Best known for their comprehensive sports facilities and athletic training programmes, Thanyapura Sports & Health Resort also offers an array of other wellness retreats targetting diet, detoxification and emotional health. Wellness-travel expert Catharine Nicol, former Editor-in-Chief at AsiaSpa Magazine and freelance writer for publications such as Billionaire, Business Traveller Asia and Silkroad, checked in for a detox retreat at Thanyapura and found their programme was the perfect springboard for healthier habits back home.
Tropical Phuket, just three and a half hours’ flight from Hong Kong, conjures up images of beachside holidays spent on the sand and in the sea, but Thanyapura’s location takes guests on an adventure inland, 20 minutes’ drive from the Phuket International Airport along lanes that curve through rubber plantations and tiny villages.
Surrounded by green and often misty mountains, the resort’s landscape is dotted with palms and foliage and is alive with butterflies, dragonflies and birds. This immersion in nature instantly soothes any lingering city stress.
I visited in May and experienced two days hot and dry, and one cool and cloudy with occasional rain. Both were a tonic. In general, the rainier months are May to October (although it rarely rains all day) while drier months are November to April.
A sports Mecca for locals, expats, international athletes and wellness tourists, I arrived at Thanyapura late afternoon, passing open-air football pitches, a running track, tennis courts and pools, all inspiringly alive with activity.
I checked in at the airy lobby, the gateway to the two wings of the resort, and received my initial itinerary accompanied by information on group wellness and fitness classes available during my stay.
The resort is environmentally aware, with the minibars’ metal water bottles refillable at nearby alkaline water coolers, refillable toiletries (no conditioner) in the bathrooms, and paper straws and biodegradable takeaway packaging at the restaurants, among other details.
From the resort, it’s a short stroll to the Health Spa for treatments, the Yoga and Meditation Centres for group classes and one-on-one instruction, and the Integrative Health Centre for medical and consultations. My detox called for all aspects of wellness and the various teams worked together well.
There are three dining venues on-site: DiVine Restaurant, DiLite vegan buffet and Booster Deli & Café, which all feature innovative eating. While there were meat and fish options on the menu at DiVine and Booster, the plant-based dishes were extensive and delicious.
The hotel has two courtyard-shaped wings. The 77-room Pool Wing surrounds the leisure pool and airy bar, while I stayed a few minutes’ walk away in the 37-room Garden Wing. Blissfully quiet, it encompasses a small garden and the charming Library, full of books to read while sitting in comfy armchairs and sipping lemongrass, ginger or roselle tea.
If you want peace and seclusion, go for the Garden Wing rooms, but it’s lovely to have a pool on your doorstep too, so request your preference when booking. In both wings, the rooms are clean, comfortable and attractive rather than luxurious, and range from approximately 30 square-metres in entry-level rooms to 63 square-metres in the suites. My standard room had a mini terrace with table and chairs outside, while inside the two single beds were pushed together but made up as twins. It had been a long time since I had slept in a single bed, and yet I slept incredibly well here.
While there’s no room service, it’s easy to bring home takeaways from DiVine Restaurant or Booster Deli & Café.
My detox itinerary included a mid-morning juice, lunch, an afternoon juice and dinner. When blood work has been carried out pre-stay, with food intolerances and hormones already tested, the in-house doctors and nutritionist can more accurately incorporate the right foods for your goals, and any dietary sensitivities can be catered to.
DiVine Restaurant offers buffets throughout the day, mixing Thai and international foods and encompassing meat and fish. A la carte, the raw and plant-based menu spreads over a number of pages with winners like the sweet potato and avocado bruschetta-style starter, the buckwheat risotto and a rainbow of healthy juices. The mango sticky rice was a delicious non-raw indulgence. Portions are very generous, and I found ordering a starter and main meant I was tempted to overeat at times.
I’d highly recommend the daily lunch and dinner vegan buffets at DiLite Restaurant, with DIY salads, imaginative starters and mains, and a little pot of veggie crisps (kale, sweet potato, beetroot) with a dip in the middle of each table.
