Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Back at enchanting Kamalaya on Koh Samui. This time we tried a Relax and Renew spa package. There was just one problem. When the week came to an end it was very, very hard to leave...

Arriving at the hotel lobby where Buddha reclines over a lily pond, we were handed our private itinerary of “activities” – 11 hours of spa treatments spread out over a week, involving little more than lying in total pleasure enjoying massages to hands, feet, head, back and body…and a timetable of free group activities including yoga and aqua aerobics.

Next we enjoyed a late lunch under the palms, a stone's throw from the beach. A healthy lunch of course...but with gourmet touches. Already, amidst voluptuous gardens and running water, we could see: Kamalaya is a special kind of paradise. 

Healthy food may sound somewhat formidable – harking back to days when mummy said: "Eat your food it's good for you, If you don't – you won't get any dessert..."

But here the menu is thick like a book and full of delights – labelled so you can (if you want to) detox or indulge. The food is full of colour, form and taste. Even the desserts are good for you...and mouth watering, enjoyed in one of the restaurants, on the beach or in the villa. Of course you can also have a glass of wine with your meal, though it is not included in the packages.

Everywhere there are reminders that the wisdom of Kamalaya has come largely from the East, and is full of tolerance that nurtures the joy of living...

Buddha bringing a mood of peace to the lobby

Indian goddesses presiding over the free form pool by the lily pond

Some pleasures are good for you

Kamalaya, though a destination spa, is nothing like a clinic. It is more like a cosmopolitan village in stunning tropical scenery, warm and friendly, designed to give you back your joy in living with sublime food and blissful spa treatments. .

No one forces you to do anything at Kamalaya. It is up to you. You can lie on a sunbed on the beach with a healthy (or less healthy) drink, do yoga in the sunrise, meditate in the sunset, get fit with a personal trainer or keep busy with other activities from morning to night.

Coconut water on the rocks 

A shrine in the wellness area

Making a choice

Many guests choose to do a package of treatments. On arrival you are entitled to a bio-impedance analysis, to gauge the proportion of fat, versus muscle and bone, and an indication of cellular vitality. After this you meet a naturopath to discuss what programme of treatments would suit you best or how to adjust your pre-booked package.

With a choice of over 70 treatments grouped into packages, it can be very hard to choose. But no need to worry about putting all your eggs in one basket. Doing a relaxing package for example you can engage in a gentler detox as all foods suitable for detox are labelled on the buffet or a la carte menu.

The important thing to know is that the packages include full board. You can eat healthy, amazingly delicious food choosing freely from both the buffet and a la carte menus.

To show what amazing value you get at Kamalaya: at Select Collection you can book a 7 night stay at Kamalaya including accommodation, transfer, a Relax & Renew package of treatments (some 11 hours in total), and all inclusive food and drink (alcohol and imported drinks extra charge) from 3540 EUR from Finland/2880 GBP from the UK/31900 SEK from Sweden/31000 NOK from Norway including international flight from Helsinki/London/Stockholm/Oslo and a wellness voucher for EUR 150. Based on 2 sharing.

A week of top value luxury with so many dimensions, from body to soul.

Room service - delicious, on our villa veranda overlooking the pool and beach - all included in our package. A sure way to beat stress...

Sunset down at the beach - a favourite place and time for private meditation

Since it was founded in 2005, dedicated detox packages have been the number one favourite at Kamalaya. Now the Stress & Burnout programme has passed detox in popularity due to the increasing stresses and strains felt by young business people and professionals. Under repeated stress both body and mind suffer. Symptoms such as inflammation, aches and pains, sleep disorders, depression and drastic loss of energy can all be signs of Adrenal Burnout. Kamalaya comes to the rescue with delicious detoxifying food, low in inflammatory properties, and calming treatments for the nervous system.

The lightest Burnout package Relax & Renew is designed as a super-relaxing holiday and includes several treatments a day, mostly massages of different kinds. The next step up is called Asian Bliss and includes also personal meditation, and a choice of reiki (hands on healing) or Chinese medicine (acupuncture etc.). The most intense Burnout package, the 14 days Balance and Revitalize Comprehensive, includes also personal mentoring, Ayurvedic massage and the amazing Shirodhara therapy – an ancient Ayurvedic treatment that involves dropping warm oils onto the head and body. All packages include relaxing massages.

Other popular packages include Ideal weight and Optimal fitness. See our previous Kamalaya blog about Ulrika's successful weight loss programme.

Flowers and smiling faces all year round...

