Yoga retreats are the perfect excuse to take a break from daily responsibilities, unwind, relax and reinvigorate. A few months ago, my friends and I were on the hunt for the best that the universe had to offer. After a zillion searches on yogaretreats.com, we decided on the Sattva Samui Yoga Retreat, which offered the perfect package at an unbeatable price.
Satva Samui is an all-year-round yoga and detox resort in Thailand’s second largest island, Koh Samui. It is the perfect destination for anyone looking to practice yoga, detox, meditate, and explore the charming island of Koh Samui which is well known for its palm-fringed beaches, coconut groves, and mountainous rainforest.THE RETREAT PACKAGE
Even though the resort typically offers its visitors a seven-day Hatha Yoga Retreat, they can accommodate shorter stays. In our case, we booked for only four days so they prorated our stay. We were required to make a 20% deposit, with the balance payable upon arrival.
THE FOLLOWING ARE INCLUDED IN THE USUAL PACKAGE
Two daily yoga classes
Daily mantra meditation
Individual consultation with yoga teachers
Ayurvedic diagnostics and herbal detox
Three excursions to eight amazing places
Vegetarian breakfasts and lunches
Accommodation for six nights
Even though Satva Samui’s guests are mostly Russians, they also cater for their English speaking guests and yoga lessons are offered in both languages. For a more personalized experience or custom package, contact them directly.
90/42 Moo.2, T. Maret, Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84310, Thailand
TEL+66 94 309 3892
We flew Bangkok Airways from the Suvarnabhum Airport in Bangkok to the Samui International Airport, arriving at 7:15 a.m. Mr. Stanislav, one of the resort’s senior staff, who had been in touch with us from the moment we booked our retreat, was already at the airport waiting for us. It was our first time in Koh Samui. As we loaded the car with our luggage and took our seats, our sleepiness and fatigue were quickly replaced by a rush of adrenaline and excitement as we looked forward to spending the next four days on the Island. The drive from the airport to the resort took around 30 minutes.
Satva Samui is a beachfront property but unfortunately, due to low tide, we were not able to enjoy its beach. Luckily, the resort is very close to Lamai beach, which was more conducive for swimming—only an 11-minute-drive away via the resort shuttle for guests, to be precise.As we sipped our chilled coconut water during check in at Satva Samui, we were briefed on the retreat’s highlights, and what to expect. In no time, we settled in our allocated rooms, changed into comfortable clothes, and went for breakfast before catching up on some much-needed sleep that we had deprived ourselves the previous day in Bangkok.We woke up just in time for lunch. Satva Samui serves vegetarian meals for both breakfast and lunch. They keep it healthy, balanced and interesting. I loved their salad bar and detox teas, which guests were allowed to help themselves to as much as we wanted.We spent the rest of the afternoon beach bumming. I can’t remember the last time I was by the sea, so this was a great opportunity to let the sand be my seat and the waves hit my feet. At around 5 p.m., we made our way back to the resort to prepare for our first yoga practice.Our yoga sessions for the retreat were scheduled at sunrise and at sunset. Satva Samui hosts the class on their rooftop deck with a (great) view: a vast expanse of sky that looked like it had been spray-painted by a graffiti artist, swaying palm trees, and the wide, open sea.Our first practice was a Hatha yoga session guided by Gallina. She was tall and graceful in her poses. Looking at how she pointed her toes, I could tell she was probably a ballerina once upon time, before yoga stole her heart. The session was led in both Russian and English.
Though I haven’t practiced Hatha in nine years, I was more than willing to give my Vinyasa flow a break and go back to the foundation of my yoga practice. Naturally, my thoughts were redirected to my time in Sri Lanka—to My First Yoga Class, my first yoga teacher, and how so much that didn’t make sense then do now. As we settled into our last pose, I was filled with gratitude at how much I have evolved in my practice and as a person. Also, I couldn’t help but smile because I just survived my first yoga class in Russian.After freshening up and changing into something more comfortable, we attended the daily mantra meditation held at 8 p.m. daily, then went for dinner on the beach. We chatted the night away as we chowed down on pretty much the same the thing we had been chowing down the past few meals; Tom Yum Goong , Phad Thai and Tom Khai Gai (At some point we got lazy going through Thai menus so we ended up ordering the same thing.) Nothing much happens on Lamai beach, in terms of nightlife, especially during low season, so once we were done with our dinner we headed straight back to the resort and called it a day.
