With the increasing popularity of wellness travel, the definition of what wellness entails can include anything from active vacations to meditation to quirky experiences like goat yoga. Abercrombie & Kent is embracing a holistic concept of wellness through a new line of trips offering guests a wide variety of wellness-inspired activities that highlight the local culture.
As a guest of A&K, I recently participated in one of the company's Southeast Asia wellness itineraries. Starting off in Bangkok, we visited several of the city's temples and received a private monk blessing after giving alms.
Next we flew to Luang Prabang, Laos, where we were welcomed by a shaman who performed a traditional baci blessing ceremony, bestowing each of us with string bracelets for good luck. The next day we arose early to drive to a spectacular waterfall with turquoise water and limestone cliffs, where we took part in a private guided meditation session before taking a dip in the falls.
Our next stop was Siem Reap, Cambodia, where we explored the famous Angkor temples, both on foot and on bicycle, accompanied by an expert guide who explained the history and significance of the intricate carvings throughout the temple complexes. We ended the journey with a few relaxing beach days at Six Senses Krabey Island, located on a private island that is a 10-minute boat ride off the southwest coast of Cambodia. We spent two days exploring the 30-acre island and walking the boardwalk that zigzags its way along much of the shore, past small caves and through rock outcropping to a picturesque beach.
The trip also offered a variety of educational and cultural experiences. In Luang Prabang we visited a local rice farm, where we learned about the steps to making rice noodles, from planting the seedlings to husking the shells and grinding the grains with traditional tools. In Siem Reap, we visited a local family benefitting from one of the many wells built in the area to provide fresh drinking water, a project funded by Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy. On Krabey Island we participated in a cooking class using herbs grown on the island and locally caught fish and enjoyed the fruits of our labor over lunch.
Accommodations fit the bill
In addition to the experiences, each of the five-star, boutique luxury hotels we stayed in lent itself to the wellness theme.
In Bangkok, we stayed at the Siam Hotel, where guests enter through the registration area and walk into a magnificent courtyard with an elevated reflecting pool feeding towering plants, and any outside traffic noise disappears. The Siam is located on the Chao Phraya River, and guests can take a ride in the hotel's boat for a river cruise or to be dropped off in the city. At the hotel's Opium Spa, along with the usual massages and spa offerings, guests can book a traditional Sak Yant tattoo inked by a former Buddhist monk.
Cathay Pacific has created a yoga and meditation space at the Pier Business Class lounge at Hong Kong Airport. -- B.B.
In Luang Prabang, we stayed at the picturesque and tranquil Rosewood Hotel. From the reception area, the hotel opens up to a beautiful outdoor pool area highlighted in the background by a waterfall that is part of a small river that runs through the property. The 23-unit hotel is spread out over two acres, and accommodations include hillside tents with fantastic views of the surrounding countryside as well as riverside suites and villas. I stayed in one of the latter, in a cozy room that featured a balcony overlooking a private plunge pool, all of which overlooked the small waterfall.
In Siem Reap we stayed at the Phum Baitang, a Zannier hotel. The hotel's name translates to "green village," and it couldn't be more fitting, with 45 villas set among a series of lush, green rice paddies and fields that provide the feeling of being deep in the countryside, as opposed to minutes from town. Twenty of the villas come with plunge pools and private terraces, and the hotel features an enormous infinity pool overlooking the grounds.
Our last destination, Six Senses Krabey Island, featured 40 private villas spread out around the island, two restaurants and an extensive spa with an open-air yoga pavilion. I stayed in a secluded ocean pool villa suite, which came with a private plunge pool and lounge area and provided great sunset views over the ocean.
And while both the activities and the properties supported the wellness-themed trip, perhaps the aspect of the trip that was best for the mind, body and soul was the A&K service. For the duration of the trip, we were accompanied by our resident tour director, who was there to answer questions and tell us where to be and when. During airport transfers, we were provided with fast-track service: met at each locale by an airport employee who guided us through immigration and customs, bypassing lines and rarely even having to handle our own luggage. Never having to worry about how early to show up at the airport, how much to tip or how to get from point A to point B meant we could fully relax and just enjoy the trip.
Rates for A&K's 13-day Southeast Asia wellness itinerary start at $8,995. For more information on the company's other wellness-focused tours, visit www.abercrombiekent.com.