Those of us who love Thailand already know what makes this country so special. It's a great cocktail of stunning views, amazing food and tropical delights. But above all, it is the Thai people who make this country live up to its name, Great Thai. For many repeat visitors to the Land of Smiles, there is a simple sentiment that sums it all up: “Thailand is my happy place”.
Whether you're visiting Thailand for the first time or your fifteenth time, a vacation here is good for your body and soul. Traveling in Thailand is the perfect opportunity to de-stress, relax and recharge. And there are few better places to do this than the palm-fringed beaches of Ko Samui. From the moment you arrive at Samui's charming tropical airport, you know you are in for a treat.
Refill with Vitamin Sea
We may joke about the need to visit the beach to supplement the ‘Sea Vitamin', but there is more than truth to this. Research has proven that being in or near the ocean has positive benefits for our well-being. The concept of ‘thisblue therapy‘ is one of the reasons that makes Ko Samui the ideal destination for a health and wellness vacation. The simple act of walking along a beach in Thailand is therapeutic. Dip your toes in the warm water, swim and forget about your worries.
Some visitors simply want a holiday in Thailand where they ‘fly and miss' and there is much to be said about the benefits of this style of travel. The thought of lounging by the pool and doing nothing more strenuous than applying sunscreen and reading a good book does have a certain appeal.
On the other hand, spending at least some time being active and exercising during the holidays can actually do you good more relaxed because it releases endorphins. One of the simplest ways to experience the benefits is with a morning yoga session. Watching the sunrise with the gentle sea breeze blowing through the coconut trees is the perfect start to the day.
Don't worry if, like me, you're a yoga virgin. As I discovered when I recently stayed at Celes Hotel on Ko Samui, yoga isn't just for the young and vivacious types who wear tight shirts. Even a middle-aged fat man like me can do it. Maybe not as good as the young and flexible types in tight shirts, but it turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected and left me feeling energized for the day.
Many hotels in Ko Samui will offer yoga sessions with professional instructors. Also pay attention to other healthy activities such as rowing or kayaking.
Muay Thai (Thai boxing) is the national sport of Thailand. And at various locations in Ko Samui, there is an opportunity to try your hand at Muay Thai training. If you're traveling to Ko Samui and you're serious about your workout, check out a gym like Superpro or Lamai Muay Thai.
Several hotels on the island also offer the opportunity to let you train as part of your Muay Thai fitness training. And what better place than Thai Fight Hotel. Opening in November 2022, Thai Fight Hotel is located at the southern end of Lamai Beach, not far from the Hin Ta and Hin Yai phallic rock formations.
Describing itself as the world's first Muay Thai hotel, it's definitely the place to stay for anyone interested in Thai boxing. With incredible artwork and clever Muay Thai décor touches, this is an impressive hotel where the views are just as stunning. There is an option to train one-on-one with a famous Muay Thai fighter and after all that exertion, you can indulge in a luxurious spa treatment.
Thai food is not only delicious, it is also good for you. There is real science behind the idea of Thai food as medicine. Ingredients commonly used in Thai cooking have been shown to boost the immune system and provide various health benefits. Chili peppers are rich in vitamins A and C which help boost immunity and metabolism. Lemongrass is full of antioxidants while turmeric contains curcumin which can help the immune system.
“Food is our best medicine. The best hospital is our kitchen… Thai people are very lucky because we have a lot of foodstuffs that can help strengthen immunity.”
Prof. dr. Prachya Kongthaweelert, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University
Local dishes on Samui also take advantage of the island's natural abundance of fresh coconuts and seafood. Coconut milk is not only lactose free, but also has antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Whether you're planning an active day or not, it's important to stay well-hydrated during your trip to Thailand. Drinking coconut water is the best way to replace lost fluids and electrolytes in Samui's tropical heat.
There are some benefits of eating fish. These include shellfish which are low in fat and a good source of important minerals like zinc. When you dine on Samui, the perfect way to do this is to combine your fresh seafood with a view of the sea to complete your ‘Ocean Vitamins'. Try the original Sabienglae restaurant at Lamai Beach or its second branch at Bangrak Beach.
Baan Suan Lung Khai may not have sea views, but enjoy the lovely atmosphere of the coconut groves. With its location away from the main tourist area, this restaurant has a more local feel compared to many of the other quality restaurants on the island. Samui's favorite party like water already (squid boiled in coconut milk), as usual (spicy fish curry), fresh crabs, giant prawns and other seafood delights.
Traditional Thai medicine and therapy
Traditional Thai medicine takes a preventive approach with the principle that it is better to treat the causes of health problems before they become serious. There are four main components of traditional Thai medicine to maintain health:
- Correct diet
- Natural medicine
As part of this well-being approach, traditional Thai massage plays an important role in clearing the energy channels that flow throughout the body. This in turn has a positive impact on the body and spirit. There are many options in Ko Samui where you can pamper yourself with massages and traditional Thai therapies. At the most basic level, you can get an open-air massage in the shade of bamboo sal facing the beach. Although many of the staff working here are good at what they do, the quality of the massage and the masseuse's training can still be hit and miss.
On the other hand, there are professional spa treatments with fully qualified therapists in such locations Celes Reviv Spa. Of course you pay more for this, but you get luxury maintenance and quality assurance.
Holistic health and wellness retreat
If you are looking for a more comprehensive health check-up or detox, you are spoiled for choice in Ko Samui with world-class facilities at places including Absolute Sanctuary and Kamalaya. A relatively new addition to this list of great options in Ko Samui is Miskawaan.
Miskawaan uses what they call functional medicine which takes a different approach from the more conventional methods typically used in the West. Functional medicine providers spend time listening to patients and identifying underlying triggers that cause problems. This can be a variety of things including a poor diet, allergens or stress. Based on these triggers, a tailor-made plan is then developed to address the problem holistically.
With a quiet beachfront location on Maenam Beach, facilities at Miskawaan include a rehabilitation and wellness center and detached luxury villas where guests can enjoy extended stays.
Cele Sam is another option for a wellness retreat in Ko Samui. For their on-site clinic, the hotel has collaborated with Bangkok Dusit Medical Services (BDMS) to provide customized care to meet the needs of each patient.
The various luxury wellness packages offered in Ko Samui can be a great way to improve your health, but there are alternatives that are more affordable. It also allows you to directly support local communities.
With coconut trees all over the island, it's no surprise that Ko Samui has the nickname ‘Coconut Island‘. There was a time when the humble coconut was the mainstay of the local economy. The rise of tourism changed that, but coconuts still play a key role in island life. To find out more, visit the Coconut Museum. This is a sanuk a holiday for the whole family with the opportunity to join workshops and make various coconut products.
The importance of herbs in Thai cooking is showcased in the delightful Honey Rose Herb Garden & Art. Get up close and personal with the various herbs used in your favorite Thai dishes and learn more about their medicinal properties and why they are so good for your health. There are also options for guided tours and hands-on workshops.
The park also includes an art space with paintings and sculptures from local and international artists.
Thai Meaningful Health
As part of a new marketing project, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is focusing on health and wellness by launching a new website, Thai Meaningful Health. The site includes a variety of health and wellness packages available in various locations around Thailand including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ko Samui, Krabi, Phang Nga and Phuket.
To help with the Thailand Meaningful Health project, I was invited to Ko Samui in July 2023 as part of a weekend trip organized with the Tourism Authority of Thailand. I cover all additional costs myself for the journey from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and my accommodation in Bangkok before and after the trip.
AAlways do your own research and use your own discretion before deciding what medical treatment, therapy, or exercise goals are right for you.