The romance of Angkor temples were brought to The Barai at Hua Hin, Thailand, where Ve Handojo found himself spoilt and reborn.
I had a morning flight, and by morning I meant I had to be in one of the “most exciting” international airports in the world – Jakarta’s proud Soekarno-Hatta Int’l Airport – at no later than 4 am. That also meant getting tipsy in Dragonfly until desperate hours, then picked up my Longchamp suitcase at home, and went straight to the stranded and empty airport to fly to Bangkok via Singapore – in total a 6-hour flight. To reach my destination, Hua Hin, I have to add another three hours from Svarnabhumi airport – by car.
And, to reach my spa destination, The Barai, I have to go to the farthest, Southern-most point of Hua Hin.
By the time I arrived in The Barai, it was already pass 4 pm, and more than 24 hours with no proper sleep. I was like a walking cucumber. My only proper meal was an en-route healthy lunch in The Barai’s limo, containing wheat breads, jams, butter, crackers, mineral water, and – my favorite part – cold, cold towels to wipe my face clean and fresh. As I was escorted to the spa suite, I mentally swore, “This has gotta be worth the trip!”
Massive dark maroon walls stood tall as a fortress to separate The Barai’s cranky Excellencies with mere guests in Hyatt Regency Hua Hin. My butler guided my limp legs to walk up lots of stairs to reach my spa suite. A huge, thick, and heavy dark brown wooden door opened to a space I initially planned to use for endless slumber.
That plan seemed to get a green light from the oversized main-bed – a 3×2 m2’s of comfort, big enough to become a playground for oil merchants with their mistresses. The bolsters also come in matching sizes – no less than 50 cm in diameter, making them chubby Dutch wives.
I was about to throw myself on that massive pile of sleeping aids when my butler showed me another giant feature, right next to my bed, “This is your bathtub, and Thai daybeds for dry Thai massage. You can press the ‘Butler’ button in your telephone set, and I will come to assist you whenever you want to soak yourself in mineral bath.” Hello, warm, skin-rejuvenating water!
While I gaze at the stupendous and inviting chunky hole ready to be filled with water and bath gel, my butler already moved to the back area, where another piece of bath equipment is waiting. “This is your private steam room with rain shower. You can press the ‘Butler’ button in your telephone set, and I will come to assist you whenever you want to have an aromatic steam bath.” Holy smoke!
The same area also hosts two dressing rooms with a vanity in each, boasting a full range of lavish amenities. Before I finished deciding which cute bottles I would bring back home later, my butler had already moved to another area.
“This is your verandah,” he slid open a twin-glass door, escorting me to an area safe-guarded by glass windows and curtains, with twin beds for massage – or non-Thai massage, I would say. “You can press the ‘Butler’ button in your telephone set, and I will come to assist you whenever you want to have your breakfast or dinner served en-suite. And this is your own coffee maker, with Lavazza coffee beans, and if you want to have coffee at any given time, you can …”
… press the ‘Butler’ button in my telephone set, yes I knew.
The curtains were drawn wide open, and the mind-clearing view of the beach literally took my breath. This 129 m2 spa suite is facing a clear blue and quiet horizon. Suddenly, my desire to close my eyes in much-needed slumber was turned off. Things to do inside and outside were plenty, so I’d rather start now, or two nights won’t be enough to enjoy every corner of my own suite.
I’d have the steam bath this evening at eight, and then follow it with a Thai-massage. “What aroma would you like for your steam bath, Sir?” my butler gently asked. “We have Earth, Water, Fire, and Air.” Okay, tonight Earth, and tomorrow morning Fire. Tomorrow evening, I’d have the mineral bath. Before checking out the Air steam bath. Bathing schedule was done and then my butler left me to have a rest.
I wished! The spa menu book was so tempting; I started to flip the page. The range of treatments confused me, so I decided to take a stroll to the spa area itself.
The concept of The Barai was conceived a long-time ago, when Thai-architect Lek Bunnag – with a portfolio including The Spa at Four Seasons in Chiang Mai, and the spa at Hilton in Maldives – visited Angkor Wat twenty five years ago. The romance, legend, and history of the great ancient civilisation embraced him as he was standing in the corridor of the sacred temple of Bayon. He was enchanted by the playful ray of lights that streamed through the ruins, into the sanctum of the temple.
“Barai” literally means a large man made water reservoir back in the ancient Khmer times. The passage through to the modern-day Barai was long and dark. The only source of light was a row of petite candles placed on the edge of the floor to guide visitors one little step at a time. Bunnag was taking us to his magical world.
The passage ended in ‘salarai’ – a pool of still water mirroring everything that’s above in perfect reflection. It was of the same layout with the one I encountered in Angkor Wat one year before. Corridors around the ‘salarai’ will lead to eighteen treatment rooms – each one of them paired to the outdoor bathing area with a huge bathtub and rain shower. Ceilings are over eight meters high. The form, I recalled, was inspired by chimneys in the Angkor temples.
The complex, in total 18,500 m2, is designed as literally another world that detaches us from our mundane daily life. It physically separates us with views to the outside world until the brilliant lay-out leads our steps to the Tranquility Court – a post-treatment rest with a lap pool. The court peeks to the beach, and the best way to enjoy the breeze is from the McFarland House, where healthy food is served day and night.
As I finished the observation, it was dinner time already, and please keep in mind that I still had not taken the slumber I deserved. Gracious veggie and organic meals stuffed my vodka-flooded tummy. By the time I finished, the dramatic lighting had dressed the beach, and my 8 pm appointment was already waiting.
The aromatic steam bath en-suite prepared me for the bone-twisting Thai massage, which knocked me down to the long-awaited slumber.
The following day was filled with a new lifestyle. Taking a class to learn how to make Thai herbal compress, then I took a four-hour long treatment, and browsed the cute city of Hua Hin, only to get back to another bath, another self-spoiling pure indulgence.
My crankiness was demolished totally as I took the Tai Chi class, early morning before checking out. The “breathe-in, breathe-out” slowly, made me sweat. Practice of Kung Fu kicks was the highlight of the class, attended by honeymooners, and evergreen couples.
As the limo drove me to Bangkok, I looked back through the window, and saw my faithful butler and the other staff waving goodbye endlessly. Their smiles made me wonder whether I was going back home, or actually leaving a new-found family. Through exquisite service, powerful treatments, and world-class design, The Barai had not just placed itself as the first class spa destination in the world, but also taking me with them.
The Barai at Hyatt Regency Hua Hin
91 Khao Takiap Road
Hua Hin, Thailand 77110
Hua Hin Travel Notes
Hua Hin used to be the playground for royalty. The historical train station was built to bring princes and princesses from the city to their beach-front summer palace. Next to the southern-most cliff is Khao Takiap – a temple with a breathtaking view. Climb to the top in a meditative speed, then enjoy the view over the cute, city of Hua Hin. Hua Hin is now booming with luxurious spa resorts. Join the pilgrims from all around the world to experience natural inner healings here! To reach Hua Hin: get a 3-hour ride from Bangkok. Buses are available from the Svarnabhumi Int’l Airport too. For the daring, take a turbulent flight in a small carrier to Hua Hin’s domestic airport.