A short flight from Bangkok and a 30 minute taxi ride from Chiang Rai airport, the Soma Retreat Center is set in the idyllic surroundings of rural Chiang Rai, a haven of peace and quiet. The spiritual retreat promotes the four ‘Rs’ – relaxation, recuperation, rejuvenation and recreation. With a vegetarian/ovo detox diet, daily fitness sessions and therapy workshops, this is the perfect place get back onto the wellness track. However, be warned – this is a spiritual retreat, so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea! For those who embrace it fully though, Soma will provide you with the ideal environment and the right tools to do some serious soul searching…
With its comfortable bungalow accommodation, complete with outside terraces, Soma Retreat Center offers simplicity and serenity. The set up was perfect for me; I loved reading on my terrace in the sunshine and I made good use of the complimentary herbal tea and deliciously smelling organic products in the bathroom.
The retreat has a basic daily schedule; exercise in the morning followed by breakfast, lunch at 12.30pm and dinner at 6pm. The workshop sessions take place in between meals, and after dinner guests can enjoy a movie or candle lit meditation session in the main pavilion, led by the Founder Katharina Bless. Internet is only available at certain points and places throughout the grounds, so you can completely switch off from technology and the outside world! With the absence of a jam-packed schedule, Soma guests have plenty of time to gather their thoughts whilst enjoying the peaceful, rural surroundings. I took full advantage of the quiet evenings and was tucked up in bed by 9pm every night!
The main focus of the Center is spiritual wellbeing and Soma hosts a variety of courses from Flower Healing Power, Sound Therapy and Nada Yoga to SkyView Astrology. The aim of these courses is to help guests to find inner peace and strength… something we all could use a bit of in busy HK life!
The Founder Katharina and Director and Co-Owner Tania Ho aim to help their guests find their life purpose (an admirable objective!). I love the sentiment; however talk of witches and magic during some of the therapy sessions made me feel fairly out of my comfort zone! That being said, I did take part in some very fascinating discussions and really benefited from sessions such as the guided meditation.
Workshops aside, Soma has a lot to offer its guests starting with the food, which is wholesome and delicious. Each buffet-style meal served in the Soul Food Kitchen featured plenty of fresh salads, stews, curries, soups and scrumptious desserts and fruit, all of which were washed down with lashings of herbal tea. Yum! I was certainly never hungry and did not miss my usual meat eating, alcohol and caffeine drinking ways. Although I have to confess that one evening while sitting by the lake at sundown, I could have murdered a gin and tonic!
The morning fitness sessions started each day off perfectly. To me, there is nothing better than a gentle Tai Chi, Yoga or Stretching class, in the morning sunlight. The instructor, Palroch (who also doubles as the spa therapist) was extremely friendly and accommodating, and made us all feel very at ease. As one of two guests taking part in the sessions, we had Palroch’s full attention and were really able to perfect our posing and stretching with his encouraging assistance. Personally, I would have loved more than just one hour of exercise per day but I tried to make up for this by taking walks in the neighbouring fields or swimming in the lake – both splendid.
The Soma Crystal Spa, which offers a wide array of treatments, was another huge highlight for me. Maybe it was being away or maybe it was the beautiful, serene surroundings, but I have never enjoyed a treatment more. Palroch, whom Tania wisely poached from Six Senses spa in Thailand, could not be faulted. During the pre-appointment consultation, both Tania and Palroch really took the time to discover my preferences and problem areas and their attentiveness paid off.
My first treatment, the Lunar massage was very relaxing and the pressure was perfect. Palroch also took great care to avoid my sunburn, offering a cold compress instead. The second treatment, a 60-minute Thai massage, was again fantastic and did wonders for my tight shoulders. To top it off, the Himalayan Crystal Pink Salt Body Scrub with coconut oil was divine!
Overall, my experience at Soma Retreat Center was one I would happily repeat. The serenity of the center certainly allowed plenty of time to gather thoughts and reflect, while the delicious food, treatments and exercise was just what my body needed. The staff, particularly the Director Tania, were extremely warm and friendly and looked after me incredibly well. The workshops will certainly not be to everyone’s taste… however you can opt for simply enjoying a restful stay in Soma’s grounds while exploring the natural wonders of Northern Thailand. If you have the time, it is also worth taking a trip into Chiang Rai town for a potter around the night market.
Soma Retreat Center prices start from 35,880 Baht ($8,550) for seven nights sharing a triple room, including a six day workshop, meals and access to the salt water pool. The Soma Rejuvenation Retreat starts from 38,280 Baht ($9,120) for seven nights sharing a triple room, including a six day workshop, meals, daily yoga and detox sessions, three spa treatments, three floating room sessions and access to the salt water pool and group steam sessions. The Soma ReCreation Retreat, which starts from 60,350 Baht ($14,400), offers the same line up as the Soma Rejuvenation Retreat but lasts for 11 nights and includes five spa treatments, floating room sessions and daily group steam sessions. Lodging options, minus workshops, treatments and meals start from 1,080 Bahts ($260) per night for a triple occupancy room.