My family and I recently jetted off to Koh Samui, Thailand, to immerse ourselves in two weeks of health and happiness. We spent five days in a villa soaking up the sunshine before heading to Kamalaya Koh Samui, a health retreat on the fringes of the island.
As a family, we live and breathe health. My mom is an insanely good cook and a recent yogi graduate, and my two sisters are super active health nuts. My dad treats his body with so much care, you would never guess he is 55 years old. I am so grateful to have that kind of connection with the people I grew up with. It also makes choosing holiday destinations easy!
What is Kamalaya?
Kamalaya is a beautiful wellness retreat in Koh Samui. Along with a fresh-is-best, healthy eating philosophy, it offers a range of programs to suit travelers’ needs: fitness, detox, relaxation, and stress relief. At its core, it aims to help you reconnect with yourself and the world around you and leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed and more rejuvenated than you’ve ever felt. At least, that’s what it did for me!
As soon as I stepped foot at Kamalaya, I knew I was somewhere special. I was handed a delicious hibiscus cooler (with a smile), and given the tour. I then went off to a Wellness Consult, where I chatted with a naturopath about my current health status and goals, as well as the kind of treatments I’d like to focus on during my stay. As I’d been quite busy setting up clinic and putting the final touches on my eBook in the lead-up to the trip, I settled on the Relax and Renew program. Best. Decision. Ever. My 6 days of bliss began.
Location, location, location. Kamalaya’s setting in Koh Samui is incredible – and incredibly green! It’s actually located in a jungle of sorts, and is surrounded by lush greenery – which has an instant calming effect. It’s also home to its own stretch of white sand and what feels like a private ocean. When I think of the islands in Thailand, I think of palm trees and untouched beaches – and that’s exactly what Kamalaya delivered. The property itself is on a hill, which is a bonus as it keeps you fit and healthy during your stay!
I can’t rave enough about the staff. They are some of the most attentive, gorgeous souls you will ever meet. From the concierge to the masseuses and waitresses, they are all clearly passionate about what they do and they provide service with a smile. It’s infectious! I honestly believe that service can make or break a trip, and in the case of Kamalaya, it definitely made it!
Oh my goodness, the treatments! They were divine. The best part is that the therapies are inspired by a range of philosophies – Ayurvedic, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Western – so you can pick and choose the ones that align with you best. The menu reads like a book straight from heaven, loaded with every form of relaxation you could imagine: massages, facials, acupuncture, reflexology, head massages, baths and even colonic irrigation. At Kamalaya, the programs include several treatments, so I was visiting the ‘wellness centre’ and enjoying a pre-treatment tea (with a view) two or three times a day!
The holistic activities
As a wellness retreat, Kamalaya is all about the mind, body and soul. Along with a fully kitted-out gym and class timetable, there are outdoor exercise spaces – including a yoga room with a sprawling view of the water. Imagine rolling out your mat, lying in savasana, and practically tasting the salt water in the air. Heaven! The retreat also has tours, walks, and beach fire ceremonies on its weekly calendar.
If you want to detox from the inside out, this is the place to go. Everything on the detox menu is gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and preservative-free – and absolutely amazing. The staff use local, organic produce, and you can just taste how clean the food is. It’s prepared so carefully to suit your dietary needs, whatever they may be. There are two menus: regular and detox/weight management. Mind you, the ‘regular’ one is super healthy, but the detox one takes it up a notch. As a family, we tried to stick to the detox one – which wasn’t hard as there were so many options. It didn’t feel like we were depriving ourselves at all!
My favourite part of this menu is that you add a lean protein of your choice to each meal – like salmon, chicken, tempeh, or egg – which is something I advocate to balance blood sugars and increase energy. In other words, Kamalaya gets the JSHealth tick of approval! As well as serving up three meals a day (you can eat when it suits you around treatments), you can order fresh coconuts and other nibbles to enjoy by the pool.
On the Relax and Renew program, a typical day looked something like this:
6:30 am – Wake up, enjoy a shot of wheatgrass and a digestive shot.
7:00 am – Choice of Pilates/yoga/run in the gym.
8:00 am – Breakfast. The healthiest spread you will ever see. Again – the food was a highlight! I would start with having some mixed nuts and seeds with fruit followed by an egg omelet with veggies. Their gluten-free pumpkin bread is SO delicious.
10:00 am- Treatment of choice.
12:00 pm – Relax by the beach with a health book and fresh coconut.
1:00 pm – Family lunch. I loved starting with a papaya salad. Mains were often the mushroom saagwala soup (you can find the recipe here) with a side of grilled salmon. It was so amazing to meet with my family at each mealtime and catch up on the day.
3:00 pm – Treatment – yes, another one! Followed by a steam and herbal tea.
