An Escape at RAKxa Wellness & Medical Retreat

When the only way to detox from the city was to leave it
Published: 3 June 2024

“I’d rather gnaw a bean than be gnawed by continual fear.” 
- Odo of Cheriton 

Let us consider Arthur Schopenhauer’s view that all life is suffering. As a student of Kant and Buddhism, Schopenhauer said that as all living creatures are possessed by a will, there is a constant drive to satiate one’s needs to survive. This “striving” is what Schopenhauer refers to as “suffering”. We work to earn a paycheque; we struggle with our self-esteem in our social lives—the latest trend to adopt; how to look appealing; fitting into society’s parameters. And when we do get what we want, it’s not enough. Life’s fleeting nature pushes the boulder back down the hill and, in our efforts to survive, we roll it back up again. Repeat as needed until our ticker runs down. 

Schopenhauer’s solution to limiting our suffering was by limiting our desires. “Those who, with too gloomy a gaze, regard this world as a kind of hell and, accordingly, are only concerned with procuring a fireproof room in it, are much less mistaken. The fool runs after the pleasures of life and sees himself cheated; the sage avoids evils.” 

But Schopenhauer’s student, Friedrich Nietzsche, had a different take. Yes, life is suffering, but for Nietzsche avoidance isn’t the answer; it is to roll with it. Suffering and death are inevitable fates but you can make something of the experience. 

This is probably why Nietzsche > Schopenhauer. 

EVERY DAY, YOU ARE BOMBARDED by news of war; injustices; inflation. Worry leaves its trail on your face. Sleep becomes a distant land. The world can only cut you down so many times before there’s nothing left. A slow death by a thousand cuts. What can you do: you escape the city. RAKxa Wellness & Medical Retreat sounds inviting. It appears like some fabled sanctuary; Shangri- La peered through the mist. 

It is 50 minutes by car from Suvarnabhumi Airport, and the travel to RAKxa is a passenger window of highways, then buildings before it segues into residential houses and then green rural stretches. RAKxa is nestled at Bang Krachao, Bangkok’s Green Lung—a man-made conservation in the middle of the Chao Praya River. It’s an island that’s circled by mangrove trees and jungle foliage runs wild. 

You arrive at the pavilion, where you are greeted with a cool drink and a ceremonial sounding of the singing bowls. It feels like you’ve stepped into another world. Briefly, a thought about checking your work e-mails enters your mind before you’re whisked away to your villa. 

It’s a sprawling compound. Villas, frangipani plants and banana and casuarina trees zip past as you’re ferried by a buggy. There are three treatment facilities at RAKxa. There’s RAKxa JAI, the retreat’s holistic wellness centre. This is where traditional treatments are used like acupuncture or sound baths. RAKxa GAYA is a “medical gym” due to its diagnostic approach. Then there’s the VitalLife Scientific Wellness Clinic, outfitted with the latest tech-based equipment that can perform Light Therapy or cyrosaunas. VitalLife also excels in its anti-ageing treatment, which you take with a grain of salt. Unless you’re Benjamin Button or Paul Rudd, no one ages in reverse or stops ageing. You’re of the camp that you can only slow down the ageing process through exercise and a proper diet. Then again, you’re also of the camp that you’d be open to new experiences. 

It feels like the compound is larger than expected since you don’t see any other patrons. There are the staff that tend to the centre but they sort of melt into the background. You don’t quite notice them until you’re in want of something, then they appear. One can get around by the aforementioned buggy but walking is not too far out of the realm of possibility. After all, this is a wellness centre. Motion is health, goes the saying. 

The villa is spacious. Windows stretch from floor to ceiling, visually admitting the surrounding verdant landscape. An environmental monitoring system keeps the room at a comfortable temperature as your frontal cortex is assuaged by the warm earth tones of the interior. You could sink into your bed, cocooned by the hypoallergenic bedding but you’ll miss out on the private garden. Or sit on the terrace, nurse a kombucha and soak in the serenity of your little slice of Eden. You sort of forget that across from the horseshoe-winding Chao Praya River, the bustle of Bangkok’s city life continues unabated. 



HERE’S WHAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW: RAKxa was originally supposed to be a clinic with a room to stay at. But before she became RAKxa’s founder, Dusadee Tancharoen was a high-flyer until a medical diagnosis clipped her wings; and she turned her focus towards health and wellness. She saw value in the medical and holistic fields in the wellness industry. Reiki; ayurvedic; acupuncture; cyro sauna; hyperbaric chamber therapy; colonics (don’t snigger)... all these are serious fields held in high esteem. These and more are integrated into RAKxa’s programmes. While some treatment programmes are pre-planned, others can be tailored to return you to your optimal self. 

