Samui Wining & Dining
Take Sanctuary
Absolute Sanctuary offers much more than merely massage and is not simply a spa.


Take SanctuaryWhen the year 2000 came around it didn’t just mark the turn of a century. Nor was it merely a new millennium. It was one of those pivotal points that separate the old from the new. A hundred years of dramatic change had come and gone. And along with all the advances in technology came a new and growing awareness. It was a landmark year in many ways, and one aspect that emerged was that before this point we weren’t so aware of our health and our diet. But today we are. We’re all now keenly conscious that a healthy lifestyle is of vital importance. And to help us achieve this goal there are now spas and health centres of every description.


The better ones are unpretentious, and dedicated to every facet of our well-being, and now realise that harmony and balance are the key words. They’ll offer courses that last for days at a time as well as just an hour or two. There’ll be a steam room and sauna. They’ll have a fitness centre with a personal-trainer program. You’ll find chicken and fish on the menu alongside dishes catering for conscientious vegetarians. There’ll be rejuvenating treatments and massages, as well as detox programs and alternative therapies. This kind of spa will view you holistically rather than just be concerned with your surface layers. They’re involved with ‘lifestyle’ and will be able to diagnose your overall condition and suggest approaches to balance you up, if that’s what you want. Or you might simply fancy a change of scene for a while, with something deliciously different to eat. It can be as simple as that. Samui has a number of spas and venues like this. And one of the best is Absolute Sanctuary & Yoga Centre.


The Absolute Group was established in 2002 and now has eight yoga centres in Thailand and three studios in Singapore. Samui’s Absolute Sanctuary is very peacefully situated on a terraced hillside just a couple of kilometres north of Chaweng on the road to Choeng Mon, and is well-signposted and very easy to find. The architecture is impressive and distinctly Moroccan in flavour, with a terraced U-shape layout of arched square apartment blocks and repeated tiled motifs. Surfaces glow with warm earth-tones; ochre for the accommodation, brushed-terracotta hues for the restaurant. Intriguingly named ‘The Love Kitchen’, this innovative elevated restaurant faces you on the right. Balancing this on the left is the gym and fitness centre. And in the middle you’ll find a tidy reception area at the head of the wide stone steps that lead up to this level.


There are 38 rooms overall, ranging from the well-appointed ‘Pool View’ type up to the expansive ‘Suite’ which includes its own hydrotherapy tub. They’re all gorgeously kitted-out in line with the Moroccan theme, with hues of browns and greens and North African-style screens, hangings and lamps. If you’re here for some serious treatments you’ll certainly need one of these. The entire list of programs that are available is just too extensive to itemise here, but at one extreme you’ve got the 20-day ‘Detoxer’s Delight’ package and, at the other, there’s a 3-day mini detox, or a similar stay if you’re heading for the shortest of the residential Rejuvenating Programs.


And, naturally, there’s an extensive choice of Thai massage options, available in the open-air salas plus other massages in air-conditioned suites, including the signature massage, ‘Tropical Indulgence’, which involves two pairs of hands working blissfully upon you at once! Take your pick from another huge set of choices; body-wraps and scrubs, facials and a host of speciality healing and rejuvenating massage options.


Of course, as the spa’s name suggests, there’s a very active timetable of yoga activities. There are no fewer than three different wooden-floored studios and each of these has mats, straps and blocks, huge mirrors and locker rooms with towels and showers. There are three full-time and three visiting teachers, and a wide program of more-or-less non-stop events to choose from, ranging from a 60-minute ‘Hatha Yoga Introduction’, to a one-day ‘Yoga Sampler’ or even an entire 10-day ‘Yoga Holiday’. It’s almost humbling that our little island has one of the most extensive and purposeful yoga programs, at all levels from absolute beginners to advanced, that you’ll come across anywhere in the world. It’s undoubtedly the most extensive in all of Asia.


But what is equally fascinating is the intriguing assortment of alternative therapies. There’s Cranio Sacral Therapy, which removes energy blocks and knits back together the interplay of body, mind, emotions and spirit. There’s Applied Kinesiology, based on the lymph nodes and not unlike the acu-points in Chinese Acupuncture. There’s Crystal Reiki Healing, Bach Flower Therapy and the wonderfully-named ancient Hawaiian practice of Hoo’ponopono, with its perceptive psychological approach to healing. There’s a lot more, each with its own visiting specialist-practitioner. There’s even Palmistry, Astrology and Dream Analysis. There are so many therapies available, both mainstream and the more esoteric, that taking advantage of the regular free introductory workshops is more or less a ‘must’, especially if you’re new to some of these things. It’s a great way of getting a ‘taste’ of what they’re all about.


And, talking of taste, that brings us back to The Love Kitchen. “It’s a new dining option, catering for all, as our menu not only serves to support those who are on a detox program or vegetarian diet, but also those who want a non-vegetarian meal done in a healthy and tasteful style,” explained the Executive Director, Claire Huang-Bostock. “We have innovative vegetarian dishes, through to seafood and meats, prepared in the most tantalizing ways by our Executive Chef, Eddy Christ. The inner room is air-conditioned but glass doors open onto the shady outer terrace. Plus,” she added with a serene smile, “the panoramic sea-view is super!”


Possibly the best thing to do is to take a trip over, stop off for a bite to eat one afternoon, and sound things out. And then, if there’s something that appeals to you or if there’s an aspect you want advice on, contact either Jessica Simkin or Sentha Wouterlood (the ‘wellness hosts’) who’ll talk you through what’s involved and even tailor a personal package for you, if that’s what you need. And that sort of service is what living in this new millennium is all about!


Rob De Wet


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