We woke up to the sounds of birds chirping. Or let me rephrase that. I actually woke up to the sound of my roommate Sue’s alarm, and only heard the birds chirping after she managed to turn off the honking sound. It was 5:45 a.m. I’m pretty sure we resembled zombies trying to glide into yoga pants as we battled the urge to go back to bed. Thankfully, we managed to make it to our mats for our first sunrise yoga session.
We arrived just as Satva Samui’s magical sky changed colors. As I watched the dark clouds slowly disappearing, being replaced by the colors of daybreak, my heart filled with gratitude. I couldn’t help but think that was how I wanted to wake up every day. I snap a few photos, unfold my yoga mat, sit still, and fill my lungs with air, taking in my first mindful breaths of the day.Dimitri, our yoga instructor was a bliss to practice with. He played a hang drum at the end of our session. As we settled into savasana, we were lulled away by the harmonic soft and warm sounds produced by the instrument. It was so unpredictable yet so calming to the senses, that it washed away whatever thoughts were floating in my head.
HANG DRUM TUNES BY DIMITRI
We spent the rest of the morning on the beach. After a quick dip in the sea, we decided to stroll Lamai street, which is lined with small shops and cafes. We enjoyed a laidback and chaos-free morning, as it wasn’t till 10:30 a.m. when the shops opened. After our stroll, we headed back to the resort just in time for lunch and to prepare for our first excursion on the island.
In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to feed and hang out with elephants. But although I was happy getting up close and personal with these gentle giants, the visit was bittersweet for me. I’m not a fan of seeing animals tied up in one spot. Seeing one of them rocking and swaying back and forth repetitively broke my heart because I believe animals, just like all living beings, should be free. However, what consoled me was no one was riding them on that day.
NA MUANG WATERFALL AND DURIAN CHIPS
After feeding the elephants, we walked to the cascading waterfall of Na Muang, which is only one of several waterfalls in Koh Samui. It had been raining so its natural pool was muddy. Those who had the courage jumped into the cold waters, while the rest of us decided to stroll around the market to shop for souvenirs and to sample local delicacies like durian chips. When you think of durian fruit, perhaps the first thing that will come to mind is its potent stench. But surprisingly, the chips tasted great and we barely noticed the smell.
Our next and final stop for the day was at a coconut farm. When I think of islands in Thailand, one of the first images that pop into my head is of me sipping coconut water while beach bumming. Then I think of island hopping, snorkeling, swimming, and other water activities. After all, the country is home to so many pristine beaches that locals and tourists can choose from. Visiting a coconut farm in Thailand has never crossed my mind so it was a pleasant surprise and quite interesting to say the least.Coconut plays an important role in Asian economy, and is mostly grown in tropical countries. I love all things coconut because of its many versatile and health benefits, ranging from food to cosmetics, so our farm visit was a good opportunity for me to understand coconut farming and buy organic bi-products from the source.
As we sipped our fresh coconut water and tasted different coconut flesh, we were taken through the various stages a coconut goes through. We witnessed some of the tedious work behind harvest. We also learned that monkeys are trained and used to climb trees and pick coconuts. That explained why there was a monkey in this family farm.
Later that evening we had our usual sunset yoga followed by a one hour mantra meditation session accompanied by a Gong. This was a good opportunity for me to explore Gong meditation something that I have only practiced once in the past. It was an adventure to the senses, the sound waves emitted by the gong relaxes the mind gently leading one to a meditative state.
“The gong is very simple. It is an inter-vibratory system. It is the sound of Creativity itself. The gong is nothing more, nothing less. One who plays the gong plays the universe. The gong is not an ordinary thing to play. Out of it came all music, all sounds, and all words. The sound of the gong is the nucleus of the Word.”
Just when I thought we were done for the evening, Satva Samui staff took over the stage and performed a fluent dance in colourful costumes that made them all look like beautiful fire flies. The performance was very cheerful and entertaining. I enjoyed watching as I sipped my complementary papaya smoothie…… secretly wishing it was a glass of pinot. It had been an interesting day but as I smeared my newly-bought organic coconut oil on my body later that evening, I couldn’t help but think of that monkey that picked the coconut that was used to make the oil. Then the Sanskrit mantra “Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu”, which means, “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to the happiness and to that freedom for all”, came to my mind. Sadly, I definitely did not contribute to the monkey’s freedom.
