Escape to Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui

Nikki ParkinsonHealth, Travel 34 Comments

Sponsored by Female for Life

My German yoga instructor congratulates us for our energy in the afternoon class.

Enjoy your evening, she says … your detox juices … I’ll be having a gin and tonic she says with a wide smile.

Her quirky sense of humour is not lost on me.

It’s Friday night. I’m on the beautiful Thai island of Koh Samui – an island on which Mr SY and I spent our honeymoon 10-plus years ago.

Beyond the perimeter of my home for the week, Absolute Sanctuary (a health retreat where the pool bar serves up fresh coconut juice and those aforementioned detox juices), are thousands of people from all over the world doing the complete opposite to what I’m doing: eating clean, ditching the booze, and exercising twice daily.

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui

And I’m ok with that. VERY ok. Zen-like even.

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui

I was invited to Absolute Sanctuary as part of my ambassadorship with inclusive women’s active wear label, Female for Life (it caters for sizes 6-24).

Female for Life’s Melanie Becker was by my yogi side all week, as was SY reader Karin Curtin, who entered and won the week at the retreat.

When I wrote this post about what to pack to take to the health retreat, I could not have been more on the mark as to the most important thing to pack … a positive and an all-embracing attitude.

I was grateful for the opportunity to experience a whole week devoted to me – my health and my wellbeing.

I was open to everything and returned home refreshed, rejuvenated and recharged.

These three “Rs” had been my number one goal.

Read on for my thoughts on the program and the other results I experienced.

Female for Life Bengal top and pants

(Me on Day 1) Female for Life Bengal top and leggings

About Absolute Sanctuary

Absolute Sanctuary is not the only health retreat on Koh Samui, nor is it the only one in Asia, but all week I was surrounded by men and women of all ages and nationalities.

There were couples. Lots of singles. All there with one thing in common: to focus on their health and make improvements that they could hopefully take back into the real world.

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui

Being awarded Conde Nast’s “Best Value for Weightloss” in the 2014 Spa Awards has certainly helped the retreat’s profile and credibility internationally.

I’m I nosey person so I wanted to know more about who was there and why.

If anyone so much as made eye contact with me, I couldn’t help but ask why they were there. Even from Australia, it’s a minimum 10-hour trip. From Europe, and even longer haul.

There was the middle-aged woman from the UK who had booked in for month, to reset her lifestyle.

A 35-year-old London banker was using his six weeks between high-powered jobs to get as healthy as he possibly could. He wasn’t spending the entire six weeks at Absolute but the retreat played a pivotal part at the beginning of his travels.

A young Singaporean pastry chef was detoxing before heading to Paris to further her career with more training in the pastry capital of the world. She told me she had done several health retreats before but tried not to talk about what she did for a living – a health retreat is very much a pastry-free zone!

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui

Be Fit program

There are a number of programs you can enrol in as part of your package at Absolute. The Detox program is at the most extreme end (juices only and colonic hydrotherapy). Other programs are tailored more to those who want to focus on fitness training.

I was enrolled in a seven-day Be Fit program, a balanced program aimed at helping you find new ways to exercise, while dining on beautiful spa cuisine food and enjoying daily spa massages and/or treatments.

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui

It was balanced and exactly the type of program I hoped I’d be doing. There was still flexibility around what classes I did and what training I focussed on but all within a framework aimed to reset a busy life and get your focus back on health … if it has strayed.

The food

OMG. I did not starve. Far from it.

I did not have one meal that wasn’t flavoursome to the max.

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui | Samui Ceviche

Each program has a specific menu, which we were handed each mealtime. It was up to us to choose a tea or juice from that at each mealtime, as well as two dishes at each sitting. We could also have a protein blast shake each day.

There were plenty of gluten-free options for me. I also like to eat protein at every meal and had plenty of egg, fish, seafood and chicken options to work my way through. Vegetarians would be like a pig in the proverbial. So much veggie goodness.

Everything was super fresh, colourful and packed with nutrients.

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui | Fish wrapped in banana leaf with tropical salsa

If you weren’t sure which way to go with your nutritional choices, it was possible to book in with the centre’s nutritionist for some guidelines. We were also given some guidelines at our initial wellness consultation.