Sensuality and warmth

Kamalaya is a gift to the senses, starting with the vistas and the smell of flowers and incense. We had a spacious sea-view villa with white corner sofa and big terrace. Our outdoor bathroom was drenched in the perfume of tropical flowers as a tree leant over the curved brick wall.

There are also some delightful waterfront villas with own pools. High up and popular with young people are the seaview suites and the well sized and lowest priced hillside rooms.

Our villa number 44

 Opening soon are some luxury suites with phenomenal views, up near the new gym and the yoga pavilion.

Views from the yoga platform - near the new suites

The resort is built in tropical gardens under very tall palm trees, with a tumbling freshwater stream through it all. It’s a steep slope and at every point you can see the glitter of the sea stretching over to the silhouette of offshore islands.

The stream runs down to goldfish ponds beside a freeform pool among magical sculptures.

The stream joins the pool after running down the steep slope through tropical gardens

The restaurants all have sensational views.  So do the treatment rooms – 40 of them. Drenched in pleasurable sensation after a massage, you open your eyes, and are stunned over again by the brilliance of the vistas.

Now you can wander out to a lookout place to sink into a sofa for a ginger or lemon grass tea in a tiny earthenware pot and wonder at the magic of life. If you had forgotten joy existed, now you will remember.

Meeting people

If you want, you can meet people, or stay in total privacy, dining in your accommodation or sitting alone at tables with a view. 

If you choose to sit at the community tables, as we sometimes did, you will likely meet artists, singers, business people and academics, researchers, housewives, therapists, and mothers on their annual visit while the husband looks after the kids. You see couples, men together, women together, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. (Children are allowed but keep a very low profile). 

The service is memorable. Looking over my shoulder during a meal one of the waitresses asked me: “Are you looking for your colleague? She is up at the heated pool in the Wellness area.”

How did she know all that? It felt like a genuine part of caring.

Nature is supreme - even the  swimming pool looks natural

Losing weight is a pleasure

Food is central to Kamalaya’s charms. Losing weight here is a pleasure. And if you are actually instructed to gain weight (as we were) – life is a fest.

At Kamalaya you learn that healthy food can be far more delicious than unhealthy food. Eaten with pleasure and no worry over the consequences, totally fresh, full of choice, taste and colour.

So many people in the modern world suffer vague unpleasant symptoms – not just caused by stress but by fried food, white starch and sugar – like aching muscles, creeping sensations, flatulence, restless nights. Our millions of years of human evolution did not prepare us for refined food, and our bodies don’t tend to cope.

After a plane journey you may feel even worse so it  can take a few days to feel really good and rested. But you will notice results.

The choice of food is vast – the menus go on and on – everything from Thai and international vegetarian to organic meat and fish.  Labels guide you to a detox diet - without sugar, dairy and wheat – if you want to go that route.

You can take or leave detox - the buffets are all labelled like this corner of the breakfast feast

Fresh fruit and vegetable juices in dozens of health giving combinations can be ordered almost all day long, each long glass adorned with orchids or pieces of pineapple.

We enjoyed many memorable dishes from those three heavy “books” the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Among our favourites were:

  • Lobster and mango salad with coconut and wasabi dressing;
  • Roasted pumpkin and sunflower seed dumplings with balsamic vinegar and ruccola;
  • Chilled avocado soup with galanajulienne;
  • Vietnamese spring rolls with steamed rice wrapping around poached prawns with vegetables and chili sauce.
  • Quinoa sushi with tamarind sauce;
Quinoa sushi among many detox options - with the nutty crunchy taste of sesame

Though if  I have to choose one it would be the...

  • Baked black cod with avocado, cucumber and watermelon mustard sauce. 
Cries of delight were also heard from those enjoying...

  •  Australian lamb filled with Zucchini and fig caponata.

Desserts were astounding, and good for you.
  • How about raw chocolate and avocado cake? 
  • Or chocolate mousse without dairy or sugar?
Those were just a few examples.

Like a dream come true

After a punishing health diet, one girl here was like a soul reborn. She had felt in a prison, unable to dine out as so little was available in Sweden and had entirely lost her appetite. Suddenly the world of joy and plenty has come to her – without breaking her regime.

As Linda from press & public relations explained: "Kamalaya is sometimes criticized by purists, for allowing meat (although grass fed and organic) AND desserts. But we know that too many prohibitions can be counter productive. Too many rules, can result in an all-or-nothing attitude that encourages eating disorders, like food binges or anxiety and appetite loss."

So some indulgence is allowed, even invited...yes, pleasure can be good for you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you…

I was in the Wellness area’s change rooms, where women come and go from their treatments, wrapped in sarongs.

