|The view from my balcony. By the way, when you live in Abu Dhabi, weather is not an issue when you travel. Rain? Welcome.|
The cool thing about this experience is that it was years ago, like 15 or more, when I first heard about this place. For some reason I was reading an interview with Liz Hurley and she said Chiva Som was one of her favourite places in the world. On my teeny reporter salary, bending under the weight of massive student debt, I remember thinking: "Oh man, would I ever love to go to a place like that! Too bad it will never happen."
Flash forward. On the strength of an enthusiastic recommendation from The National's Travel editor, Rosemary Behan (the woman has travelled), sealed by promises of detox, beautiful healthy food and daily massages, I booked.
Long story short: The place is ahhhhmazing: tranquil, run like clockwork, gorgeous food, great treatments, great service and wonderful, personal touches. Among the many things I loved about the experience: fresh fruit in my room every morning, colourful flowers and lush greenery everywhere, a session with a trainer that involved nothing by him stretching me - it hurt so good - and the steamiest steam room around.
The portions of food are very small, so you get back in touch with how much you really should be eating (and how much less it is than what you have been eating); the check-in manager circulates your picture so that everyone seems to know you from the outset and, well, it's all accompanied by the sound of waves crashing into shore, which is really the best salve for the soul in a tizzy that I've come across.
As you can imagine, such a place draws a true gathering of characters. On my trip there were two authors: the American journalist Judith Horstmann, who was there to speak about her fourth and latest book The Aging Brain; Zoe Bingley-Pullin, a successful chef, nutritionist and media personality in Sydney who is also a Chiva Som ambassador to Australia, author of my newest cookbook Eat Taste Nourish and basically the healthiest person I have ever met; and Pat Thummanond, who does a form of bodywork called Core Synthesis that I swear reduced my persistent back pain by about 65 per cent, for which I am very grateful. And it's all, for the last eight months, expertly run by a Canadian general manager: Sheila McCann.
I met a British lawyer based in Hong Kong who had been to the resort 19 times; he was on his way to Myanmar to spend several days training judges; an Aussie in property who decided at age 50 to take exciting vacations. He has swam between islands and hiked in the Andes, and up next is considering a trip to the far Canadian north to live with Inuits and observe whales. I am also halfway convinced Dominique Strauss-Kahn was in the house, or maybe that was just another white-haired French man in a bathrobe breaking the resort rule of no electronic devices in common areas by speaking French on his mobile phone by the pool.
Regardless, I am back, restored from once-in-a-lifetime chance to step away, heal, reassess and rejuvenate completed. Thank you Chiva Som.