“We’d love to experience a raw food detox retreat in the Thai mountains. That sounds like heaven!”
For the first 24 hours the vegan detox retreat of Chivasuka really was heaven, and for me at least it never fell far from that height the whole week. Nathan and our friends Ivana and Gianni however, to varying degrees, may disagree.
Where is this Thai Vegan Paradise?
As we left the heat and hustle of downtown Chiang Mai, Thailand and drove up into the lush green Lanna Hills I could feel a smile light up my face. Coming from Vancouver, British Columbia I have a deep love of mountains and forests. Even though these tropical undulations were vastly different from the majestic emerald and white peaks I was used to they were still a welcome sight from the dry, brown land that was dropping behind us.
We were being escorted to our healthy detox holiday home by co-owner Karin Busman. As she navigated the winding roads we learned a little about Chivasuka Retreat and her husband Jan. This European dynamic duo didn’t exactly make a conscious plan to start a raw vegan retreat in Thailand. Rather they were led to it by a series of events and circumstances including family health issues and random influential meetings. You might say that Chivasuka was born of serendipity. Today it is not merely a business for them but a way of life. One that benefits not only themselves but also the local community and of course the hundreds of guests that come seeking improved wellness and balance.
After 45 minutes we reached Baan Sam Sop village where Chivasuka is located. Karin told us about the village and the Lanna hill tribe people who worked with them at the retreat and who had helped to build the beautiful bungalows we would be staying in. She also shared with us that they had recently teamed up with a naturopathic doctor to assist the locals with health issues through the use of natural foods and herbs. Something that was having a very positive impact on the community.
Chivasuka Vegan Retreat Accommodations
Upon arrival at Chivasuka we were greeted by a fit and friendly Jan, their happy dogs and a heavenly vision of peaceful, natural surroundings. The main house was welcoming and comfortable with walls of glass looking out over the hills, cozy and colorful seating and cushions to snuggle up in and a beautifully set wooden dining table. There was also a delightful garden to sit in with a fire pit, gazebo and wicker chairs where we were served refreshingly cold coconut water.
Up a hill from the main house were the two bungalows that the four of us would be staying in. As we climbed the steps to our home I could barely contain my excitement. The hand crafted bungalows were everything you would want for a peaceful detox retreat. Perched overlooking the Lanna hills and a tea plantation were gorgeous wood structures with glass walls that folded out to open up three full sides of the beautifully decorated bedroom. Here we would lie every morning and watch the sunrise as we listened for Jan’s footsteps. Steps which would pause on our deck as he left our daily cleansing drink of warm water, lemon and chili.
The bungalows were comfortable and private with a large deck containing lounge chairs, a cozy bedroom and large bathroom. The deck would become our respite between meals and yoga and when the detox played havoc with our physical and emotional state. Something which hit the men in our little group exceptionally hard after the first couple of days.
Raw Food Detox Diet
As I said before, it was heaven for all of us at first. Once we had settled in to our lovely bungalows we came down to the main house for lunch, excited for the first taste of our week long raw vegan diet. The beautifully set table we had seen earlier was now laden with equally beautiful food.
Each of our plates were topped with two small mounds of rice, one a pale blue color and the other pale pink. I know what you’re thinking: “Rice can’t be eaten raw!” and you’re right of course. They were breaking us in slowly, so as a special treat were were given a small amount of cooked rice at our first meal. This was accompanied by a colorful salad of greens, morning glory, edible flowers, dehydrated onion, peppers, jungle peanuts and ginger. To dress the rice and the salad was a cashew nut non-dairy dressing and a tomato non-dairy mayo sauce. To drink we had cucumber water and Rosella wine (non alcoholic of course).
The afternoon was spent exploring and relaxing and sitting one by one in a session with Karin where she ascertained what our individual diet experience was to be for the week. As it turned out, myself and Ivana were not to be put on the full detox program as it appeared our bodies were in need of more fiber in order to function optimally.
We would most definitely be eating only raw vegan food but it would be in solid or partially solid form. Our diet was to consist of creatively prepared and displayed, delicious raw vegan meals of salads, soups and “pastas” for lunch and dinner and non dairy yogurts, muesli, fruits and smoothies for breakfast. We even made raw vegan sushi and it tasted as good as it looked!
To the guys dismay they were told that their bodies were eliminating well enough that they could handle the full detox. Should be good news right? Well only if you’re excited for a liquid diet. They were to spend the first couple of days transitioning from solid food, followed by three full days of only fiber free liquids and then finally transitioning back on the final two days with smoothies and soups. Doesn’t sound so hard you say? Well I dare you to say that to them…even now.
For the first two days we all remained in good spirits. We were feeling a little hungry at times but nothing major. Mostly just the change from eating substantial portions of protein and complex carbs. Energy was still pretty good and we even managed a four hour hike through the hills, though I must say we went slower than we normally would have.
