Wednesday, August 31, 2011

THE BARAI OF HUA HIN, THAILAND; The World's Most Unique Spa!

KEE@FSWMAG.COM
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Welcome to Barai Spa in Hua Hin, one hour from Bangkok!
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The water of Salarai which is the manmade reservoir is a stunning reflecting pool
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This is the 'barai' which is Thai for 'manmade reservoir'. This focal point is the heart of Barai Spa and was purposely created to be one of a kind structure that does not resemble anything you have ever seen yet looks vaguely familiar!
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The Salarai or barai at night is just as spectacular as intended by Thai architect Leg Bunnag and he has succeeded on a grand scale!
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Calm and serene, there are no carps or fountains in the barai
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Looks like you have been here before....doesn't it?
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Could be Cambodian, Mughal, Moorish, Borobudur or even North African architecture from Morocco, Algeria or the Mahgreb.


IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE IN HUA HIN, A MUST-VISIT IS THE BARAI SPA.

IT IS DIFFERENT, UNUSUAL AND UNIQUE, PRACTICALLY AN OUT OF THIS WORLD EXPERIENCE THAT WILL LEAVE YOU SOOTHED AND SENSATIONALISED AT THE SAME TIME!
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The magnificent Barai Suite is the ultimate in pampering yourself
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Welcome to my Barai Suite
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The view from Barai Suite...note my Louis Vuitton messenger bag...the right accessory for this posh suite
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Your bed overlooks the lush gardens for a tropical indoor/outdoor ambiance
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The super-sized bed is so huge there are only 8 such mattresses made in the world
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Your private sitting room
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This is your private bath in Barai Suite and you can have your massage here
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Your private patch of heaven! Your patio even has a personal plunge pool!


BYE BYE WORLD OF BARAI

Say bye-bye to your ordinary world and hello to a brave new world of the Barai!

The Barai Spa is a closed, cloistered cocoon of charm and comfort, a private oasis sealed off from the outside world. Quite the ultimate retreat from life’s relentless stresses.

The Barai Spa is what the spin doctors and qualified physicians might recommend to the beleaguered Rupert and James Murdoch and their cronies. This highly acclaimed spa is a spectacular exercise in architectural excess and success and designed to physically seal off the outside world amid rose-flushed, towering walls. First timers may feel a smidgen claustrophobic as the heavy, enclosed feeling may be overwhelming unless you enjoy the womb-like sensation though regaining your balance and serenity is easily attained within ten minutes.

“Once you enter The Barai, you leave the outside world behind and you won’t know what is happening outside. And once you leave, you will also not know what is happening inside!” beams Patty Lerdwittayayaskul, director of marketing communications. Hmmm, sounds perfect for those seeking to jump inside a hole and pull it in after them.

Indeed The Barai resembles a fortress with battlements and somewhat forbidding air. This Disneyland for the world-weary was created from scratch to relax and excite the mind, scintillate and sooth the soul while teasing and perplexing the senses. So you are not sure whether to throb with sensory pleasures or be lulled into a dreamy landscape where the familiar somehow seems unreal.

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This is the entrance to The Barai Spa!

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Just keeping walking...

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Discover the adventurer in you...

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Giant star cuts-out on the walls allow light to stream in so you get constant fresh air

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There is no right or wrong way, says the communications director Patty

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Yes it does feel like a womb...or tomb depending on how squeamish you are!

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The high ceilings alleviate any sense of claustrophobia

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The dramatic entrance into the barai or manmade reservoir!

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This is the public loo! It overlooks a zen garden and don't worry, no one can spy on you. I meditated while I vegetated!

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The loo with a view; note my bag painted with my face!

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This little fountain reminds me of Alhambra in Spain and the doorway leads to another doorway! What an enchanting, optical effect!

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Another doorway flanked by trees

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It looks like an optical illusion as the doorways seem to go on and on forever, like in a dream

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Some parts are open to the sky but it didn't rain when I was there so I do not know the effect if it does

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A nude inspired by Khmer statues

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A tantalising glimpse of a Khmer goddess torso seen from a passage

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Twirls and swirls as seen from inside a doorway

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A larger than life knot

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Another loo calculated to tease the senses!

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A luxurious massage room for two

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Vichy water shower treatment

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Day view of a private compound

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Evening view of an openair private compound! This is enclosed by 4 walls but open to the sky and is enchantment personified!

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The experience is rather surreal

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Starry, starry night...or day

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Letting in natural light

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The star-studded doors can be slid open

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Like this

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Wider...


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Like this



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My masseur is ready to work on me

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The sliding door also leads to an openair private compound

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Khun Viboon already looking relaxed even before the massage

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You never know where each window opens onto

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This patio is so luxurious

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Perfect for a couple

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Imagine whiling away a few hours doing nothing...or making wild love and culminating into a climax in the pool. Don't worry, they will change the water for the next guest

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Made for smooching if you join them together

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The canopy means even snoopy pixmen on helicopters can't photograph you having sex with your lover or lovers










This being Thailand, most spas fall in the ‘exotic, temple spire’ category with elaborate carvings and ornate furnishings. The Barai is mildly magnificent and wildly wonderful.

“Thai architect Lek Bunnag purposely avoids recognisable architecture as he wants you to make up your mind what the surroundings mean to you,” explains Patty as we enter an inconspicuous doorway.

