Wellness retreat RAKxa in Bangkok promotes ancient healing and medical science with a side of nature

Its mind-boggling range of treatments include IV infusions, food intolerance tests and hormone screening.

RAKxa Wellness & Medical Retreat is tucked away on Bangkok’s lush Bang Krachao island (All photos: RAKxa)

It is no secret that Malaysia’s corporate cognoscenti have long allocated at least a week of their annual schedules for a proper healthcare overhaul. Traditional holidays are all well and good but a medi-wellness getaway is more de rigueur than ever, enabling boardroom barons to return fitter, sharper and readier for action. From brutal fasting sessions assuaged only by the random cup of tomato consommé in Japan and dosha-based Ayurvedic panchakarma in Kerala, India, to the famed Kings Way detox programme at the Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in Baden-Baden, Germany, once described as the “Rolls-Royce of reboots” by The Times, there is no shortage of top-flight wellness destinations available; but few are aware that one stellar option lies just a hop and a skip away.

For a retreat that ticks all the boxes and then some (that is, unrivalled relaxation in soothingly luxurious environs that just happen to combine state-of-the-art procedures and pampering), the RAKxa Wellness & Medical Retreat in Bangkok is the perfect choice. Pronounced rahk-sah, the Thai word can mean to “conserve”, “guard”, “cherish” and “heal” all at once, reflecting the retreat’s founding pillars, which are to prevent illness and promote revival.


RAKxa Jai’s spa lobby

Just a two-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur followed by the shortest of drives (one hour equidistant from either Suvarnabhumi or Don Mueang International Airports), you can hardly believe you have landed in the bustling Thai capital once ensconced within the verdant 80-acre property on Bang Krachao, a small protected island right on the mighty Chao Phraya.

To those more accustomed to the well-established luxury Thai health retreats in Hua Hin or Koh Samui, do not be put off by RAKxa’s supposed city setting. Planted with at least 5,000 trees at a cost of millions of dollars, rightfully earning it the nickname of “the green lung of Bangkok”, barely 35% of RAKxa’s sprawling space has been developed to ensure a great sense of nature, restfulness and breathing room. What’s more, its wellness credentials are backed up by a partnership with Bumrungrad International Hospital and VitalLife Scientific Wellness Center, its anti-ageing arm, ensuring an unrivalled combination of wellness and science few other players can match. Already the recipient of numerous accolades, including but not limited to Thailand’s Best Wellness Retreat 2023 by World Spa Awards and Best Holistic Haven 2023 by Conde Nast Traveller Wellness & Spa Awards, come for a few short nights to instantly feel better or stay longer to undo all the damage caused by years of recalcitrant behaviour.


A villa with private pool

New arrivals to RAKxa are welcomed with a melody courtesy of a singing bowl and views that will immediately soothe the senses. The only tell-tale sign that you are in frenetic Bangkok is the tips of skyscrapers or a Buddhist wat peeping out from beyond the tree-lined horizon. Wellness journeys are completely and utterly bespoke and commence only after thorough assessments by a crack team of fitness, medical and wellness consultants. And depending on what your ultimate goals are (popular options include detoxing, destressing and weight management), feel free to ask the therapists to gently (or brutally) nurse your health and fitness levels back to optimum levels.

Regardless of whether you come for the day or stay for weeks, alternate between a blissful balance of East-meets-West treatments at RAKxa Jai (choose from 200 different holistic and alternative therapies), workouts at RAKxa Gaya (a cutting-edge medical gym specialising in corrective exercise, performance rehabilitation and neuromuscular training) and scientific remedies at VitalLife at RAKxa (the on-site medi-wellness centre that takes care of anti-ageing, physiotherapy and aesthetic issues). Nothing, of course, commences without, first, a two-pronged integrative approach that diagnoses one’s state of mind, being and way of life before solutions that combine treatment, nutrition, rest and lifestyle changes are proposed. The analyses can be in-depth and several guests might be horrified to find out their metabolic age could well be decades older than their physical age or that modern sedentary habits have weakened us to the point we can barely carry our own body weight. All these shortcomings, of course, lead to poor and compromised quality as well as length of life. They are hard, cold facts to face up to but, thankfully, RAKxa softens the blow with its elegant yet efficacious approach.


