When I researched spas and retreat locations in Thailand (and throughout South-East Asia, I looked at many places from the most basic to 5-star locations. I finally decided on Kamalaya even though at first glance I thought it was A LOT of money for a retreat center. I booked a 14 day visit (7 days Detox, followed by 7 days Ideal Weight program).The fact that they had won so many top spa awards in the last year or so was a key determinant.
However, I am here, writing my very first TripAdvisor review to tell you that it is worth every penny. Not only did I lose 5kg (-2% body fat and 2.2 % increase in overall muscle mass), but I added another 4 days to the end of my trip.
Here's what I loved:
From the pickup at the airport (with cool, wet fragrant handtowels and water waiting for me in the car after being in the non-air conditioned Koh Samui airport) to my arrival and throughout my stay there the service was excellent.
The staff are genuinely friendly (an amazing Thai cultural trait) and got to know "me" and my likes and dislikes very quickly. Unlike another review I read here, I was able to easily and quickly change the times of various treatments (though I bet this is easier because it was low-season).
The treatments from Chinese Medecine with Andé to the fabulous Thai massages from Moo and Rak (and I've had many of those in my lifetime), the lymphatic drainage massage, or the infra-red sauna's - every single one was very professional. The staff are clearly well-trained. My program kept me busy, but I enjoyed the treatments so much that I added on additional massages and various "visiting practitioner" events, like a Lomi-Lomi massage an and a very good astrological profile and palmistry.
The whole atmosphere of the place is warm and inviting. The medical staff (real nurses and a doc), the nutritionists (Joann and Renée were fab!) and practitioners were of very high calibre.
I fell out of bed each morning and into a yoga class at 8am. (18 days straight of yoga is a world's record for me!) The teachers were excellent and were able to teach to both beginning and very advanced students simultaneously. The Yoga Pavillion is this round, thatched roof building, with a beautiful view to the bay. It was a magnificent way to start the day. Each day was a different type of yoga which kept it fresh and exciting.
In the late afternoons I also participated (occasionally) in several classes such as Pilates, Cardio Combat, Abs Express, etc for those that weren't into yoga or wanted even more workout in a day. Though I had only a few personal training sessions in my Ideal Weight program, I liked my trainer (Khun Em) so much, that I added more sessions in so that I worked with him every day. He made me laugh as much as he made me sweat! The routine was varied and he was very knowledgable. He also took the time to stretch me at the end of every PT session, which was like having a mini-Thai massage thrown in!
There were also great social events like the lighting of the lanterns out at the beach (where you got to tie a wish onto your own lantern), meeting some local monks who came to a special ceremony at Kamalaya (or you could visit them during the temple tour).
Last but not least - the food! The FOOD! Magnificent. I was never, ever hungry. There was plenty of amazingly beautifully served and well prepared food. I could not imagine that I could eat no-carb, low calorie,low fat, non-dairly, low-glycemic index for this many days. Bravo to the chef and the fantastic wait staff. (Especially smiling Toon!) - If you are one of the waitstaff's favorites, they'll even sing you their special Kamalaya detox song - not to be missed ! : ) My favorite was the pumpkin curry (though I think that was a little less low-fat than some of the other things!).
Don't worry, if you are just coming for rest and relaxation or have a partner not on a program, there is plenty of non-detox/weightloss food, including yummy wines, good meats (I hear the lamb was especially good) and deserts to make the Community Table people drool. I ate the Pad Thai with prawns and a chocolate mousse on my last night.
The Community Table was a source of much laughter and "comparing notes" on programs and practitioners every evening. Not only that, but I met dozens of people and at least three of them have already become new, long terms friends. We are plotting how to all meet up again there next year!
One other thing - another review that I read before I went said that the place was just out to get you to spend more money. I did not get that impression at all. I did add 4 days and a bunch a treatments to my stay, mostly because of the great reviews I heard at the community table and because I was so pleased with my success and measurements that I wanted to continue. The "extras" I added were well worth it. But forewarned is forearmed. You will be tempted by many things, but you can easily just do a program and not be pushed into any extras.
A few things you should know:
Kamalaya is built into the side of a hill, and so you will be doing a lot of walking up and down steps. This adds to the workout, but can make you sweat even more the first few days until you adjust to it.
I had a hillside room with a sea-view. This was good though I think next time, I'll spend the little bit extra and get the next level up or share a villa. This is a wellness center not a 5* hotel, so you can't compare it to the Mandarin Oriental or an Intercontinental, but the room was spacious, nice and did have a lovely view.
There are plenty of fun things to do on the island and getting out of Kamalaya every once in a while is easy and fun. It's easier to rent a motorbike or a car and cruise around to see the rest of the islands sights.
My one minor disappointment was the beach. You need to wear swim sandals or booties (provided by Kamalaya) because there is so much coral and shells that your feet will get too scratched up. The lagoon/bay is protected by a coral reef so really you can only wade in the water even at high tide at low tide there is almost no water. You need to walk about 300m to get to a break in the reef so you can really swim. However there is a great hammock and plenty of lounge chairs and people to look after you. The pools were great but some hardcore lap swimmers might be disappoined. I wasn't.
I can't thank the owners and staff of Kamalaya enough for a thoroughly enojoyable, relaxing and rejuvenating vacation! I'm looking forward to returning!
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- Also Known As:
- Kamalaya Koh Samui Hotel Laem Set
- Kamalaya Hotel Koh Samui
- Kamalaya Spa Koh Samui
- Kamalaya Koh Samui Ko Samui, Thailand