Hearing talk about an astounding meditation session with Smitha, a young woman burst out: “Smitha…isn’t she amazing. She can see into your soul!”

She explained what lead her to Kamalaya and Smitha - her business. “I have had so much stress with my company growing fast and five of my best consultants going on maternity leave. I needed a holiday. I thought of going to a dedicated detox resort to lose weight, luckily I didn't. I registered for detox at Kamalaya but at my wellness consultation they pointed out I was in far too fragile state for heavy detox – I had adrenal burnout.

“So I am doing a stress and burnout programme to help me run my business – including time with a mentor, Smitha.”

She added with delightfully British irony: “I thought that she would help me write a business plan – instead she got me to find emotional obstacles from my childhood. She is amazing.”

Several people had found Kamalaya by accident (or divine luck). They asked their travel agents for a holiday resort where they could swim and have good food and maybe some yoga. They found so much more…

A song writer from Sydney, who merely came for a holiday by the sea said: “When I got here I was given a wellness consultation so I enrolled for Relax & Renew (5 night package) spread over 10 days. I go running up the mountain on my own trail (5 km) – use the gym and do relaxing treatments. Evenings I go to my room (a seaview suite) to write songs.”

In particular he found the Indian Head massage utterly amazing. Then he went on to try meditation with Smitha. With the addition of yoga and mocktails (instead of cocktails) he ended up very inspired and ready to keep up a healthy lifestyle on return to Sydney.

Several guests we met had chosen to do a la carte treatments for a spiritual path of healing and self discovery.

I found one of these guests next to me at the lookout point. She was staring at the view but suddenly could not keep it to herself.

“I want to cry it is so beautiful,” she said, adding she would have her last swim and then return to Australia today. Some 10 minutes later I was in one of the lunch dining salas as she ran past to the beach. She stopped by one of the mentors, and was beaming, radiating with bliss and joy.
“I just have to say thank you,” she said. “Thank you, thank you, thank you…”

Ganesh, beside a waterfall as the stream leaps down the slope

At any one time Kamalaya boasts 60 to 80% repeaters!  Most resorts in November on Koh Samui were running at 50% - it is the rainy season on the island – but Kamalaya was at 80% occupancy.

Everyone I spoke to wants to come back – everyone felt Kamalaya was their own special place. As we do…

A Spirit House in the gardens, reminding of the spiritual side of Kamalaya
View from our villa

Getting to feel good

One of the open treatment rooms with views to die for

Perhaps you won't feel good straight away. You can feel jittery waking in the morning with the old stress habits of what shall I DO now, unable to sit still. But it soon passes.

The great thing is you start your day facing mountains of papaya and bitter sweet pomelo, wheat grass shots to stimulate your immune system…and if you wish it, cappuccino, omelettes, pancakes….or raw salads, quinoa bread and many other choices. 

Meanwhile you have a sense of purpose with your programme of treatments. You feel pampered and taken care of, and begin to feel life's true potential. 

Starting early in the morning before breakfast you can keep even more active by including the complementary programme of activities.

Start the day perhaps with yoga way up on the yoga pavilion with far views over the sea. Follow with pranayama breathing or yoga and meditation. In the afternoon you could perhaps join a tea ceremony, pilates session, tai chi, aqua aerobics at the pool, or a power walk.

Yoga - image from Kamalaya

There is a changing programme of visiting practitioners, world leaders in their field. These are not included in the packages, but they do offer appetizers as part of the complementary activities.

In all this you meet wonderful people BUT more important you meet yourself…the part you will take onward with you home again. The part you need to treasure…

Leaving Kamalaya is a sad moment. It’s not easy to go back to the world from this paradise of nourishment for body and soul.

But for days afterwards we felt a warm glow,  enriched by the experiences of peace and harmony, the moments of self knowledge, and the dream of returning one day to Kamalaya.

Next time though  – we will stay two weeks!

How to get to Kamalaya

40 mins by car from Samui International Airport. We came from Vana Belle via a wonderful new terracotta  Buddhist temple called The Rock and the Snake and enjoyed the knowledge of Destination Asia.

In a nutshell

A destination spa with a lovely tropical setting and warm and tolerant attitude, You can join in complementary activities like yoga and tai chi, just lie on the beach with a book, or engage yourself in a package of wellness activities addressing stress & burnout, weight loss or gain, fitness or yoga synergy. Packages include fullboard and a la carte meals. The food is outstanding. 

Images: (c)  Aleah L Stanbridge Photography & Select Collection . The last 2 images are press photos from Kamalaya.

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