Stress is something we all experience, but at a certain point it stops doing its intended function—to protect and motivate us—and begins to become harmful and detrimental to our health. Chai Talay Estate’s retreat programme Reboot & Recharge addresses the pressures of everyday life with an action-packed boot camp weekend, which allows you to not just reset and blow off steam physically but rebalance mentally too. Compare Retreats editor Rebecca Cairns checked in for the weekend to explore the luxury villas and sweat her stresses away…
On the south-west coast of Koh Samui, tucked away on a small peninsula near the Raja mainland ferry terminal, Chai Talay Estate is far from isolated and yet entirely peaceful. The aquamarine water and white powder sand beach is the kind of paradise that should only exist in films and postcards, but this idyllic tropical location is very much real and home for the four-day fitness retreat at Chai Talay. The surrounding neighbourhood is comprised of privately-owned villas, and the pristine beach is rarely used by anyone except the Estate and neighbours.
With direct flights from Hong Kong to Samui airport, it’s easy to reach and only a 30-minute drive from Samui airport—group airport transfers are included in the retreat price. Other popular ways to the island include: flying via Bangkok; flying to Phuket and driving (via ferry terminal); or flying to Surat Thani and driving (via ferry terminal).
Chai Talay Estate is made up of three privately-owned villas: Baan Orachon, Baan Kilee, and Baan Puri. The three villas work together as one giant resort or individually and can be privately rented. Each villa has its own swimming pool, kitchen, dining space, lawn, and indoor social space.
Baan Orachon features an impressive second-floor yoga sala space with views across the beach, pool and gardens, while Baan Puri’s dining space doubles as a conference room that can comfortably seat 40 for corporate retreats. Baan Kilee, the largest of the villas, has a flexible indoor-dining/yoga studio space, along with a TV room, and second lawn.
The Estate also features a new, state-of-the-art gym with cardio and weights equipment behind the villas, where another large sports lawn and organic garden are also located.
The resort operates a strict eco policy and discourages the use of single-use plastics on-site: retreat guests are advised to bring their own reusable water bottle to fill up at the various water filters around the villa.
The Estate has a total of 17 rooms which can sleep up to 40 people. All rooms are ensuite with rain showers and separate free-standing outdoor bathtubs, generous wardrobe space, and luxuriously appointed with excellent use of light and space.
During my stay, I was lucky enough to sleep in all three villas. The room in Orachon was the smallest, but quieter and more peaceful than the other villas during the day and perfect for anyone who enjoys their privacy.
The master suite in Baan Kilee—above the flexible dining space—featured a second twin room, ideal for families travelling with children, or a group of friends, and with a private balcony overlooking the estate offered amazing views noon and night. It also had the largest bathtub, which as it was indoors on the second floor, offered a little more privacy.
The beach-front, poolside Lotus suite in Baan Puri had the most gorgeous views and with two walls of windows opening onto patios, was light and spacious. Waking up to the beachfront view was a huge plus for this room, and it would be ideal for couples. All of the rooms were extremely comfortable and a few minutes from the communal areas and beachfront. It’s worth upgrading your room for one of the beach front rooms, to take full advantage of the beautiful location.
The retreat programme is all-inclusive of food and beverage, excluding premium drinks like coconuts which cost 40 baht each. The retreat is alcohol-free and drinking is not sold on site, though guests can drink in the privacy of their suite if they choose to. Coffee was available at breakfast while herbal and fruit teas were available throughout the day.
Meals followed a buffet format, with fresh fruit always available between meals and other snacks provided mid-afternoon. All of the food is sugar-free, gluten-free, predominantly lactose-free, and dishes are clearly marked. The menu includes a variety of proteins, and ingredients are sourced from the property’s organic garden or the local wet markets.
