An Invitation to Transformation
I sat on the front porch with three plates before me. One was of colorful exotic fruits, and the other two were heaping salads. This would be my sustenance for the next five days. This wasn’t dieting; this was detoxing. I sat on the massive porch of the Atsumi Healing Center Lakeside Cottage, an economy room that had a massive front porch, on a simple journey to discover the healing benefits of fasting on a budget. There might not be a better place in the world to do this other than Phuket, Thailand. Phuket, which came to prominence in the 1990s when jaded British tourists christened it the new hotspot, is a hub of detoxing facilities. Throughout its history, this island, located on the west coast of the Andaman Sea, has been known for its prosperous tin trade. The English, Portuguese, and Dutch traders who once used the country as a trade route between India and China now return as health seekers.
Phuket Island has thirty-six breathtaking beaches and with a twice daily shuttle from Atsumi, you never feel landbound which helps when you want to eat your mattress in response to the fasting. The Atsumi Healing Center is situated at 34/18 Soi King Pattana 4. Saiyuan Road., Rawai, Phuket, Thailand. The sky was a crystal blue as were the beaches with their white sands complete with passing sea gypsies selling trinkets. Although it was not high summer yet in Thailand, the air was humid and perfect for sweating out toxins. Upon my arrival at the log cabin front office, there was neither a sense of doom or hope. The grounds were spacious and other retreaters received massages, sunned by the pool or entered the sauna house. Once the formalities of signing in were completed, they led me into a smaller office to ask questions related to bodily functions. I respectfully declined the colonics, therapeutic irrigation, blaming a cultural divide. It simply was not for me. However, if there were ever a place to do one, this might have been it; colonics had their own special house on the property to ensure privacy and a designated specialist to administer them. Everything here is done with privacy and luxury in mind. There are three houses on the property and several villas. The Yellow House ($86 a night) is the biggest with spacious rooms and private bathrooms. The villas ($82 a night) are the premier accommodations with a private deck and a king size bed. Newly constructed five studio apartments comprise the Bamboo House, which are mostly for singles that are not on a budget, and can be had for $62 a night. The economy rooms are called the Lakeside Cottages, costing only $32 per night. I selected a Cottage and, while it was small and did not have a private bathroom; it had a small bed, dresser and enough room to maneuver comfortably. The massive front porch was a surprise. When I was fantasizing about food, I would sit outside breathing in the local beauty.
A robust Thai woman delivered the cleansing meals early in the morning, before the first beach run of the day. She tells me in her broken English all the nutrients of the fruit and how they are organic. Thais are renowned for their friendliness and “Melba” answered all my questions with enthusiasm. Each morning I rushed to her and we conversed as she handed me over the plates. My meal plan for the next few days was an exotic fruit platter consisting of mango, mangosteen, and dragon fruit for breakfast. Lunch and dinner were two salad plates with a combination garlic, chia seeds, and miso dressing. Two juices were included and I immediately went for my childhood standby of apple juice. Between the jetlag and the lack of a solid meal, the lush surroundings encouraged a languid feeling, as did the twice-daily bus rides to the beach. Socializing with the other guests became a saving grace.
Every morning there was a mandatory meeting of all retreat members. Many came from all parts of the world, but Australians seemed to be the most well-represented group here. All of us detoxers congregated around the meeting table as ginger tea was poured and cheered as if each cup contained cocktails. There is no caffeine or alcohol involved in the ginger tea. A ginger root, once called Billings root in America, was boiled in hot water and then sweetened with lime and honey. This was the only kick available at the retreat. My first time tasting it, I was tempted to do a dramatic show of spitting it out. It had a sharp taste that while refreshing, had too much bite for me. Ginger can burn as much as garlic when too concentrated. My Australian counterparts threw it back like tequila shots as I shrinked away from the teapot. We laughed over it as the staff made their way to the meeting table. The Atsumi personnel tried to make the morning meeting as entertaining as possible before signing guests up for different treatments. We chose a spirit animal card, shared a dream or said good-bye to departing guests who stood next to their before pictures. Many enthused during their parting testimonials about the wonders of Atsumi. It was meant to give hope during the initial dark days when the monster of cravings and temptations were hounding you to find a heavy meal.
To distract from mounting, hunger there were dozens of treatments from ion cleanses to personal training sessions from a retired pro Thai boxer. For those on a more spiritual bent, there was yoga and private sessions with a Buddhist monk to answer all esoteric inquiries.
The price for detoxing depends on how many days you plan on staying and which accommodation you chose. For the uninitiated, there are three levels of fasting. A full fast is hardcore and should be used by a seasoned detoxer. It involves no juice, but cleansing drinks, vegetable shooters, broth, teas and liver flush drinks alongside plenty of colonics. Full fast with juice is the same as the full fast, but with juices to give you some sweetness throughout the day. Raw fast is what I ate with the fruit plate and the two salads. The Raw fast is perfect for those about to embark on a full fast or those coming off. The full fasts were quite intimidating.
All this had seemed silly to think on the first few days, but by the second night my body did feel cleaner and more relaxed. All the promised benefits began showing up on the third morning. My skin was clearer, my clothes hung loose and I did feel a sense of giddiness. This could have been from the hunger, but the release from nicotine and caffeine was immeasurable. The other detoxers and I went to the beach twice a day and sat in the sauna with coconut oil in our hair. It was a vacation not only from bad habits, but truly an invitation to transformation just as Atsumi promised.