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Meaningful wellness is next big thing in Thailand tourism

Thailand has always been known a health and wellness destination. But after the Covid-19 pandemic “meaningful wellness” has become the all-important buzzword in many tourism programmes in the country including at the popular beach destinations.

To quote Komkrit Duangngern, deputy executive director, tourism products department of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT): “The Covid-19 crisis has prompted people to prioritise their health, leading to a surge in demand for health tourism. That’s why TAT is committed to enhancing Thai health tourism services, in order to attract wellness tourists from around the globe.”

Samui, the beach destination loved by Indians, is known as the Coconut Island and it was an exciting experience to visit a coconut museum and be introduced to natural products of the coconut: sweets, oils, soaps, cosmetics, et al.

At the Honey Rose Farm, we were introduced to the unique herbal ingredients of the Thai “compresses” used in Thai wellness massages. In fact, we had neck and back massages with the compresses, and they totally de-stressed us. To accentuate the health and wellness factor, we attended enjoyable workshops to create healthy smoothies and organic body scrubs. The lunch that followed at the Sabianglay restaurant had all the fresh seafood that Samui is famous for together with organic vegetables and fruits.

We found the same attention to health and wellness in the food for animals when we visited Samui’s well-known Elephant Park. We saw that the food pellets for the elephants were made of organic ingredients. This animal-human bonding is part of the wellness concept in Samui.

The new Thai Fight Hotel is the only Muay Thai boxing hotel in the world, with striking Muay Thai images and décor, sea-facing rooms, excellently equipped gym/ spa, a sports-oriented menu, and last but not the least, Muay Thai boxing classes by masters. It’s no wonder that this unique hotel attracts boxing fans from around the world.

Our last stop was Miskawan, the only medically certified resort in the country. Through detailed diagnostics, the centre uses functional medicines and integrative treatments, for varied ailments, from stress and burnout, to serious diseases like cancer and auto-immune problems.

“We add life to your years, not years to your life,” said Kabir Saluja, the Indian-origin general manager. He informed that the luxurious beachfront villas, with their individual chef, spa and gyms, attracted high-status tourists, too, including upmarket Indian families.

We stayed at the beach facing Celes Hotel, with its strong sense of sustainability, beach yoga sessions, and marvelous spa. The hot stone massage that I tried was a brilliant wellness therapy for my aching bones. The hotel also had a full-fledged wellness centre. The hotel’s general manager informed us that they were getting enquiries from many Indian groups.

I also visited the fabulous Kamalaya Resort, a wellness sanctuary par excellence. Its spa boasted of more than 200 treatments and its activities ranged from six types of yoga and four types of meditation to taichi, qi gong and aqua exercises.

Founded by a Canadian who lived at an ashram in India for several years, the resort has restaurants with Indian names and an outstanding detox menu with Indian dishes. I encountered expat Indians from around the world there.

Their Indian-born general manager, Gopal Kumar, said he looked forward to welcoming Indians from India, and “share our transformative wellness philosophy with them”.

At the popular beach destination of Krabi, our trip started with a fabulous range of dimsums at the well-known Djinns restaurant in the heart of the city, the best kind of healthy breakfast for any holiday.

We did not take a speedboat but a leisurely long tail boat, through thick mangroves, to the island of Koh Klang, 10 minutes from the city centre.

This island, with about 5,000 people, has no cars but cycles, and portrays community tourism at its best.

We visited a farm with stingless bees that produced honey with medicinal properties, watched the making of organic soaps, partook in batik lessons, even picked up paint and paper and revelled in our drawing skills. If this was not health and wellness, what was?

The interactive programme which has become very popular with tourists was created by Fin and Matt, two locals who studied politics and architecture abroad, but decided to return to their home-town, and promote their island. We ate an outstanding seven-course seafood lunch at their family restaurant Baan Ma-Ying, with healthy recipes created by their mother, Maria.

Our next activity was kayaking at Krabi’s famed Ao Thalane point. It was tough and tiring, but was much-needed activity for the wellness of the body.

We were starving, as we tucked into yet another luscious seafood meal, at the Khaothong Terrace, high up on Khaothong Hill. With a healthy fruit cocktail in hand, we revelled in the marvellous view of the whole island below us.

The Varana Hotel where we stayed was a huge, bay facing property, with ocean-facing rooms, splendid spa, wellness pool, herbal tree gardens, and environment friendly materials. It’s no wonder that it has been named the Wellcation Experience hotel.

Our last stop at Krabi was the Amataya Wellness Centre, famous for its underground hot springs, flowing from the rich forests of the area. Their medicinal properties have helped various illnesses from paralysis to skin and stress problems, which is why the centre has many long-stay clients. It also has many tourists who take day trips to enjoy the wellness packages including the revitalising hot springs and health food.

We experienced the hot and cold springs, and were totally resuscitated.

The wellness concept has become so strong in Thailand that many hotels and hospitals in Bangkok are now equipped with special wellness centres and, not to forget, outstanding standalone wellness resorts outside the city.

We visited the stunning RAKsa Wellness and Medical Retreat outside Bangkok, on the banks of the Chaophaya river, which deals with everything from detox to de-stress and weight loss, and revelled in delectable health food, a unique marmara health massage and finally took part in a topical seminar on health and wellness tourism in Thailand.

We also attended an all-day food-session at the famed Blue Elephant restaurant that spoke of the soft power of Thai food with its outstanding herbal ingredients, spurring the country to work towards a dazzling “kitchen of the world” status.

That, indeed, is how all-inclusive “meaningful wellness” has become in Thailand’s tourism scenario today. I’m now fixated on honey soap, coco shampoo, rose petals body scrubs and herbal balms! Check

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