Finding Balance in Bangkok

Writer Véronique Lo | December 10, 2018

Sticking to a healthy routine on the road can be difficult – jet lag and a packed itinerary may leave us exhausted and with little time for the gym, mouthwatering local delicacies making overindulgence excusable. But what if you can incorporate wellness into memorable experiences? In Bangkok, Anantara has created wellness journeys that not only redirect your attention to well-being, but also uncover lesser-known sides of the metropolis.

On the River

Away from the high-rises, traffic jams and noise, Anantara Bangkok Riverside Resort is truly an urban oasis. With its tropical design and serene location on the bank of Chao Phraya River, it offers a rare resort experience just 20 minutes from the heart of the city by boat. A boat ride on the ‘River of Kings’, which passes through a number of historic sites such as Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn, is a unique journey on its own; and the hotel has now launched a new way to experience Bangkok’s lifeline.    

Begin your Saturday early at the resort jetty where your yoga instructor awaits you by the century-old Manohra cruise ship. At 8am, our group of five boarded the beautiful antique barge to find yoga mats already laid out on the floor. As the boat sailed leisurely down the river, we began a gentle, grounding practice with hip-opening poses done sitting or lying down, as well as breath work to refresh and awaken the mind. It’s a multisensory journey: the soft touch of cool breeze on the face; iconic sights along the river; murmurs of early morning river traffic – the absence of music was deliberate and I enjoyed the soothing sounds of our surroundings. I had no idea how much time had passed when we finally settled into savasana, which was pure bliss. With my eyes closed, I felt as though my heart was beating to the gentle rhythm of the waves, my body relaxed and free, swaying from side to side as the boat approached Wat Arun.

I could have stayed in this peaceful, meditative state much longer, but a glance at the colourful breakfast spread beckoned. From fresh and dried fruit, yoghurt to bread and pastries from the resort’s artisan bakery and restaurant Numero Uno Cafe, the breakfast not only delights the taste buds but nourishes with natural, nutritious ingredients. You can make your own juice blend – I opted for carrot and celery for a dose of vitamins. On the way back we made the most of photo opportunities and time to chat with our instructor and new friends, while enjoying tasty bites and teas; there was no better way to begin the weekend.      

In the Park 

If you prefer staying in the city centre, Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel is one of the prestigious addresses in the heart of Ratchaprasong district, which is known for high-street shopping and the Erawan Shrine. Even in this busy part of the city can one find tranquillity and balance, thanks to the hotel’s Morning Wellness at Siam programme.

The day starts early with a Tak Bart ritual at 6am, when a Buddhist monk visits the hotel’s lobby to receive alms of food, flowers and incense sticks from guests and staff, and to bless those taking part in this tradition of making merit. This simple custom reflects the Buddhist philosophy of giving without expectation.

Lighthearted after observing the ritual, I followed my yoga teacher Mon to Lumpini Park, a refreshing 15-minute walk from the hotel. Aside from yoga, guests can choose to practise tai chi or qi gong. I was surprised to find plenty of local joggers already at the park even though it was barely 7am. Most people had a big smile or a look of concentration on their faces. It was tempting to join them – such was the positive energy that filled the air that day – but we had found the perfect spot for sun salutations.

On a patch of green near the lake, Mon and I rolled out our mats; the morning sun slowly rising to warm our bodies as we stretch. Mon’s style was dynamic and flowing, and she encouraged me to push further when I thought I had reached my limit. It was satisfying to discover I could maintain my balance doing tree pose with my eyes closed. “The trick is to focus 100 per cent and be in the now,” she said. “It’s the same for many things in life.”

Whereas yoga on the river was a freeing experience, yoga in the park was profoundly grounding, each inhale filling my lung with crisp air, reconnecting me to the earth. At one point a chubby monitor lizard emerged from the lake and stretched out lazily on the grass, like it was going to join us. Our hour-long session concluded with a few mindful moments, where we simply closed our eyes and enjoyed the nature around us.

Before a tuk-tuk took us back to the hotel, a picnic breakfast was prepared for us – an indulgent yet nutritious reward post-exercise of yoghurt, quinoa salad, fruit and chicken (or shrimp), smoked salmon sandwich, all-bran muffin, homemade granola and delicious juices.

At the Spa

Back at the hotel, the Morning Wellness at Siam programme continues with an hour of Chakra Crystal Balancing therapy at the spa. Created to induce a deep state of relaxation, the treatment uses various healing crystals on different chakras, while the therapist gives a gentle massage that stimulates energy flow and circulation, as well as releases tension both physically and emotionally. I inevitably fell asleep during the relaxing treatment, but felt energised and ready to explore the bustling city upon waking.

Guests staying at the Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort also have access to the wonderful Anantara Spa. While spa treatments are not included in the Wellness on the River programme, you won’t regret booking a massage to soothe aching muscles after a long day out.

With my eyes closed, I felt as though my heart was beating to the gentle rhythm of the waves, my body relaxed and free