On the third day the boys started their liquid detox and that’s when things took a dark turn for some of us. In all fairness the difficulty they were having was amplified by the fact that they had to watch Ivana and I eat solid food. In hindsight I don’t think we realized what a toll this would take and we probably should have been better prepared. It definitely would have been easier on them had we all been on the same program but they were determined to stick out their full juice detox.
Over the next few days fatigue, irritability and weakness set in creating a bit of an emotional roller for most of us. Personally, I was feeling slightly weaker and a little tired but for the most part I have to say I felt really good through the whole process.
Jan and Karin were sympathetic, realizing that this was a big change, but encouraged us to keep going. They attempted to keep us occupied and upbeat with daily yoga classes, massages and excursions to the village, the Araksa tea plantation, a local traditional sauna and the Eco sustainable Lisu Lodge. Of course there was also the option to skip the excursions and stay at Chivasuka. Gianni decided to do this a couple of times finding it easier to be alone with his detox demons. Often a very wise decision.
For me the week was bliss. The daily routine of rising with the sun to sip my cleansing water followed by a green juice, yoga sessions, raw food prep classes and a series of beautifully presented and delicious raw vegan meals was revitalizing and enlightening. My body felt clean and efficient, my mind was clear and my spirits were high. So high in fact that I had to keep them somewhat subdued so as not to irritate my not so happy companions.
What Do You Get Out of a Chivasuka Raw Vegan Retreat?
Well it depends who you ask. I was euphoric and ready to take on the world though definitely excited for some wine and chocolate. Ivana was calm and peaceful and looked radiant but I think also a little relieved it was over. Nathan and Gianni? Well they were almost in a state of delirium anticipating their release back into the world of pizza and beer. But a funny thing happened upon their release. Rather than head for the nearest pizzeria they initially both chose to stick to a partial vegetarian diet…for a while at least.
All four of us lost weight and came away with heaps of insight and education on how our bodies work and how much food affects us. I know that Ivana stayed vegan for some time afterwards and Gianni also opted for vegetarian pizza more often. Nathan and I gradually eased back into our normal healthy but carnivorous diet, but we did take away some new ideas about how and what we eat as well as some awesome and delicious recipes.
Would we do a Vegan Retreat Again?
I most definitely would and I’m pretty sure Ivana would also. Nathan says he would do it again but would not go for the full liquid detox. I think Gianni would say the same. For Nathan and I it was an experience that we will never forget and one that has given us a lot of food for thought…sorry I couldn’t resist the pun.
Would we recommend a Raw Vegan Retreat?
- Be prepared to challenge yourself and expect some struggles. It will be easier for some than others but it will be a test of mind and body for most.
- Prepare yourself ahead of time, especially if you are not already vegan. For a couple of weeks prior drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol, sugar caffeine and processed foods and wean yourself off meat and dairy. Luckily there are plenty of Chiang Mai vegan restaurants if you are there pre and post the retreat.
- Read up on raw vegan eating. Some really good resources are The Raw Food Detox Diet Forks Over Knives and Fat Sick and Nearly Dead
- Realize that everyone reacts differently to this type of program and it may be challenging to be around others during this time. If you are opting for the full detox experience you may want to consider going alone as opposed to with a partner.
- During the retreat really listen to your body. Take the time to rest and meditate as needed, this is not the time to push yourself physically.
Why should you go to Chivasuka Raw Vegan Retreat?
If you are looking for a different type of holiday, one that leaves you feeling renewed and balanced as opposed to sluggish and over weight after too many indulgences, then Chivasuka is a great choice.
They offer three different programs at Chivasuka, plus Karin and Jan will also custom tailor a program for you if you have specific concerns you want to address. Plus you can enjoy some beautiful scenery and get to know more about the culture and communities in Thailand’s Lanna Hills.
- Revitalize: This program is designed to give your body and nourishing boost and leave you feeling vibrant and energized. They say it is great for people dealing with degenerative conditions.
- Detox: A gentle detox plan that will help to flush out toxins leaving you feeling renewed.
- Weight loss: This program gives a kick start to a healthy and sustainable weight loss plan which Karin will design for you to continue with your progress after you leave.
Just head over to their website, all you need to know is right there and Karin and Jan are happy to answer any questions. The package costs are all inclusive. All you need to arrange is your transportation to Chiang Mai and the Busman’s will do the rest. Transit to and from Chivasuka, private assessment and daily consultation, all meals and snacks, treatments and activities, raw food education and workshop and even one month of after care. Just bring yourself, an open and positive attitude and some comfortable clothes including some warm layers for the cool mountain nights.
A week at Chivasuka really is a great gift to yourself at a very reasonable price…not that you can put a price on health!