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The Spa Resort – Koh Chang, Detoxing in Thailand


I have always wanted to do a detox but have always been put off by the extortionate price tags that resorts charge not to feed you. However, after partying in Goa and island hopping around Thailand for three and a half months I was ready to make the investment. After trawling the Internet for hours on end, I whittled it down to two options: The Spa Resort, Koh Chang and Monte Vista, Koh Phagnan. Whilst the latter was far cheaper, it was much more of a back to basics retreat, the shared accommodation was definitely affordable but I somehow couldn’t get my head around self-administering colonics in a shared bathroom. I chose Koh Chang.

Raw food classes

The programmes

The underlying methodology of the detox programme is based on the work of Dr Richard Anderson. He believed that in order to cleanse fully the liver must not focus on digesting, In simple terms, solids are banned.

The Spa Resort offers a variety of different detox programmes. Its most popular option is the 7-day “Clean me out” programme, which includes 9-nights accommodation so that guests can pre-cleanse prior to the start of the fast. Prices start from 42,000 Thai Baht (approx. £860) for a sole occupant. The price does drop significantly if the room is shared by two people.

“I was a little worried about how I would handle a full 7-day fast.”

I was a little worried about how I would handle a full 7-day fast. I decided that an 8-day detox and raw food classes retreat was the one for me. Not a programme usually offered at The Spa, Koh Chang but by its sister resort in Koh Samui, but after a quick email the resort was willing to accommodate my request.

My retreat consisted of a “3.5-day semi-fast” followed by a 4-day “raw food retreat”, which meant I could learn how to prepare the raw food recipes of the Radiance Restaurant each day and eat for the last four days of my stay. So for 33,000 Thai Baht (appx £680) I was sold. This package only included 8-nights’ accommodation so I opted to stay for an additional two days so that I could allow for pre-cleansing and a day to eat properly again at the end of the retreat.

Other programmes on offer include candida cleansing and wellness retreats. Fasting is not essential and there are plenty of options for those who just want a wellness retreat but still want to eat well.

Getting there

Koh Chang is an island located near the Thai border with Cambodia. The mainland ferry port is well serviced by local buses that depart from Bangkok’s eastern bus terminal hourly and cost around 250 Baht (appx £5) and take around five hours. I would like to add that this is possibly the best local bus that I have ever been on - spotlessly clean with a/c, TV, a steward who brings half hourly glasses of coke and ice, water and even a free cake, do not be put off if you are usually averse to “local transport”.

It is necessary to take a taxi from the bus stop to the ferry port (around 30 mins) or continue into Trat where there are mini-buses that pass onto the ferry and Koh Chang. Either way the resort offers a shuttle service for guests from their point of arrival on the island.

The resort

The Thais are renowned for their hospitality and this resort certainly has everything well thought out; spotlessly clean, well maintained gardens, beautiful bowls of floating frangipanis at every corner and super friendly staff.

“There are only 26 rooms in the resort, making it cosy, intimate and friendly.”

There are only 26 rooms in the resort, making it cosy, intimate and friendly, but judging from the space of the communal areas you would assume this resort could host at least 100 guests. There must be at least three staff to every guest when I was there. Granted the resort is not full, but the level of personal attention you receive is astonishing. You are never guest in room 102, you are always Miss Natalie.

The grounds are beautiful and well maintained. Set in the middle of the rainforest, winding cobbled pathways take you through the resort from room to restaurant to spa to pool and onto the lake at the bottom of the grounds. Bright fragrant flowers and bushes line the resort pathways.

This is far more than I expected for under £700, especially seeing as the majority of Thai detox retreats cost at least double this. It is serene, elegant and unpretentious.

The routine

On the first four mornings of my retreat breakfast was a detox shake made from Bentonite clay powder and psyllium husk served at 7am. If you didn’t manage to finish the shake in about three seconds, then you would literally have to chew it out from the glass as it gets thicker and thicker until it eventually sets. After struggling with this on the first day I quickly became a pro. What did take much more getting used to however was the bag of 20 HUGE tablets presented to you each morning. Supplements and intestinal cleansers have to be taken every two hours or so.

After breakfast came meditation then Hatha Yoga in the yoga pavilion, which sits over the resort pool and lake. The classes were suitable for yoga novices such as myself, the idea being that gentle yoga is far better and safer when you are not eating for up to a week at a time. Yoga pros are able to use the pavilion for self-practice outside of class times. There is a guest teacher who takes Ashtanga Yoga on Saturdays, which is far more challenging, and left most of us feeling ready to pass out after four days of fasting.

