Some of Thailand's most luxurious and serene retreats -- where you really get away from it all, just like A-list celebrities -- are found the luxurious northern Golden Triangle. This region, also known as the Lanna Kingdom (meaning "land of a million rice fields") was once known for its opium trade, but today is home to the world's most exotic destination spas. Chic properties are opening everywhere, and I recently checked out two of the latest, and greatest new openings.
The Chedi Chiang Mai
Offering stylish seclusion in the heart of Thailand's second largest city, The Chedi is a boutique hotel on the tranquil grounds of what was once the British Consulate. The spa features 10 private suites, each with a steam shower and terrazzo bathtub, and some with an herbal steam room and aromatic sauna.
After entering the serene spa and being greeted with the traditional "Sawasdee" (welcome) and gentle bow, I am lead to my suit. It's the little gestures that blow me away: the cold lemongrass-scented facecloth and aromatic cup of papaya and jasmine juice offered to me during my pre-massage, floral, petal-strewn footbath. And there's nothing quite like a traditional Thai massage in the land where it was invented. An ancient technique involving stretching, pressure point stimulation and gentle rocking to relieve muscle tension and improve circulation. After my treatment, I retreat to a bamboo chaise lounge overlooking a bamboo water garden and pool for a rest.
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Nestled in the pristine bamboo jungle along the banks of the Mekong River, which snakes in lazy coils past villages and rice fields, the year-old, 200-acre property with just 15 tents accommodates a maximum of 30 guests at one time. The camp's (if you can call it that) spa is just as intimate, offering authentic Thai treatments in what has to be one of the most luxurious natural spas in the world.
To get to the spa -- two open-air pavilions -- I follow a jungle path under a canopy of feathery bamboo leaves. I am greeted with a bow at the entrance to one pavilion, perched on the side of hill overlooking the San Valley. Fist up, the property's signature Mahout Recovery Treatment. After spending two hours in the jungle bareback on an elephant, my legs are in need of some serious TLC.
Poultices filled with camphor, lime and lemongrass are placed under my legs, warming my stiff muscles into a jello-like state of relaxation, while the rest of my body is gently kneaded using a blend of kaffir lime, lemongrass and lavender oils -- which increase circulation, stimulate adrenal glands and are touted to reduce cellulite.
When I am in a state of semi-consciousness, lulled by the chorus of birds in the surrounding jungle, my therapist begins the next treatment, the Ytsara On Yao Anti Aging Facial using fresh ingredients sourced from nature -- papaya, tamarind, jasmine, bamboo and green tea, all of which oxygenate and revitalize facial tissues. I am left deeply relaxed, smelling heavenly and feeling softer than I have in years. My Thai spa experience was complete!
For a list of other tops spas throughout Thailand, check out Smart Travel Asia's website.
If you can't make it to Thailand anytime soon, you can still revel in the Thai spa experience right here in Canada! ELLE picked out some spas closer to home offering Thai treatments:
1. Ottawa, Holtz Spa
2. British Columbia, Echo Valley Ranch & Spa
3. Toronto, Elm Spa.
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