The call came out of the blue from my girlfriend. “Fancy joining me for five days at a new health retreat in Bangkok?” she ventured.
This was no ordinary health spa. Opening in 2020 during Covid, RAKxa Wellness & Medical Retreat is a world class holistic centre offering a new approach to wellness that personalises your health goals and needs.
For me, the timing was perfect, and the idea of sharing the experience with a friend clinched the deal.
A short time earlier, my doctor had diagnosed me as pre-diabetic. I was told that it was addressable with dietary changes, increased exercise, and a complete overhaul of my health regime. My family was concerned, heck I was concerned.
My son James, who is a doctor, put it more bluntly. “Mum, if you do exactly what you are doing now, you will get diabetes and trust me, you don’t want diabetes,” he warned. During his medical training, James had witnessed people with diabetes having toes amputated. He would relay this at family dinners just before dessert was being served with typical James style timing that makes you decline the Tiramisu.
No, I didn’t want diabetes.
I also knew James would be proved prescient if I didn’t act now.
According to the World Health Organization, ‘Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose.’
I googled the cause of diabetes – and Dr Google said being ‘overweight, obesity and physical inactivity.’ “Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
And it is on the rise in affluent countries. Accourding to Diabetes Australia, around 2 million Australians have pre-diabetes, and approximately one in three go on to develop type 2 diabetes.
However, it’s reversible. It just requires lifestyle changes, including healthy eating, regular exercise and, in my case, losing weight. That’s a big ‘just’.
Emboldened by this, I entered the gates of RAKxa Wellness with a ‘life depends on this’ attitude and was grateful for the opportunity to make healthy changes alongside my friend and with the support of a fully integrative wellness and medical team.
Situated an hour by car from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport in what’s dubbed the city’s ‘Green Lung’, RAKxa is designed to give you a wellness experience that stays with you well after you leave.
Thankfully, my time here set me on a course that helped reverse my pre-diabetes. Yes, I recently had a positive health result that means I am no longer pre-diabetic. Changing habits of a lifestyle isn’t easy, but being able to make those changes at a luxury wellness treat with a friend who was also on a journey to improve her health is a huge advantage. Together, we made it fun and doing it in style also made it so much easier.
I had a supportive team including Nokmalee Tepin, my senior health & wellness advisor, who unquestionably made all the difference.
Nok, as she’s known, first met me in the RAKxa Cha, a delightful place for afternoon tea overlooking the Chao Phraya River where I had the first of my many home-made herbal teas in their signature glass tea pot. Later, Nok discussed my health goals and helped me craft my personalised programme which concentrated on improved gut health, breathing techniques, and body weight management.
And so, my five glorious days at RAKxa began.
To understand the experience, the beauty of RAKxa needs describing as the grounds are magnificently spacious and green and the location, while close to the centre of Bangkok, feels a world away with its lush gardens and elegantly-styled villas where you are wrapped in a cocoon of comfort.
My light filled villa was beautifully appointed with a king-sized bed overlooking a tropical garden through floor to ceiling glass walls with a private terrace and a bicycle parked out front to move around the village-styled complex which is home to 50 luxury villas including a pool villa overlooking the River.
The bathroom alone was bigger than my bedroom with a huge bath, shower and cosy dressing gown and slippers. We were given a RAKxa water bottle which I still carry with me every day after realising more about the importance of keeping hydrated. And there are plenty of personal touches such as fresh flowers – mine was a white lotus flower.
The treatments include a blend of traditional Asian therapies and cutting-edge medical treatments including the hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber and infra-red saunas and hydro pools overlooking a lake.
My physical fitness assessment checked my balance, endurance, strength, and flexibility. I was shocked to learn I have 25 per cent less strength in my left leg, which went a long way to explain hip issues on one side. I was given practical tips to take home and encouraged to stretch more and increase my muscle strength on my left side. After I left RAKxa, I was provided a health report with an outline of my strengths and weaknesses and given recommendations to continue specific exercises to improve core stability and muscle strength.
There are three main health centres. The VitaLife Wellness Centre is home to the medical spa, RAKxa Gaya is the sports facility overlooking a stunning pool and RAKxa Jai is the spa where so much of the magic takes place and the pool is sublime.
Typical of the overall architectural style, RAKxa Jai is a blend of modern and traditional design with large open areas, high ceilings, concrete floors, majestic flower displays and locally produced artwork adorning the walls. As you are taken to the treatment rooms you walk through large spacious corridors lined with giant-sized urns that provide a feeling of tranquillity. Everything is roomy and filled with light which sets the mood for a relaxing experience.
My health and wellness consultation report was sent to me after my trip and recommended pranayama and udvarthanam and home remedies such as freshly squeezed ginger juice with half a teaspoon of rock salt before lunch for a month to improve metabolism. The recommendations sent by Nok helped me keep up my new health regime.
My food recommendations included ginger tea, pomegranate to be included in my diet and I was advised to avoid raw food, and to eat only up to 75 per cent of my appetite. Ah, so that’s where I was going wrong?
Enjoy The Healing Quality Of Food
It’s not until you feed yourself with the right kinds of food and keep up your water intake that you begin to feel the benefits. My friend Cathy and I relished mealtimes, starting with breakfast where we were served fresh fruit and our favourite meal was the most delicious crab salad.
Every day, we’d share our programme ahead and compare our daily activities which enriched the experience. Doing this alone would not compare to doing it with a friend.
Our meals were always served at the Unam restaurant where we befriended the Executive Sous Chef Kullanit V or Toay for short. Sometimes we’d cheekily ask for second portions and Toy would come out of the kitchen smiling with her big, dimpled smile and encourage us not to go rogue to which we’d giggle like schoolgirls and then acquiesce. Toy was always on the money.
Toy would share her cooking secrets and talk about the benefits of the fresh seasonal organic ingredients, sourced from the retreat’s own organic garden. Before we left, we begged her to come home with us. Toy, the invitation still stands.
The menu is designed to reduce inflammation in your body and eliminate toxins and restore balance. Every meal was served with Jasmine-infused water and RAKxa’s special house blended Kombucha. For the record, I don’t like Kombucha but this was an exception – and it’s full of prebiotics which is good for digestion.
Together, we dined on exquisitely made dishes. The menu included poached prawns with young turmeric salad made from lemongrass, kaffir, lime, shallot, mint and gotu kola, and the Crab with coconut shoot which was sauteed with yellow chili, Thai sweet basil served with rice berry and the Khanom Baa Bin which is a Thai coconut pancake with young coconut, black sticky rice flour and coconut sorbet. There were also Mediterranean-style dishes to choose from including poached Sea Bass.
I have much to owe RAKxa for my stay and the lessons I learned about my own health. It is where my journey to change my diet began. Since leaving, I have contined to eat whole foods, lean protein, good fats and plenty of fruit and vegetables with good low-GI carbohydrates like grains and pulses. I am also back rowing and stretching a lot more and drinking more water.
Best of all, I am no longer pre-diabetic.
About RAKxa Wellness & Medical Centre
RAKxa Wellness is an award-winning fully integrated wellness and health retreat in Thailand.
Just a short boat or limousine ride from Bangkok’s centre, this sanctuary is nestled in the lush “Green Lung” island, boasting medical innovation and tailored wellness program,s designed for your individual needs and goals by renowned medical doctors and traditional healing masters.
Programs at RAKxa Wellness and Medical Retreat start from 145,000 TBH (AUD$6197) for three nights, inclusive of accommodation, all meals, transfers, medical consultations, treatments and activities. Programs are personalised so inclusions vary.