Phuket Spa Guide – Three spas in four daysAsia, Islands, Spa, Thailand Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
It’s a tough assignment I know: Three spas in four days. But I’m in Phuket to investigate signature spa treatments, and with a twinge of stiffness in my neck after almost 24 hours of travelling, I’m keen to get started. Thailand is known as the land of smiles and it’s my intention to put that theory to the test.
Stepping from the taxi that delivers me from the Phuket International Airport into the lobby of Duangjitt Resort and Spa in downtown Patong, I’m feeling hot, sticky and just a little bit weary after a long flight. Located close enough to Patong’s throbbing beachfront strip, but far enough away to provide a quiet sanctuary, the best thing about Duangjitt Resort & Spa is the spa itself. Priced above the beachfront vendors, but well below five star spas, Wimarn Spa offers traditional Thai therapy in clean, comfortable and peaceful surroundings.
Adopting the ‘when in Rome’ attitude, I opt for a traditional Thai massage. Across Thailand there are many variations on this traditional massage that dates back over 2,500 years. Slipping into a pair of cotton shorty pyjamas I prepare for a vigorous yoga-like stretching session. For the masseuse it’s even more vigorous as she uses most parts of her body during the hour long treatment. My delightful therapist Amporn, who is of slight build, surprises me with her strength as she manipulates my limbs with strong stretches and heavy pressure on my stressed muscles.
Thai massage is not the sort of massage you’d have if you’re after blissful relaxation, being somewhat invigorating. It’s more like one you’d have in the morning to ease stiff limbs and encourage blood to flow. Cost AUD55 (approx)
Day two finds me at the brand new Radisson Resort Panwa Beach down in the far south-eastern corner of Phuket Island. Staggering down the steep hillside, the Radisson sits atop a deserted white sand beach, and for early risers, its’ east facing location offers stunning sunrises from most rooms. Unusually for an international hotel brand, they manage their own spa (rather than bringing in a franchise operator). Talay Spa is modern spa style with vibrant orange colours, reflecting the influence of the island’s distinctive Sino-Portuguese architecture.
Adopting a philosophy that combines the Zodiac calendar with the five natural elements, my therapist Natthavalai offers me a selection of oils suitable for Earth people. I’ve opted for their signature treatment, Ancient Himalayan Stone Therapy, and have 90 minutes to look forward to. Beautiful smooth river stones from Tibet, hand carved by Monks, are heated before being used in conjunction with oils to provide a stimulating yet very relaxing treatment. The hot stones are applied to meridian points and left in place while the therapist works on other parts of the body. The heat radiates throughout one’s body as the oil is heated by the stones.
This is one treatment I did not want to end. 90 minutes seemed to pass in a flash, and I could have happily asked Natthavalai to reheat her stones and send me around again. Suffering from spa hair, after a head massage to finish, I floated out of Talay Spa in a blissful daze. Cost AUD123
Taking a break from spa’s on day three for some therapy of the retail kind, on Day Four I’m in a limousine heading an hour north of Phuket to the beachside town of Khao Lak. The Sarojin is a boutique resort tucked away in the jungle with its own secluded white sand beach. Importantly for one on such a serious mission as spa treatment research, children under 12 are not welcome. This adult’s only policy creates an intimate atmosphere, with couples lolling in pool pavilions or tucking into gourmet picnics beneath the coconut palms. Just the sort of laid back location for a Royal Oriental Massage in Pathways Spa. Offering a different take on a traditional Thai massage, the Royal Oriental is a deeply therapeutic treatment using herbal oils. I choose a blend of eucalyptus and mint oils, designed to uplift ones senses.
Treatment rooms are placed amidst dense gardens, joined to the reception area by outdoor boardwalks. Open sided rooms are close enough to the beach so that the sound of wavelets hitting the sand can be heard above the birdsong. No ‘spa music’ cd required here as the natural sounds allow one to drift off into the natural surroundings. It is definitely the nicest location for a spa treatment I’ve found, though some would find the lack of air-conditioning a concern. Cost AUD111
I find myself after four days of heady research feeling pampered, pummelled and oh so perfumed. Thai’s do spa therapy exceptionally well, and the three that I’ve visited all excel in their different specialities. But four days is simply not long enough. So now I find myself with the arduous task of planning a return visit to the land of smiles.
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