As he talks through the ongoing renovation of award-winning wellness resort Chiva-Som, it’s clear that chair and CEO Khun Krip Rojanastien, sees it as much more than a simple update.
Following in the footsteps of his late father Khun Boonchu Rojanastien, a distinguished banker and politician who founded Chiva-Som in Hua Hin, Thailand 23 years ago, he not only decided it was time to refresh the resort’s overall look and feel, but also to ensure it keeps pace with global lifestyle and wellness trends well into the future.
The third phase of Chiva-Som’s THB800m (US$24.4m, €21m, £18.8m) overhaul, carried out by local architecture firm Designrealization Siam, involved extensive upgrades to the Thai Pavilion bedrooms, the resort’s main restaurant The Emerald Room, public areas including the Library and the Orchid Lounge, the fitness facilities and the Niranlada Medi-Spa.
Once all four phases are complete in late 2019, Chiva-Som will be lighter, brighter and more contemporary, while retaining many of the core themes of its original east-meets-west design concept, such as the use of natural, renewable materials including bamboo, local teak and silk.
Greenery will also be more integrated and the resort will be better set up for socialising and flexible work.
The Thai Pavilion bedrooms, some of which have grown from 36 to 100sq m now include a desk for guests who want to keep up-to-date with work while they’re away from the office, for example.
“You may ask them to switch off but people don’t actually switch off and to force them to do that increases stress,” explains Rojanastien, who took the helm at Chiva-Som in 2007 after his father’s death. “If you don’t hinder them in any way they can focus on their wellness programmes and treatments. The work stations make us relevant to that lifestyle.”
A small private meeting room has also been added. “Lots of our clients are business people and they might want to start partnerships or collaborations with interesting people they’ve met [at Chiva-Som],” Rojanastien says.
He was brought up to appreciate healthy living and is fascinated by the many facets of wellness. “If you’re very chilled, you may approach it via nutrition or meditation, if you’re a very active, energetic person, you might come at it from a fitness angle, or if you’re not well, it’s another way again.”
Chiva-Som, which prides itself on inclusive wellness, offers options for every approach – from meditation pavilions to dance studios. As part of the third phase of renovations, a range of modalities have been introduced from three colonic hydrotherapy treatments to a folate assessment for detox and metabolic health (see p39) and an LPG Cellu M6 Alliance cellulite treatment.
Even more fitness options have been added too in response to the resort’s – and the wellness sector’s – widening client base.
“Our guests are getting both younger and older so with such a broad base, there are different demands,” Rojanastien says.
The expanded gym now includes a Re-functional Room for older guests or those who’ve been through surgeries or traumas. “If they want to recover or get well, they need a different regime to, say, people in their 20s and 30s who want to maximise their performance,” says Rojanastien, who’s perhaps an exception to this rule – next year he’s planning his fifth marathon at the age of 68.
New equipment will help with rehabilitation, leg mobility and balance, as well as preparing the body for more strenuous exercise.
Other additions include a separate stretching space, state-of-the-art cardio, functional and non-functional training equipment and a private training room.
This year’s six-month refurb has seen the Niranlada Medi-Spa evolve from its original clinical design to become warmer and more relaxing and the main spa’s once-over is set to take place at the same time next year.
“We won’t touch the flow,” Rojanastien says. “But we will freshen up the design, maybe adapt the colour, improve air flow and bring more green into the rooms.”
Meanwhile, an open kitchen at Chiva-Som’s ocean-side restaurant Taste of Siam will create more engagement between diners and chefs. “Everything is focused on achieving wellness,” stresses Rojanastien, adding that these four phases are far from the end of the story.
Underlying it all, a new technology infrastructure is being laid so that Chiva-Som’s personalised approach to wellness can be seamlessly extended to its upcoming 50-acre Bintan project in Indonesia, which is currently in the design stage.
At the flagship Hua Hin resort, the longest a guest has ever stayed is nine months. With the new property set to offer serviced residences as well as resort and wellness facilities, it may be time for a new record.