An Asian haven fit for Kylie, Elle and the Beckhams


I ‘M lying on a contraption that could belong in a torture chamber, twisting my body into a shape resembling a pretzel. I’ve done more exercise in the past week than all year and not one glass of wine or cup of coffee, or chocolate bar or bag of crisps, has passed my lips. What’s more confusing is that I’m on holiday.

Pilates on the reformer is a new experience for me. In fact, so are most of the activities at Chiva Som. I’ve come to the “Haven of Life”, as it translates in Thai, one of Asia’s original destination spas. A beautiful beach-side health resort, three hours drive from Bangkok, designed to recharge stressed out souls.

And after a bit of a bumpy year that’s exactly what I’m hoping it’ll do for me.

Chiva Som was once the summer home of Thailand’s late deputy Prime Minister Boonchu Rojanastien. He was a multi millionaire businessman with a difference, all his life believing that holistic living and wellness brings success. He passed away in 2007 but his statue and happy mantra “Enjoy Your Life!” still resonates throughout this family-run resort.

I’m told Europeans use a trip to Chiva Som to de-stress, and people from the Middle East to lose weight. There are plenty of Japanese and Australians here too.

I’ve bumped into the former CEO of a major building society, and a couple from Manchester who fly over every few months. She tells me that Chiva Som’s transformed her workaholic husband’s life.

Another young woman from Beirut is on an unbelievable five-week stay with a goal to drop a kilo a week.

The Beckhams, Kylie, Elle Macpherson and Liz Hurley are also visitors but sadly not on this trip. I can see why they love the resort’s discreet nature with no cameras allowed and mobile phones in rooms only.

I was a bit nervous about getting bored at Chiva Som. On my first day, I assumed having a pedicure and lying by the pool was a fair participation in health resort life. But now I’m lapping up the wellness lifestyle.

My day starts at 8am when I leave my beautiful Thai pavilion room, which stands on stilts next to a huge Banyan tree, and walk to the Yoga pavilion 50 metres away for an hour-long class. The heat is slowly rising and the birds are still chirping away as we get stuck into a bit of downward-facing dog. I stay on for a super stretch class, also lasting an hour.

10am and time for breakfast. The spa cuisine has no refined sugar, oil, or fatty foods. But reduced calories don’t mean reduced taste. In fact Chiva Som’s kitchen has won many awards. Tea and coffee are available, but you have to ask. I had the most terrible caffeine withdrawal headache for the first day, probably meaning I drink far too much of the stuff back in the UK.

A little lie-down after breakfast and then it’s time for my one-on-one Pilates session with the lovely Surachai. He’s the lead instructor at Chiva Som and, like many of them here, a former athlete. I’ve tried Pilates in the UK before but never got the hang of it until now. Here it’s hard work but satisfying, and with “Mr A’s” instruction I find muscles in my abs and thighs I never knew existed.

A bit of sunbathing by the beach-side pool, then lunch where I pile as much fresh salad as I can on my plate. Next it’s time for a naturopathic and nutrition consultation with Phoebe who talks me through my daily diet at home recommending improvements. She then takes me through the ancient medicine of flower remedies where I chose a mixture of essences to reduce stress.

Next up is acupuncture, again another therapy I’ve never tried before. No surprises that my consultant Miranda finds tension in my neck and shoulders. So in go the needles and I promptly fall asleep for the next hour.

I feel great afterwards and it wasn’t just the nap. The pampering continues with a half hour neck and shoulder massage with a physiotherapist and then it’s back to the gym for a half-hour spurt of legs, bums and tums. I’m the only one in the class so I get to enjoy more one-on-one attention with the trainer.

The best bit of the day at Chiva Som is the afternoon massage where all my aches and pains from exercising are rubbed away. Time to get ready for a barbeque on the beach that’s very social with guests sitting on one long table. When I get back to my room a lavender essential oil candle is burning and as soon as my head hits the pillow that night I’m out like a light.

Of course, not every day is as jam-packed as that – the idea is to do as much or as little as you wish. There are over 100 different therapies to try here and an exercise timetable that lasts from 7am until 7pm. If I could, I’d try everything but that would mean a month-long visit and a very unhappy bank manager. But by having an initial consultation when I first arrived I’m able to hone in on the goals I want to achieve.

Normally when I go on holiday I eat too much food, drink too much wine and spend the time in between lying on a sun bed recovering. How nice, then, to go home feeling refreshed for a change.

I know this type of break isn’t for everyone but we give our cars yearly MOTs, so why not us? I think it’s money well spent. The trick will be to see how long I can keep this going back in the UK. Wish me luck.

Scott Dunn offers seven nights at Chiva-Som on the Inner Peace retreat from £3,250.

The price is based on two people sharing an Ocean View Room and travelling in early 2011. The package includes: individual health and wellness consultation; three Chiva-Som spa cuisine meals per day; choice of daily massage; complimentary physical analysis; participation in the daily programme of fitness and leisure activities; use of the water therapy suites, steam room, sauna and Jacuzzi.

The Inner Peace retreat also includes the following treatments:
● One Back, Neck and Shoulder Massage;

● Three Emotional Development Sessions;

● Two private fitness sessions;

● One Aquatic therapy (Watsu)

● One Oriental Scalp Massage or Oriental Foot Ritual.

To book, visit or call 020 8682 5060.