July 16th 2013
One of Localiiz’s directors, Karen, is a fitness and health freak – or at least that’s what we call her! After looking high and low for the ultimate fitness and detox vacation, she stumbled across Phuket Cleanse, a fitness and detox retreat in a Thai beachside paradise. In this Insider Review, Karen explains why the gruelling regime was exactly what she wanted, and why her husband Neil (Localiiz’s co-owner) overcame his initial reservations and lost 3.9 kg in 5 days!
So what did Karen say …
I’m not a freak, thanks guys, but ok, I admit I am picky about my fitness, health and food regime. I love working out in Hong Kong when I’m here, and my ultimate holiday is something that involves sun, fitness and staying healthy. My trouble is that I don’t really have that much self-motivation and really need my detoxes laid out on a plate for me.
We’ve tried places like Chiva-Som in Hua Hin, Thailand, and although they are the ultimate in luxury, I find places like that a bit too plastic, lacking in soul, and pretty pricy (my husband’s comment of course, not mine). You get there on a Monday, have an assessment in the afternoon, and they recommend various treatments. Then you try and book a session but can’t get an appointment until Thursday, meaning you end up hanging around by a lovely pool in the sun. Very pleasant, but not really the kind of hardcore boot camp/detox vacation that sees me coming back to Hong Kong looking like Victoria Beckham!
So I went online to look for some serious boot camps in the sun. There are loads, but how do you choose? Nathan at Elite Personal Training runs a great boot camp in Thailand that would have fit the bill perfectly, but unfortunately it wasn’t on when we wanted to travel.
So I was discussing our dilemma while having coffee with the girls at Oolaa, Bridges Street, when this guy (Scott) came over and said he had overheard us talking – we forgave him later! He told us about this great detox boot camp in Phuket he had just come back from. He looked tanned and slim, his hair and face were shining – maybe he was always like that (he is Oolaa clientele after all) – but it sounded so great we looked into it. And that’s how we ended up going to Phuket Cleanse for seven days last March.
Phuket Cleanse is a villa with comfortable and clean twin or double rooms set around a lovely pool (hint, ask for the room nearest the pool as it is the biggest and the best, although they’re all luxurious and just five minutes’ stroll from the beach.
Your hosts are Stanton and Mel (the co-owners), who will look after your every need with personalised attention. There are also only around 10-15 guests at any time, so you get to know everyone really well.
When we were there, the guest list was really varied; three ladies from South Africa (one was Gary Player’s daughter – who? Well I’m not a golfer, but my husband was revelling in it); two single girls from Australia; a Finnish airport worker, a guy from Illinois who had sold his business and was travelling around Asia; a lovely girl called Mel who runs Anything But Salads in Hong Kong; and us, City brats in need of a detox. We all got on amazingly, no doubt due to the shared sense of torture and satisfaction!
We were up at 7.30am every morning, juicing with wheatgrass shots and spirulina. This was followed by an intensive programme of three workouts – 90 minutes Muay Thai, 90 minutes hot yoga and 60 minutes circuit training/boxfit/TRX etc. Basically, the ultimate workouts with maximum intensity! The sessions vary each day to keep things interesting, and every night there’s an optional extra activity focusing on well-being, meditation, diet etc.
On top of all that, you can take full advantage of a steam room followed by an invigorating ice bath (an incredible feeling), cross-fit on the beach and a massage in your room every night (all included in the price) so you’re not in the least bit stiff or tied the next day. It’s just impossible not to get fit or fitter, slim or slimmer, whatever your starting point. You can do as little or as much as you like and workout at whatever intensity you want. This is a programme that will work for everyone, even the habitual potato couch!
Well it’s all raw vegan. That’s right – no meat, no fish, no eggs, no pasta and no cooked food. It get’s worse – no coffee, no fizzy drinks and no chocolate (and oh, how I love my chocolate!). Actually, the worst part for me was the coffee detox – I didn’t realise how much of the stuff I drank, and how I would feel on a coffee comedown.
I was hating the thought of seven days without meat, caffeine and cooked food. How could I possibly survive? I was prepared to give it a go however, if only for the good I kept on telling myself it was going to do my body. By the way, Neil was freaking out at this stage as I didn’t tell him about the food bit until after we arrived!
But, oh, how wrong could we have been! We hadn’t counted on Mel, the co-owner of Phuket Cleanse, and her army of Thai cooks and helpers, making pure magic in the kitchen. Every day they chopped, pulsed and produced the most amazing food I have eaten for ages. I had no idea how good raw vegan food could taste. And it was so varied – chicken fajitas one day (minus the chicken and the fajitas of course!), sushi (without the sushi or the rice needless to say). I’ve got no idea how they did it, but it was so good, tasty and filling.
As the food is all raw, it goes through you quickly and naturally as though you were a caveman! At the same time however, it gives you boundless energy, which you certainly need for the three hard core workouts a day. Mel is also an encyclopedia of information when it comes to raw vegan food and can list the properties of all the ingredients that go into each meal. She’ll even send you the recipes by email if you want to have a go yourself when you get home.
So what did Neil think of it? The quick answer is he loved it! Although he was sceptical before we went, he was fully converted by the time we left. He’s been trying for years to lose weight and get fit, but the Hong Kong lifestyle has never quite allowed him to make progress.
He lost 3.2 kg in five days the first time we went to Phuket Cleanse, and another 3.9kg in six days the second time. He looks great, his stomach doesn’t hang out anymore (sorry darling, but it did). There’s even the beginnings of a six-pack, and his trousers are hanging round his bum like our 15-year old son’s! But more than just the weight loss, his blood pressure is down and his cholesterol is back to near where it should be. While I don’t think he is ever going to take up the full raw vegan diet, we’ve built bits of it into our weekly eating plan and feel all the better for it.
So would I recommend Phuket Cleanse? Absolutely! I’ve already been back – twice in fact; once with a girlfriend and again with my husband and daughter. Friends from Hong Kong have also been there and just loved it as well, as it seems like once you’ve tried Phuket Cleanse, no other vacation detox will do. Even Scott – remember the guy who eavesdropped on our conversation at Oolaa – was back there recently for a six week stint!
Phuket Cleanse it exactly what it says on the tin – Phuket (sun, sand, sea, Thai charm) and Cleanse (fitness, detox, mind clearing). It’s a definite game changer for those of us in Hong Kong that work hard and play hard but never really have enough time to look after ourselves. Quite simply, if you value your health, you can’t afford not to go!
The Return Home
I know what you’re all thinking – after all this wellbeing, we probably entered into a steep decline once we got back to Hong Kong? Well, sort of. There was an initial need to have that big bar (or two) of chocolate of course, but after that we took advantage of the many shops and restaurants selling organic food and products in Hong Kong.
You can get your daily shots of wheat grass from Green Vitamin, who are based in Sheung Wan but will deliver fresh or frozen shots directly to your door. If you’re looking for tips on nutrition and detox plans, call past Nutripeutics in Kowloon Bay and stock up on natural snacks and supplements. Central’s organic convenience store Just Green is the place to pick up groceries and supplies for healthy home cooking, but if you want to eat out but still watch your weight, I recommend Eat Right on Staunton Street, where the whole menu is healthy, calorie controlled, scrumptious and great value. I’m also a big fan of fellow Phuket Cleansee Mel’s Anything But Salad, of course!