It’s easier than ever to find a detox retreat, thanks to the fast growth of wellness tourism, particularly in Asia, long known for ancient healing arts and medicinal traditions. The rise of this hospitality sector – which now accounts for 17 per cent of all tourism dollars, according to the Global Wellness Institute – is fuelled by many travellers’ desire for self-care and a true break from everyday demands.
‘When you are trapped in the same routine of habits for too long, changing your mindset can be hard,’ says Dr Prasanth, senior Ayurvedic doctor at Bali’s Como Shambhala Estate. ‘This is where a real wellness-focused retreat and its experts can help you to unlearn some of the bad habits you’ve been carrying day in and day out.’
Como Shambhala Estate is one of the following 14 Asian wellness hotels and resorts that stand out for exceptionally effective therapies and restorative environments.
Guests at this 40-hectare palace estate overlooking the Ganges River Valley in northern India can pack light: they’re provided with simple white kurtas to wear. These and the minimalist yet comfortable rooms help to declutter the mind so you can focus on the spa’s Ayurvedic-influenced wellness. Nearly 100 treatments are on offer in the 24-room spa. An initial consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor includes evaluating the nadi, or pulse, and a determination of one’s dosha, or body type. All guests eat wholesome gourmet meals customised for their specific health profile. Guests’ goals vary from relaxing rejuvenation and basic detox to one of the intensive weeks-long programmes of stimulating and purifying therapies, along with daily yoga and meditation.
Chiva Som Hua Hin
Serious detox is managed with Swiss precision at this beachfront retreat three hours’ drive from Bangkok. Guests meet with a wellness advisor upon arrival to undergo a physical analysis and to personalise the programme around individual goals while incorporating activities like pranayama breathing and cooking classes to master the spa’s notably gourmet dishes. To kick-start weight loss, many opt for the seven-day cleanse of juice, wheatgrass shots, potassium broth and surprisingly delicious liver-detox tea. In addition to private sessions with experts delivering targeted therapies like lymphatic drainage and chi nei tsang stomach massage, this spa offers a packed daily schedule of classes, including 7am tai chi, boot camp sessions, Thai boxing, fruit carving, Pilates and crystal sound therapy just before bedtime.
Rosewood Luang Prabang
A gushing river runs beneath the hilltop Sense spa towards this new resort’s 23 tents and villas which straddle an effusive waterfall on the pastoral fringe of Luang Prabang. Inside the spa’s canvas-clad spa tents, revered local healer Mr Xong adapts traditional Hmong remedies into modern massage therapies, applying warm poultices he custom-makes for guests from herbs and flowers foraged from the surrounding forest. Healing here goes beyond the Bill Bensley-designed walls thanks to resident Buddhist expert Sommaiy Saiyavong, a Vipassana silent meditation master and the hotel’s guest experience manager. The former monk leads meditation walks to remote, gilded shrines where revered abbots practise the esoteric art of Buddhist sak yant tattoos.
Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain
In a pristine bamboo forest outside Chengdu, stone paths and meandering streams crisscross this bucolic resort-cum-wellness retreat surrounded by nearly a dozen major Taoist shrines. You might get to know the grounds by joining a walk with Master Yang, who introduces the concept of walking meditation – designed to stimulate internal energy naturally while calming the mind and creating internal silence. In the Six Senses Spa, the indigenous green tea scrub gets enhanced with natural pearl rice and honey. Try traditional Chinese therapies like cupping, acupuncture and gua sha to stimulate blood circulation. Or treat yourself to one of the three-hour Taoism packages like Shen, meaning ‘spirit,’ which integrates a tension-soothing herbal bath followed by a tui na massage, which blends Chinese Taoist and martial arts principles, and finally a jade stone facial to promote lymphatic drainage, reduce dark circles and tone facial muscles.
Kamalaya Koh Samui
The views are enough to soothe frayed urban nerves at this palm-filled, hillside sanctuary perched above Laem Set Beach. But guests also come to Kamalaya for the customised detox, yoga, stress management, fitness and weight loss programmes. In the spa, the usual massages are on offer, but guests should especially consider acupuncture and tui na (Chinese therapeutic massage), as the co-owner is an expert in traditional Chinese medicine and has a knack for finding exceptional practitioners. Holistic fitness happens all day here, with a dawn-to-dusk schedule of aerobic, yoga and meditative exercises. Also available are new Structural Revival five-, seven- and nine-night courses designed to improve posture, reduce tension and rehabilitate injuries while calming minds and uplifting spirits. Healthy, nutritional food is served in bountiful amounts, accompanied by fruit juices and green smoothies. Don’t leave without getting a mani-pedi by the pool, which faces the Gulf of Thailand.
This retreat amid organic red-rice paddies forgoes electricity, which guests barely miss as they settle into their rooms set up with ultra-comfortable beds, open-air showers and aromatic bath amenities. In a simple mud spa hut, Ayurveda experts identify bodily imbalances with a thorough consultation that involves blood pressure readings and an extensive examination of the tongue. Doctor-prescribed programmes here include warm oil massages and relaxing herbal baths, as well as elimination therapies such as inhaling oil to clear sinuses and enemas. Twice daily yoga sessions are led by visiting instructors from around the world. Open only from November to March and June to August, this retreat otherwise operates as a traditional rice-growing village. That authenticity is part of the charm.
