Gorgeous Tao Garden

My long search for Shangri-la ended on entering Tao Garden Health Spa and Retreat. It's essence enveloped me as I explored the 80 acres of organic gardens fragrant with tropical fruit trees, flower canopied cabanas and gently flowing rivulets. The sensual seduction continued as I paused to inhale a heavenly lotus before following a vibrant butterfly over the palm fringed bamboo bridge. Stress evaporated as I unwinded in the herbal steam room and jet lag dissolved as I floated in the large lemonade-flavoured pool. Strolling along the gardenia lined path to my massage my only worry was that I'd have to leave this paradise at some point.

Who would have imagined such an idyllic oasis existed only thirty minutes from Chiang Mai, Thailand? Far from the noise and pollution of tuk-tuks, Tao Garden was founded by Taoist and martial arts Master Mantak Chia eight years ago. He was inspired by the Taoist philosophy that nature nurtures one towards radiant health and beauty. Mantak Chia, author of over twenty books and dvds, believes that health arises from pure cells and blood, hence Tao Garden's motto of   "good air, good water, good air, good heart, good chi." Master Chia, who enjoys robust health at 66years old, is a walking advertisement for the universal tao system. Everyone thrives in the pure atmosphere of Tao Garden with it's strictly chemical-free environment supported by the grain ferment EM (effective micro-organisms) which cleanses everything and fertilises the organic gardens. The water, purified by reverse osmosis and ozone, is better than bottled water and the air is alive with fresh oxygen. This eco-eden is also home to over 45 bird and 27 butterfly species as well as over 500 varieties of fruits, flowers and herbs, making it a paradise for nature lovers.

Welcomed to Tao Garden's integrated clinic with a noni juice and a warm smile I enjoyed the free foot massage machine while waiting for the medical doctor. The clinic provides an incredible array of treatments blending the best of East and West, ancient and modern. Though they offer many packages, I turned to the doctor for a regime customised to my needs. After a detailed discussion, live blood and elemental analysis, the doctor recommended a course of detoxifying and rejuvenating therapies. Scheduling treatments in my longevity passport, my trip to pampering paradise began. The ensuing weeks were a delicious daydream of Thai tendon massage, abdominal massage (Chi Nei Tsang), genital massage (Karsai), soothing shirodhara, acupuncture, ozone steam, far infrared therapy, lymphatic drainage and body scrubs. In the healing hands of the competent and compassionate therapists I soon felt my pain transform into pleasure and my fatigue replaced by boundless energy. Fellow guests shared their amazing transformational stories with me. Christina who was taking time out from her Dubai work to detox said, "After a few days here my asthma subsided and I haven't had to use my Ventolin since." Hedwig from Germany was ecstatic with the results of her three-week stay, "I've attained my ideal weight and feel very relaxed. Most importantly my chronic ovarian cyst pain has gone." English couple Helen and Neil shed stubborn kilos and their blood showed remarkable changes after the herbs, colonics and steam treatments. "When I arrived my cells were misshapen and sticky with fat. Now after two weeks they're healthy with abundant immune cells," said a glowing Helen.

Many guests also enjoyed daily complementary classes in chi kung, Chinese yoga (tao yin), the inner smile meditation and the six healing sounds taught by Master Chia's senior instructors in the natural outdoor pavilions. These potent self-healing tools proved an invaluable adjunct to therapies as they educate and empower guests to maintain inner harmony at home. Private tuition in these practices and other inner elixir arts are also available.

One of the spa's highlights for many was the sumptuous smorgasbord of organic vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. The menu is designed with meticulous attention to detail, ensuring each guest gains optimal nutrition and satisfaction. Information regarding which dish suits each blood type and the therapeutic effect of each item are openly displayed. The stunning water-encapsulated restaurant believes food is medicine, serving staevia herb as a sugar substitute, healing bamboo salt, papaya powder to aid protein absorption, and a plethora of organic herbal teas and juices.

