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Although many of you out there may find Samui the most relaxing place on earth and never feel the need to find a sanctuary of peace and tranquility to balance the stresses of daily life, many of you may be looking for a place where you can retreat from your busy lives juggling business, bringing up children, battling the traffic, the heat, taking care of the house, the garden, the cooking the shopping, the list goes on!
I have never really been the sort of person that takes time out for myself, I get the odd massage in here and there but things like meditation, health sanctuaries, detox, spiritualism, healing or even something as simple as yoga never seem to find themselves anywhere near the top of my list of priorities. So when I first heard about the new floatation tanks on the island at Thaisolate spa, where you spend anywhere between one and four hours floating about in a pod containing 600kgs of Epson Salts in water, possibly with the lid down, possibly with no music playing and possibly in the pitch black I was not really banging the door down to get into one. To be honest it all sounded a little bit scary to me as well as being an hour of my life that could be used rather more productively, but after the day from hell, feeling frazzled and stressed I decided to go and find out what it was all about and what floating around in the dark could do for me.
I arrived at Thisolate to be greeted by owner Harry and two very warm and friendly Thai girls. The office, that is close to Tesco, opposite what looks like a quarry heading towards Macro, has a distinct smell of lemon grass about it that put me at ease as soon as I sat down. A cool glass of water immediately appeared in front of me and Harry told me all about the experience, took me through a short presentation about does and don’ts and gave me plenty of time to ask questions.
When you go into the tank the lights are on and music is playing, during your introduction downstairs you can decide how long you would like the music to play for during your float, you may want a few minutes at the start to help you drift off into your own world and a then ten minutes before the end of the session to gently rouse you back into reality or you may want to listen to it the whole time you are floating. Harry explains that you can turn the lights on and off from within the tank yourself, there is also a button to press if you need any assistance and encourages you to enjoy your experience au natural and clothes free. The idea of floating naked in a tank that other people have floated in naked might sound daunting but there is no fear, the tanks have filters and the 600kg of salts make it impossible for anything nasty to survive so, in fact, it is a whole lot more hygienic than your swimming pool or the ocean for that matter.
Feeling relaxed I made my way up to the second floor and marveled at the tanks that look a bit like they were imported in from outer space. Harry showed me around, made me familiar with the controls and left me to take a shower and then take my first step into what turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences I have had during my life.
Some people like to use the tanks to enjoy sensory deprivation, floating weightlessly, in the dark, in a pod, might seem like a claustrophobic way to chill out but in fact it has been described by some as experience akin to floating around the universe in empty space, for this reason the walls in the two rooms that house the tanks are black.
If like me being alone in the dark in a tank that you have never used before is something of an intimidating idea, then you can keep the lights in the room and in the tank on. You will very quickly wish you had not, but that is an option. I did just that and very quickly decided that getting out and turning off the lights in the room was by far the best option.
The lights in the Tank are at the bottom by your feet, you can have them one colour or changing colours its up to you. It felt quite space age to me watching the lights play on the shallow water creating interesting patterns on the lid that I surprised myself by wanting to put down straight away. Your head is at the open and shut end, so you are in complete control, the right you can control the lights, to the left you can alert the staff that you need assistance and above you is the handle to the lid and a spray bottle of fresh water you can use if you want to deal with an itchy eye without using your now very salty fingers.
I lay there for a while with my eyes open watching the patterns made by the lights, listening to the relaxing music and marveling at the feeling of being weightless and floating, I guess that is what it feels like to be in the womb, it is a bit like the weightlessness of diving but far more effortless. It also felt a bit like a warm embrace, I felt safe, relaxed and strangely cared for by the salty water around me. Very quickly I established that this experience was going to become highly addictive.
So there I am floating around, drifting in and out of sleep, having deep thoughts, deep dreams, even mild hallucinations, in a world of my own away from phones, computers, traffic, people, noise, aggravations, I remember thinking ‘this is what heaven must feel like’. For me personally I don’t think you realize how stressed out, rung out and utterly hacked off you are with responsibility until you get away from it all and there are very few places you can really do that. I could hear myself breathe and noticed my breathing getting deeper, like a massive breath of relief, I could feel my heart beating, it is the most incredible experience. I didn’t get around to turning the lights off because with my eyes closed I had already found my nirvana and did not even notice the lights were there. After about 50 minutes I came up a few levels of consciousness and very quickly felt very energized. I played about in the tank for a while pushing myself off the sides with my arms and my feet, making ripples to enjoy the lights dancing on the top of the tank again and felt like I was in a very personal, very beautiful playground where the rest of the world and everything in it could take a hike for a while.
The music came back on and I reluctantly got out of the tank. Took a shower and felt like I had not felt in years, I felt healthy, happy, energized and frankly a bit high. I went down floor and met up with Harry who was keen to listen to my experience over a cup of tea. I really had not expected to feel so euphoric and could never imagine the amount of aches and pains I had could disappear after just one hour in the tank. I am sure that there is nothing else available, at least that is legal, could ever make you feel quite that great. Unsurprisingly I spent the next few days wishing I could get back in and go back to my newly discovered space, I know it won’t be long before I do.
The great news for anybody who wants to try this and frankly you would be mad not to, all this week you can try floating with a 50% discount. I challenge everybody to try it. For some reading this I am sure the reasons for going are very obvious, and for some, like me, it might initially sound like a waste of time, but I can assure you, it is a totally unique, totally amazing experience that I am very pleased is available to us on the island and I know that I am now a confirmed member of the floating brigade and will be doing it as often as time permits and I am assured the experience gets better every time you try it!