Floortje Dessing has a busy presenting season behind her: twelve episodes of 'Floortje naar het einde van de wereld' (Floortje travels to the ends of the earth), having covered a ridiculous number of kilometres. Not only does she present and produce the travel programme, she also does the research beforehand and the editing upon her return.
“I’m away a lot of the time, and the days are long, but once I’m home I still have my foot on the gas. So I never really get any rest – when I really could do with some. Kamalaya has featured on my bucket list for a long time. I always wanted to go there. Plus, I’m toying with the idea of writing a book about how to get healthy when travelling. So this was a good excuse for me to go there. “Why don’t you just stay home?” people often ask me. “You’re always away.” But that doesn’t work: when I’m home I’m far too much of a socialite. I’ll meet up with friends for some food and drinks. It just isn’t easy to focus solely and purely on resting your body and mind. So that became the objective of my trip to Thailand.”
In her job as a television presenter of travel programmes, Floortje has pretty much seen the world. She had been to Thailand before, but always for work. This time, she promised herself to do it differently. It was time to switch off: “However, I did take my laptop with me. I’m not someone who can switch off and shut out the rest of the world. I don’t enjoy being too cut off. I use the computer to stay in touch with friends. But I didn’t do any work, and that made this trip so different. This was a real holiday – and a phenomenal one at that.”
Kamalaya was a must for Floortje. But she also picked two other hotels to visit. “I like to get around a bit whenever I’m abroad. I know what I’m like and will get pretty restless if I have to spend two weeks in the same place. I prefer to hop around, so combined Kamalaya with two other resorts, which worked really well for me. I love discovering new places and meeting new people.”
The first resort Floortje landed at was Phuket Cleanse: a small-scale and personal retreat. “It was really lovely. This hotel has a real community feel about it, and the gang here soon put their arms around you. Ideal if you’re travelling alone but don’t want to be alone. There were a lot of expats from Hong Kong and Singapore, but also a KLM pilot who was taking a break. What I found most fantastic, were the exercise possibilities here: fitness, bootcamps, hiking, paddle boarding… you can spend whole days going from one activity to the next. Perfect for anyone in training for a big event. Or for those – like me – wanting to get into shape. I’d just been to Barcelona with some friends and ate and drank too much there. I needed to lose a couple of pounds. And I did. Partly thanks to the raw food this hotel is renowned for. Nothing gets cooked except for the eggs at breakfast. The food is very varied and nutritious, and you never get hungry. They are also very focused on the finer details, leaving bottles of water with lemon always at your disposal. You can also do a juice detox with no less than fifty kinds of juices; just watch those extra pounds fly off.”
After a wonderful stay at Phuket Cleanse, Floortje jumped on a plane to Koh Samui. The last time she visited was fifteen years ago, and on arrival, she was struck by how much busier the island had now become: the land surrounding the airport that was previously pretty much untouched before was now entirely built up. Koh Samui has since become popular among Asian, Chinese and Australian holidaymakers. Floortje: “I’ve been to a lot of airports in my time, but Koh Samui is without doubt the most relaxed airport on earth. There are loungers everywhere, free nibbles and drinks on offer… As soon as you land here, you go into relax mode.”
Absolute Sanctuary is the next hotel on Floortje's itinerary. “Wow, what a beautiful setting. It’s situated in the hills, but you can see the edge of the sea. The resort has been built in a Moroccan style, which feels a bit weird in Thailand. But what a serene place this is! And how peaceful! If you do want to spend some time alone, without distractions, this is the place to be.”
Private swimming lesson
Absolute Sanctuary has a good spa offering great treatments and many Ayurvedic therapies. But the thing that the hotel is best known for are its fantastic yoga and Pilates classes. “If you like Pilates, go for a programme that includes the classes. Highly recommended! The studio houses very expensive Pilates machines and the instructor is also excellent. Pilates strengthens your muscles. I occasionally get some pain in my lower back, so I was very happy with the classes. I already do yoga at home, but I definitely need to make time for this too.”
Besides yoga and Pilates, Absolute Sanctuary also offers other sporting activities. Personal trainer Marco from Amsterdam delivers the bootcamps on the beach and the fitness classes, among others. Floortje: “The funny thing was: it transpired that Marco was a former world champion water polo player. I took some private swimming lessons with him because I’d never properly learnt front crawl. There I was, in the pool, aged 45 with a cork float. But: I’m super happy I did, because I love to swim when I’m travelling.”
The time comes for Floortje to press on to her final destination, the one near the top of her bucket list: Kamalaya. Expectations are high when she arrives at the resort. Luckily, she isn’t disappointed. Floortje: “It really was all I’d hoped it would be. I’ve seen so many hotels and wellness resorts over the years, but this one tops them all. Kamalaya is pure perfection. When you get here, you enter into a world that’s so peaceful and relaxed. Just fantastic. They have got the staff right, the atmosphere right, the environment is stunningly beautiful and nothing is expected of you.
