SPAS OF SAMUI08/02/2012
SPAS OF SAMUI
by Diana Rowe
After trekking across Thailand’s mainland for two weeks, I arrived at Koh Samui Airport with my share of traveller’s tension. I’d already regretted tacking on a 3-day visit to Samui, even with promises of beach time and spa treatments. I’d experienced my first authentic Thai massage in Bangkok and something about the pitter patter of a tiny therapist on my back while being twisted into a pretzel did not make for a soothing experience. Yet the moment I stepped off my Bangkok Airways flight, I felt like I’d jumped into a chapter of the NY Times bestseller Eat, Pray, Love.
Starting with the quiet, hassle free airport, I began to de-stress. Perhaps part of that meditative energy resulted from a quick stop at the Big Buddha (en route to our hotel), where I witnessed a monk chanting a family blessing.
Only 700 kilometres south of Bangkok, Samui could be a million kilometres away with its picture-perfect coastline of white-sand beaches, coconut palms slightly lifting in the breeze and the turquoise seas sparkling in the sunlight. Samui’s inland is still awe-inspiring with its rugged jungle draped hills. Banking on its reputation as a holiday destination for relaxation, Samui is now as popular as Phuket, offering more than 80 spa resorts (and counting).
According to my driver/tour guide “Moo,” Samui, known as the coconut island, supplied coconut to Bangkok, but now the island “grows resorts”. In 1993, just over a half million annual visitors came to Samui, and now almost a million people a year pack onto an island only 21 kilometres wide. Samui is Thailand’s third largest island. Moo said it was good for his business that the small island was becoming so popular, but the traffic not so good.
Today, high end resorts are replacing huts and the constant flow of backpackers is slowly being priced out with the demands of leisure travellers. Some say Koh Samui has lost its paradise personality amidst the luxury hotels and tourists, but like any other destination, part of the experience is stepping away from the familiar hotel brands and touristy areas.
That’s what I hoped for when we turned off the main road, just 10 minutes from the airport, and another few minutes down a rocky dirt road winding past a handful of cottages before finally arriving at the secluded sanctuary of Melati Beach Resort & Spa, on the northern most tip of Samui.
Located on nearly 20 acres, Melati Beach Resort & Spa emulates a tropical paradise, with its lush foliage crowding the walkways and edging the maze of 77 suites and villas, fashioned after a Thai Village. Each accommodation is a minimum of 77 square metres of indoor-outdoor space, with more than half also including plunge pools. Once I stepped into the destination resort and spa’s open-air lobby, I thought I’d hit a lucky 7 jackpot at Melati.
No time to soak in my surroundings just yet as I had my first spa treatment scheduled. A seamless check-in and then, the valet transported me via golf cart down an incline into the tropical landscape surrounding the villas. I barely had time to take in my oversized deluxe suite before changing into yoga pants and a T-shirt.
The Melati Spa was on the other side of the lobby, so back I went, this time a 5-minute walk on the winding path that snaked through the resort’s tropical foliage and up the hill, past the seven-level waterfall feature, up the stairs past a restaurant, through the lobby and then across to the spa.
Melati Spa’s sign signals a walk through another lush Samui foliage-edged path. Open the door and the jasmine floats into the air. I decided it was the moment to succumb to its calming abilities – after all it was spa time.
Melati is the Indonesian word for jasmine. It’s only fitting that jasmine is the signature scent of the spa. Melati Spa, with a tagline of “the Essence of the Orient” is a merging of cultures – Thai, Balinese, Ayurvedic, Turkish…and another page in my Eat, Pray, Love déjà vu.
The spa reception showcases the cultures with soft colours, low lying tables and chairs while distinctive Thai classic woodwind and percussions softly play in the background. The award-winning spa offers a full range of treatments in 3 private luxury villas with indoor/outdoor treatment areas, private meditation platforms, Jacuzzi and steam room.
