This blog post is brought to you from the very swanky Samahita retreat, on the quiet south coast of Koh Samui, a beautiful tropical island east of mainland Thailand. Again, I don’t feel posh enough to be here, but I’m definitely making the most of the experience.
Approaching Koh Samui on the ferry.
In some ways my stay here is rather bad timing, in that I’ve been recently enjoying the sociable serendipity of the backpacker trail and not knowing what adventures lie around the next corner. As the ferry spat us out at Samui, I wistfully watched everyone else head off to the main backpacker area on the east coast, reluctantly declining a couple of offers to share taxis and wondering what high japes that could have led to. Instead, I was on a lone journey to the remote south coast, where just a handful of very exclusive resorts hog the mostly untouched coastline. However, one thing I have learnt on this trip is not to question my decisions, and not to torment myself with ‘what could’ve beens’. Wherever I am on my journey is exactly where I should be, and I will pour positive energy into each situation I find myself in. You see, an aptly yogic approach to my week of mindfulness!
However, unfortunately, my first impressions of the centre weren’t the best. For a start the receptionist was really unhelpful and rude, and I felt my patience almost snap, which is an incredibly rare experience for me – rather ironic I thought. Secondly, I realised that the emphasis here is not so much on yoga, as on ‘wellness’ (a money-making term if ever I heard one) – encapsulating activities such as massage, keep-fit, healthy-eating, detox, fasting and the gruesome and inexplicably popular colonic irrigation. So you get the picture – a mecca for the vain, insecure and wealthy.
As a result, the clientele is dominated by an international set of middle-aged well-manicured ladies of leisure and city-slicker power-women in their late thirties to fifties with money to burn and not much spare time to do so in, thus efficiently condensing their annual r&r quota into a week’s luxury retreat. For once I feel like the young’un. However, there is one group of worryingly young, stick-thin girls, who are, perturbingly, here on a ‘healthy weight loss’ week-long fasting and detox retreat. The mind boggles.
The mood is generally quiet and relaxed – people seem to be fairly introspective and there’s lots of lounging around the pool attached to ipods going on, so it’s hard to start conversations. I’ve been mainly hanging out with a couple of British girls who won their week here in a competition and are, frankly, gagging for a beer and some bawdy entertainment (no alcohol or smoking allowed here) and chatting to the yoga teachers when I get a chance. The only group who are a bit more raucous are the healthy weight-loss girls but, seeing as they seem to be surviving on a diet of veggie broth and raw carrots, I think this is hunger-related hysteria, not helped by them having to run the gauntlet of the gorgeous food buffet that the rest of us gorge on each day – that’s just adding insult to injury…
So my naive dreams of hanging out and talking all things yoga with lots of inspiring and like-minded characters have quietly unravelled like smoke from an incense stick. That said, yoga does form a central pillar of the ‘wellness’ ethos here, and there are two classes a day to keep me happy, as well as lovely guided meditation and relaxation sessions each evening, not to mention the massages. There are also many other perks to spending time here. Number one, my very posh accommodation (I paid the cheaper rate to be in a shared studio, but as yet no flat-mate has appeared – result):
Check out the buddha above my bed – you really can’t escape him anywhere in Thailand.
View from my own private balcony… 🙂
Number two, the food is awesome (yes, Abi – it literally evokes awe from me each day!). Not everyone’s cup of tea, though – for a start there’s no tea, apart from the herbal kinds, which many would argue don’t count. It’s healthy and veggie-tastic – never mind five-a-day, I reckon I’m getting fifty-a-day at the moment. Everything is freshly prepared, with interesting and delicious combinations of herbs and spices – I’m taking lots of notes. One thing I will definitely try and replicate at home is the simplicity of making tea from fresh mint or basil leaves, freshly grated ginger, a squirt of lime and a dash of honey and of course hot water – incredibly tasty and refreshing.
There is a brunch buffet out during the first part of the day and a dinner buffet in the evening, which means you can basically spend the entire day eating. However, that would not be in the spirit of mindful eating and restraint, so I am having to keep a tight rein on my greedy tendencies, for fear of receiving disapproving looks over lots of designer sunglasses.
I am being a bit unfair actually – I think there’s probably a huge variety of very interesting characters here; it’s just not a conducive environment for getting to know people and moving beyond initial first impressions and the helpless human need to stereotype.
Perk number three is the gorgeous location. The centre is set right on a beautiful, quiet beach, with only the odd fisherman in his boat to break up the peace and solitude.
Current yogacam – view from the outdoor yoga shala.
Why use the pool when the sea is so close?
The beautiful beach – it’s so quiet and peaceful here – hardly a soul about. Even the fisherman boats moored in the shallows are rarely used.
Anyway, more observations will follow as they occur to me, although I can’t imagine I’ll have much to report this week seeing as I am spending much of the time sitting in the lotus position with my eyes closed. For all my slight disillusionment with the place, I can already see how a week here will be incredibly good for me – I feel very relaxed, in body and mind, already, and it’s only day two.