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6 unique wellness retreats in Asia you need to check out

By Inés Fung 21 January 2020

Asia is home to some of the world's top wellness retreats, specialising in everything from Ayurveda to meditation. Life in Hong Kong can get hectic at times, and it's beneficial for your personal growth to set time aside for your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Here are our top picks for wellness retreats in Asia for a much-needed dose of R&R, suited to a range of budgets and needs.

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Signature Culinary Retreat at Fivelements Retreat, Ubud, Bali

Cuisine for Life™ is a plant-based culinary programme for foodies (leading a plant-based lifestyle or otherwise) at Fivelements Retreat in Bali that focuses on plant-powered cuisine theory as well as hands-on culinary training under one of the world’s most highly regarded gourmet vegan and vegetarian cuisine team. The Fivelements culinary team will take you through techniques such as juicing, sprouting, and fermenting every morning, then you'll get to heal your body with traditional Balinese inspired therapies, handcrafted with all-natural, locally-sourced ingredients at the healing sanctuary in the afternoon. You’ll also have time to explore the gorgeous property, overlooking the revered Ayung River. The retreat's eco-friendly villas aren’t too shabby, either. You'll definitely leave feeling lighter and healthier, and armed with more knowledge to lead a plant-based lifestyle when you return home.

Fivelements, Puri Ahimsa Banjar Baturning, Mambal, Bali, Indonesia

Practice mindfulness at Rice Terrace Villa Sasayuri-ann Zao, Nara, Japan

Named after the sasayuri lily that once flourished across the Japanese countryside, Rice Terrace Villa Sasayuri-ann Zao is an authentic Japanese thatched-roof villa that was almost lost to history. Sasayuri-ann Zao was born out of a 200-year-old renovated traditional mountain house on a hill where the lilies now bloom once more, and offers two to ten guests an exclusive historic and rejuvenating getaway to reconnect with each other and their own selves.

Owned and operated by the friendly Tetsuji Matsubayashi, a highly regarded shugendo monk who’s travelled extensively and speaks English fluently, you and your closest friends and family will be able to experience rich cultural lessons and workshops such as shakuhachi (bamboo flute), horagai (conch shell trumpet), Yoga and Zen meditation, organic farming, live ninja demonstrations and Iga pottery. Matsubayashi-san trained at the same sacred yoga grounds in India that The Beatles also visited, which is why yoga practice is available here. The surrounding area is also filled with amazing natural and spiritual destinations like the 48 waterfalls path in Akame, the Nabari ninja village and training school, and Japan's second oldest shrine, Murou-ji Temple.

Sasayuri-ann Zao, 656 Fukano, Muro, Uda-city, Nara, 632-0203, Japan

Ayurvedic Detox & Renewal at Origin Yoga & Wellness Retreat Center, Baishawan, Taiwan

Sibling duo Lydia and Edward started Origin as a passion project, restoring their rustic childhood beach house into a yoga and wellness retreat centre to share their love for natural healing and healthy living. They offer a three- or six-day Ayurvedic Detox & Renewal retreat at their idyllic beach house—an all-inclusive programme featuring daily restorative yoga, pranayama, and meditation, as well as nourishing home-cooked family meals and an Ayurvedic wellness consultation, in addition to massages and Shirodhara treatment.

You’ll also get the chance to try out Edward’s home-brewed organic vegan kombucha to aid your health and fitness journey at Origin. The retreat is intimate, as the breezy beach house only accommodates up to eight guests, and you’re sure to make friends for life when everyone chants Om on the peaceful beach lying just steps away.

Origin Yoga & Wellness Retreat Center, 18 Haiwan Xincheng, Shimen District, New Taipei City

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Vana Lifestyle Retreat at Vana Retreat

Vana is a forest refuge for everyone, and they truly believe in deepening personal awareness, reconnecting with nature, and wellbeing both inside and out. Vanavasis (the Sanskrit term for 'forest-dwellers') who embark on the Lifestyle Retreat will be fully settled into the grounds, exploring all pillars of Vana’s philosophy of wisdom, wellness, learning, and giving, as well as encouraging physical transformation via functional fitness sessions and special diet plans.

