Living in Hong Kong means that all five senses are overindulged at the best of times or take a battering at the worst. From the ‘grabbing a quick drink after work’ morphing into an all-nighter ending in Wanchai to just the general hustle and bustle, pollution and noise; living in the ‘fragrant (or not so fragrant anymore) harbour’ can sometimes be a bit overwhelming for both mind and body.
The Farm at San Benito
Health and wellness holidays are becoming increasingly popular amongst Hong Kongers looking to escape and rejuvenate. Although numerous retreats have been popping up all over Asia in recent years, I decided to try out an award-winning old favourite – The Farm at San Benito. Welcoming wellness-seekers from all over Asia (and the rest of the world) for over 10 years to its location 90 minutes outside of Manila, it really is only a quick 2-hour, cheap plane journey away.
Arriving in the dead of night to a mass of palm trees and other foliage was a promising sign that I was far away from the lights and sounds of central Manila. Being greeted with a refreshing glass of fresh coconut water and a warm smile was even more reassuring that I had selected the perfect destination to recharge and restore. With only 32 private villas and suites dotted around 48 hectares of land – with the rest of the greenery used to harvest natural produce, The Farm offers a private, calming and natural setting.
There are three main areas that you can focus on during your stay – health (medically speaking), wellness (in terms of diet and spa treatments) and fitness (numerous sporting activities). It’s definitely advisable to pre-book a couple of weeks in advance for medical and spa treatments to ensure you get your first choice. However, the fitness activities are only confirmed the afternoon before and are listed on a daily information sheet sent to each villa.
It is strongly recommended that you check exactly what each treatment will involve. For example, I booked in for a liver cleanse – a belated Birthday present to myself considering the amount of abuse it has suffered over the years. However, this turned out to involve drinking glasses of pure olive oil and glasses of Epsom salts mixed with water at various hours of the evening and early morning. It also meant I was strapped to the toilet for at least 24 hours, couldn’t eat for that duration and lay on my side in extreme discomfort for what seemed like forever. The villas are very comfortable and extremely private (walled garden and pathway) but it is advisable that you add on a couple days if you are going to do the liver cleanse so that you can actually experience something beyond four walls. Perhaps also not the option you should choose if you are on your honeymoon. Trying to collect green pellets in a sieve from your waste doesn’t make for a particularly romantic time.
I would, however, recommend the kidney cleanse which involved being exfoliated and massaged with lotion. The colonic services on offer are also cheaper than in Hong Kong and you are guided through the process in a far more comprehensive and gentle way.
The spa treatments are extremely good and most products used are natural and from resources grown on The Farm. Add in the different yoga sessions available throughout the day and you are sure to be well on your way to relaxation.
For those looking to lose weight – The Farm also offers a detox program which consists of a juice diet (juices can be delivered to your room) and colon hydrotherapy. There are also numerous fitness activities on offer that involve a lot of interval training and boot camp-style training. On their Organic Weightloss Program they guarantee you will lose one pound per day!
Meat-lovers should note that The Farm only offers vegan food and you are generally recommended to adopt a vegan diet 5 days before your visit so it isn’t a shock to the system. However, the food on offer at Alive! Restaurant is a far cry from the chickpea mashing I attempted in my kitchen at home. A 5-course dinner set only consists of 400-500 calories but you are left surprisingly full with a selection of delicious and aesthetically pleasing food.
Liver cleanse aside, I would thoroughly recommend a trip to The Farm. With Manila just 2 hours away, the retreat is an ideal destination for a long weekend trip. The staff is thoroughly attentive, the medical health treatments are significantly cheaper with highly trained professionals looking after you and there are a variety of activities on offer for you to get fit and healthy. What other holiday can you come back at least a few pounds lighter with glowing skin and shiny coconut smelling hair!
By Matet Lester