Ancient remedies merge with modern techniques, giving Melati Spa the distinctive rank of Top 10 in Thailand. Timeless Journey – An Indigenous Coconut Experience honours the island’s affinity with the coconut tree, including a coconut shell massage. I’d opted for the signature treatment to relax and detoxify, the Melati Massage, recently recognised for outstanding achievements at the Koh Samui Spa Fair 2011.
The spa’s interior reflects the exotic beauty of the Thai culture, and my treatment room was just to the right of a soothing waterfall and pond. The royal purple accents and the distant sound of the waterfall fused with the jasmine to calm my travelling nerves.
My Thai therapist spoke little English and I spoke less Thai, but we utilised general hand signals along with simple English to communicate. Within minutes, she massaged warm jasmine aroma oil into my left leg, then my right, and I was caught in the magic of the combination Ayurvedic, Balinese and lymphatic drainage massage techniques. Smooth, pressure just right, massaging away the tension.
I can’t say for sure, as I was in that wonderful place hovering between ‘oh-this-feels-so-good’ to ‘dozing’, but I think she even performed a mini-Thai massage on my back and shoulders, working with her feet and toes to de-stress.
The 90 minute, signature Melati Massage was over far too soon. I slowly made my way back through the landscaped paradise, past my villa to the pool bar and terrace. I ordered a glass of Chardonnay while my eyes followed the massive infinity pool, known as “The See,” to the cerulean waters of Thongson Bay and neighbouring islands.
But my Samui spa experience wasn’t over just yet, even though I’m already ultra relaxed. Six Senses Hideaway Spa, just 5 minutes away, was on the agenda the next day, and who was I to turn down two spa treatments in a row?
Another secluded boutique resort spa, Six Senses’ expansive open terrace is the hotel’s reception, with inviting overstuffed, tropical-coloured bamboo furniture. As enticing as it was, it’s the alluring glimpse of water which gets your attention. I can’t help but step closer to the edge of the hilltop parking lot to discover that Six Senses is perched above the Samrong Bay with a breathtaking, panoramic view of the Gulf of Siam and neighbouring islands. It’s a reminder of how small Koh Samui is in the big scope of the cerulean waters.
Rustic-timber beamed steps lead me down the vegetation-and scent-packed hillside (lavender, salt water, just “green” smells) to the Six Senses Spa reception. Upon check in, again I’m drawn toward the edge to enjoy that appealing view of the waters below you. Six Senses Hideaway Spa is more compact than the Melati Spa, with less tropical personality in the décor. Or so I thought until the therapist lead me into my treatment room and then “wow”, there it is again – that distracting view.
No need for trickling waterfalls or brightly coloured furniture here. Rustic timber beams frame the windows, giving a picture perfect view of the Gulf of Siam…again. For a moment, I forgot my spa treatment.
The therapist asked me if I needed a minute to change, jolting me back into the moment.and within minutes I’m stretched out on a simple, white-sheet draped table.
A Rattan Ball Massage sounded intriguing, so here I am again at the mercy of a Thai therapist although this treatment didn’t involve tiny feet tap dancing on my shoulders. Similar technique to a hot stone massage, the therapist used hand-crafted bamboo (rattan) balls to massage with oil blends (lavender this time) in soothing rhythmic strokes while applying deep pressure. The combination put me right back into deep relaxation easing that last bit of travel tension.
The finale of the Six Senses Spa treatment was the exotic Tibetan balls, apparently another nod to my Eat, Pray, Love theme. Tibetan balls are a form of sound therapy whereas the instruments (I believe mine were tuning forks) are activated, producing sound and placed on my back. The touch was supposed to clear blockages while I relaxed and let the good vibrations wash over me.
The result was that I did walk away from Six Senses Spa feeling calmer, happy and very relaxed, but was that due to the sound therapy, or the fact that I received two amazing spa therapy sessions in a row?
Either way, visiting the island of Koh Samui and indulging in two spa treatments at Melati Beach Resort & Spa and Six Senses Hideaway Spa gave this traveller a happy ending.
Connecting flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui on Bangkok Airways depart on a regular basis.
Six Senses Samui – A Sala Property