While group activities like yoga, meditation, Raag therapy and cooking classes are all integral to a Vanavasi’s daily routine, you are also encouraged to spend time alone and find your own pace to truly allow for growth. Vana has daily quiet hours and conducts various Pujas throughout the month to pay homage to their Gurus and deities for the benefit of all beings.

All retreats offered at Vana include: a comprehensive wellness programme, arrival and departure wellness consultations, full-board meals, private treatments, consultations and sessions, as well as attire for any season to wear throughout the forest. If you choose to join their (minimum) two-week Vana Lifestyle Retreat, be prepared to leave feeling transformed as new habits take root and you find deeper clarity.

Vana Retreat, Mussoorie Road, Dehradun, 248001, India

Surf Camp at Solid Surf House, Canggu, Bali

Best friends and surfing enthusiasts Jordy and Berryl founded Solid Surf House in the heart of Canggu back in 2014, and it quickly became a solid (we couldn’t resist) choice for beginners and experts alike to come together on an intimate surf retreat. Solid offers a “one package fits all” week-long camp deal that will have you staying in an authentic Balinese villa with like-minded surfers while improving your surfing skills and yoga form.

A big breakfast is served after yoga every morning to get you ready for the physically demanding day, which is inclusive of daily surf transport, surf guiding and lessons, Dusk till Dawn sessions for intermediate and advanced surfers, and free surfing around Bali’s beautiful beaches. Boards and lycra are also provided, so all you really need to bring is yourself. Personal surf analysis videos as well as surf & wave theory nights happen weekly, and on the Sundays off you can buzz around on your scooter (with a board rack of course) to check out everything Bali has to offer, or just lounge around the laid-back villa.

It also helps that Solid Surf House is right by the popular Finns Beach Club, and your entry is free if you're part of the training camp. As if you need more enticement, know that the money you fork out will be paid forward, going towards a great cause: supporting Balinese local dog shelters.

Solid Surfhouse Canggu Bali, Jalan Raya Semat, Gang Bekul 8, Berawa, Canggu, Bali, Indonesia

Beauty & Slow-Ageing Immersion at Amanemu, Shima, Japan

A new addition to the Aman family, the Amanemu onsen resort opened in the east coast of Japan overlooking Ago Bay, a region known for the holy Shinto site the Ise Grand Shrine and the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails. You’re sure to be wowed by the natural beauty of both the hills where Amanemu is situated, as well as the minimalist Japanese architecture of Amanemu’s buildings.

The name Amanemu is derived from “aman”, the Sanskrit word for peace, and “nemu”, the Japanese word for sharing joy, and those are the two things you’ll find here. Built on the principle that the signs of ageing are closely connected to overall health, Amanemu's Beauty & Slow-Ageing Immersion programme aims to slow the signs of ageing by purifying you from within and without, drawing on a range of time-tested Japanese wellbeing practices like zazen seated meditation and hot spring baths to relax the mind, strengthen the body, and reinvigorate the spirit. Amanemu’s spa also incorporates the time-tested herb-based healing practice Kampo that was derived from traditional Chinese medicine to help you achieve your goals.

The daily treatments and therapies you’ll experience in your programme are determined by on-arrival consultation, so you can expect the utmost care and personalised physical and spa therapies to restore you. You will also be prescribed herbal teas twice a day and lots of nutrition and lifestyle advice to take home when you leave the sacred mountains.

Amanemu, 2165 Hazako Hamajima-cho, Shima-shi, Mie, 517-0403 Japan

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Inés Fung

Part-time editor

Currently based in Hong Kong by way of Calgary, Inés has always had a passion for writing and her creative work can be found in obscure literary zines. When she’s not busy scouring the city for the best gin-based cocktail, she can be found curled up with her journal and fur-ever friend Peanut. Don’t be surprised if you cross paths with her and she already knows all your mates.