Nothing works the kinks out after a 17-plus-hour flight from Los Angeles to Bangkok like a famous Thai massage. Sadly, I arrived in Bangkok too late to do anything more than check into the hotel and fall into bed, so my restorative massage would have to wait.
No time for a massage the next morning either, as I was headed off for the Sampran Riverside, about an hour’s drive from downtown Bangkok. Sampran Riverside is what I would call a destination resort. Located by the Tha Chin River in Nakhon Pathom Province, about 20 miles from Bangkok, this unique 70-acre property has been family-owned since the 1960s.
Besides a 4-star hotel on the river, four restaurants and a spa, there is the 10-acre Organic Farm and Thai Village Cultural Centre. Activities include cultural shows, elephant demonstrations, traditional arts and crafts workshops, cooking classes and tours of the farm.
My room wasn’t ready when I arrived, so I headed for the Cultural Centre, where a show was in progress. Beautifully dressed men and women were performing traditional Thai dances on a large stage. When the dances were over, the audience was invited outside to watch another show featuring mahouts and their trained elephants.
A mahout is the keeper and trainer of an elephant and often has been with the same animal since an early age. Elephants in the Sampran show demonstrated their strength by hauling tree trunks and their agility by twirling hula hoops with their trunks. Needless to say, the kids in the audience were enchanted.
The show over, I started strolling leisurely from the Cultural Centre toward the hotel. I noticed the sky beginning to darken fast and ominously. Wisely, as it turned out, I picked up the pace and reached the hotel just as large raindrops were starting to fall. I was barely through the door and into the lobby when the heavens opened and rain fell in torrents. This was no gentle rain shower; this was one of those tropical deluges that produces instant floods.
Clearly the trip I’d planned to the Organic Farm was out, but I was assured the cooking class would go ahead as planned, on a covered patio instead of out in the open.
The rain calmed down a little by the time the cooking class was over, but it still wasn’t dry enough for the farm tour. So with an afternoon free and outside activities not an option, what better way to spend the time than in the spa? I was in luck — despite a busy afternoon, there was a spot open. Finally, I was going to get the massage I’d been craving since my arrival in Thailand.
I drove up to the Arusaya Thai Wellness Spa in an electric cart with zip-up, water-repellent side curtains. Good thing I hadn’t tried to walk because the rain started again in earnest. As I scurried inside the century-old antique Thai house containing the spa, I immediately felt more relaxed. The lighting was dim, and the rich, dark teak wood radiated warmth. The music was soothing. The staff spoke in soft, lilting tones. I felt I should whisper so as not to disturb the sense of peace and harmony.
The lovely old building overlooks a lake and has seven private air-conditioned treatment rooms, each with an en suite bathroom; there are also three steam rooms and a Jacuzzi. The spa places a special emphasis on natural healing, using homemade products and fresh herbs from the organic farm in each treatment and massage.
Like me, many guests simply come to the spa for a relaxing and restorative massage. However, the spa also offers a more comprehensive treatment plan. Individuals can have a one-on-one consultation from a qualified therapist who analyzes their needs and then recommends the appropriate types of natural healing and treatments.
After a cup of tea made with herbs from the resort’s organic farm, I met my massage therapist, who ushered me into one of the spa’s rosy-colored treatment rooms. There were two mats on the floor and two partially curtained windows with lake views. Since I’d had Thai massages before, I knew my loose-fitting comfortable clothes would be fine. I also knew I was a massage wimp.
While most of my Thai massage-addicted friends want their deep-tissue massage to be as intense as possible, I tend more toward a moderately gentle touch. I explained this to my therapist, who actually went a bit overboard, even for me, in the gentle department. It might have been the only time I ended up asking for more pressure rather than less.
For over an hour, I was perfectly stretched and massaged. Despite the strength of my therapist’s hands as she worked to get rid of knots and tension, the sound of the rain falling gently on the wooden roof almost lulled me to sleep.
The only fault I could find with my first massage of the trip was that it was over too soon. But all good things must end, and I found myself once again sitting in the lounge, sipping a refreshing cup of herb tea and dreaming about my next massage. Wherever it might be, I was hoping it would be soon.
Km 32 Pet Kasem Road
Sampran, Nakhon Pathom
tel 66 34 322 544
I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
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