By our third day at Satva Samui, we were already used to waking up early to salute the sun. In fact, it had become our new normal and I looked forward to it. As usual, after breakfast, we would spend time at the beach, then head to Lamai street, hopping from one shop to the other on the hunt for souvenirs.
Our morning routine was something I could have easily gotten used to. If anything, it made me understand why island people are so laidback and life is always slow-paced. I think it has a lot to do with living by the ocean. It is a different time zone, island time.
SHOPPING ON THE ISLAND
I enjoyed shopping at Karma Boutique on Lamai street. Not only was the shop attendant patient and amicable, Karma Boutique stocks all things girly to have you looking fashionably chic on your island vacation.
THE ZODIAC GARDEN AND THE BIG CRAB
We had three excursions lined up for our third day on the island. The first stop was The Zodiac Garden and The Big Crab. As the name suggests, the first one is basically a garden with all the 12 signs of the zodiac. A little hike up the hill leads you to The Big Crab, which offers a partial panoramic view of the island. These two attractions are still a work in progress with ongoing construction. They’re not even officially open yet. But for now, visitors are welcome to stroll around and snap photos with their respective zodiac signs.
SECRET BUDDHA GARDEN
The Secret Buddha Garden, also known as the Magic Garden, sits atop the Tar Nim waterfall peak. Here you’ll find a collection of statues, in all shapes and sizes, amid a peaceful jungle environment. Each corner of this garden and its hidden statues inspires a sense of spiritual mystery, awe, and fascination. The garden was a creation of Nim Thongsuk, an old innovative durian fruit farmer who, in 1976, put together a team to develop the area, handcrafting different sculptures inspired mainly by Buddhist folklore. All this was built around his family’s land, which he later opened to the public. Nim Thonguk started this work when he was 77 until his death when he was 91. He hoped those who visited the garden would find peace and take a spiritual journey.While I didn’t understand the story behind each statue as we didn’t have a Thai guide with us, I was still left in awe by the passion, commitment, and love that were so obviously invested in the creation of this garden. Our visit was one of the highlights of my stay on the island. Not only was it different, it was magical. There was water streaming through the heart of the place, and the sound of it rendered the entire surrounding absolutely peaceful.
CHASING SUNSETS ON LIPA NOI BEACH
We ended the day on Lipa Beach Resort, on Lipa Noi beach, west coast of Samui. It was surreal to have the whole beach to ourselves. We only caught a sneak peak of the sunset but nonetheless, it was a beautiful way to wind the day and cap our stay on the island. I enjoyed taking a dip into the calm warm waters as my friends played frisbee in the middle of the sea. One of the ladies from the resort who had accompanied us played her ukulele. Tatiana joined her in chanting and the rest of us just sat there, staring into the horizon and beyond. It was one of those perfect moments that I will never forget, years from now, when I skim through random photos with my grandchildren I will certainly look back and remember that evening in Koh Samui.
We were up at the crack of dawn for our early morning flight back to Bangkok and subsequent connecting flight back to Manila. We made our way through check in and immigration saying our quiet goodbyes to Koh Samui and to what had been the most relaxing yoga retreat at Sattva Samui.
Looking back, I couldn’t help but smile at our enthusiasm and excitement in putting together this trip. We were happy to leave everything behind for a bit, take a break from our kids and husbands, and just focus on us. We didn’t think we were going to miss home. But the last couple of days, most of our conversations unconsciously kept on deviating back to our families back home. At dinner times, we would share snippets of videos and messages of what our kids and family members were doing back home. True, we had an amazing time, but at the end of the day, we were still mothers and we have responsibilities to our loved ones. And so, in the same way that we were eager to leave for this getaway, we were also consumed with the same eagerness to go back home and reunite with our families.
As we cruised through the clouds on our way back to Manila, I closed my eyes and reminisced the events that that had taken place on our getaway. I felt lighter in body, mind, and spirit. But I was also filled with gratitude, joy, happy memories that will last me for a long time. Or at least, until the next trip comes along…..
Lora By Lora.