Healthy Living Asia had the pleasure of sitting down with Sheila McCann, General Manager of Chiva Som, in celebration of their 20th Anniversary. Former Hong Kong resident, Sheila shares how Chiva Som has changed her life and how guests can come to relax and leave feeling better about and within themselves.
Q: How does Chiva Som change each guest during and after a visit to the resort?
SM: Our goal is to teach guests to make better life decisions for health and wellbeing. Using a combination of therapies through our highly individualised program, we transform not just the physical but the thinking behind health creating an active learning process. Many times Chiva Som is the jumpstart to a healthier life, in addition to helping individuals already on their health journey through detoxes and high level fitness training for ongoing transformation.
Q: Tell us about yourself.
SM: I lived in Hong Kong for a long time before taking the position of GM at Chiva Som. My career started as a spa therapist, which has helped me tune into the spoken and unspoken needs of our guests in addition to building the backend of the resort. For example, we have upgraded our kitchen and provided 3,000 hours of staff training to ensure our guests receive the best service. We check all our produce that comes in from outside suppliers, and in fact there is one person at the resort whose sole role is to do continuous food safety checks. We have a growing, active organic garden that produces approximately 30-40% of the food on site, and we have purchased more land at a higher altitude so we can begin growing more and different produce. Furthermore, since I’ve lived in Asia, I understand the tremendous amount of stress and intense energy our guests live in daily. It allows me to tune into their needs when they come to visit us.
Q: What are the top three things you have learned and integrated into your daily life since arriving at Chiva Som?
SM: Since arriving at the resort, it’s been a huge reminder of what I truly enjoy in life, which is helping others. I’ve started to using heart rate variability, which is a biofeedback mechanism that shows the correlation of heart rate to brain waves. Lastly, I now practice taking time out and reflecting daily. I’ve discovered so much about health and true wellness, and I’m so pleased to give and share that with our guests.
Q: Tell us about your sustainability practices.
SM: We are fortunate the owners of Chiva Som are dedicated to thoughtful consumption and that pervades every part of the resort. We recycle and compost all kitchen waste, eliminating as much plastic as possible. Every guest is given a water flask to eliminate plastic bottles. We are part of the Clinton Climate Initiative, so our water is heated by solar energy and waste water goes to an in-resort tertiary water plant. We are also in the process of getting our LEAD certification. Every department of the resort has its own unique sustainability project and we all participate in local volunteer activities. We helped design and engineer the first green/eco conscious boardwalk on temple land for example. We are also restoring and maintaining the last remaining mangrove trees in the area.
Q: What can guests expect when they arrive?
SM: Our service starts before you arrive, meaning that guests email us beforehand their goals and any special concerns. Each individual has a tailored programme upon arrival, which can include treatments from traditional massages to esoteric therapies such as reiki to medical and aesthetic treatments. We have a minimum stay of three nights, giving you enough time to relax and do what you want with the option of nine treatments per day. One of our most effective rules is no mobile phones outside of a guest’s room. This serves a larger purpose in that all guests get a larger degree of privacy, but more importantly our guests gets a lot more sleep and can truly disconnect and detox from being on constant alert. Within 48 hours, there is a profound change in the person as he/she finally gets a chance to decompress, sleep and relax. As I mentioned before all of our food is carefully sourced. We serve a buffet at every meal, but each item is meticulously labelled to ensure guests eat exactly what they want.
Q: Can you give us a quick overview of your offerings?
SM: We have over 200 treatments at Chiva Som. Some of our popular ones include our high-level fitness options like the altitude training room along with physical therapy treatments, our anti-aging therapies, detoxes and the combination of traditional therapies, exercise from yoga to cycling, and aesthetic treatments. (Learn more here).
Q: Who comes to stay with you?
SM: Chiva Som is for adults only, and we have a 50/50 mix of men and women. Because we treat each guest as an individual, we have a number of returning high-level executives, CEOs, men, women, and couples. We have had one CEO in particular that has booked an an annual trip five years ahead. For families, we have a wonderful relationship with The Hyatt nearby. Often parents will bring a grandparent or caregiver who will stay with the children at The Hyatt. The parents then come and stay with us at Chiva Som and visit the children. It’s a fantastic combination, in particular, if you have young children, and it still allows you to disconnect from your normal routine to recharge.
Q: When is a good time to visit?
SM: We have 350 days of sunshine per year, so most anytime you will have nice weather. Our busiest season is from October to May. June through August is slightly quieter, with a better chance of rain in August. We always have some wonderful package options for those tempted to come straight away, and in honour of our 20th Anniversary we have some amazing options!