Asia Gardens Hotel and Thai Spa does exactly what it says on the tin. The gardens are lush, lovely and tropical, flowing around the hotel almost literally – there is a series of interlinked ponds with water lilies and koi carp, little wooden bridges and numerous discreet fountains, making just enough of a splash to calm the weary mind. At the waters’ edge are bamboo groves and banana plants, palm trees and bougainvillea – and orange trees. Because this particular Thai spa is not in Thailand at all but in spitting distance (perish the thought) of Benidorm.
Having said that, the ethos here couldn’t be less Benidorm. It’s a 5* hotel, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World club and high on a hillside from which you can see both the sparkling sea and the mountains. No sound of raucous hen parties or whiffs of fish and chips penetrate here. It is a little oasis of calm. And, in particular, Thai calm. Just about everyone in the hotel wears Thai dress, not just the therapists in the spa. The hotel is a series of buildings around a huge atrium with a steep thatched roof and filled with rattan sofas, beautiful wooden far eastern furniture and massive vases of flowers. The ceiling fans use woven hand fans as their paddles. There are seated Buddhas, reclining Buddhas and meditating Buddhas. Indoor fountains and waterfalls plash and the scent of lilies and incense waft through the air.
So far, so Asian. But there are typically Spanish elements, too. The external walls are red and decidedly Moorish (there’s a hint of Marrakech here). There’s tortilla for breakfast (yum) and mealtimes are definitely Spanish. Lunch is one till four (or five) and, for dinner, the restaurant is pretty quiet till around nine. Speaking of meals, there are five restaurants of which my favourites were La Palapa (Mediterranean cuisine by the main pool), The Island (as you’d imagine on an island between the pools) and In Black, the fine dining restaurant with such delicacies as “seared scallop salad with vanilla sweet potato in a mango and green apple vinaigrette” or “salted fish from Alicante with guacamole peas, fresh seaweed and fried almond ice cream”. There’s a Champagne Lobby and the Bonsai Bar, too, so you’ll by now be in no doubt that Asia Gardens is not the kind of spa where you come for a major stint of abstinence.
It is, nevertheless, very serious in its spa philosophy. All the therapists here come from Thailand and are graduates of the Wat Po Temple in Bangkok (a kind of university of Thai massage) and they are experts in a variety of eastern massages – Balinese, Ayurvedic (Indian)– as well as Lomi Lomi, a Hawaiian one. The Thai attitude to health is a fusion of the Chinese and the Indian and, like them, regards the body and mind as inextricably linked. By working on the body, you can achieve peace of mind. And by working on the mind – in such practices as meditation – you can relieve stress within the body. Asia Gardens runs courses (from three days to ten) focused very much on the spa and with a special healthy meal plan in the restaurants. Alternatively, like me, you can just come along and sample the spa and the daily classes that feature such mind-body techniques as yoga, meditation, Tai chi and Chi Kung.
I was booked in for a Thai massage but its description in Asian Gardens’ directory left me feeling just a little anxious. “This technique,” it said, “from the days of the Buddha, combines pressure on acupuncture points with stretching. The ‘dador’ who gives the massage, will walk on top of the guest imitating the elephant dance, putting pressure on specific points, thereby producing a great muscular discharge while also helping the guest to become aware of their own body.”
Now, I’m all in favour of more awareness and I’m as fond as the next woman of elephants, but I did have a knee injury and wasn’t sure that someone dancing on it was quite going to do the trick for me. It was not, as it turned out, a problem. I switched to a Balinese massage with oil that featured a cat-like tread rather than an elephant dance as Veni, my therapist, worked her way up my legs and back, gently using her weight to iron out tension and tightness. It was a wonderfully oily massage and, unlike Thai massage (which can feel somewhat like osteopathy), it didn’t feature any manipulation. Veni smoothed the oil in and used her knuckles like rollers to sort out the knots as well as working on plenty of pressure points, especially on my hands and feet. I particularly liked the movement that criss-crossed under my lower back on to the belly and ended with a hand clap!
After the massage, Veni moved seamlessly on to a facial where a series of products – warm, cool, rough, oily – were applied with pattering fingertips or kneading massage and pressure point work. While I lay with a face mask and a cooling eye mask Veni gave me yet another massage over the shoulders and scalp, then again on my hands and feet. Toes and fingers stretched and popped. A variety of smells drifted through the room – iris, cocoa butter, vanilla, green tea and others I couldn’t quite identify. Then the sound of gentle reverberations filled the room as Veni chimed her Tibetan cymbals three times. And my Asian spa experience was at an end. Benidorm – who’d have thought it?
The five star Asia Gardens Hotel & Thai Spa is a luxurious 311-bedroom five star property located in one of the most privileged spots on the Mediterranean coast, 150 metres above sea level on the slopes of the Sierra Cortina. The property is a unique concept that combines contemporary luxury with the opulence of Indian and Thai palaces gone by – transporting guests into another world where Asia meets the Mediterranean. The area surrounding the hotel enjoys a year round microclimate, guaranteeing stable, warm temperatures throughout the year.
From the Balinese influence on the rooms, to the private Thai spa cabins and expanse of Asian-styled tropical gardens with spectacular views over the Mediterranean, everything is designed to bring complete peace of mind. With over 160 different botanical species and rambling water features throughout the resort, the subtle Eastern scents and soothing sounds of Asia Gardens promises the ultimate in exclusivity and relaxation.
Rooms start from €270 per room, per night in a double deluxe room with breakfast based on two people sharing. To book, please visit www.asiagardens.es or call +34 966 818400.