Kamalaya is the creation of John and Karina Stewart. They met in the jungles of the Himalayas where John had spent 16 years devoted to spiritual studies. He lived in a Himalayan community embracing a traditional yogi lifestyle which taught him the values of truth, simplicity, love and sanatana (eternal) dharma. After they married John and Karina were regular visitors to Thailand. In 2000 they returned when John was poorly and they stayed on in order that John could recover. On one of his walks John came across the land upon which Kamalaya now stands; one of forested landscape, huge ancient granite boulders and a cave that was once used as a place of meditation and spiritual retreat for Buddhist monks. This was where Karina and John took the decision to create their dream. Karina has a BA in cultural anthropology and Asian religions as well as a deep interest in meditation and an existence of devotion and self-discovery. She is committed to creating a place where healing and harmonious transformation can flourish.
There are several quotes by famous clients and well-reputed journalists in the small brochure on Kamalaya. Two stand out: the first from film director Oliver Stone who writes (this is a shortened version), “The days went by and the weight came off, I look to return to paradise soon” and the second from Tiffany Darke from The Sunday Times who says, ‘The idea behind Kamalaya is that by the time you leave you’ll be happy, healthy and relaxed, but internally you’ll have something to take away with you. All the other spas out there had better sit up and take notice because this is where the industry needs to be”.
I could honestly leave it like that as they are right. I am not an experienced spa visitor and I was slightly dreading a six day detox, something I have never embarked on before. I have friends who enjoy the strict regimes of certain spas, something which fills me with apprehension, so I was very unsure of what to expect. Interestingly it was three days before I realised I was not eating any meat, fish or chicken. It was the last day when I was told that it was pretty much a vegan diet that I had been following. The food was utterly delicious and made with lovely fresh ingredients in superb Thai style that it felt, as Oliver Stone said, “as if the days simply passed by”. It was easy, peaceful and I felt very happy.
This is not a spa for clients who want very high end five star luxury or plastic surgical procedures. It is about rebalancing and regrouping your mental and physical. The best thing about Kamalaya is not the beach particularly, which is not the best on the island (you cannot really swim in the sea as it is on a very shallow, coral lagoon), or the fact that you have to walk up hill and down dale to get everywhere (good exercise). Where it shines and is outstanding is its total lack of pretention. Plus they get real results. No one is looking at you, no one is judging you, everyone is there for their own well-being, some to lose weight (one guest stayed for three months and lost 55 pounds in a very healthy way). There are no fad diets here, simply retraining of the head and eating habits. Some come to detox and some simply to recover. The food is really good and as a result demand has allowed them to put together a small book with some of the favourite recipes. Treatments are all exceptional from facials, Thai massage, Royal Ayurvedic massage, India head massage, Shirodara to Vital Essence massage with your choice of essential oils and the most wonderful hand and foot massages. For those detoxing colonic hydrotherapy is also part of the package depending on the one you choose.
Kamalaya offers very reasonably priced packages for detoxing, weight loss, emotional balancing, relieving stress and burnout and general wellness programmes which can be tailor-made to suit you.
When you arrive in Kamalaya, having driven through streets of tourist bars, little shops and supermarkets, it feels like a breath of fresh air. I would highly recommend the one bedroom villas with outside bathrooms (or one of the new pool villas they are currently building on the other side of the hill) so that you have a bit of outside space to enjoy. They charge for wifi which is always such a bugbear of mine in any hotel, but they say it is to discourage people from connecting to the outside world and work. They have a very good point. Phones are not allowed in public areas including the spa and restaurants so if you go take a good book. Laundry packages are available for 30-90 items of clothing per week and are very reasonably priced – such a great idea when you are using lots of workout gear as it can be humid at certain times of year so you tend to change clothes quite a lot. Airport transfers are included for you in an air-conditioned 4×4 with a cold towel and bottle of water for the 30 minute journey.
It is a very comfortable place for couples who want a spa break together, small groups of friends and single people alike. In fact there were many singles there who seemed to keep themselves to themselves and enjoy the peace. If you want to join a community table there is a long one in the main restaurant, which was full every night. You can drop in and out if you feel like a bit of company. Many new friendships are forged here. It is great going as a single person, particularly if you are on detox, as you will find you are happy to find your own space and time; to sleep when you want, read quietly and not have the ‘what time shall we meet’ scenario. After your relaxing treatments you really do just want to rest, reflect and sleep.
There are some wonderful yoga and pilates classes for all levels in the open air yoga pavilion. I loved and learned a lot from chakra meditation and pranayama. Pranayama involves regulated deep breathing to help to balance the body and mind, relieve stress and to help you sleep – did you know it can help to bring your blood pressure up or down and possibly even get you off medication? That has to be worth a try if you suffer from one of these. There are movie nights, talks from experts and other enjoyable events most evenings.
There is a fitness centre, steam cavern, saunas, lovely swimming pools and a divine hammock by the beach to enjoy. Nothing better than a fresh coconut and sunbed in the shade of the palm trees.
I had a lovely time; it was peaceful and I felt great when I left spiritually and physically and that was what I had hoped for.
If you would like more information, or indeed to book Kamalaya, we can organise everything from start to finish including flights from the UK.
We can book flights on several different airlines either via Bangkok or Singapore to Samui and arrange all transfers and accommodation. BA offer a service on the return leg of your journey via Bangkok enabling you to clear immigration in Samui and check your bags through to London. Flights connect easily in the early morning for the 11.20am flight to London Heathrow Airport. Email us firstname.lastname@example.org
Every time I explore a new destination, whether it’s on an adventure holiday in Peru or a luxury beach escape in the Indian Ocean, I return home full of excitement to share the amazing sights I have seen. Through my own experiences I have developed a love of helping others experience the great wonders of the world; truly getting under the skin of the extraordinary destinations that are at your fingertips. Getting the details right, from which hotel is perfectly located for exploring away from the crowds, to which local guide is most knowledgeable on history or culture or art, is of paramount importance to me. I am constantly seeking out new and exciting experiences and exploring off the beaten track to ensure my clients are receiving the best and most honest first-hand advice.
Take a look at my travel diaries for food for thought on your next trip...