Header photo courtesy of @blissbodyretreat_hk (via Instagram)
Days upon days spent in quiet contemplation, detached from your social life and the frivolities of the outside world… no, we’re not talking about quarantine. We’re talking about retreats—you know, purposeful, meditative time spent away from the stresses of daily life. While some may baulk at the idea of spending any more time in isolation, let alone shelling out for the privilege, there’s a sense of spirituality and peacefulness at retreats that you simply don’t get while sheltering in place. (Especially if you live in the city, where everything from renovation work to midnight garbage pick-ups counts as ambient noise. #concretejungle)
From ascetic silent retreats to resort-esque wellness programmes, here are the best wellness retreats in Hong Kong. Just remember that regulations are changing all the time due to the pandemic, so it’s always best to keep an eye on the organisers’ official channels for regular updates.
Sitting somewhere between a wellness retreat and a nature holiday, Bliss Body Retreat’s Three Steps to Bliss programme is a “boutique meditation escape” hosted at a stunning eco-farm in the rolling green hills of Lam Tsuen. During the three- to four-day retreat, teacher and “spiritual mentor” Vlada de Sousa will guide participants through daily meditation, breathwork, and yoga classes, and host energy healing and chakra balancing sessions.
While the retreat is deeply rooted in spirituality, it is still a decidedly luxurious affair; the rooms, which can be shared or private, look like boutique hotel lodgings, while the organic vegan meals are prepared by a private chef using vegetables grown on-site. Bliss Body plans its retreats in Hong Kong, Bali, and Tuscany based on demand, so they are not available year-round—but you can check the upcoming dates on their official website. Participants must test negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours of the start date and submit a health declaration form to attend.
For a retreat that doubles as an exclusive five-star staycation, check out Asaya, the Rosewood Hong Kong’s urban wellness concept. Signature programmes include the stress-relieving Unplug package, the family- or couple-oriented Growing Together packages, and the time-efficient One Day Wellness retreat.
Highlights vary from programme to programme, but you can expect mindfulness exercises, yoga sessions, physical workouts, and some form of massage or facial—of course, you can also customise your own treatment programme from Asaya’s “Wellness À La Carte” menu. (Pro-ageing IV drip, anyone?)
For programmes that include overnight stays, guests will reside at either of the Asaya Lodges, two private villas which comprise wellness features like a mini-bar stocked with plant-based snacks and drinks, private treatment rooms, and more.
Asaya, 6/F, Rosewood, Hong Kong Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 3891 8732
Hosted by yoga instructor Amélie Rondole and sound meditation teacher Cheryl Rodriguez, this well-being weekend package at The Pier Hotel in Sai Kung is a short and sweet staycation and retreat rolled into one. Take part in daily rooftop sound meditation and gentle beach or sunset yoga sessions. During the two-day retreat, you can opt to take part in private sound healing and yoga sessions or use your free time to hike Sai Kung’s picturesque hills or kayak in the crystal-clear waters. Dates for 2021 have yet to be announced, but you can keep an eye on Amélie’s Facebook for the latest updates.
The Pier Hotel, 9 Pak Shan Wan Street, Sai Kung
For an ascetic, monastic meditation retreat, visit the Vipassanā Meditation Centre (or Dhamma Muttā) at Tung Wan in South Lantau. Traditional Vipassanā retreats are not for the faint-hearted; over the course of 10 days, participants will spend over 10 hours per day in silent meditation, breaking only for two vegetarian meals a day and sleep (which is done in 20-person dormitories, rather than private rooms).
That being said, practitioners of Vipassanā (which translates roughly to “insight”) claim that the experience grants greater mental clarity and an unrivalled sense of balance (and it is completely free of charge, though donations are of course welcome). Once you’ve completed a 10-day course, you are welcome to return for shorter courses—check Dhamma Muttā’s official website for the full schedule and updates.
Vipassanā Meditation Centre, Lot 146 in D.D. 319, Tung Wan, Shek Pik, Lantau Island
For a silent Catholic retreat in the tradition of Jesuit (also known as Ignatian) spirituality, visit Xavier House on Cheung Chau—you can arrange to conduct a personal retreat or take part in a guided retreat, though only applicants who have previously completed three- to five-day retreats will be accepted for the traditional guided retreats. During the longer eight-day stays, retreatants are directed to spend four hours a day in contemplative prayer; fittingly, there are plenty of quiet, scenic spots around the house. As the focus here is religion (not hospitality), the accommodation is basic but comfortable, and you will have to find your own way.
If you like the sound of the facilities but do not subscribe to Christianity, you can also visit Xavier House as part of a three-day silent yoga retreat by Vata Yoga, during which you will practice breathing exercises, tai chi, and yoga sequences based on Ayurveda principles.
Xavier House, 27 Peak Road West, Cheung Chau | (+852) 2981 0342
If you are interested in shorter Buddhist mindfulness retreats, visit Plum Village Hong Kong’s Lotus Pond Temple on Lantau Island. The one- to three-day retreats comprise daily guided meditation sessions, mindful walking, guided sitting meditation, Dharma talks, silence sessions, and tea meditation. Retreats are led in English and full schedules are available on the website, though meditation sessions are being held online until further notice due to the pandemic.
Plum Village, Lotus Pond Temple, Ngong Ping, Lantau Island