Museflower Retreat is a beautiful and peaceful spa and wellness retreat in Northern Thailand, about a half hours drive from Chiang Rai. I was lucky enough to spend a few days there recently after finishing my yoga teacher training in Koh Phangan.
Founder of Museflower, Tania Ho, is passionate about aromatherapy and flower essences, including the famous Bach flower therapies, hence the name Museflower. In her previous incarnation Tania was a manager for a number of luxury spas in Asia, so she was able to put her years of experience to good use in creating Museflower. Rather than creating something that was beyond the means of many people, Tania really wanted to create a haven for retreat and relaxation that was accessible to most people and I think she has been successful in this mission.
My first impressions of Museflower Retreat was the front office staff who were very professional and kind, taking me to my room in front of the lake and making sure I had everything I needed. In the rooms there is a kettle and a teapot with three different loose leaf teas, something I appreciate so much.
Firstly because tea leaves can be composted (no need to throw away the tea bags) and of course it’s so much nicer to drink brewed tea from a pot. The rooms at Museflower are bungalow style and very spacious, each with its own patio with table and chairs outside. The bathrooms are also spacious and equipped with everything you need.
I had chosen a waterbed room, because I was curious about this eighties throwback and want to try it out again. I don’t think I had been on one since I was about ten. Ended up that I felt I was sailing the high seas most of the night, which after a day on the ferry from Koh Phagnan and then two planes was not exactly what the doctor ordered, so in the morning I was able to change to a more terrestrial bed in another room. Fellow guests told me that it can take some time to get used to the waterbed experience.
Set in beautiful gardens next to a private lake, Musflower is the perfect place to “Let Nature Inspire” as it says on their gift bags. Not surprisingly there are four gardeners employed at Museflower, keeping the flowers blooming and also looking after the organic fruit and veggie farm on site.
On my second day I had a tour of the farm led by the assistant manager Tony. During my visit I saw loads of bananas, some fairly new papaya trees, lots of herbs including four different types of basil, the classic Thai long beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants and more. As well there is a big family of ducks and chickens who provide the eggs daily for breakfast.
Tony wanted to assure us also that we were not eating any duck or chicken babies because there were no males on the farm hence no fertilised eggs. For the farm tour me and my fellow guess Edmond were jauntily equipped with gumboots, gloves and a made in Thailand Mexican sombrero. Though it was ‘winter’ on my visit, the days in Northern Thailand are still warm and sunny (around 25 – 30 degrees) and the nights are a bit cooler.
Singaporean guest Edmond and I were proud to have collected 22 eggs between us, easily supplying breakfast requirements for the next morning. It felt like a treasure hunt collecting the eggs, which are scattered around the duck and chicken area, in various nests they have made in between bamboo trees or in the tall grass. I was reminded of being about 7 and going on a similar treasure hunt in my neighbours’ back garden. Funnily enough there too the chickens like to lay their eggs in the middle of a big bamboo patch.
As well as the organic farm, Museflower also has a hydroponic garden, where they are growing all sorts of things, particularly lots of lettuce, herbs and some tomatoes when I was there. Tania is committed to making her retreat as environmentally friendly as possible, a reflection of her philosophy and non-harming (ahimsa from the yoga scriptures) of the environment. So this retreat functions also as a eco teaching centre, and all guests will be able to take away some new idea about how to live more sustainably or create their own veggies gardens, whether traditional or hydroponic.
My first day started out with a 7am yoga class with the lovely Thai teacher Ka.
Yoga is held either in the beautiful pentagon shala overlooking the lake or in the shala just next to the dining room. Ka is an enthusiastic teacher who bubbles and sparkles with joy and happiness which overflows into the students like water from a spring.
As a newly qualified yoga teacher, or teacher of anything really, I recognise that this joy and passion for what you teach is the core essential attribute successful teaching and happy students. Ka was very attentive to each of us and made some great adjustments that made me feel very different and more open in some of the poses. There were many different ages and levels of practice in the class but she was easily able to adjust the poses and her teaching for each one of us.
The first day we did the ‘Five Tibetans’ which is a sequence of Asanas I had forgotten so was glad to be reminded of. Apparently it is the morning routine for Tibetan lamas and according to Wikipedia also known as the ‘Five Tibetan Rites’, or the ‘Five Rites of Rejuvenation’. It’s a great sequence that focuses on opening up the chakras in key areas in the body, like shoulders, back and thighs, getting you ready for the day. The Tibetans recommend doing this series of asanas daily in fluid vinyasa style to maintain a healthy and rejuvenated body into middle and old age.
The next day we did a hip opening series of asanas with Trikonasana and Half moon. My co-students were quite challenged but Ka was ever kind and encouraging and giving variations for each and every pose.
“Wow you are bendy!” said Dennis, my fellow Aussie, after class.
“I felt like I couldn’t get into too many of those postures but Ka was very kind.”
The funny thing is I don’t feel bendy at all next to some of my fellow teacher trainees. So, it’s all relative, and all that really matters is how you feel inside yourself. Thankfully, yoga is not a competitive sport, and if you feel like it is, I would first check in internally and see if it’s you that’s making it into a competition and if not, consider changing class or teacher!
