Frances Trussell reviews a stress and burnout recovery programme at Amatara Wellness Resort on Phuket in Thailand with her husband and finds glorious surroundings, attentive staff, deeply soothing treatments and every reason to celebrate
As we stepped into the gold interior of our mini-bus and were handed cold towels and fresh juices, we knew we were in for some luxury. Our journey to Amatara had been a long one in many ways. In addition to a delayed transfer from Hong Kong, my husband and I had been through a challenging year of family health and financial trials that had sharply impinged upon the time we had for one another. The chance to take a break together was serendipitously timed with Kevin turning 40 the week of our trip. So, despite my inner critic coming up with multiple other things I should be doing instead, we left the kids with a coalition of grandparents and headed for Phuket.
We were greeted with smiles and flower corsages as well as an impressive vista from the well-appointed hotel lobby. The resort is perched at the top of a steep hill, and impressive architectural design made for striking views in every direction. The turquoise ocean specked with green islands appeared stretched out ahead beyond the infinity pool flanked by wooden Thai Pagodas and dragon water features. Clever architecture throughout the resort subtly hid many of the residences between lush tropical planting and a man-made waterfall sided the short winding walk down to the beach.
We were made to feel instantly at ease by charming hotel staff who were faultlessly attentive and enthusiastic throughout our whole stay. As stunning and lux as it was, I felt a bit grumpy and tired after our flight. I had to placate my internal toddler and head straight to an initial consultation with Numthip, the gentle mannered wellness operations manager. The thorough meeting delved into my physical and emotional wellness, diet, routines and lifestyle and I found myself nervously balancing on a body composition analysis machine awaiting verdict. A printout confirmed me to be slightly lopsided and skinny, in need of protein and personal training alongside additional calories that weren’t comprised of wine. After perusing the most suitable options the ‘stress and burnout recovery’ retreat was swiftly prescribed. Had my husband not been away with me I may have opted for the full colonic detox route, but the opulent surroundings screamed celebration over enema.
Our plush suite with sea view was so stunning I could have just lounged about there for the entire holiday. Thank goodness they didn’t give us one of the incredible pool villas or I’d have struggled to make it to any of my appointments. However, I was pleased I did. Physiotherapy with vibrant and knowledgeable Bella was a real eye opener. Following years of treatments on a neck injury I received some of the most useful manipulation and follow up exercises I’d come across. My inner organ massage ‘Chi Nei Tsang’ was, at times, as uncomfortable as it sounds but highly effective for shifting a build-up of abdominal tension. Though uninspired by its name, my lavender massage turned out to be one of the most deeply soothing massages of my life. Plus, a strong reflexology session lead to one of the best nights sleep I’d had in years.
‘Physiotherapy with vibrant and knowledgeable Bella for my neck injury was a real eye opener, and she gave me some of the most useful manipulation and follow up exercises I’d come across. My lavender massage turned out to be one of the most deeply soothing massages of my life, and a strong reflexology session lead to one of the best nights sleep I’d had in years’
Waking up to the sight of sunrise over the sea, I soon found myself happily strolling alongside bright flowers and foliage up to my yoga class. I’ve been fortunate to do yoga in some fabulous locations, but Amatara’s really is the Yoga Shala of dreams. A beautiful wooden platform with ornate detailed roof floating high above the ocean. The mornings hatha yoga lessons were well led for all ability ranges with plenty of advanced options for experienced practitioners. I was momentarily concerned that we might lose one of the beginners off the edge of the elevated platform during one slightly wobbly asana but we all finished intact with wide sweaty smiles.
A strong 1-1 Pilates reformer session saw me stretched into a range of remarkable positions I’d assumed were a thing of the past, leaving me a convert to the machine. In a fun and dynamic group mat Pilates session I found myself and a fellow South-African holidaymaker giggling away. She was visiting with her husband, both business people in their thirties and huge fans of Phuket, it was their third stay at this ‘their favourite hotel’. Other guests came from all age ranges and locations, I met a detoxing financial services guy from Melbourne in his late twenties, a singer from LA, one pair of female friends from the UK, another from Canada, there were many Chinese couples and groups of friends, a German family of three, a British family with two under-fives. The resort felt exclusive and during our stay, people mainly kept to themselves.
Although the retreat dining space had a communal table at its centre where we saw some solo guests laughing away together on one evening, I would have felt entirely comfortable to be there alone, although pleased to be sharing the romantic setting with a partner. One night we dined in a private area of the retreat restaurant where service and food were equally impeccable. They surprised us with the most delicious chocolate cake for Kevin’s birthday, every detail taken care of, taste and presentation faultless.
Kevin found a new love in Muay Thai. He was the only person to turn up to a scheduled group session, when the instructor, a former pro Thai boxer, soon put Kev through a full body workout the likes of which he’d not experienced before. His swimming style was hilariously absurd the next day, when he could barely move his arms, but an appreciation for the sport blossomed.
Our Thai Hammam couple experience was such a treat, when scrubbed, steamed and covered in mud we were left shiny and rejuvenated, laying in the impressive Himalayan salt room with its walls constructed of rose-coloured salt. We hired Anan, a lovely local longtail boat owner and storytelling tour guide, who collected us straight from the resorts private beach. Snorkelling amongst an array of tropical fish, lounging under the shade of a tamarind tree on the secluded ‘Lone Island’ for a few fabulous hours made for a perfect day.
We both had the most incredible time at Amatara, and were made to feel nourished, nurtured and thoroughly taken care of. If it were not for pangs of mum guilt and lack of funds, I would have happily stayed an entire month. Reconnected and refreshed, we re-boarded our gold bus for a final flourish of extravagance before our economy flight home, taking with us some great physio exercises, energy boosting supplements and wonderful memories.