We discussed the idea of a purpose-built, brand new detox and wellness resort as early as 2012. However, Management at New Leaf seriously started searching for a new venue around 2014. Political changes in Thailand scared off one investor we had at the table, delaying the project for another three years.
Finally, in 2017, after finding an old distressed resort through a friend of ours, Mike, we knew we had something suitable. We then purchased it, demolishing it and started building a new alternative. Two years have elapsed.
Today we have opened our new purpose-built detox, health, fitness and wellness resort on the beautiful Maenam beach in the Gulf of Thailand on the island Koh Samui, Thailand.
While this might be self-indulgent, it serves as a digital diary for the owners and more information for anyone interested. We want to share part of the journey with you.
The resort had a soft opening with many ‘repeat guests’ on February 6, 2019. It was Chinese New Year, and the area Maenam is a Thai Chinese area with a beautiful Chinese Temple.
Every Thursday from 4.00 pm the village side roads become a walking street. When arriving at New Leaf, something to keep in mind as there is quite a walk from the main road to the resort through the busy market. This wasn’t an issue during the covid period as the markets were closed.
Our first guests, these brave people, endured some challenges with some workers still finishing parts of the building. We finally test every appliance, tap, toilet, sauna, steam room, guest room to end up with what we have now—a fantastic new wellness retreat.
New Leaf owners purchased a distressed resort called Hutcha. The owner was keen to move on, and immediately we knew as we walked onto the land this was the new venue for the new detox resort, which was to be the New Leaf. April 2017 Hutcha said farewell to their final guests, and we closed the resort and went to work.
We reviewed what we had purchased and worked on the layout of the main building and pool. We wanted to maximise the view and sun while giving the guests the best possible experience. We believe we achieved this with three separate Architects and one very talented interior designer.
The first task was to decide which of the 36 bungalows to keep and what we needed to demolish to maximise the space. We removed all existing administration buildings, the old swimming pool, restaurant and several bungalows to make space for the new building and spa wing, pool and deck.
The land size is 6.8 rai, approximately 2.7 acres, which gave us a lot of space for everything we wanted to build, plus the additional area for the herb garden and small hydroponic farm. On realising there could be some minor flooding issues, we dug a trench around the parameter of the land and put in a considerable stormwater drain. We then raised the land level by 1.5 meters and built a 2.5-meter parameter wall around the 900-meter perimeter.
It was a big job, but we felt it necessary to ‘future proof’ the land and business. There is a pending land encroachment issue with one of the neighbours with the local Council. We are sure this will resolve itself soon, giving us even greater beachfront access – More on that later.
The objective has always been the same: making New Leaf Detox Resort Thailand the best value wellness retreat on the planet. We need to not, as the financial people say, overcapitalise. If we built it right the first time, we wouldn’t have to try, and retro fix issues as they arose over the years. Infrastructure became the main focus for the next few months. It became about water flow, drainage, septic, clean water and underground power.
So we set about renovating all the bungalows. We renovated all existing bungalows. Re-roofing, rendering, painting, and fitting them out, completely. We were able to begin the renovations before the Council approved the main building plans. In December 2017, the plans were approved. The following day the excavators and we demolished the existing resort.
Unfortunately, the access road into the land was narrow with low hanging power lines, restricting extensive vehicle access. During the construction, we were only ever able to use smaller machines and vehicles. Small excavators and cement trucks meant many more hours and loads.
The wet seasons while slowing the building process, revealed some drainage faults with the land. The upside to this was we were able to add more pipelines and connect to the primary parameter drain we installed early in the build. Lot’s more work and a lot more money, but it needed to be done.
During that time, we also realised the builders of the old resort had taken a shortcut with the septic systems, and we need to replace them all. We added 34 new systems and one custom made ‘green’ septic for the new Detox building.
The Detox building is a 10×14 sqm room building with twenty toilets, two in each room. It confused both the Architect and Builders when they saw the two toilets per room set up in our sketch. They got the picture soon enough when we awkwardly described how to do a colema. Each guest detox room is designed with a comfortable change and shower area and a purpose-built colema setup. We wanted to make this building feel fresh and bright, so we choose beach type colours like beige and sand. The result is a very comfortable, air-conditioned room for each guest to do their daily colon cleanse.
The rain continued to slow the development of the new detox resort as we planned for a February 1, 2019, opening. Initially, we were hoping for November 1, 2018, but quickly revealed that the date was very ambitious.
Again the rain revealed some flaws in the drainage—another ‘godsend’ as they say. We make the hard decision to stay the course for February 1 opening and try and get a new trench dug and pipe installed before the first guests arrived. This wasn’t to be the case. Several times on this project were a miscalculation in building materials, and we found ourselves a few pipes short. After a short wait, some frustration from the guests and we got the job completed.
Anything that could go wrong did go wrong. Not is a big way, but there were, in our opinion, some avoidable delays. It became apparent to us very early in this project that the result depended on our participation and presence on site. We were there just about every day of the construction. We drove thousands of kilometres driven back and forward across the Island. It also became apparent that the last 10% of the project required us to be on-site almost all day. Several times we would arrive at lunchtime only to find mistakes made in the morning. Twice tilers laid several hundred of the wrong tiles. Doorways were put in the wrong place or forgotten. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Several features we put on hold to focus on the main construction. All the major construction and fit-out was completed on time. We have prepared some small sections of development that needed finishing after opening. Now it is complete and you can come see for yourself.
We’d like to personally thank the fantastic guests who went through the first three weeks of opening and patiently worked with us to see it through. Liz, Warren, Di, Kamiar, Steve, Julie, Peter, Petko, Kerri, Louise, Jane, Martin, Satish, Valdirene, Paul, Amanda, Tony, Yaron, Joanne, Hannie, Victoria and Christina.
Last but not least, our good friends from Dubai, Saeed, Ghanim and Guenter. Thank you all for your patience and support. You are all Champions, and we got there in the end.
The first person in our brand new 25-meter x 8.5-meter saltwater pool was Steve. Steve is a great supporter of New Leaf, and this was his third visit. Steve was shown to his room; he quickly changed into his swimmers and jumped into the pool.
The New Leaf Detox Wellness Resort brand value proposition to all its guests has always been ‘a comfortable transaction space for guests between their next life challenge’ This has been a challenging ship to steer over the years. However, I believe we continue to achieve this objective and deliver to every guest – Air Page – New Leaf Detox Founder.