Wellness Building Blocks

Writer Stephanie Shiu | December 3, 2018

When you think of health retreats in Asia, Thailand or Bali likely spring to mind first, wellness naturally ingrained in the way of life there. Sangha by Octave sets out to change perceptions with its Suzhou property, described neither as a hotel or a spa, but a holistic healthcare centre where guests must be enrolled in a programme to stay. A passion project of brothers and co-founders Fred and Calvin Tsao, Village is a communal area with a town hall, auditorium and market plaza serving comfort food made healthy outside the dedicated retreat area.  Sangha Villas are available for sale – but only after an interview with one of the chairmen, who screens potentials buyers to ensure they are like-minded in their health goals.

The minimal design skirting serene Yangcheng Lake makes it a perfect spot to escape life and focus solely on health. No one under the age of 16 is allowed in the retreat space (Sangha Residences instead cater to families), creating an atmosphere conducive to healing, and may be the most tranquil place I’ve been in China, the nearest town a half hour drive away. While wellness travel is relatively new here, Sangha’s very existence demonstrates an openness to change, and guests will have full access to a team of medical specialists at At One Clinic. Many details within the At One Suites prioritise wellness such as handwoven allergen-free rugs and salt crystals lights said to emit healing energy as you slumber.


The day begins with meditation in a tee pee-like pod with high ceilings, mats, blankets and bolsters encircling a rainbow of singing bowls. Angela guides us through a few rounds of chanting ‘om’, and hand movements with each inhale and exhale to help us focus on the breath. We are relieved when it’s time to lie down and zone out to the soothing vibrations of singing bowls reverberating in our heads. Complimentary activities are available for guests each day.

After reviewing the health questionnaire Dr Dante Lee, head of Regenerative/Anti Aging at Sangha, runs me through the clinic’s holistic approach to well-being before a barrage of tests which include an InBody assessment that provides a body composition analysis, MaxPulse which gives a reading on the autonomic nervous system, while the arterial health test shows the condition of blood vessels and circulation.

The Oligoscan tests for minerals and results point to a zinc deficiency, while the heavy metal test indicates high levels of aluminium, eye-opening for things to keep an eye on. Perhaps most concerning was the Thermograph which identifies different temperatures in the body to give an idea of inflammation, and can sometimes be used to detect cancer. Dr Lee shows me on screen the areas with a higher temperature, putting a slight dampener on the rest of the afternoon.

All practitioners, from the chiropractor to the acupuncturist I see next, are informed of the test results, demonstrating thorough communication between the medical team, though I wonder the extent to which it affects an objective diagnosis. Hydrothermal facilities offer respite in the afternoon, including a herbal steam room, salt cave, infrared and Finnish saunas, and my favourite – the sound chair – which plays music and lights up with different colours for an oddly soothing experience.

The day ends with a smoothing body scrub followed by the Sangha Rebirth Massage, a signature treatment designed to release energy blocks through tension-release techniques which boost circulation and release muscle aches for a sense of serenity, and the best part of today. Dinner at Thought for Food, the sole eatery for Sangha by Octave guests is four delicious courses of chicken salad in mustard dressing, aubergine and coconut soup, tender beef rib and pumpkin tart.

The passion of its experienced personnel are essential in making this exciting project have a ripple effect in national health, not just in transforming guests at the individual level, but also the wider society