Fat, luscious winter melons dangle above our heads from the netted roof, flanked by vibrant yellow and orange flowers. Lush clusters of basil, chilli, lemongrass and bitter gourd vines sway gently in the breeze. Complemented by views of a lotus pond opposite, it’s the very picture of tranquility.
We’re in Ayutthaya, Thailand and on a tour of Thann Wellness Resort’s garden, where its staff grow pesticide-free vegetables and fruits. The blazing sun is beating down on us, sending sweat dripping into our eyes. But we are listening, rapt with attention to our guide as he takes us through the various types of plants that surround us. “Here we have spearmint,” he says, plucking a leaf from a bush so we can smell its refreshing scent. “We use these organic herbs in our restaurants.”
The same spearmint leaves later appear as garnish atop a zesty prawn and pomelo salad. Sprigs of lemongrass also arrive, jabbed into a decadent concoction of lobster pad Thai.
But don’t be mistaken — it isn’t just diners’ plates that set the stage for Thann’s infatuation with all things organic and locally sourced. Many of us will recognise Thann as a Thai skincare and aromatherapy brand which, since its inception in 2002, has long embraced natural ingredients. Among one of our leading purveyors of wellness products, Thann is today reputed for products such as massage oil and shower gel formulated with rice bran oil and shiso. Its new wellness resort and spa is its latest project to advance this commitment.
Officially opened at the end of October, Thann Wellness Resort marks the brand’s first foray into hospitality. It comes on the heels of the opening of Thann’s new Singapore flagship retail store at Paragon Shopping Centre, where customers can shop its products and enjoy facial treatments.
Steeped in heritage
The property is a sprawling 10-acre residence comprising 46 rooms, suites and pool villas set amidst rice paddy fields, and situated near the Noi River. It’s the newest addition to Ayutthaya, a historical city that was formerly the capital of Thailand from the 14th to 18th century.
The resort’s architecture and interior design are inspired by its setting, and are incorporated with elements from ancient Ayutthaya art and culture: An assembly of sculptures donning chada (traditional headdresses worn in Thai classic dance) forms the backdrop to the reception area, while an ornate robe — believed to once belong to royalty — hangs on a wall in a private dining room.
Four monkey statues sit near the lobby, the first three symbolising the proverb of “see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil” and the last one — which holds a banana — signifying kindness.
Its rooms also carry discreet Ayutthaya influences in the form of artworks and fish motifs emblazoned on the walls. The Deluxe room we stayed in is a cosy space decked out in wood and equipped with a balcony overlooking the river.
Thann bath products from its signature Aromatic Wood range (an invigorating blend of orange, nutmeg and tangerine) are available in the bathroom, which comes with a bathtub and spacious shower area. The room also has a complementary minibar that’s stocked daily with fruit juices, and fruit-infused water served in glass bottles to encourage sustainability.
Relax and recharge
As its name suggests, health and well-being form the main focus at Thann Wellness Destination. Guests are entitled to a complementary spa treatment (either a massage or facial) for each day of stay, along with meals and unlimited fitness and wellness activities ranging from Muay Thai classes to yoga sessions and aromatherapy workshops.
They don’t need to worry about what to wear either, as daily resortwear is provided in their rooms — talk about a dream come true for light packers. Nothing is mandatory, though, says Thann’s founder Tony Suppattranont. “Our activities are designed to uplift spirits, and our service standards are based on Thai hospitality, where we look at people as family and not guests. It’s as if they are visiting our house.”
During our three-day stay, we tried a variety of programmes including aqua exercise (think aerobics, but in water) and a cooking workshop where we learnt to make Bua Loy, a Thai dessert of glutinous rice balls coloured with pandan and butterfly pea before being immersed in coconut milk.
In the evenings, we lounged in the spa complex’s three aromatherapy baths, which are set to 25, 30 and 39 degrees Celsius. These are unisex, so swimwear is required.
An undisputed highlight was our Swedish massage, comprising 90 minutes of pampering that expelled all the stubborn knots — the result of hours spent hunched over a computer at work — from our back, shoulders and limbs. We were presented with a selection of massage oils such as Aromatic Wood and Oriental Essence (kaffir lime with lemongrass) prior to the treatment, and decided on a delicately scented lavender and rosemary oil. Coupled with our therapist’s firm, deft strokes, it easily lulled us into a slumber.
Than Wellness Destination has three F&B concepts: A riverfront restaurant, a casual street food eatery, and a café. If the mention of a wellness resort conjures up images of ultra-healthy but flavourless foods, or, worse, enforced juice cleanses that taste of regret, this place will prove you wrong. Mealtimes are a delight, with scrumptious options such as mushroom and ikura rice soup, deep fried catfish, and sticky date pudding with ice cream. Our favourite was the Khao Soi, a Chiang Mai specialty of duck confit paired with a mix of boiled and crispy noodles and drenched in a slightly spicy curry.
Many of the dishes are prepared with local produce such as prawns and fish from the Noi River, and incorporated with herbs and vegetables from the resort’s garden. They are also free of artificial colourings and preservatives.
For those desiring to cheat a little with some tipple, there’s also a range of cocktails such as Shiso-jito — a spin on the usual mojito by substituting mint with shiso leaf. It’s all about moderation, explains Suppattranont. “Guests need to have the intention to improve their mental and physical health. We merely assist them.”
A much-needed respite
Compared to its more popular cousins Bangkok and Phuket, Ayutthaya may not rank at the top of most tourists’ must-see list. But Thann Wellness Destination might just change this. Its secluded, peaceful locale is ideal for weary, burnt-out travellers yearning to get away from the madding crowd. There’s also no need to plan an itinerary or what to wear, as these are all taken care of. The main objective is simply to rest and recharge, and leave all worries behind.
For those hoping to see more of Ayutthaya beyond the resort, consider a guided tour by Thann’s staff to the Ayutthaya Historical Park, which is only a 30-minute drive away. It’s home to ancient temples like Wat Mahatat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the famed Wat Chaiwatthanaram — where the Thai hit TV series Buppesannivas (Love Destiny) was filmed.