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Jun 27

Spa Break, Bootcamp, Massage School – Blissing Out, Skilling Up

Spa break, bootcamp, massage school… as I’ve been doing research online to see if there are any mass alms-giving ceremonies coming up in Thailand over the next two months that will give me the opportunity to re-shoot the photo on that holiday that you helped us win, I’ve also been thinking about the kind of break I need. We both need.

If I can’t find a mass event – they’re usually only held on religious holidays or New Years Day – I’ll focus instead on shooting one of the countless alms processions that take place at the crack of dawn every morning in Buddhist countries around Asia. After all, most of you suggested I go in close to capture the human spirit and essence of the event.

I’ve also been looking for other relaxing things we can do – ‘relaxing’ being the keyword here. It’s been such a long time since we’ve taken a break to do nothing that I’m not sure we remember how.

Part of me would love some pampering and would be in absolute bliss if I could indulge in a spa break and enjoy some spa treatments for a couple of days. For some years, I’ve had Chiva Som on my wish list, only I would probably need a whole month there for a complete overhaul.

We first visited Chiva Som when we were updating Dorling Kindersley’s Thailand guidebook a few years ago. People continually tell us that we have dream jobs, but most of the time they don’t feel so dreamy – except that gig. That was heaven.

In addition to having to test out scores of beautiful hotels and restaurants in half of Thailand, I was required to write a brand new section on spas. This meant we had to have treatments every day. On one day, because I’d got sunburnt and had to forgo my treatment, poor Terence actually had to have two! I would have loved to have seen the look on the face of the therapist who asked him “So when was your last treatment?” and he responded, “Um… this morning.”

I’d give anything to re-live that month – without all the planning, hotel inspections, chit-chat, note-taking, drives between different destinations every day, and all the writing.

Then again, the other part of me, the grantourista who is on a mission to inspire you all to travel more experientially would love to do something that is calming yet active and involves learning something new. I like the idea of having meditation, massage or yoga lessons.

Or even going to bootcamp! – because while doing that research, I came across this brilliant site called Wahanda which is a sort of global guide to unwinding, where you can book spa treatments and massages and classes and even ‘healing hotels’ around the world.

The site covers everything from health spa breaks (including retreats and bootcamps) to luxury spa days (with some fun treatment and afternoon tea packages in the UK), as well as pilates and tai chi, and… guess what? I can even book the Thai massage school at Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok. Now, to look for some meditation classes and yoga lessons…

Because no matter how tired I am and how badly I need to bliss out, I still want to learn when I go on holidays, and I guess that’s the beauty of experiential travel.

What do you think I should do? Bliss out, get fit or skill up? Any ideas or tips?

4 comments

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  1. Fly Girl

    Well this is a coincidence, I just wrote a post about Mayan massage so you know which one I choose. I think you should take the chance to relax a little, you can still get a close-up of the culture at the spa.

    1. Lara Dunston

      Mayan Massage sounds fascinating. I didn’t know there was such a thing. I’ll have to come and take a read. Did you receive it or are you learning to do it? I’m interested in doing both.

  2. Sandy O'Sullivan

    I loved reading this. Especially the Terence-gets-madeover-twice-in-one-day story!!!! Brilliant!

    I have this crazy time off in October and I am not meeting up with my mate till the 5th and arrive in the US on the 1st and was half thinking of having a moment somewhere doing just one of these things. Okay, no, not massage school… but I was definitely thinking of bootcamp. Seriously. I think it was those three breakfasts in a row that I ate on Sunday in Sydney. I’ve thought about this time and time again, but truthfully I have this other bootcamp, it’s walking cities… and I think I’m less of a ‘joiner’ than you need to be to be in bootcamp (and every other rubbish excuse I can think of!!!!). I think, though, using your mantra of ‘relaxing’ is a really interesting one…. and I’m not sure that those things would relax me, but on hols I’m not sure what does. I travel with work for many months of the year, but haven’t had a holiday that involved travel for donkey’s years… but when I am away for four or five months with work, I do have time off – weekends, nights etc, and I definitely walk around and get a feel for the place… it’s probably my relaxing. In cities that means iPod (well, iPhone really) in ears listening to music or shutting myself off from people walking down The Strand/Fifth Avenue/George St/pickthemainstreet trying to sign me up to the local version of a dog charity, but I often don’t have music in, it’s a bit for show and that’s a bit of an indulgence, in a city/experiencing a city, but a bit cut off from it. But then my favourite place for coffee in London is outside a church, but in the church grounds over on the south side where it is a mix of people sleeping rough in there to get free brekkie, and business people sitting inside the grounds having a coffee from the swanky coffee cart that’s butted up against the church. I was thinking, the last time I went in there that was interesting which side I was sitting on (you can guess) and I wasn’t being hit up for cash… and then realised that they might well have thought… yeah, you’ve seen my sartorial splendour you can guess what they thought. But I had great conversations with people there… so picking that, and being in the city – for me, having some control on that engagement in the city is as relaxing as a walk on the beach or a spa holiday. And I figure in a city, you can get a mix of the two. I grew up on a beach, and nowhere near a big city, so for me, while it’s home and I live across from a beach on Moreton Bay now, it’s not exciting enough to be relaxing (if that makes any sense at all). In all of the craziness of the city, my mind can relax. In the relaxed spa, my mind races.

    But I think… for me… it’s the idea of ‘relaxing’ and how little the travel industry really understands how that is different for different people – instead reading a city visit having a sort of vibrancy or something. I doubt I’m completely alone in this, but there is no language that they use to draw me into this kind of active relaxation. Know what I mean?

    1. Lara Dunston

      Ha! Ha! (about the park). And thanks for your thoughtful response yet again. So nice to see you dropping by here. Totally agree that everyone’s idea of relaxing is so different, and, yes, agree again that from a tourism perspective, the industry hasn’t done enough to tap into that, or rather, hasn’t been smart enough.

      Look, we love your kind of ‘relaxing’ – walking cities, ambling about aimlessly, lingering in parks, people-watching, etc. I would indeed kill for some downtime to do nothing – laze on a lawn in a park with a newspaper, lie on a beach and read a book, sit at a table in the sunshine with a chilled glass of wine without having to take notes, etc. All heavenly.

      But I guess at the moment I feel like I need *more*, and I’m trying to tie it in with my photo project with my new camera. I’m in such bad shape, I feel like I need some spa time to unwind and then force myself to do something extreme to get fit, and look I’m not really into the team thing either or any form of regimentation, so maybe bootcamp is not for me. Maybe I just need a total overhaul at Chiva Som!

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