One of the reasons for detoxing is to cleanse the liver for which there exists “The Liver Flush Juice”. To fully understand the unusual nature of the drink I thought it best to include the recipe below:
· 2 tablespoons or up to a third of a cup of extra virgin olive oil
· 1-2 thirds cup of fresh lemon juice
· 3-5 cloves of garlic
· 1 knob of ginger
· ½ gram of cayenne pepper
· top up with freshly squeezed orange juice and blend

There is no disguising the fact that you are drinking spicy garlic juice and no forgetting it afterwards either because it constantly repeats on you for the duration of your detox.

I have to say that as hard as they can be to stomach they do make you feel really good and seem to relieve any feelings of nausea. Needless to say when my four days of liver flush was over I didn’t miss it.

Other liquids included in the detox programme are carrot juice, coconut water and boiled vegetable water - one serving of each per day.

The other major component of the detox were the colonics. Seemingly I was not fearing them as much as some of the other guests starting their programmes but then I only took one per day versus two for the full time (7-day) fasters. After a demonstration from the hotel manager on how to self-administer, yes she was clothed, we collected out buckets and let go.

After the initial 3.5 day detox programme was over I began to break the fast, stopped the liver flush and colonics and husk shakes and tucked into plates of papaya, spicy salads and fruit juices. I also opted to take raw food classes, in which I prepared and ate three dishes each day. I chopped and chomped my way through raw vegetable pad Thai and raw pasta pesto, where courgette strips are a replacement for their noodle and pasta counterparts, as well as several salads and pates.

The spa

Most packages include some spa treatments. For me it was a daily Thai massage and steam or sauna session. The steam sessions were relaxing and a nice place to sit, sip mint tea and chat to other guests, though I did wonder how I must have smelt to the non detoxing, garlic juice hating guests.

There are many people I know that are not big fans of Thai massage. I am not one of those. At first the massages were enjoyable but as the week went on I got progressively stiffer. Originally I put that down to yoga, or toxins leaving my body but looking back I am not so sure if it wasn’t down to being bent, stretched and walked over by my relentless masseuse.

The restaurant

The award-winning Radiance Restaurant landed a spot in restaurant Magazine’s “The world’s 50 best restaurants” and it is clear why. For a start the menu is huge and caters for about every dietary requirement under the sun. It is not really a paradise for meat-lovers but after all, this is a detox centre. All of the resort’s produce is organic and locally sourced and seafood comes from the neighbouring fishing village of Salak Kok.

“The award-winning Radiance Restaurant landed a spot in restaurant Magazine’s “The world’s 50 best restaurants” and it is clear why.”

As no solids are allowed during the fast you need to “break the fast” slowly, which means slowly integrating certain foods back into your diet, starting with fruits and salads and eventually incorporating cooked foods and rice. After six days I was allowed to eat the vegetable, tofu and miso soup. I have never tasted anything so good - savoury, salty, fresh and crunchy. I ordered it three times, including once for breakfast.

Time out

The resort arranges excursions into the main town and trips to some of the beaches a few times a week, which are good to get out and about and see a bit more of the island. The resort itself though is pretty secluded and taxis are rarely seen on the eastern side of the island. So if you are keen to explore the rest of the island make sure you plan time before or after the detox for this, as during your programme it is unlikely that you would want to venture out for more than a couple of hours at a time.

My experience

I definitely did not expect it to be easy. It wasn’t. The resort itself has everything you could want to make the process as pain free as possible. Essentially you are pushing your body to its limits so you will likely feel dizzy, sick and tired at times. The Spa Resort is serious about detoxing - smoking is prohibited and alcohol is available only for those not on programmes. A full 7-day cleanse is not something to be taken lightly and does require up to a month of preparation before arrival.

After the detox you will notice some incredible changes and begin to feel really good. I successfully stopped smoking for two months, hardly drank for four months, lost half a stone and felt more alive. It can be easy to slip back into old habits, and I am somewhat guilty of that.

There are a lot of guests who return to The Spa year after year and I can see why. It does put you back on the right path again but how long until you veer off course is down to you.

Would I do it again? I think I could see myself doing another mini-fast but it may be sometime before I take on the full fast challenge. I think it would be hard to find another retreat that offers such comfortable surroundings and value for money. The Spa has three other sister spas in Thailand, two in Koh Samui and one in Chiang Mai, which all offer similarly priced packages. For information on the group properties go to http://www.thesparesorts.net/locations or for Koh Chang specifically visit http://www.thespakohchang.com