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui | Salmon larb salad

The exercise

For six out of the seven days, I had an hour’s personal training session. My trainer Marco is a Dutch expat and ex-water polo player. He likes training Australians because generally we can swim, so in to the pool we went for four of the six sessions (the other two were in the gym).

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui

No complaints from me as I got to keep cool AND get a solid workout. If you’re thinking ’80s aqua aerobics, it was far from it. I did water polo drills, underwater boxing and all kinds strength work that I did not even know was possible in a pool.

What Marco also understood after talking to me was that I was prepared to work hard but within the boundaries of my Hashimotos thyroid condition. There is always a fine balance for me – exercise is definitely good but if I tip the scales into over-doing it, I go backwards and end up getting sick. As it was I was fighting a sore throat for most of the week so I was very aware of keeping that balance.

Female for Life Circle Sport top | Ocean pants

(Me Day 2) Female for Life Circle Sport top and Ocean pant

Part of my balance strategy was afternoon yoga sessions. The yoga classes on offer were mixed and varied – many styles I had not experienced before. And every class I attended seemed to be exactly what I needed at that point in time. The restorative class was the most out-of-left-field for me. We did only four poses the entire class – all supported by bolsters and towels. You didn’t force the stretch as you would in a Yin class. At the end of it, I had the most incredibly “clear” feeling … throughout my body and (often fuzzy) head.

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui

Female for Life’s Mel shows off her yogi style and her own brand

Oh, and my Female for Life wardrobe was ideal for wearing in the hot, humid conditions. I practically lived in my printed pants as they are lightweight, do magical things for your legs and are super comfortable on the waist for bending and twisting in yoga.

The spa treatments

You knew I’d have to get to this bit eventually, didn’t you? It was like my biggest Spa Rat dream had come true. On arrival I was handed a timetable with a different massage treatment booked in for each day – Thai massages, rejuvenation massages, pressure point massage and my favourite – the foot sanctuary massage. This was 60 minutes of foot and lower leg massage while I sat in a cushioned bamboo chair on the covered balcony with the sounds of cicadas in the adjacent jungle area as background music.

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui

I also had four infrared sauna sessions – something I’ve had at home and need to get back to doing – they are so good for giving my poor old immune system a boost.

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui

The accommodation

The resort is Moroccan-inspired in décor. I know this seems strange in Thailand but it is what it is. I had been booked into a superior pool view room but on awaking the first morning (I’d arrived late the night before), the only view was of a concrete wall with only minimal natural light coming in.

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui

Towel art - Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui

I asked if there were any other rooms available and paid to move and upgrade to a Deluxe room. It wasn’t that much more per night and something I’d suggest you do if heading to Absolute yourself or with a partner – especially if staying for a week or longer. The bed changes from Queen to King, the outlook is much better (I even had a sea glimpse) and these rooms include a free-standing bath.

Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui

What else to do?

If I weren’t in a training session, a yoga class or eating, you would have found me either poolside under an umbrella reading (mornings) or having a nap (afternoons). This rhythm to the days settled in very early on, ensuring that re-charge button had been well and truly hit.

By Day 5, I had cabin fever. Apart from one morning stroll to the beach, I had not set foot outside the retreat since arriving. I needed to see a sunset and I need to see the sea. A plan was hatched and Karin and I took a sneaky escape to the W Retreat for ONE sunset drink. It seemed wrong not too. We then returned back to Absolute for a spa cuisine dinner. Life balance achieved.

W Retreat Koh Samui Thailand

Day 6, the three of us headed into Chaweng Beach (the main shopping strip) and had dinner on the beach at Eat Sense, a Koh Samui institution and seemingly the only thing not to have changed in 10 years. We chose wisely from the menu and cardio shopped afterwards. There are a lot of same-same, fake shops but there are a few gems if you’re prepared to sniff them out. Mel scored a gorgeous dress from Deseo; Karin and I got some jewellery from Try Out; and we all bought up at Thann, an amazing beauty and aromatherapy boutique. There is also a new big shopping centre in the heart of Chaweng – I found some tees for Mr SY and my eldest son at Jaspal’s CC Double O store.

Eat Sense Koh Samui

Day 7, our final night, was spent at the Fisherman’s Village markets in Bophut. These markets go on for at least a kilometre and are filled with colour – from fruit to cheap mojitos. At the end of the markets is the newly opened Fisherman’s Wharf shopping complex. I didn’t find anything to buy there but I loved how this complex had opened up the foreshore with a little parkland for everyone to enjoy. We dined open air at Krua. In the interests of full disclosure, I can confirm that Karin and I celebrated the end of a rewarding week with one glass each of Aussie Savvy B.

