ON ARRIVAL in my spa suite at Malaysia’s new all-organic destination spa, I was pleasantly surprised to find a note on the pillow reading: “Chocolate is an elixir of life. Scientists from Harvard University say that eating a couple of chocolate bars a week could extend your life by almost a year.”
By day two, however, every muscle in my body ached to crippling effect and as I clambered into bed I noticed a distinct lack of chocolate on the bedside table. Instead, there was a note saying: “Bay leaves soothe stomach ulcers and relieve flatulence”.
I’m on the Body Sculpt programme after all, and it’s not all midnight snacks and lounging on oversized organic pillows (yes, even the bed linen is organic). Instead, there’s a strict schedule from 8am to 7pm involving two hours of yoga, one hour of personal training, three to four hours of spa treatments and low-fat, small-portioned sustenance.
Well, perhaps calling it “sustenance” is a little dramatic. The food at The Chateau is delicious; most of it is homegrown in the hotel’s kitchen garden and, true to theme, there’s a French chef. Breakfast is fresh juice, rolled oats or toast with jam (no butter) and fruit. There are two courses for lunch and dinner, often soup or salad as a starter, then a protein-heavy main course, such as Nicoise salad, poached chicken, salmon or king prawn risotto. Forget carb-deprivation, the key here is portion-size, low-fat and everything in moderation.
In terms of spa treatments and workout sessions, the mantra “no pain, no gain” is highly applicable. But at least you are “sculpting” in a studio with a view: a 150-million-year-old tropical rainforest to be precise. Set in the Berjaya Hills on a 34,000-square-meter plot of land, The Chateau is surrounded by trees and monkeys – the only sign of civilization is the sister-hotel, Colmar, a replica of the French village of Alsace with colourful houses and open-air restaurants on cobbled streets.
The owner of Berjaya Hills decided his French village needed a castle, so he modeled The Chateau on Alsace’s 12th century medieval castle, Haut-Koenigsbourg. Et voila! A 200-room French castle complete with turrets and crow-stepped gables was built in the rainforest outside Kuala Lumpur. There are a few streams of style running through The Chateau: some rooms are French-influenced with yellow fabrics and decorative woodwork; others have a clear Asian influence (the owners are Chinese-Malaysian) with grey carpets, marble-topped bedside tables, green velvet sofas and charcoal upholstery; while the tearoom Belle Vue and the bar Le Rouge are reminiscent of Philippe Starck with brightly coloured velvet chairs and statement chandeliers.
Back to body sculpting though, and for obvious reasons the programme revolves around La Santé, the organic spa. This is the first spa in Asia to offer European thermal facilities – including a herbal sauna, salt grotto and aqua bed from Austria – alongside the best of Asian hospitality.
“I told my girls they will be in the Guinness Book of Records,” says Miss Ming, the general manager. “No-one gets a year of training: three months yes, maybe six, but my girls have had over a year!”
The reason so much training is needed is that once you enter one of the 17 treatment rooms, you are zapped, prodded and pummeled with nothing but the latest technology. Body sculpters have one signature massage in the week-long schedule; other than that it’s detoxifying body-wraps, radio frequency treatments, ultrasound (known as the first real alternative to surgery) and LPG.
For the non-LPG-initiated, “lipomassage” involves having a nozzle with strong suction – a bit like a hoover – run all over your body. It feels like your skin is being sucked off, and an hour-long session is lip-bitingly painful. “It’s sweet pain,” says Miss Ming, who is clearly much tougher than me.
These high-tech treatments aim to combat fat that won’t budge with dieting and exercise, but as Dr Sharifah, the in-house medic says, “80 per cent is diet”, so you can’t eat your heart out and expect LPG to work.
Body sculpting is not for the faint hearted and The Chateau aims for big results. Whenever we cross paths, Miss Ming’s husband (Miss Ming retains the “miss” because she says it makes her feel younger) tells me with a chuckle: “You will return unrecognizable!” After my sessions with Gildo, the five-foot Filipino fitness trainer, I’m inclined to believe him.
“I HATE weights,” I whine on day four. Lifting my hands is making me wince and quite frankly I feel like I’ve been beaten up.
Undeterred, he asks me to do a three-minute plank. I flop after 30-seconds, bright red, the muscles in my arms shaking and aching. “You need to work on your upper body,” Gildo tells me, before preaching the benefits of resistance training for weight loss and changing your body shape.
Luckily, after lunch things ease off and I have a detoxifying seaweed wrap, during which I conk out utterly. I blame Gildo.
Despite moments of fatigue, pain and hunger (dinner is at 8.30pm and by 7pm my stomach is eating itself), the last day came round all too quickly and my morning yoga session brought proof that there really is no gain without pain: I did two headstands completely unassisted, something I’ve never been able to do before.
The moment of truth, however, is in my check out measuring session. The results are compared with my arrival measurements and I’m amazed to discover I have lost an inch from my waist and thighs, and half-an-inch from my arms. A pretty impressive result for just one week, and (although I’m pretty sure I’m still recognizable) I take my hat off to The Chateau’s team of body sculptors.
MALAYSIA | NEED TO KNOW
● Kuala Lumpur city is a 45-minute drive from The Chateau, and the airport transfer is 90-minutes
● Official language: Malay (English is widely spoken)
● Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (RM)
● Weather: Tropical climate with all-year sunshine
● No visa required for UK passport holders visiting Malaysia for up to 90 days
BODYSCULPT | COST
The programme costs £3,540pp and includes 7 nights’ accommodation all inclusive, a tailored programme, return flights with Malaysia Airlines from the UK and airport transfers. For more information call 0845 5441936 or visit healthandfitnesstravel.com
BODY SCULPT DAY | NEED TO KNOW
BODY SCULPT | THE DAY
● 8-9am: outdoor yoga
● 9am: set breakfast
● 10.30-midday: spa treatments
● 12-1pm: personal training session
● 1pm: 2-course lunch
● 3-6pm: sauna and spa treatments
● 6-7pm: ashtanga, power or vinayasa yoga
● 8.30pm: 2-course dinner (no wine)
● 10pm: “nightcap” small pudding in bed
BODY SCULPT | PROGRAMME INCLUDES
8 Days 7 Nights
● Organic food (full board, excluding beverages)
● Daily Personal training sessions
● Daily yoga sessions
● Nutrition / Physical / Weight consultations
● 1x signature massage
● 1x seaweed body-wrap
● 1x body exfoliation
● 1x aroma slimming therapy
● 1x aroma detox therapy
● 1x lymphatic drainage & cell rejuvination
● 5x herbal bath saunas
● 2x LPG slim & sculpt
● 2x Body contouring Alma RF treatment
● 2x body reshaping ultrasound treatment