The Siam Hotel
Muay thai boxing training inside the sleek black-and-white gym is among the creative takes on wellness at this 39-room boutique hotel on Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river. This fast track to fat burning gets rewarded in the hotel’s Opium Spa with expert Thai massage and four distinct, 100 per cent natural Sodashi facials. Along with group and private yoga and tai chi classes, the spa offers four types of meditation – Yoga Nidra, Antar Mauna, Kyasthairayam and Trataka – to aid relaxation and calm minds. The in-house doctor of Ayurveda delivers individualised consultations then determines the appropriate treatments, including Panchakarma detox and Abhyanga, a dosha-specific massage with warm, herb infused oils. There’s also a kids’ and teen spa treatment menu to encourage a jump start on lifelong good health.
The Peninsula’s art deco-inspired, 13,455-square-foot spa blends cutting-edge innovation with timeless Asian healing practices, from Iyengar yoga by the indoor swimming pool to the Bamboo Harmoniser massage involving varying lengths of bamboo sticks rolled along the body to stimulate the flow of qi energy. Traditional Chinese medicine specialist Tony Wu is renowned for his foot reflexology and masterful manipulation of 62 pressure points. The extensive spa menu includes the pioneering Biologique Recherche Second Skin Facial with 3D-printed hyaluronic acid nano-fibre, shown to increase firmness while stimulating collagen synthesis, a fancy, scientific way of saying it reduces the appearance of wrinkles. There’s also a targeted weight-loss programme to promote metabolic functions and detoxification that incorporates doTERRA essential oils, including cypress, grapefruit and juniper.
Como Shambhala Estate
Singaporean lifestyle maven Christina Ong enlists the talents of her personal healers, Pilates teachers and life coaches at this Bali property designed by her favourite architect, Cheong Yew Kuan, with minimal impact on the rice terraces north of Ubud, along the holy Ayung river. Seamless and thoughtful coordination of treatments optimises the benefits for the heart, mind and body. Biodynamic wines ease the detox, as does the menu of raw cuisine including energy-giving dishes like a pad Thai salad with sliced coconut ‘noodles’, sweetened with Balinese raw honey. The diverse schedule of activities features at least six daily classes, among them Pranayama meditation, sacred spring walks, rice paddy treks and hydrotherapy circuit training. Or sign up for multi-day detoxes made easier with support from a dedicated personal assistant and private dietary consultations, acupuncture and colonic therapy.
The Landmark Mandarin Oriental
Some of Hong Kong’s best yoga and Pilates classes fill the daily schedule at this centrally located hotel’s sunlit studio, including beginner classes and abbreviated sessions for wellness seekers on the go. For those who prefer to take their wellness lying down, there is an extensive menu of effective, targeted therapies including the singular Bastien Gonzalez Duo, a unique manicure and pedicure combination of extensive cleaning, sanding, buffing and shaping of a traditional French pedicure medicale with the pampering and aesthetics of a spa treatment. Hong Kong’s in-demand interior designer Joyce Wang cocooned the 111 exceptional guestrooms and suites in a calming metallic palette, with each private domain further enhanced by a two-metre-long circular limestone bath promising an instant, spa-inspired escape.
Six Senses Krabey Island
Koh Krabey, Cambodia
From its organic Khmer cuisine to Cambodian spa treatments, wellness has always been one of Six Senses Krabey Island’s main focuses. Launching this year is the Grow a New Body programme, a week-long retreat combining shamanic healing with cutting-edge neuroscience and nutrition. Created by Dr Alberto Villoldo and the hotel, the curriculum draws on the medical anthropologist’s research into the healing practices of peoples of the Amazon and the Andes to treat or prevent various conditions and boost immunity. Through nutritious meals and exercise, the programme claims to trigger stem cell production in the brain and other organs and activate their longevity genes.
Revīvō Wellness Resort
This wellness resort near Bali’s Nusa Dua beachfront focuses on offering holistic wellness programmes, based on guests’ DNA test results. From there, wellness consultants can help guests select an optimal treatment based on their needs, providing suggestions such as nutrition plans, fitness routines and even recommendations for beauty treatments and cosmetic products. This expansive Asian wellness resort features 16 Balinese-style villas and suites as accommodation, an open-air restaurant serving all things fresh and organic, and an expansive fitness area with an outdoor yoga space, Pilates studio, TRX fitness room, outdoor swimming pool and much more.
Songtsam Linka Shangri-La
Songtsam Linka Shangri-La is a homey inn spread over eight hilly hectares of a Tibetan village in Shangri-La, Yunnan province. Mornings here start with complimentary Tibetan breathing lessons – a signature of the Tibetan-owned brand – held on a meadow overlooking the historic Songzanlin Monastery. According to Tibetan Buddhist teachings, air and breath are tied together through ‘wind energy’, which supports life and controls our emotions. Guests are guided by a mentor through a series of breathing exercises to reach a balance of energy while calming the mind and pacifying negative thoughts.
Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort
This urban resort cosseted by tropical foliage along the Chao Phraya river is home to the first of a series of integrated wellness centres created by the Thai Anantara brand and Singapore’s Verita Healthcare group. Scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2020, the expansive Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort uses state-of-the-art diagnostic tools to provide customised, science-based therapies. Based on a guest’s genes and lifestyle habits, specialists craft personalised programmes to help reach their desired goal: whether it’s weight control, improving sleep quality, boosting the immune system or even just a quick post-holiday detox.
This article was originally published in May 2019 and updated in January 2020