Spas, Health, Glamour

Echo Valley Ranch - Thai Spa in Caribou Country

Far from the lush rain forests, Echo Valley sits in a meadow on the edge of BC’s Cariboo ranch country – a scenic five and half drive north of Vancouver. Echo Valley has the sagebrush and cactus of BC’s canyon country to one side, pine forest and mountains to another and lakes and marshlands to a third.Across the meadow from the Echo Valley lodge, there is an exquisite teak Thai pavillion. Norm Dove, the owner, commissioned Thailand’s premier architect, Dr Pinyo Suwankiri to design this spa pavilion, as a tribute to his Thai wife, Nan. My first thought is that this beautiful structure is out of place among the rustic setting of what was once a cattle ranch. That was before I have Thai massage late on my first evening at Echo Valley.

Entering the pavilion with its opulent silks and hand carved teak furnishings and its fragrance of sandalwood, I leave the Canadian summer night far behind. I am given a pair of cotton Thai pyjamaas to wear, then a gentle Thai woman applies pressure along “sen lines” to free up energy flow. She takes my limbs and moves them in ways I wouldn’t have imagined possible – rather like passive yoga. The energy comes later; during the massage I drift off into a delicious sleep. Next morning I am encouraged to return to the Thai pavilion to try the “rue sri dut ton” class. I hike through the dewy meadow to sit on Baan Thai’s polished floor. “Rue sri dut ton” is a series of 1000 year old hermit stretching exercises. They seem gentle and easy but I feel full serene and full of energy at the end.

The days at Echo Valley divide easily between the rugged , rustic pursuits of a Canadian cattle ranch and the gentle, peaceful mysteries of the Thai spa. Many of the guests go horse riding for hours through the forest. Norm and Nan send their seven border collies to accompany me on a three hour hike through woods and fields of wild roses, cowslips and indian paint brush. Other guests choose to fish. Their catch of brook trout is kept this time and cooked up at the evening dinner. This is eaten ranch-style round a communal table in the main room of the lodge with its stunning view of the valley and the mountains beyond. But the food is not just fare for would-be cowboys. The cook was chef to a couple of ambassadors and a Scandinavian royal before coming to Echo Valley. When he takes a night off, the Thai staff take over and present a Thai banquet. When they have finished cooking the aprons come off and we are treated to a display of traditional Thai dancing.

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