RAKxa Integrative Wellness: “It’s like no other wellness retreat I’ve ever been to”

Tim Samuels visits RAKxa Integrative Wellness, an exceptional health and wellness retreat near Bangkok that’s truly out of this world.

Arriving at RAKxa Integrative Wellness

The Truman Show appears to alive and well on the outskirts of Bangkok.

Well, if you replace the white picket-fenced houses of American suburbia with boutique bungalows nestling behind lush Thai foliage, move Jim Carey out, and ditch the plot to film every aspect of one unwitting man’s life.

But there is something fictional – utopian even – about RAKxa that’s almost too good to be true. That feels like you’re on the set of vast production where all the supporting cast are there to make you feel as nourished, healthy and relaxed as humanly possible.

RAKxa is, indeed, like no other wellness retreat I’ve ever been to.

Opened in 2020 – though with its full rollout delayed by Covid – RAKxa lies 45 minutes from the bustle of Bangkok city centre. The downtown skyscrapers are visible from the fringes of the resort – but might as well be a mirage of a different world. Tucked away by a river in Bang Krachao, the city’s ‘green lung’, RAKxa is a tropical haven whose peace is only broken by occasional sputtering boats navigating the nearby waterways.

Spread across a vast 80-acre site – bisected by the river – RAKxa is, in modern parlance, an “integrated wellness” destination. One of the new class of retreats fusing high-end medical and wellness treatments – for full body and mind restoration. Whilst integrative retreats have popped up in places like Austria and the US, this is the first in Thailand – which brings a particularly Thai twist to the treatments and out-of-this-world customer service.

A welcome retreat

Having pretty much reached end of year burnout, I dragged myself through the Baltic British weather to Heathrow and flopped on an 11-hour flight to Bangkok. Within an hour or so of landing, I was facing a lagoon whilst being serenaded with a welcome gong bath and freshly-made kombucha – a light breeze cutting through the sweet, 90-degree heat.

And then it was on to the diagnostics. I’d signed up to their signature ‘Rebalance’ programme – which promises to return one to “equilibrium and complete holistic health, by balancing physical and mental stability, brain and body coordination, the gut-brain axis, chakra alignment and the inner flow of vital life force energy”. My mind and body were crying out for all of the above.

A doctor steeped in conventional and Thai medicine evaluated which 10 or so treatments would set me straight over the next five intensive days. Traditional Thai Medicine ensures that the basic elements in your body – earth, water, wind and fire – are in perfect balance and harmony. Herbs, bodily manipulation and mindfulness practice are used to restore elemental imbalances.

Receiving a unique prescription

After a comprehensive onceover of my pulse, skin, eyes and tongue – and looking at my date of birth – the doctor concluded my air and earth elements had gone to pot. An ideal recipe for overthinking, stress and being metabolically out of synch.

His prescription – somewhat more joyously than the NHS offers – was to start with a Zen Na Thai head and gut-focussed massage, the first of many sensational massages that would unfold over the week. The Marma healing massage – stimulating core energy points that run through the body – deeply chipped away at the concrete shoulder knots I’d turned up with. The chakra balancing was sublimely relaxing. I’d love to report what happened but, within seconds of lying down, as the practitioner moved around me I fell into the deepest of sleeps – waking to the vibrations of sounds bowls placed on my body. She said that throughout the hour my legs had twitched – getting rid of unwanted emotions and energy.

Techniques for healing

The most powerful treatment was a 90-minute combination of acupuncture, moxibustion (applying heat to acupuncture points) and cupping. An angry purple polka dot by my right shoulder – after the suction cup had been lifted – was testimony to the knots finally surrendering. To an unbelievable lightness that fell; the stresses of home being vanquished.

But nothing quite matched the novelty of the Ya-Chae ceremony. The Thai doctor had identified particular herbs to sort my air and earth imbalances out. I thought a couple of essential oils would do the trick. What I wasn’t quite expecting was to be greeted with a full-sized bath with a forest-quantity of leaves and petals bobbing on the surface. And so I waded in to become a human tea bag – stewing amongst the neem, gotu kola, turmeric, peppermint, Babble’s Bill leaves and all manner of foliage. I was dunked three times, whisked in and out of a herbal steam room, plied with ginger tea, before succumbing to yet another intense massage.

In those moments not lying prone slavered in fragrant oil muttering “the pressure is great thanks”, I was treated to one-one-one Thai Chi and Pranayama breathing classes – both of which I’ve pledged to carry on when home. A supported suspension session focussed on building up my left hip strength – which a physio there had detected as being a bit lacklustre. Indeed, beyond the Renewal programme there is a vast buffet of physio, diagnostics, IVs, aesthetic and medical treatments.

A very special stay

Beyond this plethora of integrative offerings, what truly sets RAKxa apart is the other-worldliness of the setting and service. Leaving your beautifully-appointed bungalow, you hop on a pushbike to cycle through what feels like a utopian, palm-clad, micro-neighbourhood to the dining room, treatment centre or stunning green-tiled pool. Passing the occasional gardener or maintenance worker here and there, but with so much space to breathe. To be as anti-social and secluded as you want to be.

But, in the shadows, lies a crack army of incredibly attentive staff – I’m told there are as many as seven staff to each guest – popping up to offer you a buggy ride, a drink in the bespoke tea house, or jasmine petals to sprinkle across your pillow. The attention to detail – in décor and service – is mind-boggling. I came out from a session to find my bike had discreetly been moved a yard into the shade – lest I have to place my massaged cheeks onto a hot seat. The kitchen even twigged that my partner’s birthday was two days after we were due to leave – and came out with a carrot cake (adorned in real carrot strips) on our last night.

Indeed, the meals, as you’d expect, were sensationally healthy (anti-inflammatory) – yet tasty. A fusion of Thai flavours and dishes – lots of fish, salads, veg – alongside the likes of eggs, buckwheat porridge and green juices for breakfast. A coconut and black rice trifle was a thing of crumbly beauty.

Throughout my six days there, I was half-expecting to find myself cycling into the edge of the set – for the Truman-like fiction of RAKxa to be revealed. But this slice of Thai utopia is all too real. I just hope there’s a sequel.

The logistics
  • Getting there: an 11-hour direct flight from London to Bangkok, followed by a car transfer of about 45 minutes
  • Cost: the 5-night Rebalance programme starts from £3,926 (double), £4,713 (single)
  • Afterwards: to make a longer stay of the trip and gently reintegrate back into normality, I flew to the island of Koh Samui for some beach, market and dog sanctuary (Pariah is a must if you have some pooch-love to give) action. The Anantara Bophut, near Fisherman’s village, is a charming beach-side hotel with a stunning spa – a great place to feed the post-RAKxa massage addiction

Find out more about RAKxa Integrative Wellness

Tim Samuels in an award-winning documentary maker and author.

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