Guest blogger Carmen Jenner kickstarts a healthy regime at wellness centre Palms Retreat in Koh Samui.
The huge hill taunts ahead; wobbly from the heat. This isn’t a side to the turquoise fringed paradise of Koh Samui I had ever expected to encounter. Wellness Resort Consultant and Personal Trainer Ron Velduis soothes the climb with words of encouragement as his rescue dogs Setta and Sky playfully coax me along. He sweats and puffs in sympathy which is by no means a reflection on his own level of fitness; the humidity is insane. Preferring to be at one with his environment, he goes sans footwear, on the blistering ground I might add.
Chugging down my prescribed lime water, I long to return to the beach cool with the morning breeze. Cheong Mon Beach is one of the prettiest bays on the island where we’d just completed a fitness session. It’s Ron’s signature Kickstart Your Day (KYD) routine involving a series of low impact energising movements based on yoga and chi (life force).
On jelly legs, well mine at least, we return to the Palms Retreat where I’m partaking in their health programme. My regime consists of a daily dose of KYD, meditation, yoga and massages, and I have to say I spend a considerable amount of time horizontal; I really don’t mind. Unless specifically requested, this isn’t boot camp and each and every guest receives the kind of star treatment usually reserved for the rich and famous, whose identities remain in the vault of discretion. Depending on your goals and desires programmes are customised usually into two categories over three, seven or ten days: Weight Loss/Detox or Rejuvenate. The latter includes intensive workouts with the former preferable to 80% of the clientele.
Both programmes focus around the nutritional supplements crafted by Graham Rowe, Chief Naturopath at Amrita (amritaretreat.com). The 100% natural herbal shakes gently cleanse and detox and what sets Amrita apart from other products is how effectively it supports the body’s natural systems while removing toxins. After spending years testing and experimenting Graham declares it’s the, “Gateway drug to good health.” Each sachet is blended with 180ml of fresh or coconut water and an optional 50g of fresh fruit; the results are delicious, filling and nutritional.
A typical day may begin with 500ml of alkalising lime water (to be finished by 9.00am, which isn’t hard given the tropical heat) while strolling down to the beach for KYD. Returning via THE hill for a shake and light breakfast, I partake in an activity like meditation followed by a shake, another activity such as yoga and/or a message and then followed by another shake. The afternoon could include an island tour or tea ceremony or free time until, yes, you guessed it, its shake time followed by dinner with an evening experience such as an evening meditation session or live music finished off with a shake and herbal tea nightcap. Other activities include aqua aerobics, water sports, market visits, charity involvement but the highlight for me was Ron’s island tour.
Koh Samui has been Ron’s home for many years and with his colleague and girlfriend Minah by his side, his deep involvement and dedication to the Thai culture is clearly evident. We visit the coconut farm which produces the 100% natural Rasta Coconut Oil sold all over the island, deliver food to a displaced Burmese family and pop into local Kao Lay Lae View restaurant (4/19 Moo 3, T. Namuang) for an impromptu preparation and sampling of the local dish green papaya salad.
Meandering through the hinterlands punctuated with palm trees, we visit Lat and Cameron Hanson at Island Organics cooking school where the TV travel show Getaway had been filming only days before. Lat leads me through her abundant organic garden she cultivated with her own hands from a barren plot in just four years.
I later enter the fairy tale world of local silversmith and jeweller Miwat Wichityam in his Gaudi-esque home and studio. Called Handmade Jewelry Art Design (134/7 M.1, Maret), the endearingly misspelt name is proudly displayed outside next to the battered Kombi Van which was once his home. The extraordinarily hand craft building is one of the many delightful surprises Samui holds in store; just like one of Ron’s tours which could also include a visit to secret waterfalls and overnight stays in the jungle to virtually untraceable locations.
Clusters of villas grouped together in threes form the Palms Retreat accommodation. The bedrooms are simply decorated and some have outdoor showers and each cluster includes a spacious living room, a pool and massage and yoga pavilion. The grounds are lush with hibiscus and frangipani trees peppered by the serenades of cicadas. In a word, it’s uncluttered; something I aspire to for my own state of mind.
Without the interruptions of home, it’s a smooth ride into not only feeling physically healthier but achieving your own spiritual and emotional goals. Moments of clarity hit during every step of the way and no more so than during the singing bowls where I’m painfully aware I have more work to do before my chakras are fully open to the energy of the universe. Clearly, it’s a journey made all the more poignant by Ron’s catchphrase, “Come to your true self.”