Fisherman's Village Markets Bophut Koh Samui

The results

My goal for the week was to rest, recharge and rejuvenate this old body of mine. This is something I definitely achieved.

The bonus was a small kg weight loss (I’ve long stopped judging results by this method), 14cm loss (mostly from around my legs, hip and waist) and a clearer health focus that I fully intended to maintain.

Female for Life Gaia top | Blue Lightening leggings

(Me Day 4) Female for Life Gaia top | Blue Lightening leggings

Female for Life Sunset leggings | Chillax top

(Me Day 6) Female for Life Sunset leggings | Chillax top

Disclaimer: I went on this retreat armed with support from my GP at home. I took over my most recent blood tests and a note from him about my condition and exercise limitations. I think anyone contemplating something like this should visit his or her own GP before going. It just makes good health sense.

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Comments 34

  1. I’ve had this blog waiting for me (like a little present) all day when I realised that work was going to be horrendous today and my normal (sneaky) morning coffee catchup with Nikki wasn’t going to happen! It was worth the wait. Thank you for such a wonderful wrap up of your days in Thailand. I knew nothing about such places (I was imagining being bullied and fed lettuce), and now I do – something to look forward to, even if just for a weekend. You look beautifully refreshed and relaxed … just lovely. x

    1. Oh Cheryl, I know … it’s difficult to know what they would be like but I could do what I like, when I like. Appointments were booked on my behalf but if I wanted to switch them around and there was availability, I did. Plus, like we did, we could leave the retreat … I just tried to make good eating choices when I did so I didn’t stuff up the good work of the program.

  2. I love the sound of that health retreat Nikki and also love that the PT did exercises in the pool,as some people (Me) can not do what other people can do in a gym!
    I love all your photos from the week they are beautiful and also like that you went out and had a glass of wine,you look amazing Nikki all glowing and fresh and recharged.I often say I’m going to run away and with this Mother’s Day coming up I’m finding it really difficult I might look into escaping for a night or two,Thank you for sharing your week with us Nikki

    1. Absolutely Lisa … the pool sessions are rigorous but very safe for any injuries to our legs, knees, feet. Sending you good vibes in advance, it’s going to be tough. I think your kids should book you somewhere nice with a massage or two and yes, escape xx

    2. Absolutely Lisa … the pool sessions are rigorous but very safe for any injuries to our legs, knees, feet. Sending you good vibes in advance, it’s going to be tough. I think your kids should book you somewhere nice with a massage or two and yes, escape xx

    3. Absolutely Lisa … the pool sessions are rigorous but very safe for any injuries to our legs, knees, feet. Sending you good vibes in advance, it’s going to be tough. I think your kids should book you somewhere nice with a massage or two and yes, escape xx

  3. Everything looks amazing. I really like your routine too – morning reading and an afternoon nap!! I think I could manage that too!

  4. Absolutely amazing getaway Nikki.
    I love everything about it and I think I may work towards the goal of a month away to ‘reset my lifestyle’, what a wonderful long term self investment.
    This is my chance too to say a BIG thank you, I got the email re: my Female for Life Mother’s Day prize. I am hoping to get those wild Bengal leggings and I will wear them to yoga when I head back to Ubud in July. It’s only for a week, but like you, eating clean and yoga and walks and swims are gifts to yourself.

  5. looks and sounds like you had a very restorative week nikki!
    all good, with great looking wholefoods and workouts!
    the grounds look gorgeous, I would not have been happy with that first room!
    everything else looks like a very calming sanctuary! om!
    love m:)X

  6. Amazing!! It all sounds like the perfect way to honour your body. I do Dru yoga which is gentle and fluid but gives an amazing workout…especially for my mind x

  7. What a fantastic time you had. So jealous. I’d love to do a retreat but have no-one to go with. Do you think it’s a good place to go to solo?

  8. Oh my god, I am so jealous! In a nice way though. This looks amazing, and I love the thought of going to a health retreat. Love Thailand, and anything Thai. The fruit and vegetables are so good aren’t they! Makes me want to book right now and escape, lovely post Nikki 🙂

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