Though travelling alone can sometimes be awkward, especially at mealtimes, at Tao garden I never felt lonely or bored. Like-minded guests always offered friendly conversation over meals and provided cheerful company for the array of activities including badminton, darts, ping pong, water aerobics, soccer, body stretch, swimming, tennis, sepak takraw, yoga, badminton, table tennis, Thai boxing, basketball, water aerobics, darts, football and Thai fruit carving. But the most popular pursuit by far was retail therapy at Bangkok's best shopping destination only thirty minutes away - Chiang Mai's Night Market. The spa's complementary shuttle service takes guests to the street blocks of bargains in electronics, carvings, silks, clothes and homewares, ensuring no-one left with a shortage of souvenirs. Those keen on venturing further afield can also enjoy visits to temples, national parks, the long neck Padong tribe, elephant parks, waterfalls and nearby natural hot springs.

After the day's adventures I was always glad to return to my villa hideaway with its large bathroom, air conditioning, separate kitchen and comfortable living room. Sitting on my private balcony overlooking the bamboo grove and rice paddy field I really appreciated the low-cost quality accommodation and facilities. Often the affordable tariff is reduced even further during low season making it an irresistible temptation. Such reasonable rates are rare in spas of comparable quality.

Tao Garden's staff and systems flow with seamless precision due to the efficiency of its Swiss- German managers Walter and Jutta Kellenberger, Mantak Chia's students for almost 20 years. "The spa started as a teaching centre for the Universal Tao system," Jutta explained, "We continue to train international students in this inner martial arts system as well as offering courses in Chi Nei Tsang, Karsai and Female Sexual Healing." Some guests love the place so much they buy a villa and rent it out when they're away.

One thing I really liked about Tao Gardens is that thought I was spoilt for choice I could choose what I wanted to do, rather than feeling forced into anything. I was blessed to spend time at this sanctuary embodying style and substance. To visit this patch of paradise amidst the chaotic and toxic world was a regenerating retreat that I would recommend to anyone. I departed feeling reborn and ready to face life with fresh energy and optimism. And if, as the saying goes, heaven is in the heart, I'd visit this Nirvana again in a heartbeat.

Modality Menu

Ayurvedic Treatments Shirodhara entails pouring a soothing oil stream over the forehead for relaxation and endocrine rebalancing. Abhyanga is a firm favourite with two masseuses gliding over the body in a sublime synchronicity.

Banana Leaf Treatment As you lie in the sun covered with banana leaves your body absorbs healing infrared rays while the leaves filter out damaging UV rays.

Beauty Therapies Pampering and grooming services offered at Tao Garden use all natural organic products. Spoil yourself with a body scrub, facials, wrap, manicure, pedicure and hairdressing.

Chelation Therapy This deep detox involves an intravenous injection of EDTA, magnesium and vitamins b and c to cleanse the body of heavy metals and atherosclerotic plaques which cause heart disease. It is also used to improve circulation, cataracts, ulcers, diabetic neuropathies, arthritis, alzheimers and osteoarthritis.

Chi Nei Tsang Deep abdominal massage releases negative emotions and energy blockages affecting the entire body. Excellent for digestive disorders.

Chinese Acupuncture and Herbs Dr Wang has been practising these arts for over 15 years. His caring and accurate approach reactivates chi in the disturbed area.

Colonic Irrigation Cleanse the colon and establish healthy gastrointestinal flora.

Far Infrared Therapy This is one of the simplest and cheapest treatments offered. Resting under the far infrared shield stimulates circulation, oxygenation, immunity and cell regeneration. Microbes are also eliminated through this simple process.

Five Elements Aromatherapy Individualised aromatherapy blends are applied to vital points as part of a relaxing 90-minute massage.

Heart Biofeedback Manage stress by monitoring and altering your emotional reaction. Learn how to meditate for deep relaxation.

Herbal Steam Bath Traditional Thai herbs purify the body and stimulate circulation.

Hot spring hydrotherapy Enjoy a floating massage at nearby sulphuric mineral baths. Especially beneficial for skin and joint problems.

Karsai A Tao Garden specialty, this genital massage is excellent to restore male and female reproductive balance. It is also effective for bladder problems.

Lymphatic Drainage Essential to purify the blood, boost immunity and improve nutrient assimilation.

Ozone Steam Therapy This detoxifies and oxygenates cells enhancing health, longevity and beauty.

Physical therapy - A thorough assessment, treatment and management approach to musculo-skeletal problems such as pain and stiffness.

Reflexology This firm foot acupressure harmonises the whole body.

Traditional Thai massage A wonderful way to fortify, align and unblock energy. My sciatica eased after one treatment with Master King.

Thai tendon meridian massage A deep muscle massage along the meridians combined with a herbal compress to relieve pain. 

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