Samui Wining & Dining
Spa can mean a lot of different things – here’s what to look out for.

Spa can mean a lot of different things – here’s what to look out for.Like most other things, spas have gone through a lot of different evolutions. A couple of generations ago, most town spas were all about manicures, pedicures, body hair removal and sunbeds (that last one never caught on here on Samui!). And then, gradually, the idea of pampering started to spread, and different sorts of massages appeared, along with rejuvenating and beautifying treatments.


As far as most European towns are concerned, and unlike the USA, the (media-promoted) idea of lifestyle and fitness didn’t raise its head until somewhere in the mid ’90s – up until that time a gym was where men went to find punch bags and sparring partners. But the ’90s was the era of healthy living. And it was in that last decade of the 20th century that ‘spa’ took on a whole different set of implications.


Of course, there were places – following alongside the legendary hippie trail towards India and Nepal, Morocco, and then Southeast Asia – that had always sidestepped the practical, and leaned towards the esoteric. Spas which explored alternative therapies, healing, fasting and cleansing . . . those which today tend to be dubbed ‘New Age’, for want of a better label. Places where breathing lessons ran side-by-side with the re-harmonising of chakras and crystal therapy. These not only still exist, but have become far more general-user friendly.


Today, the word spa conjures images that range from beauty treatments through to spiritual refinement, and visits which run from a couple of hours to several weeks. All of which, in their various forms, you’ll be able to find on Samui.


In a nutshell, there are two sorts of spa; day spas and residential. And two broad types of program; physical and spiritual – although the boundaries of these have now begun to blur together, with many day spars also offering holistic, ayurvedic or healing treatments of one kind or another. And this is an area where you, as a customer need to take a little care: it’s not unknown to see reflexology on the program,Spa can mean a lot of different things – here’s what to look out for. and then find it being offered by unskilled local practitioners who believe this to be the same as foot massage.


But spas are like cooking classes. The temptation is to have a go ‘in house’, where you have already got to know the chef or the nice lady in charge of the spa. But it all depends on how determined you are about learning to cook Thai food (or, indeed, about what you want from a spa). If you’re really serious then it’s probably better to look around at what’s on offer elsewhere around the island.


Fortunately there’s one excellent little guide to all of this, and it goes into detail with a dozen or more well-established and reputable spas of different kinds here on Samui. Additionally there are also articles on yoga, reiki, ayurvedic medicine, naturopathy, reflexology and associated spa cuisine. You can find it (free) in quality hotels, out on the streets in selected bookstands, and also you can pick up a copy at Bangkok Airways lounges at Bangkok airport. Its name is the ‘Samui Spa Guide’, and a link to it is listed at the end of this article.


It’s just not possible in this one story to summarise all the outstanding spas on Samui (and there are many). Indeed, if we start to mention just one or two, then there’s another 20 sitting alongside protesting ‘what about us!’ But suffice it to say there are one or two simple guidelines.


If you are looking for straightforward beauty treatments, then all Thai spas have an excellent reputation in this regard; head for the nearest one which looks attractive and has an idyllic setting.


But if you’re more interested in rejuvenating therapies, or something more spiritual, then it’s probably best to consider some careful research. Samui probably has some of the finest spas – of all sorts and together in one place – anywhere in the world: it’s just a question of finding out ‘what’s in a spa’!


Rob De Wet


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