Most of us shudder at the thought of hospitals – the clinical environment and pungent hit of antiseptic in the air. But it’s a different story when these unpalatable elements are replaced with glorious seaside vistas, fuchsia sunsets and luxury villas. Aegle Wellness Centre has been designed to take the intimidation out of check-ups, and its Balesin Island location repackages the four-day retreat into a tropical getaway.
The pre-bed routine was something I found myself looking forward to – who else can say they are tucked in each night by a team of medical professionals?
The property is divided into villas themed according to the owner’s favourite holiday spots. At first this conjured images of a grown-up version of Disney’s Small World ride, but after a two-hour tour of the island it becomes clear that the recreations are surprisingly spot on. Having visited each of the destinations, I can vouch for their genuine resemblance to Bali, Mykonos and St Tropez, complete with a restaurant recreating local specialities.
Nutritionist Arian provided meal options from each of the eateries for the duration of the stay, which meant I only needed to look at a menu once the entire time. She asks after my current dietary habit to customise a plan for me. The island tour can take up to three hours and allows you to explore each ‘city’ within the island, with activities from surfing to horse riding. One of their signature treatments are the thalassotherapy pools, each infused with a unique cocktail of vitamins and minerals according to your needs, whether healing, detox or achieving balance.
The first day is about taking the time to appreciate the picturesque surroundings, with an aromatherapy massage to help unknot any kinks along the way. Dinner focuses more on portion control than nutritious choices, with Thai prawn cakes, a fish stir-fry, and to my delight, mango sticky rice, all meagerly sized to give you an indication of appropriate servings when dining out.
The bedtime routine begins with a 15-minute meditation session with yoga teacher Andi who guides me though gentle stretches and breathing exercises. This is followed by light therapy, which is believed to reset the internal clock. It took a while to get used to the bright flashing lights, which turned into a 20-minute journey of vivid colours and patterns accompanied by trippy music, making for a psychedelic experience. I take a bedtime cocktail of sleep-inducing supplements to ensure I am rest for tomorrow’s tests first thing.
After 10 hours of fasting, my blood is drawn, and Dr Benedict Valdecañas explains that results will be ready in the afternoon, which we will go through together. A body composition analysis and plethysmography are also used to provide a more in-depth perspective.
After a delicious oat, yoghurt, green apple and peanut butter smoothie, it was time for a session with my personal trainer, followed by the rest of my breakfast. Today’s hydrotherapy was followed by 10 minutes in the infrared sauna and a quick dip in the cold plunge pool to rev up circulation.
I was intrigued to try the hyperbaric oxygen chamber, and find out why it’s considered an essential by professional athletes. Designed to combat inflammation it’s used to ease symptoms of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as divers suffering from decompression sickness. It takes a while to equalise your ears and acclimatise to the pressure, but otherwise I felt a bit like Snow White in her glass coffin. As thankfully I’m healthy, the effects may have been more noticeable after a few sessions.
Afternoon called for pampering with a cleansing facial which proved a tad abrasive, and probably unsuitable for those with sensitive skin. But then the focus at Aegle Wellness Center is really the comprehensive medical care. I was accompanied by nurses Vince and Van at all times who remained by my side during every procedure and treatment with words of encouragement (circuit training!) and comfort (IV treatment). I’m embarrassed to admit I wasn’t game enough for the colonic, but it’s on my list of intimidating things to conquer next…
Dr Valdecañas went through the results from my blood work and various tests, explaining the conventional acceptable range for measurements used by most GPs, versus his more stringent ones particularly when regarding hormones. Happy to report he found no major issues but recommended more rigorous exercise to manage stress and adding good fats and protein to my diet, and Arian updated my meals accordingly. My supplements were also tweaked to complement the test results. I was impressed to be given a month’s worth of morning and evening supplements – a nice touch considering that many retreats do not include much follow-up after you return to the ‘real world’.
After a tough but energising circuit training session, I was rewarded with pampering in the form of thalassotherapy, infrared sauna, deep-tissue massage and a radio frequency treatment said to zap inches off trouble zones. Apparently results can be seen after four to six sessions, while as much as half an inch off the waist claims to be achieved after just one.
An afternoon at leisure was spent with my sidekicks, nurses Van and Vince, driving around in a buggy to explore some of the more obscure spots on the island, including the exclusive private Tuscan villa, the treehouse at Rico’s Hideaway and Nusa Dua bar perched above the water – offering the best sunset view by far.
Tonight’s meditation session was slightly longer, followed again by light therapy which can only be described as having a party in your head with your eyes closed. The pre-bed routine was something I found myself looking forward to – who else can say they are tucked in each night by a team of medical professionals?
Attentiveness is the strength of the programme, and a worthwhile alternative to your conventional annual check-up. There’s a lot to be said for the comprehensive testing, detailed explanation, follow-up and creation of a supplement and meal plan created especially for the client. Not to mention the palm trees, lush greenery and crystal-clear water…And it’s the only way you’ll get to experience the island without being a member, which is reason enough.
by Stephanie Shiu | January 19, 2017