak, bamboo, and silk, with rich fabrics adding to the harmony of the different tones of wood. Floor-to-ceiling doors and windows allow sunlight to pour in, giving guests an immersive experience amidst nature. I had a restful stay in a Thai Pavilion where I had a say in my preferred mattress, pillows, bathroom amenities, and evening diffuser. My butler was attentive and kind, making sure I had my daily itinerary, that my complimentary mini-bar was stocked, and that I’d always have fresh limes to have with hot water in the mornings to detoxify.
The room itself had an energising flow to it. Double doors open from the bedroom into the spacious bathroom, complete with two sinks, a rain shower, a bathtub with various salts and scrubs, as well an expansive dressing area. A stone’s throw from the bed, a glass door leads onto a private outdoor sala overlooking a terrace. The perfect nook for some afternoon reading.
Chiva-Som’s Wellness Cuisine is world-renowned. Each menu, a thoughtful blend of Thai and Western delicacies with meat, fish, and vegetarian options. Chiva-Som’s expert chefs strive to create meals that are balanced in flavour, nutrition, and presentation, incorporating ingredients that have been harvested in their most natural form, GMO-free while offering superior nutritional value. The resort’s Organic Gardens are at the centre of their approach to cuisine and is where a wide array of herbs, vegetables, fruits, are grown, nurtured, and then served.
As per recommendation from my resort doctor, the kitchen team expertly prepared meals that would help me combat inflammation. From seabass served with vegetable puree, to lentil and spinach stew, grouper filet doused in turmeric curry, and fresh spinach and egg white frittata, I was delighted by the amount of flavour packed into each carefully thought out plate. Kombucha and ginger sorbets, apple cider vinegar shots, and an array of herbal teas helped break up each of my courses, making dining at Chiva-Som as relaxing as their other experiences.
For years, Chiva-Som have been pioneers in the realm of sustainability and continue in their mission to preserve the planet. In addition to continually adopting policies and practices under their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) umbrella, the resort has actively led rehabilitation projects for local eco-systems, rubbish clean-ups, and the planting of thousands of trees. One significant project was the Krailart Niwate Mangrove Ecosystem Preservation & Science Education Centre, which supports the last remaining urban mangrove system in the province. Moreover, the resort has embraced energy saving technologies, eco-friendly products, and waste minimisation.
Daily fitness and leisure activities are held every day at the resort. Guests can enjoy Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kundalini, Sivananda or Hatha Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Aqua Aerobics, Mantra Meditation, Neurobic Exercise and much, much more. During my consultation, my doctor signed me up for Stretch Class in the mornings to improve flexibility and combat stress as well as Pranayama Breathing, which teaches various Yogic breathing techniques to calm the mind. It’s through these experiences, conversations, treatments, and quality time to myself, that I begin to fully understand where Chiva-Som’s true magic lies: In being able to make you fall in love with your body, time and time again.