True enough, I leave one world behind and enter another…

‘Barai’ means ‘reservoir’ or specifically the barays, large, manmade aquifers or pool so water must be integral although the meandering corridor which seems to lead to a cul-de-sac is bone dry. It is like entering a subterranean cavern though star-shaped holes high in the walls allow filtered light to enter, creating mesmerising, dancing shadows.

Murmurs Patty, “We ask all guests to suspend all expectations and open up mentally, physically and spiritually in anticipation of experiences to come.”

And so, guided by the architecture, I surrender the familiar and bare my soul to a barrage of sound, sight, shape and shade that morph into something new at every turn or change of light. The entrance gallery is dark, shadowy and organic. This unlikely and unexpected passage is meant to unsettle and remind guests they are entering a brave new world. There is no right or wrong path and guests make their own decisions in navigating their mini journey.

I feel like I am trapped inside a labyrinth but no worries, there is no centaur and sooner or later every guest finds his way out into the sky and natural daylight, as if emerging from a womb, or tomb if you are the skittish type. I feel like Indiana Jones stumbling upon some secret sanctuary for this central courtyard is the piece de resistance, for it is the barai itself---a large pool flanked by rose-coloured pillars. This Salarai water court epitomises the manmade Barai concept and I am invited to sit and contemplate while admiring the architecture.

The jetsetting side of me takes over as I am overwhelmed by torrents of memories. The Barai reminds me of the enchanting water garden of Shalimar in Lahore, Queen’s Pool at Kandy, Sri Lanka, the fountains of the Mahgreb, Lion’s Court of Alhambra in Granada, Spain and the reflecting pools of Borobudur and Angkor Wat.

The Barai’s pool is devoid of easily recognisable features. No coiling dragons on pillars. No carved apsaras on walls. No murals, motifs or magnificent sculptures of dancing deities. There are no colourful carps, lotus or water lilies. And no swimming allowed either!

The mounting excitement was getting the better of me so I went to the loo, only to be amazed by the facility. The room is the size of a studio condo and the ‘throne’ overlooks a zen garden viewed through a bamboo screen! I could meditate as I vegetate!

From here, my Spa Butler takes me to my treatment room via kaleidoscopically coloured glass skylights, past intriguing glimpses of huge sculptures where I finally see a torso of a Khmer goddess and down sandy floored corridors to my massage room.

The spacious room looks faintly like a disco with coloured lights streaming in via star shaped holes. Toi, my handsome masseur, springs another surprise as he slides open the coloured star door to reveal a massive, indoor courtyard open to the sky!

I almost drop my towel in astonishment as I marvel at the central fountain, cabana with two day beds and a canopy so spying eyes from satellites or cameras from helicopters would not be able to photograph me frolicking in my birthday suite.

The only snag is the list of treatments---there are so many options my head aches. I am given a booklet weighing nearly half a kilo listing in the most alluring and tempting details the benefits of facials, massages, baths, body envelopments, body scrubs, manicure and pedicure with so many side options you might be all stressed out by the time you decide. I suggest to Patty The Barai should condense everything and they have!

This is The Element Journey (4 divine hours for RM 750) using the elements of fire, water, earth and air to reach my desired results. I started with a customised bath filled with rose petals, jasmine flowers and mandarin orange peels, traditional Thai massage (why choose Japanese shiatsu or Swedish massage when I am in the Land of Smiles and nowhere near Rising Sun or Europe?) followed by massage using compress of Thai herbs, fruits and flowers and Beautifying Ritual, originally created for Thai princesses in ancient Siam but am assured it works for modern princes too. I also felt like a king when Toi went on bended knees to wash my feet in lukewarm water!

I emerged renewed and glowing with newfound beauty or at least I felt like a million ringgit. This was followed by a light meal at McFarland House facing the beach.

Getting there was not a U-turn retracing my steps as Toi took me to Tranquillity Court, a shady, walled, open air quadrangle with lap pool. A narrow fissure on the wall at the far end offered a tantalising glimpse of the sea, reminding me my journey was ending. There was no rush and I was encouraged to enjoy Tranquillity Court and indulge in meditation (though I rather do this sitting on my toilet bowl gazing at the Zen garden!), yoga or tai chi as masters are on hand.

From McFarland House’s balcony (named after a missionary), I gazed at Gulf of Thailand and realised curiosity was the best guide when exploring the Barai’s half-hidden sculptures, sudden skylights, serene courtyards and shadowy archways. Nodded Patty, “The Barai is a little journey of self-discovery, based on the original purpose of spa--- Latin ‘sanitas per aquas’ or ‘healing by waters’.”

The Barai flaunts 8 residential spa suites and 18 exotic treatment rooms on 4.5 acres next to Hyatt Regency Hua Hin which is its sibling with 205 rooms. You can stay at Hyatt Regency from RM??? up while the most decadent is The Barai Pool Suite from RM 2,000 (Jan to April) to RM 3,100 (Dec to Jan). Massages start from RM 200 for 60 minutes to RM 350 for 2 hours. Most treatments range from RM 250 to RM 400. There is even a Young Adult Spa Experience (RM 200 to RM 300) for 14 to 17 year olds so your kids will not feel derpived! Pregnant mothers can enjoy the special ‘Mommy to Be’ spa package from RM 200 to RM 300 or RM 550 for 2.5 hours of bliss. There is a Gentleman’s Spa experience from RM 250 to RM 300. Or you can learn how to make your own garland (RM 120), herbal compress (RM 120) and Thai food (RM 130).

Your head beginning to spin from such surfeit of riches? Visit thebarai.com or +66 3251 1234

THE END


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