ISSUE: Winter 2011-12
STORY: Elyse Glickman
The historic resort town of Hua Hin, Thailand (incorporated in the 1920s by King Rama VII), has authenticity in its favor, with local culture and natural beauty winning out over Phuket’s five-star flash and dash. Chiva Som, one of Southeast Asia’s most innovative wellness resorts, lies at the heart of this gorgeously unpretentious oasis, just a three-hour drive from Bangkok. Though it seems a little quiet at first, Chiva Som’s lush, fragrant compound opens like a lotus into a multi-dimensional, calming experience.
Chiva Som’s primary mission is to send guests home with a most lasting souvenir — better health habits, attained in most pleasurable ways. For this reason, personalization takes priority over pretension. Shortly after your first glass of crisp lemongrass iced tea made on-premise, a spa counselor will promptly set your personal wellness plan into motion, even steering you away from treatments you would pick if left to your own devices. Though a body scrub or facial may be tempting, the counselor may insist Reiki, Thai massage or their patented digestion- focused massage are more appropriate for your long-term well-being.
Fitness classes (everything from Thai boxing to Shaolin Wushu to golf), modifiable to every fitness level, are made more enticing with lush jungle greenery and laid-back fitness instructors. Chiva Som’s cuisine is delicious and informatively presented, with calories and specific nutritional benefits outlined in detail. Cooking classes incorporating a trip to Hua Hin’s food markets with Chiva Som’s chef are also available for an extra charge.
Though Chiva Som encourages guests to stay on property as much as possible, they do offer shuttles to Hua Hin’s bustling night market. An upscale alternative is the delightful Cicada Market (cicadamarket.net), staged only on weekends, featuring live jazz performances as well as handcrafted jewelry, clothing, textiles and objets d’art sold by their creators in a tidy maze of open air boutiques. Details ChivaSom.com.