My favourite place to relax was sitting outside Booster Deli & Café overlooking the 50-metre pool, watching the swimmers glide effortlessly through their training laps. It’s here you can pick up good coffee, juices and smoothies, easy snacks and raw desserts.
The resort does serve alcoholic drinks – not included in my detox, of course.
The 3-Night Detox Retreat Programme
A detox retreat at Thanyapura is usually booked for four nights, 9 nights or 13 nights, but can be tailored to any length of time. Most guests will be in touch with the specialists at least a month ahead of their stay, filling in a health questionnaire, which is followed up with a Skype call and emails to make sure the retreat creates the most ideal stay. Retreats begin and end with the Tanita Body Composition Analyzer to measure improvement.
My four-day, three-night detox retreat started with a combination of consultations discussing my overall health, plus nutrition and exercise routine. I loved these chats, which covered physical health, stress levels, emotional well-being and more. Easy to talk to, the three specialists I saw were thorough and full of useful takeaway information and advice, some of which I’ve been putting to good use already.
A typical day:
08:00 Consultation, group yoga class or swim
09:00 Consultation, meditation
10:00 Morning juice
10.30 Massage (lymphatic/Abhyanga)
11.30 Treatment (Shirodhara or Tibetan singing bowls)
14:00 Medical treatment / spa treatment
15:00 Medical treatment / group class
16:00 Medical treatment / group class
17:00 Free time
18:00 Light dinner
During the general consultation with the medical centre manager, she suggested I should take hormone and food intolerance tests to help tailor my routine and self-care more specifically. The registered nutritionist told me that cutting down on carbs for my on-going weight loss shouldn’t be too harsh, as perhaps my evening fatigue is reflective of a lack of energy intake. She further assessed my fitness and revealed that for longer, leaner (rather than bulkier) muscles I should be finding the time for longer, slower workouts than my usual intense boot camp.
My medical treatments included colonic hydrotherapy and the circulation-boosting Bemer therapy before a Purity IV of antioxidants designed to detox my liver and my body overall. All relatively ‘relaxing’, I felt exhausted afterwards, likely indicating they were working.
At the spa, the Tibetan singing bowls session led by Director of Wellness, Dr Gupta, was a highlight. I was only semi-conscious for much of it and he revealed afterwards that he saw a lot of tension in my left side, which corresponds to stress in the right side of my brain (tasked with creativity, imagination and intuition). Ayurvedic treatments included Abyanga massage and Shirodhara (pouring of oil on the third eye) on a teak spa bed, while the lymphatic massage, gently pumping the lymph system to help with detoxification, was delightfully gentle.
The mind training with Pierre was a revelation, as he went into depth about using meditation throughout out the day rather than simply in the mornings and/or evenings. We discussed issues like overreacting, anger and food cravings, and he advised me to tune out of my head and into my breathing and body for a more balanced emotional (and therefore mental and physical) state.
I was left to my own devices from around 5pm onwards, and although I was free to join fitness classes in the gym, my first two days I was usually exhausted by all the treatments. I had 10- and eight-hour sleeps on each night, and it was only on my third day that I woke up full of beans and took advantage of the 50-metre pool and the super kind staff organised a last-minute assessment of my running technique.
The staff, from the restaurant servers through the medical centre nurses, spa therapists and doctors all clearly had my best health at heart and did everything they could to make sure I had a successful stay.
Having arrived exhausted, and battling through the first few detox days, I left with a spring in my step and excited to have new health habits to put into practice. My resolve to move towards a more plant-based diet was strengthened, I was ready to change my fitness routine, and my daily mindfulness practice was upgraded to top priority.
The pre-stay questionnaire gets the retreat off to a great start: fill it out as fully as you can. The more honest you are and the more completely you share your issues, the more your retreat will bear results.
If you’re the kind of person who is looking for luxury and hushed exclusivity, Thanyapura is not for you. I loved the atmosphere, the inspiration of co-existing with athletes of all shapes and sizes, and the professionalism at Thanyapura. The wide range of wellness and sporting facilities is second-to-none in this part of the world and I’d love to return to mix more sporting options into another, but longer, detox wellness stay. This detox retreat is a fantastic lifestyle break and learning opportunity for absolutely anyone, sporty or health-minded.