The Barai's intuitive selection of rituals is based on the Thai belief in balancing the four elements: water, earth, air and fire. While each element offers a pu pu platter of guilty pleasures not unlike a Jackie Collins novel, I go with "Earth" as it promises maximum restoration. After two weeks of Thai gluttony, my pores are paved over with coconut red curry. It begins with a fragrant bath of sandalwood, lime and ginger. Next, my therapist lulls stubborn muscles into compliance with an indigo compress massage rooted in the ancient healing art practice of Hmong shamans. This therapy combines curative properties of freshly steamed root herbs, clove and black pepper. The ritual concludes with a cleansing moor-mud facial - a saving grace in this delicious tropical swelter. In 80-degree heat, I'm slick as a sweaty Rottweiler on a pork-rind diet. As the oil-balancing mask sets, she takes her sweet time cupping and pulling my fingers with a milking motion.
The Earth ritual delivers head-to-toe conditioning. Warm compresses dissolve tension and improve muscular alignment. The moor-mud facial mask remineralizes skin by sloughing off dead skin cells and resolving deeper impurities. An immense, often under-acknowledged benefit of a spa stay is the "lift" we feel from serene surroundings. Design is all too often seen as frivolous. As Thailand's newest spa masterpiece, The Barai assumes the spaces we're drawn to profoundly influence our full potential.
The Barai is the most luxurious go-to spa that any self-respecting hedonist with ample expendables must visit. Designed by renowned Thai architect Lek Bunnag, the spa conjures the mystical tropes of 11th-century Khmer ruins. The architecture guides you on a journey of the mind as much as the body - tunnels and footpaths strategically slow your pace, the first and last thing you see lying face up is an open-air portal two storeys high. Fortress-high saffron walls protect the spa from onlookers, like a citadel choosing to reveal its spoils to a select few. Once inside, the luxurious expanse of this eight-suite residential spa makes the average destination-spa guest room look like a laundry basket. Space and light prevail in suites as large as a Manhattan penthouse - a spa-lover's dream come true. Enjoy a bed big enough for six - literally - measuring three metres by three metres, one of only eight beds of this size in the world.
The Barai at The Hyatt Regency Hua Hin, 91 Hua Hin - Khao Takiap Road; Thailand; 66-3-252-1234; thebarai.com; $208 for three hours, 15 minutes.
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