It depends how you count them, but there are approximately 200,000 islands in the world, about half of which are inhabited. That’s a lot, and there’s an enormous amount of variety in them. A few – probably less than a dozen – stand out for an unusual factor: the astonishing number of spas that they have. Samui is high up on that list; given its relatively small size, Samui is packed with places to get a massage and all kinds of other health treatments. And if you’re here on holiday, one thing you should definitely indulge in is a session at a spa.
But how do you choose which one to go to? Well, it’s a bit like choosing a restaurant: price and setting are both important, and just as in a restaurant, you need to know which kind to go to.
Spas can be, well, a bit daunting – but not on Samui. Firstly, thanks in large part to Thai culture, they’re very welcoming and friendly. You’ll feel at home quite instantly. And, secondly, you won’t leave white-faced with worry and thinking what your bank manager’s going to say. The treatments in most places are very affordable, and as with restaurants, you can always find one to suit your budget. Spas have menus too, by the way. All the treatments are listed, along with their prices, and you’ll be able to see how much everything costs.
Whether you’ve visited a thousand spas, or this is your first ever experience, you may well want to discuss your treatment with whoever has brought you the menu. This person is key to you having a satisfying time, and can help you narrow down what treatment you’d most enjoy or benefit from. And if you have opted for a simple massage, you can always define whether you’d like the massage to be gentle or tonic. All the spas on Samui have one thing in common: no matter how much
they may be slap bang in the centre of things, they’re always separated from the world outside. Once you’re inside, you feel you’ve stepped away from all hustle and bustle and have entered a calmer place, like a sanctuary. This is one of the key steps in the spa process – to get you to relax, even before anything begins.
You’ll enter a place that’s as shielded from the eyes as a Spanish courtyard, and will bring you a profound sense of tranquillity. If you’re in a town, you may find your sanctuary is a walled one, but if the spa is away from roads and people, then you may find yourself in a garden or jungle setting. Both types will offer the utmost privacy.
So far so good. Whether you choose a simple massage or are on a ten-day retreat, you’ll find that spas offer you a chance to not just relax, but improve your health. Spas such as Kamalaya, Spa Samui Resorts, Natural Wing and Absolute Sanctuary expand on the normal menu to bring you additional benefits such as detoxification and cleansing programs which promote well-being through not just eliminating poisons, but also by teaching you skills that you can take home with you, such as
meditation and yoga.
Since we’re in Thailand, all spas offer Thai massage, with its sublime combination of kneading, pressure and stretching which helps to balance the body’s energy channels, much in the same way that shiatsu or acupuncture does. It’s also possible to study Thai massage here on the island, and many people come here just to do that. Thai massage is very good for your health, though naturally there are conditions that are contra-indicated, such as osteoporosis, serious heart conditions, high blood pressure or cancer. And if you’re pregnant, avoid once you start the third trimester.
Oil massages may well rely on Thai essential oils, which are powerful natural remedies. They’re basically energizing, calming or balancing, but whichever you choose, they add to the pleasure of the caring touchcthat good massage always reflects. Such oils are derived from plants such as camphor, ginger, lemongrass and ylang-ylang, all of which are grown in Thailand.
Some spas grow their own herbs which are used in the treatments, especially in the balled compresses or ‘pra kob’ that you may find yourself being kneaded with. Others have taken things many steps further and offer their own lines of products, based on herbal usages and medicines that date back centuries.
On Samui you’ll also find a special publication, the Samui Spa Guide, published by Siam Map, the same people who have brought you this magazine. It’s free of charge and it’s widely available across the island. The guide lists many island spas, what they do, and details the treatments that they offer. All offer a highly professional service and are recommended. But it’s certainly not a closed list. You’ll also find other spas on the island which may offer great services too – the number is
Something that’s sure is that once you’ve had a session at a spa, you’ll want to repeat the experience. It’s quite addictive – in an entirely healthy way.