Banyan Tree Phuket.  Rain is bouncing off my private pool; I am ensconced in a three bedroom villa at the Banyan Tree on the island of Phuket; I open sliding doors and step down into the pool. At the end of my walled garden, four steps lead up to a deck with a pagoda roof that overlooks a man made lagoon; an oversized lounge bed, (called a bale), huge pots of fragrant flowering plants, comfortable lounge chairs and a dining table decorate my spiritual sanctuary; an outdoor fan cools the still air. The rainy season is restless and anxious to unleash its fury. Last week’s typhoon, accompanied by monsoon rains and gusty winds blew the sea into an unfriendly angry frenzy; fortunately it cooled the air somewhat before my arrival.    I begin my days meditating with the staff to bring me into the moment, and to fade invasive thoughts carried over from the day before; it is here I learn to listen to my body, and not just my mind. (more)

The spa’s treatment rooms have names like Zen, Yin and Yang.  Dorinda Rose Berry, the Spa Director leads me to the Yang suite; a pot with fragrant pink and white flowers sits on the floor under the face hole in the massage table, a sweet smelling visual touch I greatly appreciate.  

A unique ritual precedes my morning treatment; a box of crystals is brought to me.  I am told to close my eyes and pick one by touch; I choose an amethyst, the smallest of six. I am then given a card to read that is rimmed in the color of the stone. “Ranging in color from violet to deep purple, the amethyst enhances spiritual awareness, meditation, balance, psychic abilities and inner peace, healing positive transformation and relieves stress, brings understanding of death and rebirth, unlocks spiritual mystical wisdom”. I place the stone in a copper cup filled with water; it will take on the properties of the stone, and at the end of my ritual, I will be given the stone infused water to drink.  

Lai, a beautiful young Thai girl lights a burner filled with Lang Lang oil; the smell is light and relaxing. She peels a cucumber lengthwise and places it on a plate, then  massages my face with natural raw honey mixed with a little warm water; next she  places the cucumber strips from left to right on my face and neck which she then  covers my face washcloths she has dipped in geranium water.  

While the mask is working its magic and oxygenating my skin, Lai massages my arms and hands with bliss oil; after 15 minutes, she removes the cucumber slices, uses warm towels to clean the honey from my face, then cold towels to close my pores; skin care cream is gently stroked on my skin, and my head is massaged to release any hidden tension or anxiety.  When my journey of bliss is over, Lai clangs a set of Thai bells three times:  the first to announce the conclusion of my three and a half hour ritual . . .  a second time to ward off any lingering negative spirits that may have a less than positive influence on my aura . . . and the third melodious clanging sends me on my way “with happy thoughts for a beautiful day”.

Driving through the countryside the next day, a sign by the road catches my eye: “Sauna and Massage $5”.  I pull into the dirt driveway. A little boy of three is running around barefoot and naked, as are a family of hens. A beautiful Thai woman welcomes me; an oversized massage table is under the shade of a canopy, next to a home constructed tin steam cabinet; fragrant and spicy herbs grow wild in her garden; I cut the ones she will use for my thermal steam; listen to the health secrets she is willing to share, and then allow her to show me with her hands what natural healing is all about

The Four Seasons Resort in Chiang Mai, one of my favorite destinations, is a fairytale, rising out of rice patties with its own family of buffalo that work the fields. The recently expanded Lanna Spa, housed in a villa, pampered me with unique treatments rooted in indigenous ingredients and cultural philosophies. I cut the fresh herbs used in my herbal steam inhalation cleansing and purification ritual, and am treated like Cinderella being prepared for the ball . . . or a princess being pampered for her coronation.

In Bangkok I travel across the river by launch to the Oriental Hotel’s Spa. I am given a choice of treatments and opt for their decadent “Papaya Wrap”. My private suite has its own shower, steam room and sunken bathtub. All body treatments and massages are given on an oversized mattress. I shower and stretch out on a rubber sheet. Pulp from several papayas is smeared all over my body; I am then wrapped in a Mylar sheet to accelerate the penetration of the papaya’s enzymes.

Lila massages my head for ten minutes and then leaves me in a dark room to doze. She tells me it will take 20 minutes for the enzymes in the papaya to penetrate and soften my skin. In spite of the benefits I am told I can expect; it does feel slimy. When I am unwrapped, I am given a special shower gel to wash off the thick orange fruit. There is a remarkable difference in the softness and sheen my skin, and my attitude. Thailand is truly amazing, and I am thrilled to be here.