You’d undergo a consultation with several Health & Wellness Advisors. Then, an itinerary of treatments is drafted to match your needs. The consultants across the medical fields were mostly unanimous in their diagnosis: there’s something “stuck” in you. An obstruction. You run hot; there’s a wind in your tummy; there’s an imbalance; your energy is dammed by a blocked meridian point. It’s the same diagnosis repeated in different languages. 

And you know this. For far too long, the lack of sleep turns into a meaningless badge of honour. The suffocating stress feels like a hair sweater. What was intrusive has now become a bedfellow. A hairline crack that has widened into a gulf over the years. It has become so normalised that you need to detach from it; step outside of yourself as it were. Inhabit a third-person perspective that allows you to be open to what these treatments, no matter how new age-y they are, can offer. 

RAKxa’s treatments sound a little “out there” if you know what I mean. But you’d try anything once. Especially, when you’ve tried everything else. You lie through a session where your therapist’s hands hover over your body as a way to “heal you with energy”. You are bombarded with sonics from bronze bowls in an effort to align your chakra. A photo-light therapy blasts you with light energy to aid in skin and muscle regeneration. Super cold air bathes your body to improve blood circulation. Tiny needles dot your body to stimulate specific anatomic sites. 

They will put you on a vitamin IV drip to boost your immunity. Can you feel the cocktail of vitamins infused into your bloodstream? Do you feel better, albeit slightly? Is the tranquil scene of nature shown through the window helping you be centred? Or do you take this opportunity to answer e-mails and dink around on the laptop? 

No matter how far you run, you still can’t leave the world behind.

RAKXA’S RESTAURANT, UNAM, PUTS out surprisingly good food. Not that you went in thinking that there was a McDonald’s nearby to fall back on if the meals weren’t up to snuff, but the dishes punch above their weight. The menus are made from chemical-free ingredients that are supplemented with sustainable meats and seafood. There’s always a starter of kombucha, followed by the mains, then dessert. After your initial consultation, the restaurant will tailor the menu. Mention in passing that you don’t like ginger and they will excise the herb from the meal plan. 

“Health is wealth” is RAKxa’s motto. It won’t specifically cure you of your ailments, rather it is in the business to prevent calamities. But how else are you supposed to stave off the bad-ness if you’re already affected? Isn’t the solution then, to cure you? It’s a chicken-and-egg scenario and this thought runs laps through your mind as you’re lying in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. 

You’re undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy where pure oxygen is pumped inside a pressurised environment. Said environment is a horizontal unit, where you can lie down. The technician offers another less claustrophobic unit, one where you can sit upright during the process. But you opt for the “coffin”; you’ve always admired the dead for sleeping well so here’s a chance for that. 

Except, being in a pressurised chamber means you’re constantly popping your ears for the first 10 or 15 minutes. Then silence sets in, but your mind starts filling in the blanks and somehow you leap from RAKxa’s motto to musing if there was ever a scene of an accidental spark in an oxygen-rich environment in any of the Final Destination films. (Answer: yes, in the second instalment.) 

At RAKxa GAYA, a personal trainer puts you through a Functional Fitness assessment. Using state-of-the-art equipment to evaluate an individual’s fitness level and identify key risk areas that can lead to injury. The final analysis: your balance, stamina and strength check out great. Not looking fantastic: your flexibility. Still, the results are encouraging but while the physical is in the upper percentile, mentally, you’re thinking about next week’s work schedule. They offer several exercises to improve your mobility. “Yoga,” they say. You retort that it’s too slow-paced. The trainer looks at you as though he has heard that before. “You need to slow down,” he says as he glances at your chart. “Yeah. Tai Chi can do that.” 

YOU’RE FAMILIAR WITH TAI CHI because one of your core memories was of you as a secondary school student, passing by a basketball court filled with geriatrics every morning. Their glacier movements, all in rhythm to some unidentifiable Chinese instrumental blasting from some unseen radio. 

Now, it feels a little lackadaisical as a well-meaning RAKxa instructor puts you through the paces. You’re unfamiliar with this speed of activity. Your arms make soft and circular movements in a flowing form as your feet slide from one position to the next. The gestures are alien. You’re aware of your breathing, how languid you’re drawing in the air and the soft expulsion through your nose. There’s a mirror in front of you and you’re trying to hit your mark. 

Maybe you’re a little self-conscious. If your younger self sees you now, will they roll their eyes? Make a snide remark? You don’t know because the thoughts never enter your mind. Right, now you’re focused on the next pose. And the next. 

And then, strangely, you don’t think about them at all. Weirdly enough, you’re flowing from one movement to the next on instinct, much to the instructor’s surprise and elation. He is effusive with his praise, so much so that it borders on condescending. But for the next 20 minutes, the outside world seems far away. The weight of the smartphone in your pants pocket dissipates. Maybe the effects of the treatments are kicking in. Maybe this is what it has been needing: this forced retardation of actions. 

For the first time in forever, you find yourself where you’ve always needed to be at: present. 

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