Qi-gong is also on offer at Museflower though I didn’t get a chance to try it on this stay.
Each meal at Museflower Retreat is served buffet style in the dining room which looks directly onto the lake. The food is vegetarian (with plenty of vegan options) and is a mix of Thai and international cooking styles. Each morning there was some kind of porridge as well as muesli, soup and a vegetable dish. As well you could fill in a form with your special breakfast egg, whatever style you liked. Even though I am a very light eater at breakfast, I appreciated this little touch of special-ness. And it is a good mirror of my whole three days at Museflower – I felt really well cared for by all of the staff.
On my last night there was ‘LIVE’ Pad thai being prepared in the dining room, right in front of your very eyes. Laid out next to the frying pan were beanshoots, a nice big pile of peanuts, Thai basil, shallots, green capsicum, glass noodles, tofu, eggs, lime juice, soy sauce and brown sugar. Yummmmm!
As well, throughout the day there is an urn of super tasty ginger tea, as well as a selection of loose leaf green, black and herbal teas, all of the highest quality. Plus for whenever hunger kicks in there is a big bunch of bananas next to the teas. I never got hungry here though as was always well fed at all the meals. The challenge always with a buffet is not eating too much!
Tania and her staff are all very kind and there is a very loving and caring energy coming from all of them. You can really tell when people love their work, and I felt that all of the staff here were really happy to be there and doing what they do, from the spa therapists, to the cooks, to the assistant manager. This is a testament to Tania, who must be a friendly and kind boss. While I was there there was a fun group of Singaporeans who had come together.
What was unusual about them was the disparate ages, with the group organiser being a very suave and self assured guy looking to be around thirty, while some of the others were ladies in their sixties. This group met at a meditation workshop in Singapore and have stayed connected since. This was their second group excursion to a retreat centre together. As well there was the laid back and laconic Dennis, an expat Australian on his way home from a four year stint as a teacher in Brunei.
Something I love about going to retreats is you never know who you will meet, but you do know that they will be like minded and that you will have a lot in common.
Spa & Therapies
Reflecting Tania’s background in high-end spas, Museflower has a very comprehensive range of healing therapies and treatments for guests. Massages include Body Alignment Massage, Chi Nei Tsang Abdominal Massage, Aromatherapy Rebalancing Massage, Crystal Foot Therapy and One-On-One Health Coaching Sessions.
There is nothing I like more than being pampered with massages and treatments. So this was the perfect place for me. I had a Body Alignment massage the first day, and a signature Sol massage (stronger pressure than the Luna) on the second day. With both treatments I could select a tea for after and an essential oil, mixed on site by Tania.
Both massages were relaxing and refreshing and I came out feeling very renewed. After practicing yoga six days a week for about 4 hours a day on the teacher training, this was just what I needed.
The second day I also had a herbal steam after the massage. Though usually I am not able to stay for too long in a sauna, the moist-ness and the herbs meant that I was able to spend the full half hour in there, running in and out when it got too hot. I sweated out lots of toxins and appeared in the dining room-red faced but feeling very relaxed and happy.
Tania also offers an emotional healing technique I had not heard of before called Hado counselling. Based on the work of Japanes water whisperer. Matsuo Emoto, famous for his research on the effect of words and images on water crystals, Had therapy is a sophisticated healing technique that takes a reading of the energy frequencies of the water inside your body and organs, and comes up with a reading on your current state of health.
In my half hour session with Tania, she started by explaining a bit about the background of this therapy and how it developed. As one of the very first people to purchase this software for this program, she is very well informed. As a follower of the work of Masaru Emoto (who she went to see in person in Japan before he died) she had a long interest in the energy of water research, and said that she jumped at the chance to be one of the first people to try this Hado Therapy.
What happens in the session is she puts a pair of headphones around your neck which are functioning like electromagnetic resonators, picking up all of the different energy frequencies in your body. For about ten minutes, I sat there while these headphones picked up all my vibes, and then when we were done, a report came up on the computer screen which measured what was going on in every part of my body.
The very interesting thing is then it comes up with a reading of any negative emotions that you may be feeling. Mine came through as dogmatic, domineering, fanatical. I was shocked! Was that really me!? 🙂
Tania explained that everyone had a list of these negative emotions come up, and they were just something to consider – to reflect upon to help you get some perspective on how you are feeling and your relationships with others.
Salt Water Pool
On the last day I had a refreshing dip in the pool with Dennis, and after we relaxed on the sun lounges in the adjourning garden. It is a salt water pool and sooooo nice. It is sheltered by a roof which keeps the hot sun off, making it a completely sunscreen-free experience.
We reflected on how lucky we were to be there, at this beautiful retreat, in the garden, instead of on a beach in Phuket surrounded by hoards of people. Ah, gratitude. These are the moments I am very thankful to my chosen profession of global yogi. 🙂 I write my own job description and then I get to spend time in beautiful places like this, so that I can tell you about them.
Thank you to Tania and all of the staff at Museflower Retreat for hosting me and all the new friends I met there!
To find out more, visit their website, where you can keep up to date with all the retreats and special events held there. They host visiting teachers and sometimes hold special workshops like yoga and writing retreats.