Hanging out and honing in at Kamalaya on Koh Samui
Caroline Sylger Jones and her husband Tom review this exceptional holistic spa in Thailand and find themselves reenergised with bonkers yoga, dawn walks and backgammon
My husband Tom and I both live a peripatetic lifestyle, and after a particularly relentless year we craved to be still for a while. Frazzled and uptight, we needed more than home cooked meals and coastal walks from our Devon home – to be nurtured by others somewhere special but affordable, and preferably a whole lot warmer than a drizzly English February. A friend suggested Kamalaya on Koh Samui in Thailand, the country where we got engaged and the home to our favourite massage. We carved out two precious weeks from our schedule and a few weeks later arrived. Set in a fairy tale ravine in a quiet end of a popular island and strewn with granite boulders and tropical plants, Kamalaya’s sunny energy, and the serene uncluttered villa we were shown to, made me take a breath, and my shoulders drop.
After a few days of stillness, we realised just how exhausted we were. We were booked onto Kamalaya’s Balance and Revitalise programme in our first week, because it treats stressed-out types suffering from worn-out adrenals, the ‘fight or flight’ glands in the body that get depleted if you’ve been fighting or flying too much for too long – which we had. So we got to enjoy a seriously delicious range of daily treatments, carefully timetabled so we could have each one together, and overseen by a mellow and personable naturopath. Consistently good, and including energising ayurvedic massages with two Keralan therapists, each was carried out in elevated, open-air rooms with sea views so uplifting they made me want to weep.
Kamalaya is set on a chalky blue lagoon – and being beside a beach he couldn’t surf became tortuous for Tom after a few days. Surfing is his adrenalin rush, but also his meditation, for while he finds guided meditation ‘just plain irritating’ he gets his peace in nature, gently bobbing on his board out at sea waiting for the next wave. Unexpectedly, he was saved by classes in Kundalini yoga, which I bribed him to start attending with the promise of a (healthy) chocolate soufflé one night. The powerful set of repetitive, unusual movements with friendly French Canadian teacher Siri Anand Kaur were, he said, ‘just a little bit bonkers’, making him feel ‘spontaneous joy’ as well as working on his core surfing muscles.
Once I’d stopped falling asleep all over the place, the setting gave me the peace I needed to get back to my daily yoga practice. I took unhurried dips in the swimming pool, paid calming, solitary visits to the enchanting little meditative monk’s cave which Kamalaya is built around, and lounged about on my balcony reading Patrick White’s brilliant epic The Tree of Man.
During our second week we picked and mixed from the treatment menu (mainly indulging in blissful Thai massages, which felt excellent value). Both our energies had started to rise, and we would wake at dawn to sit on the giant rocks by the sea, sipping our cleansing lime in hot water and having a cuddle.
Kamalaya’s enterprising fusion meals were a delight throughout, and a happy afternoon class with chef Kai Mueller inspired us to cook healthy food creatively again once back home, something our stress levels hadn’t allowed in recent months. With our tastebuds satisfied, it was easier to steer clear of alcohol, and most nights found us sprawling on a Buddha-orange day bed in the Alchemy lounge, sipping Mulberry leaf tea while Tom tried to beat me at backgammon.
As well as an addiction to their non-alcoholic Strawberry Mojitos, Kamalaya gave us the time and space we needed to solidify our desire to enjoy the tranquillity of Devon more and travel less on our return. A month on, and we still felt relaxed and happy. Years on, our memories stay with us and we are planning our return.