Kamalaya is located in a mountainous, remote part of Koh Samui, right by a lagoon. When it dries out, there are countless walks you can enjoy. When the water is high, it’s the ideal place for paddle boarding. During the morning yoga class, you have views out over the blue lagoon. The yoga buildings are open, allowing the cooling wind in. But what amazed me most was how much the people here respected the fact you are in Thailand. The resort is built around a sacred rock where monks once lived. There are candles burning and little statues all around. In the gardens, there are spots to honour the gods in. You really get a sense of the respect for the place’s original occupiers. The staff are well paid and get two days a week off. To my mind, that’s fairtrade as fairtrade should be: honest and respectful towards people and nature. Kamalaya is pricey, but worth it.”
Floortje is also enthusiastic about the food at Kamalaya. “The food is divine. You can properly detox here, and then there are all those delicious curries and Thai dishes to devour. Breakfast is quite unusual: lots of veggies, nuts, seeds, fruit, but also various kinds of hummus and avocado spreads. What I like is the fact that you can eat so healthily, but can also order yourself a steak. Even a glass of wine if you fancy it. Which I resisted, incidentally...”
One of the jewels in the crown of Kamalaya is their ‘Embracing Change’ programme, focused around re-achieving emotional balance. “It is designed for people who have been through a divorce, have lost their job or a dear one. Or for those wanting to make changes in their life. For me, it was about me living fast and working so hard. I needed to honour and take better care of myself. Which is why I booked two sessions with a life coach. I had prepared myself for having to do a lot of talking. But after me uttering just three sentences, he was able to offer me such unique insights. I live in my freedom, which is my greatest asset. But it also restricts me somewhat. He helped me look differently at how I have tailored my life. Well, it’s a long story. But I’m on with it. Those sessions were something special.”
Floortje returned home a couple of weeks ago. Did her Thailand trip give her what she longed for? “Absolutely! I’ve sort of re-booted myself. Re-started my system. And I needed it, too. I’ve been thinking about eating healthier, sleeping better, drinking less and exercising more. On this kind of trip, you get to focus on these things fully; without social media, without hassle, without noise. During that time, it doesn’t matter what people think of you, it’s all about you. I’ve been back a few weeks now and I have been able to sustain that feeling. Of course, it doesn’t all of a sudden turn your life upside down. But it does make you realise how important it is to take good care of yourself. I want to do it all again next year!”
- “I like being in and among nature, and missed that at Phuket Cleanse. The fab thing about this resort is how informal it is. If you’re looking for minimal distractions, this is a great choice. Everyone goes to bed early here.”
- “There are some great cycling routes from Absolute Sanctuary. You can cycle all the way to the edge of the island. The landscape is hilly, so it’s a great workout, too.”
- “Kamalaya is situated up against a cliff. Which means a lot of steps are involved. I didn’t mind it, as I enjoy the exercise. And the gardens you walk through are really beautiful.”
- “If you have a life coaching session whilst at Kamalaya, be sure to record it. He says so much that you barely have time to process it all. This way, you can listen back again later.”
Phuket Cleanse ****
- Where In the south of the tropical island of Phuket in Thailand. The hotel is located on a quiet street, walking distance from the main street in Rawai.
- Speciality Rawai is known as the raw food capital of the world. The hotel puts on different raw food dishes every week, and the food here is incredibly yummy.
- Not to be missed There are three beautiful sand beaches nearby: Yanui, Ao Sane and Nai Harn. The latter sits on one of Phuket’s most stunning bays, between two jungle-covered mountains.
- Good to know You can do plenty of exercise here, but there’s no need to pack loads of gym gear: the hotel will launder your clothes daily.
Absolute Sanctuary ****
- Where On the Thai island of Koh Samui in the south of the country. The beautiful, white sand beach Chaweng Beach is close by (a shuttle bus runs there).
- Speciality The yoga and Pilates programmes are renowned. There are up to five different yoga workshops every day. Why not have a go at hot flow yoga, detox yoga or yin yoga!
- Not to be missed Dining at the Love Kitchen Restaurant is an experience; international, vegetarian and raw food dishes are all prepared here by top chefs.
- Good to know The yoga classes are free for Puurenkuur guests to attend. If you are staying for a minimum of 5 nights, you will receive a free gift voucher worth €100 to spend at the wellness centre.
Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary *****
- Where On the Thai island Koh Samui, directly on Laem Set beach. The resort is a wonderful base for excursions in the local area.
- Speciality Kamalaya is only available to book in combination with a cure programme. Kamalaya offers personalised cures, targeting the growth and blossoming of body and mind. A fantastic place to relax and spiritually recharge.
- Not to be missed A conversation with spiritual coach Rajesh. He cuts through your issues in no time and never fails to find the ‘sore spots’. Whilst this can be confronting, it is also life changing.
- Good to know Kamalaya is built up against a cliff, which involves a lot of steps and steep paths. On the beach you will find loungers and water shoes at your disposal.