5:00 pm – Tea & reading time in the library or relaxation area. I usually ordered a delicious cleansing tea at this time plus a bowl of raw nuts and veggies.
7:00 pm – Family dinner. Absolutely stunning. A menu so good I found it hard to choose. All options are light, healthy and truly gourmet. I would usually have a piece of grilled chicken or fish with a vegetable curry or salad.
9:00 pm- Bedtime! Relaxed, at peace, and eager to recharge for the next day.
I truly couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous and relaxing place to recharge. It certainly put me into the blissful mindset I needed during such a busy time. So much love and thanks to the beautiful people at Kamalaya who made the retreat more than I could have dreamed of!
Hi Jessica, I believe in synchronicity so when I was guided to you .on FB I was intrigued and inspired. I turned 46 last week and my husband bought me your book. I wanted to thank you for sharing your wisdom in such a beautifully presented way. My copy is now filled with tabs and post it notes with actual notes throughout. I am dairy intolerant since having my gallbladder removed 15+ years ago, I don't eat meat, very minimal gluten and was told 12 months ago my gut was not digesting my food properly so I wasn't receiving sufficient nutrients and taking supplements would be a waste of time. My weight fluctuates tending to gain rather than lose but now I believe I have a tool to help me bring my body back into balance that I need for my health and longevity of life - so again thank you. The first few steps to creating a stronger path forward for my health has found its foundation in your beautiful book, The Healthy Life.
With kindest regards Samantha
I'm writing this email because I wanted to tell you how much I love your blog and how you really helped me in my health journey. Thank you for sharing all your advices and experiences.
When I started my studies, I was drinking lots of coffee and I was eaten the wrong foods, and feel bad about it, I wasn't at my best. So I had done some research on the net but at first I didn't found advices that are for me, and then I found your blog. It was exactly what I was looking for, good advices and healthy recipes. Now I'm following your advices on rest more, and snacks between meals and prep the meals and take time for myself to reconnect with my body and let go my anxiety, etc, and I have a more balanced life and have a new relationship with food thanks to you.
I bought your book and it's honestly the best book I have ever bought. I suffer from IBS and anxiety. I have paid so much money seeing naturopaths however after reading your book and all of your tips I'm noticing so much of a difference, so simple and easy to follow. And symptoms have dramatically decreased. Also you have helped me to relax. Currently drinking the protein health smoothie! Thankyou your amazing.
Hey Jessica! I haven’t yet brought ‘The Healthy Life’, but I do have the clean life and your slim down plan! I would like to thank you so much for the knowledge your share and the message you put across about health and wellness. I’m studying Nutritional Medicine in Melbourne and absolutely love the philosophy that you share with your JSHealth community. The work you’ve done to show people that leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t boring, tasteless, difficult or depriving is amazing and hope to share the message myself one day. You’ve inspired me to start my own blog , to share the message and have taught me so many things about my own health! You should be proud of your achievements! Thank you again
I searched for help and tips through the Internet and found Jessica Sepel. This is seriously not exaggerated, but she was the reason why I have dared myself to eat again, to have snacks in between, to nourish my body. I could slowly improve my negative thoughts about my body image and my stupid anxiety of gaining weight. Besides, The Cleanest Gut was awesome too! A huge thank you! Especially from my mum. Seriously, without you I wouldn’t be where I am now!
Congratulations on your new book! It looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been following you on Instagram for a few years and you’ve inspired me to slowly but surely eat healthier without giving myself a hard time when I don’t. It made me so happy (and weirdly proud) to see the Daily Mail article on The Healthy Life. I remember trying out your recipes before you even had your eBook out! I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. Keep up the great work.
Cooking in this way truly brought out the foodie in me and has instilled a huge passion for health and wellness! Life throws you hard and frustrating things sometimes but I truly believe that this is where we learn more about ourselves and what our passions in life are! Thank you for inspiring me on my journey to health and wellness!
I am a yoga teacher in Johannesburg and am thrilled to have bought your book today. I love making healthy, nutritious food for my family, friends and fellow yogis! Thank you for this book and your inspiration (had to share a pic of my book on my recipe stand in the kitchen).
I bought your beautiful book during the week and told my bestie to go out and buy it also! I love love love it. It is the book I would give to my younger self if I could (I am 41 years old). Everything is just so sensible and informative and is definitely a book all teenagers should have. This should be a text book for girls becoming teens. I will love going back and re-reading it many many times and can't wait to make more of the recipes. Thank you Jess - you are an incredibly inspiring woman and you should feel so proud
My fiancé bought your book and we have cooked some of your meals. Amazing! I love your outlook on a healthy lifestyle and your hints and tips with preparing tasty meals are fantastic. Thanks for reviving us to live a healthier lifestyle and get our bodies wedding ready.
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