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Detoxing in Paradise on the Island of Phuket

Shelly Ross
Whisk and Quill, Guest Contributor
March 2015

Atsumi on The Island of Phuket, Thailand

Atsumi on The Island of Phuket, Thailand

I am in a beautiful a tropical setting, lying face down on a flowered cushion and covered with a beautiful batik sheet.  A strong, nimble and serene Thai woman is giving me the daily massage of my choice.  It is a warm day and a soft breeze rustles the tinkling seashell curtains as the swaths of batik that surround my thatched hut flutter in the air.  Exotic birds call to each other in a language unfamiliar to me.  A soothing fountain flows melodiously nearby.  I hear someone in the distance chanting prayers and the aroma of surrounding flowers, coconut and aromatherapy oils waft in and out of my senses.  There are only the sounds of a symphony of all that is pleasant and soothing.  I am totally in the present and completely content as I savor the experience.  And unlike the dread I have often felt at the end of a relaxing massage, I know I will be doing this every day for the next three weeks.

This year my getaway options were limited to one trip, so I needed to choose carefully if I wanted it to be perfect.  These were my parameters.

* It had to be affordable, but it also must be pleasant and beautiful.  I wanted to feel comfortable traveling solo.

* It had to be culturally interesting.

* It had to be near a beach.

* And, just as importantly, it needed to be a trip that wouldn’t add to my waistline.

It took most of the winter to cobble together a plan that would meet all my conditions, but finally, I chose my dream vacation.  I didn’t know then that this trip would also become a personal journey for me.

Over the past 25 years my education and my professional life have focused on learning about and creating health, both for myself, and others.  And I believe that we teach, what we need to learn.   As with everything in life, it is not easy to follow a strict regime and adhere to the all of the basics of a healthy lifestyle, but we do our best.  I wanted to see if I could follow a healthful regime and still have fun.

My choice to go to the Atsumi Detox Retreat and Healing Center in Phuket, Thailand initially felt challenging in many respects.  Having previously experienced a brief stint at a well-known health/detox center in the U. S., I knew that it could be challenging and prohibitively expensive to boot.  But at Atsumi I was in for a wonderful surprise.  My fasting program was a breeze.  The added bonus was that I met such a diverse and stimulating group of people from all over the world while having the vacation of a lifetime.  Even the getting there was easy.  Rather than being taxed by the long flight, I luxuriated in the care, comfort and attention from the Thai Airways attendants.

Fasting is an amazing energy boost, helping to re-boot your health, boost your immune system, flush out toxins, lose excess weight and water, and strengthen your ability to fight off illness.  And there are a myriad of other rejuvenating benefits.  I find it to be safer, less daunting and much easier to accomplish with the guidance and support of professionals and the joy and camaraderie of like-minded friends.  At Atsumi you can choose from various levels of fasting, including juicing and simple raw food fasts.

Never, in all my years of extensive travel, have I stayed in a place where all of the staff was so supportive, accommodating, cheerful and graciously efficient, going out of their way to assist with even the most trivial request.  I did, indeed, feel welcome in every way.

The grounds are beautifully landscaped and the accommodations comfortable and spotlessly maintained.  The Center is located on the south end of the island (not as crowded as the more touristy areas of Phuket) and the beaches are the most pristine.

Founded 13 years ago, Atsumi is the first of its kind in the area and the most all-encompassing experience.  Anna, the delightful Thai woman who is the founder and hands-on owner, is a big part of the Atsumi day.  She keeps the Center dynamic and moving forward with new offerings and wonderful amenities.

Our days began with the early morning gatherings where we joined our compatriots (all very friendly, as we are in this together!).  There we drank ginger tea and shots of wheatgrass and chose the therapies we would like.  These could be outside trips, massages and/or cleansing colemas.  We also enjoyed an exercise event that varied each day and there were many to choose from – – a mountain view or beach walk, yoga, horseback riding, an exercise circuit, or Pilates to name a few – – all just challenging enough to sweat, but gently geared for us fasting folks.

Outdoor living and relaxing

Outdoor living and relaxing

The middle of the day offered a ride to and from the beach and on scheduled days, a temple trip, a visit to the large Buddha on the hill, or a luxury taxi available for sightseeing and shopping.  Phuket is a very popular destination for travelers, so it is a treat to visit the city and admire the sights.  If you like, Anna can arrange a visit to a local orphanage where even small donations are welcomed.

In the evenings you can go to a bustling night market, watch Thai boxing matches, take a Salsa dance class, or just practice yoga and meditation.  In between all of these electives, are cleansing drinks and your appointments.  If you are on a raw food fast, fresh salads and fruit are delivered to your room and iced fresh coconut water is readily available at the bar.  Thankfully with all these engaging activities I was too busy to think about eating.

Healthy and delicious detox food delivered to your room

Healthy and delicious detox food delivered to your room

What I loved about my stay was that whenever I wanted to I could relax by the pool, swim, take a book to the reading area, watch a movie or sleep all day.  It’s as laid back or as busy as you like with no pressure to adhere to anyone else’s schedule.

I particularly noticed how quiet and serene it is.  You almost have to wonder where everyone is.   I marveled in the incredible menu of therapeutic options including a long list of quality healing modalities (some quite exotic).  Spa offerings do cost extra, but are priced much less than in the States.  All of the practitioners are highly professional and their different techniques are worth exploring.  One of my favorite classes was on raw food cooking.  It was conducted by, Toh, the utterly charming and hilarious concierge of Atsumi.

For two of my three weeks a friend, who had been to Atsumi before and was eager to pay a return visit, joined me.  We couldn’t resist pushing the envelope and decided to explore the area on rented motorbikes, riding around with the wind in our hair.  Some called us Thelma and Louise, though we felt more like Peter Fonda and Woody Harrelson.

As my friend was ending her stay and transitioning out from the raw food part of her program, she suggested we try some Thai food and local lobster.  After a day of preparation for the change in diet, one of resort’s drivers took us to a luxurious outdoor restaurant on the water where we enjoyed our last evening together.  Upon our return the staff just smiled and said, “Hey, you gotta have fun!”  No pressure or judgment – – they’re just available for guidance.

On my last week I had my second go at seven more days of the raw food fast.  What I came away with after this incredible voyage of health and spiritualism was a time of deep relaxation, a boost to my body from guided and safe fasting, a wellspring of inspiration, further education, new and interesting friends, a glowing tan, and lasting deposits in my memory bank.

My personal journey was about a sense of strength, accomplishment, independence, perspective and freedom which wouldn’t have been complete without the experience of lovely Phuket, those ubiquitous Thai smiles, a bit of authentic Thai cuisine and bathing in the blue waters of the Andaman Sea.  What I came away with was the best trip I’ve ever experienced.  What I left behind was ten pounds.

To learn more about the Atsumi Healing Center visit

Shelly Ross

Shelly Ross

Shelly Ross is a seeker of adventure who has been chipping away at her ‘bucket list’.  She is the founder and owner of The Natural Marketplace, a health food store and organic deli she opened 25 years ago in Warrenton, Virginia, an hour’s drive from Washington, DC.  Shelly is a Certified Nutritional Consultant, certified in Raw Food and Superfoods Education, and a member of the Association of Drugless Practitioners.  In addition, she has attended many years of herbal school, homeopathy classes, nutritional courses, supplementation seminars and self-education in the field of health and wellness.  After exploring vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic and a few other lifestyles, she is now a gluten-free omnivore adding consciously raised, quality Paleo protein; raw dairy products; and organic raw and cooked vegetables to her diet.

For more information about her Warrenton store visit

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