Whole Body Light Therapy

Energy medicine, fast on the rise worldwide, also has its place in the RAKxa universe. Those interested in alternative healing methods might be piqued to try crystal healing, which has its roots in ancient Egypt and Greece; Reiki; neurolight therapy or even RAKxa’s very own signature sleep enhancement, which melds ancient energy healing with sound therapy to ease tension and improve sleep quality, surely one of the key sources of good health and certainly one of the most evasive for burnt-out, overworked executives. If Asian healing traditions align closely with your beliefs, do know that RAKxa is a veritable microcosm of the best the region offers. Comprehensive Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine and traditional Thai treatments are all offered, including classic Shirodhara, guasha, acupuncture and moxibustion. Pro tip: Be sure to book a Thai Ya-Pao session, which detoxifies the body by way of herbal burning right on the abdomen itself! Do not fear the flames despite its fiery appearance. Designed to clear blockages and relieve discomfort, Thai Ya-Pao is as unforgettable as it looks.

Although its pampering is nonpareil, RAKxa takes its healthcare equally seriously, offering a mind-boggling range of treatments that include IV infusions, food intolerance tests, hormone screening, non-invasive spirometers that show the level of lung function (a boon for long Covid sufferers) and even toxic metal profiling to ensure your body and bloodstream are not loaded with harmful metals, such as lead, mercury and cadmium.


A soothing Shirodhara session

Naturally, the accommodation here is as luxurious as you would expect. Completely villa-centric, each unit, some with private pools, comes equipped with bicycles to enable guests to zip from one treatment to the other or perhaps avail themselves to the endless stream of complimentary activities, including Ai Chi (aquatic Tai Chi), yoga flow and fitball sessions. RAKxa’s extensive hydrothermal facilities, which include a herbal steam room, infrared sauna and vitality pool, also make it the perfect place to while away time before the next healing session begins. If you are loath to walk under the tropical sun or simply feel too spaced out after a particularly dreamy deep tissue massage, just remember that a butler-chauffeured buggy is but the press of a button away.

And lest you have heard horror stories of people paying small fortunes only to be starved or force-fed sliced pineapples for weeks, you need not worry. Meals — so vital to Malaysians — are of paramount importance at RAKxa as they are the source of nutrients and nourishment. The beautiful Unam restaurant is the main dining room and each guest will dine on curated menus that align with one’s personal goals or programme. A desire to focus on improving digestion or gut health, for example, would result in RAKxa’s team designing a synbiotically-driven menu rich in fibre, living bacteria and fermented foods just for you. Anti-inflammatory or immunity-boosting foods may also be catered for if you wish to re-examine or simply refine your dietary choices. Khun Bansani Nawisamphan, the jovial executive chef, is only ever too happy to tweak things or throw in a few surprises to delight you.


Even the dessert selections at Unam are indulgent yet happily guilt-free

The food served at RAKxa is also as far removed from one’s traditional idea of lean cuisine, less along the lines of gruel and boiled cabbage and more towards chicken leg confit with potato puree and poached baby vegetables; all for under 350 calories. Everything is also presented with Michelin-starred attention to detail (think a healthy, house-blended virgin aperitif and beautiful flatware and napkins) so you do not feel as if you are overly deprived or on an unglamorous fat farm. Meals elegantly close with a small pot of detoxifying corn silk tea or house-blended kombucha. Caffeinated drinks are permitted but served upon request. There is only one truly forbidden item: alcohol.

The first few days after checking in might not prove to be easy, particularly after a few weeks of endless merry-making, tossing of yee sang and indulging in pineapple tarts. But good things take time and sometimes it is making the all-important first step that really counts. Moreover, given how everyone is well-familiar with the old “health is wealth” adage, perhaps it is high time to finally let the latter augment the former.


This article first appeared on Feb 19, 2024 in The Edge Malaysia.


Follow us on Instagram