Insider's Guide to Spas
Heather Mikesell

My Spa Experience

The Great Escape

Heather Mikesell


Having spent the last decade covering the spa industry, I’ve experienced my fair share of bizarre spa adventures. From treatments gone awry to rituals that seemed more akin to hazing, the list goes on. It wasn’t until recently, however, that I actually feared for my life. Invited to check out the spa at Phulay Bay, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Krabi, Thailand, I jumped at the chance. It would be the third time I’d traveled to this stunning part of the world. Unfortunately, this time, I arrived feeling under the weather. Determined not to let it ruin my experience, I figured a day at the resort’s impressive ESPA would cure whatever was ailing me.

Feeling much improved the following day, I was relaxing in my villa when I heard a knock at the door. Dressed only in a robe, I opened to find a distressed staff member, who told me Sumatra had just experienced an earthquake. Seeing my puzzled expression, he explained that we needed to evacuate immediately on account of the potential tsunami threat. Figuring a robe wasn’t suitable attire for an evacuation, I asked if I had time to get dressed and grab some of my valuables. He encouraged me to be quick about it and to take my passport before hurrying away to warn other guests.

A bit dazed and confused, I, nevertheless, sprung into action. I couldn’t help but think what does one wear to an evacuation? Apparently, a pair of insect-repellant hiking pants, a t-shirt, a fleece (in case day turned to night), a pair of hiking shoes, and a hat (as the sun was still blazing) fit the bill. Throwing my iPad and passport into my purse, I ran outside to get further instructions. What I found was a deserted resort. Apparently, I was one of the last to depart. Feeling a momentary sense of panic, I quickly pulled myself together and located some of the resort staff. They directed me away from the resort and told me to keep walking.

Outside the resort’s gates, I eventually came across other guests and members of my group sitting on a dusty trail. It didn’t take long for the Ritz-Carlton staff to mobilize, passing out water and cushions for guests to sit on. You know you’re being treated to five-star service when your butler spritzes you with bug spray in the midst of a potential disaster. Just as we all began to relax under the sweltering sun, we were told, “It’s not safe.” So up a hill we marched, including the nanny forced to drag up a rolling bag for the obnoxious family she worked. There, we settled near the top and waited for news from Phuket. If it was hit, we knew we were next. As if things weren’t bad enough, storm clouds soon gathered overhead. Before long, we were drenched and cowering from the lightening that crackled around us. I couldn’t help but think that sitting on a hill in a lightening storm wasn’t exactly the safest place to be. Fortunately, the danger eventually passed, and we got word, after about three hours, that we could return to the resort. While hiking down a slippery muddy hill in the dark wasn’t part of the relaxing spa getaway I had envisioned, I felt a sense of relief that our ordeal was coming to an end. Of course, by evening’s end, my short-lived recovery was a thing of the past. If ever I was in need of a soothing spa treatment…

Heather Mikesell

Heather Mikesell

Based in New York City, Heather Mikesell is the executive editor of American Spa magazine. She has also written for Luxury Travel Advisor, Porthole Cruise, Spa, Travel Agent, abcnews.com, and jetsetter.com. When she’s not enjoying Champagne facials, caviar creams, and other pampering perks of her profession, she’s likely to be found defying State Department warnings in search of adventure.