28 September 2016

 
Ancient ayurvedic therapy of shirodhara
Thailand was so perfect it sent me to sleep
Insomniac Wendy Driver finally nods off - thanks to yoga, singing bowls and a waiter who arrived by zipwire
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felt like a basted chicken. I was lying drenched in oil and cocooned in wraps as yet more warm oil was poured gently on my forehead until my hair was sodden. Strangely enough it was incredibly soothing, and within minutes I could feel myself drifting off into a state of deep relaxation.

The ancient ayurvedic therapy of shirodhara was part of a Sleep Well programme in the Thai resort of Soneva Kiri. I've been an insomniac for years, waking at all hours, so I was keen to find out if this could really cure me. I'd certainly chosen the ideal location - impossibly remote, situated on a jungle-clad headland on the island of Koh Kood in the Gulf of Thailand near the Cambodian border. As soon as I arrived, I was handed a shoe-bag - emblazoned with the motto 'no news, no shoes' - for my sandals.
I
I could already feel the stresses of daily life fading away. The island has been barely touched by tourism. Little fishing villages are scattered along the coastline where shacks are perched on stilts over the water. The resort lies at its northern tip, with just 35 villas, some facing the sea, others hidden in the rainforest.
A private beach picnic at Soneva Kiri
Daily yoga is practised throughout the resort
"I'd certainly chosen the ideal location - impossibly remote, situated on a jungle-clad headland on the island of Koh Kood."
They are beautifully crafted in wood and bamboo with thatched roofs. The phrase 'barefoot luxury' could have been coined here and I could see why it has appealed to movie stars including Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. My villa had a full-size pool surrounded by vast sundeck with numerous shady terraces. The bedroom had floor-to-ceiling windows looking across the bay and there were outdoor showers and a Jacuzzi. I had my own Girl Friday. Khun Caew, a pretty young Thai, was on hand virtually 24 hours a day to organise everything.

She unpacked my bags, made table reservations and even offered to organise a chef to come and cook for me if required. My sleep therapy began with a consultation with Dr Amit, the ayurvedic doctor who, to my dismay, recommended a three-day detox.
Seeing my face drop, he assured me it could wait until I returned home. I didn't want to miss out on the sumptuous Thai buffets or the delicious breakfasts, with fresh fruits, exotic juices and organic salads grown in the hotel's eco-centre.

One evening I took a speedboat through mangrove swamps on the Klong Yai Kee river to Chez Benz to sample a traditional nine-course menu of shellfish and fresh vegetables from the local market. There were light lunches on a floating island in the middle of a lake and alfresco dinners on the seashore where I sat, toes in the sand, surrounded by flickering candles and flaming torches.
For a bird's-eye view of the ocean I was winched up in a tree-pod for breakfast. I gazed out through the treetops at a cobalt-blue sea while the waiter whizzed through the air on a zip-wire delivering food in a bamboo basket. Most days I was up early to join Melody, my yoga teacher, in the spa. During one treatment, Tibetan singing bowls were placed on my body so that the sounds and vibrations reverberated deep within me, creating a profound sense of calm. But my favourite was a craniosacral session with Cameron, a visiting practitioner, who placed his hands gently beneath my neck and back while talking about 'tidal rhythms in the cerebral fluid' and 'realigning energy fields'.

He had only to hold my feet for a few moments before I instantly fell asleep. But the real test came at bedtime. Dr Amit recommended I avoid certain foodstuffs in the evening and that I unwind for at least an hour before retiring. One evening I watched a latenight movie at the open-air cinema, munching popcorn under a canopy of twinkling stars. It was a big mistake. Afterwards, I lay awake for ages. On another occasion I joined Caew at the observatory for an astronomy lesson. As the revolving roof spun around, I peered through the huge telescope to catch a glimpse of the dark rings of Jupiter circling its circumference. That night I was woken by vivid nightmares in which I was hurtling through space. After my morning therapies, I felt so relaxed I'd head to the private beach for a snooze - only two minutes in my electric buggy.

With swaying palms and sand like icing sugar, it was the picture-postcard tropical idyll. I had barely settled down on a sun-lounger before I was plied with cold towels, iced juices and fresh fruit sorbets. On my last evening, I put all my newly-acquired techniques to use. I lit scented candles, sprayed the pillow with grapefruit essence and applied essential oils to my pulse points before covering my eyes with a chilled lavender mask. To my amazement, I had the best night's sleep ever.


Original article published in Nov 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.


"Tibetan singing bowls were placed on my body so that the sounds and vibrations reverberated deep within me."
Man on a wire: our waiter enroute to the tree-pod
Astronomy lessons are given in the resort's observatory
 
 
 
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