Retreat to Thailand

Can you mix pampering, well-being and an exotic holiday?


As I dangled my feet in the cool, salt water of the L-shaped infinity pool on the roof of Villa 28, the sun warmed my face while a breeze from the Andaman Sea below tickled my hair. On the rocky outcrop of Koh Fann, the 12-metre high Golden Buddha with its palms up in Mara posture was so alive with sunlight that it seemed to wink at me from the mountainous horizon.

It was a glorious scene. And the perfect backdrop, too, for my own pool-side Prana Yoga lesson that I was about to enjoy with teacher and coach Michaela Olexova at the Samujana villa estate, set on a remote hillside in the north of Thai island Ko Samui.

The estate's contemporary luxury properties include three-bedroom, family-holiday homes; others have up to eight bedrooms suitable for extended families or groups ­- such as ours - a gaggle of six women enjoying a five-day escape from everyday life.

From the floor-to-ceiling windows of my balconied room, glorious daylight flooded in as well as illuminating the stunning views over the coral cove beyond. Its location high up the hillside is private, reassuringly secure with guards, and divinely quiet save for a gentle sound-track of birdsong.

Although self-catering is an option here, we didn't want to be quite that organised on our short retreat. So we decided instead to invoke the "Samujana experience," which consisted of the attentions of a dedicated chef (a lovely lady called Joy) and staff who prepared whatever we wanted for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even cocktails.

Getting there

Numerous airlines fly to Ko Samui, including British Airways and Thai Airways via Bangkok, or Singapore Airlines via Singapore. Rates start from £700 return.
A three-bedroom villa costs from $920 (£710) per night.

By day two, Joy had begun to anticipate all our different needs and dietary preferences - my version of vegetarian Pad Thai (a stir fried rice noodle dish) turned up with less spice for instance and whenever I asked for water she immediately knew it had to be sparkling.

And any experience, excursion, ramble or visit into town that happened to tickle our fancy - including a Buddha temple gleaming in the island's hills - was arranged on demand.

Between exploring some of the sights of Ko Samui, we seized the chance to relax. One day was spent out on the clear turquoise Andaman Sea sunbathing on the front of the 13-metre Samujana Kindred Spirit catamaran, enjoying the beauty of the archipelago, watching the shenanigans of curious dolphins and stopping for a dip in a discreet bay. We ended with a simple but delicious seafront lunch of wonderfully fresh fish and pineapple rice.

On another evening, we were taken to the Fisherman's Village to sip cocktails on the beach and browse to our heart's content among the market's ridiculously cheap clothes and jewellery.

Dinner was at the Barracuda restaurant which happily had an extensive veggie and fish menu and where I loved the sesame-crusted yellow fin tuna, roasted pineapple, Thai asparagus and wasabi.

But not all our days were whiled lazily away. As well as the yoga, we discovered the local tradition of Thai Boxing - a style of boxing that uses feet as well as fists and arranged a class with one of the island's greats, an unfailingly patient, Dutchman called Christoffer, whose face was on posters everywhere. Held in the rooftop garden, he managed to maintain a wry smile while witnessing the feeble efforts of untrained female limbs.

Naturally, the inevitable aching muscles needed respite afterwards, so the next day featured a rather robust in-room massage lasting around 90 minutes.

We also had a lecture on well-being through nutrition with advice from one of the experts at one of Samujana's partner companies called Amrita - in between occasionally making use of the gym, enjoying friendly battles over the ping pong table, as well as making the most of the Jacuzzi and steam room.

Could this be the perfect holiday to relax, pamper and return with a feeling of wellbeing?

After a sumptuous gourmet Thai dinner and beer under the starry sky on the roof terrace, settled on the cushioned seats of the villa's hi-tech mini cinema to watch a late-night film with a night cap, I certainly began to think so.

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