Visually stunning and completely serene — seldom have I encountered a more appealing space than the Hyatt Regency’s Barai spa in Hua Hin, Thailand.
A dimly lit corridor lined with salmon-colored walls leads into the spa. It’s like entering a tunnel to another world, which isn’t far from the truth. As I headed for the square of light at the end of the corridor I could actually feel the material world receding and a serene, almost spiritual one emerging.
Designed by renowned Thai architect and interior designer Lek Bunnag, this 4.5-acre spa is more than just a setting for treatments: It’s a work of art. Shades of soft pink, smoky salmon and ocher cover the stucco walls and sculptures. And just when it all seems a bit too monochromatic, Bunnag worked in a surprise: a blue door or lavender wall.
A petite and pretty spa attendant spoke in a hushed voice as she led me through the labyrinth of pink-toned corridors opening onto small, perfectly designed courtyards and treatment and meditation rooms. When I observed I might need an escort to show me the way out of the mazelike environment, she admitted it had taken her a couple of weeks to learn to navigate the spa area without making any wrong turns.
En route, the spa attendant pointed out the sauna, steam room, relaxation area and the outdoor Tranquility Court, where a tai chi class was in progress. She explained that the rectangular pool was not only aesthetically pleasing but also practical, shaped as a swimming channel. I contemplated doing a few laps after my treatment.
The thought crossed my mind that with all of this intense visual stimulation I might have trouble morphing into my usual semi-coma spa state. It was an empty worry.
Barai’s philosophy is centered on the Thai belief that wellbeing comes from maintaining the vitality and balance of the four elements: water, earth, air and fire. A combination of rituals and treatments, called “element journeys,” emphasize the healing properties of each.
Water is the element that relieves stress, relaxes the body, soothes the mind and calms the spirit. Earth is the grounding element which restores balance, cleanses the body, fortifies the mind and replenishes the spirit. Air is the beauty element, the emphasis being on toning, clarifying and rejuvenation. And, finally, fire is the energy element, the one that promotes strength, energy and brightness.
In addition to the usual menu of massages, facials and scrubs, Barai offers special packages. The ultimate four-hour Element Journey allows the spa guest to mix and match a selection of treatments emphasizing a single element or a combination of elements. There are also Element Rituals packages which include treatments specially suited to a specific element.
Rather than trying to choose treatments from the tantalizing assortment, I decided to opt for a three-hour, 15-minute Elements Rituals package. My only problem was which element to choose. It was neck and neck between earth and fire, but finally I decided to go with fire. Figures — I was born under a fire sign. Besides, its promise to restore energy, awaken tired muscles and invigorate my skin, leaving it with a healthy glow, sounded like a winning combination.
It was no surprise that the treatment room was as visually stunning as the rest of the spa. In the foreground there was a large, raised, jetted tub with a step-up-platform treatment area behind. The attention to visual detail was superb, from the perfectly rolled towels to the carved wooden wall panels. Salmon-colored walls and a light fabric swag over the tub added to the tranquility of the setting.
My spa experience started with an element bath. I stepped into the tub, which was infused with oils and herbs appropriate to fire treatments. It was an aromatic mix of rosemary, eucalyptus and cinnamon. Appropriately soothed, smelling wonderful and completely relaxed, I was ready for a traditional Thai massage.
I unapologetically admit that I am a complete wimp where massages are concerned; I simply do not subscribe to the “if it hurts, it works” theory. Fortunately, my therapist was completely respectful of my request for a gentle massage. She applied acupressure to spots she knew would release muscle tension and clear blocked energy, but mostly she did it gently. Every now and then she’d hit a knot that made me wince, but I endured it because I knew I’d feel better for it.
After my massage, it was time for a facial. The fire-element Antioxidant Spirulina Vitamin C Facial uses spirulina algae. Rich in natural properties, it is the basis for this oxygenating anti-aging therapy, which, the brochure promised, would leave me with younger-looking skin and a healthy glow. And indeed it did.
With my internal elements all balanced, soothed and revitalized, a go at the lap pool sounded a bit too jarring. Instead, I followed my guide to the open-sided McFarland House, where I sipped a cool juice drink and watched as the Gulf of Thailand’s blue water lapped silently over the white-sand beach. Both my visual and internal journeys had been memorable. Would that I could bottle the experience to take home with me! At least the memory would linger.
Hyatt Regency Hua Hin
91 Hua Hin-Khao Takiap Road
Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan
tel 66 3 252 1234
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