The menu of fresh, delicious Thai dishes was one of the highlights of the retreat. Breakfast typically included eggs poached, boiled or scrambled, super thin and crispy bacon, rye bread, spinach, salad and fresh fruit, with further yoghurt, muesli and oat options. Lunch and dinner featured a rotation of local dishes, including curries, minced meat with Thai basil, fresh fish fillets, satay, red rice and noodle dishes. Snacks included boiled eggs, granola bowls, banana chips, and protein balls.
The buffet format and the inclusion of so many incredible dishes mean this isn’t ideal if your sole goal is to lose weight, as there are no restrictions on food. However, the amount of exercise the programme contains requires good sustenance, and the freshness, lightness and overall nutritional value of the food leaves you feeling stronger, more energised, and detoxed—coming back to my regular diet, I noticed my body was reacting to sugars, heavy oils and additives in a different way.
3-Night Reboot & Recharge Retreat Programme
The Reboot & Recharge Retreat is a three-night, four-day programme packed with fitness and wellness activities—more than 40 hours, to be precise. It’s worth noting (before anyone turns the other way terrified at the prospect of so much working out) that all the activities are optional, and the trainers are well versed in adapting the activities and exercises to different capabilities and injuries.
Focussing on a variety of different exercises—including Pilates, yoga, HIIT, circuit training, TRX, and Aquafit—the schedule generally followed the format below:
06:00 Yoga Foundation
07:00 Meditation with Yoga OR Pilates
08:30 TRX Circuits
11:30 Pilates OR TRX
12:30 Stretch OR Tabata
13:00 Lunch with nutrition workshop
14:00 Run, walk or cycle to boxing ring (5KM)
14:30 Boxing with local Muay Thai gym
16:00 Beach Clean Up Boot Camp
20:30 Corrective Exercises
The physical activities were mixed in with more holistic and mental/emotional-focussed sessions, including workshops on stress, burnout, and addiction. These sessions were informal and varied from being an informative lecture to a Q&A session. Guests could schedule in one-to-one or one-to-two sessions with each of the trainers—postural assessments, personal training, deep stretching, or TRE (tension release exercises)—which were available at an additional cost.
The trainers were all exceptionally knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. Nate Solia, personal trainer and managing director at Elite Personal Training Hong Kong, led the majority of fitness classes and was supported by personal trainer and nutritionist Chrissy Denton, personal trainer and Outdoor Fitness founder Dayle Haigh-Smith, mindfulness and yoga coach Rupert Jackson, and yoga and Pilates expert Sanya. The team worked well together and complemented each other’s specialities, which was all pulled together by retreat founder and organiser Tina Atkinson, who has an extensive knowledge of mental health through her work with Mind HK. Additionally, the retreat works with Taling Ngam Muay Thai gym to provide boxing sessions—the visit to the actual Muay Thai boxing ring was a great experience.
Despite being an incredibly packed and full-on programme, the schedule was thoughtfully balanced and the variety of activities and excellent attention to stretching and post-workout recovery meant that I never felt too tired or burnout by the end, and did return home feeling rebooted and recharged as promised.
During the final feedback session, many of the first-time attendees shared how the retreat had changed them: not just in their physical wellness habits but their emotional and mental self-care. I was sceptical that a four-day retreat could have such a profound and meaningful ‘transformation’ effect, but I left with renewed energy, focus, and a clarity I hadn’t experienced for a long time.
This retreat is ideal for men or women who are feeling stuck or ‘in a rut’ with their lives, whether that is related to physical or emotional health. Take advantage of the one-to-three TRE sessions with Rupert Jackson: this therapy, which involves simple exercises to release stress, was one of the biggest surprises for me and I left feeling far calmer.
What was most reassuring to me, as a newcomer to this retreat, was how many returnees there were: guests who attended the retreat two, three, five times before were still eager to come back. Through this, there was an incredible sense of community, which is one thing the retreat strives to build, to reinforce wellness habits and lifestyles beyond the retreat.
For more information on Chai Talay’s upcoming retreats, contact [email protected]