Six Senses Destination Spa, Phuket review: Inner peace be with you

Read our writer's views on this property below

An ailing Belinda Jackson gets the pampering of a lifetime at a luxurious Phuket spa.

You know a hotel's going to be good when the only way to get there is on a slick, white luxury motorboat over turquoise seas. Six Senses, an ultra-luxurious, eco-principled hotels group, has gone all out with its first destination spa, set on a tiny Thai island off the coast of Phuket.

Yes, Phuket, with its reputation for sticky go-go bars, overpriced shopping and full-moon parties. Tiny Koh Naka Yai is near the limestone crags of Phang Nga Bay, made famous by James Bond's The Man With The Golden Gun.

I arrived at the hotel to be greeted with the toll of a massive gong, signifying that I was leaving my daily life behind. Phone bills, mortgage? Oh yeah, baby, I'm ready to leave it all behind.

Also left behind, or severely curtailed, were a wheelbarrow of vices - clocks, salt, processed sugar, mobile phones, caffeine, most dairy and sinful, sticky fats.

Within minutes, a little golf buggy had whisked us and our bags to our villa, we'd modelled the organic-linen yoga suits we'd swan about in for the next four days and we'd dive-bombed the plunge pool. Each of the 61 villas has its own plunge pool and the retreat is replete with butlers. Every villa gets one, some have more than one.

The view from the bed, with its dreamy, flowing white nets, is of lapping turquoise seas. The petite butler flipped a switch on the iPod to flood the walled enclave with tranquil Buddha Bar sounds - the word of the island surely is "harmony".

I'd arrived with a horrific head cold, a legacy of Thailand's obsession with polar-strength air-conditioning. I wanted to be nurtured. I wanted to be loved. I wanted someone to say: "You poor thing. You're sick. You need to rest. Do nothing and we will take care of you."

So it was a delightful surprise when my wellness consultant, Sally, a gentle expatriate Australian, took one look at my grey face and running nose and said something like: "You poor thing. You're sick. You need to rest. Do nothing and we will take care of you."


After a quiet chat, she drew up my wellness calendar for the next four days. An Indian head massage to draw the toxins out through my hair and into the ether. A Shiffa signature facial with precious gems to knock off a few years. A Six Senses oriental fusion massage. Foot acupressure. A body buff and clay wrap. And, for good measure, an Ayurvedic journey, Abhyanga, which uses warm, medicated herbal oils to detox and de-stress your body. At the bottom of my treatment list, Sally wrote that I should avoid strenuous exercise, rest, drink lots of water, take daily stints in my villa's steam room and inform my butler if I would like a herbal tincture for my cold. I acquiesced.

The spa taps into traditions from Indonesia, India, China and, of course, Thailand but Koh Naka Yai takes a holistic approach. The price per night includes two treatments each day ranging from surface beauty to, er, internal glamour - think colonic irrigation - but they also take their food seriously here, dishing up a calorie-conscious fishetarian menu.

Breakfast in the open-air Ton Sei pavilion was a gourmet extravaganza of fresh vegetable and fruit juices, gluten-free muffins, egg-white omelets, pastries, miso, cereals and tropical fruits. There were even nori rolls to titillate the palates of the raw food guests - those who eat vegan cuisine never heated above 42 degrees. That night, the enthusiastic South African chef, Bryan Burger, dished up a sensational ravioli - the "pasta" was in fact thinly sliced beetroot stuffed with a dill herb "cheese" of ground nuts. The main was a white local fish in a divine chilli broth and dessert a mango and rambutan "cream" from cashew nuts.

The hotel group works hard at its eco-status - the silent electric buggies; the organic-linen yoga suits; the villa's bicycles so you can skim the resort's sandy tracks; and the edible landscaping, which appears in the kitchen, in teas and in spa treatments.

If you were thinking of booking for a honeymoon - champagne, a few spa treatments, lolling about in your pant suit - I'd say don't. Unless you're seriously into the raw food movement or see a honeymoon as a self-growth phase. Booze is served only after 6pm and it's all organic and bio-dynamic. There's no hard liquor - gin addicts, beware.

Aside from the spa, there are pools and meditation pavilions aplenty; a second, smaller raw food restaurant; an excellent gym; and, shoppers, the gift shop is great. There's even an educational slant - you can take cooking, Thai massage or gardening classes; visit other islands; take the catamaran out; fish; go rock climbing ... it's still a resort. Just the healthiest, kid-free resort you've ever seen.

The hard news? It's nowhere near cheap. But does the spa actually work? The staff had their stories of life-altering changes from weight loss to quitting smoking. I was literally glowing from all the oils on my skin; the warm, tropical climate; the nurturing; the detoxing-but-you-don't-know-it food. I was like a colt at the gates of my first race.

And eureka, they have found a cure for the common cold.

The writer was a guest of Six Senses Destination Spa.


Getting there

The spa is 30 minutes from Phuket International Airport. Thai Airways ( flies to Phuket via Bangkok, while Jetstar ( flies direct from Sydney.

Staying there

The Six Senses Destination Spa Phuket costs about $1800 a person a night, which includes two spa treatments a day, all meals and daily activities. The three- to 21-day Life Passages package targets everything from detoxing to postnatal treatments, and attracts a 15 per cent discount. Phone 0414 257 749, see