In this article, you’ll read about our detox adventure, struggles, lessons on raw food, and challenges at Chivasuka center near Chiang Mai, Thailand.

“Toooo much meat,” I kept saying while travelling around Taiwan. When we came back to our winter base in Chiang Mai, Thailand, it was just about the time to do some serious detox. In fact, shortly upon our arrival from Taiwan, where we sampled lots of local cuisine, I went vegan for a month and was then ready to continue with a plant-based diet at the retreat centre in the mountains near Chiang Mai.

Detox at Chivasuka near Chiang Mai

Sunset over the bungalows at Chivasuka.

This area of northern Thailand is well known not only as a digital nomad base for many entrepreneurs, but it’s also the right place for those wishing to live a healthy lifestyle. Here you can find some of the finest vegan and vegetarian restaurants, get some of the best massages, or do a massage course yourself, and if you are not under time constraints, you can apply for a longer detox retreat, as we did.

What to expect from a raw food detox at Chivasuka

If you’ve never been to a detox retreat before, keep in mind this is not a quick fix of your broken body. On the contrary, you should prepare yourself for the upcoming change of diet in advance by reducing meat, sugar, coffee, dairy, and all processed food, in case they are on your plate regularly.

Detox at Chivasuka near Chiang Mai

A cozy garden to take some rest or do yoga.

Be aware that during any detox retreat, you clean not only your body, but also your mind. You purify your cells not only from the toxins you’ve accumulated prior to your decision to get healthier, but also some unpleasant emotions might come out, and you’ll need to cope with that too, like it or not.

Moreover, completing a one-week raw food detox retreat shouldn’t mean you’ll get back home and jump on a steak with grilled potatoes and a few pints of beer. Ideally, the programme will show you how you can implement some useful tricks into your diet on a regular basis.

Why Chivasuka?

If hopping around vegan restaurants and massage shops in the touristy centre of Chiang Mai is not what you’re looking for, consider a long weekend or an intensive one-week raw food detox retreat at the Chivasuka centre.

You can choose from three different programs there: revitalize, detox or weight loss. If you’re not sure which one fits you best, fear not, Karin, who takes care of the comfort and treatment of the clients will decide which package is the best fit for you with an online questionnaire and after a conversation at the center.

Detox at Chivasuka near Chiang Mai

Lanna Hills surrounding Chivasuka center.

Karin and Jan Busman, the owners of Chivasuka, went through a dramatic change of lifestyle themselves. After their daughter went raw because of health reasons, her parents wanted to support her and shifted their diet into (predominantly) raw food themselves. Within a year, they lost about 20 kg (44 pounds) each, which made them not only slimmer, but also definitely happier and healthier.

They never came back to their meaty diet again, and after a few coincidences in their business and private life, they bought a piece of land in Northern Thailand, built a couple of bungalows with help of locals and opened the Chivasuka Retreat centre near Chiang Mai where they employed Lanna hill tribe people.

Detox at Chivasuka near Chiang Mai

Meet Karin and Jan Busman.

Now their project takes the next step – they collaborate with a naturopathic doctor with whom they aim to help locals with health issues using the plants and food that is available in the area.

Detoxing at the Chivasuka Retreat

Well, we’ll tell you straight from the beginning it didn’t go as smoothly as you’d imagine. On the first day we felt great and lighter, which is common at the beginning of a healthy change of diet. Needless to say, the plant-based food variations, snacks and drinks that Jan & Karin prepared for us certainly helped us with the transition! After an individual consultation about our health conditions and a conversation about the goals of the retreat, the challenge could commence!

Everything kicked off with a pleasant & slow pace. The real challenge started the day after, when we went for a hike and got hungry and hot in the jungle. We reached our breaking point, when we decided that we would prefer focusing on our inner self progress, rather than straining ourselves outdoors and trying to take on more activities than we could handle. Our souls needed the same soothing care as our bodies.

Detox at Chivasuka near Chiang Mai

Slowing down.

The feeling of staying on our own versus staying with a group came naturally and maybe a bit unexpectedly, especially for Gianni; the peaceful bungalow and very cosy terrace became his escape where he could relax, meditate or take additional afternoons naps.

Detox at Chivasuka near Chiang Mai

Raw vegan sushi. Yes, it exists.

“Will I still be hungry while detoxing?” I know you’re curious because that was exactly one of our biggest fears, too. Honestly, it all depends on your eating habits. You certainly won’t starve there, but you might feel like having a small “something” in between the main meals.

If you’re not on a strict programme like Gianni was (only liquid “food” from day 2, no blended and no solid food for four days), then you can have an extra smoothie or avocado as a snack, or anything that garden gives you during that season.

Detox at Chivasuka near Chiang Mai

Mayonaise garlic sauce with the cashew nut base.

It was interesting to observe how our taste buds changed and our sense of smell magnified a lot. That said, having a stroll on the street food market full of cooked food during your retreat would be not the best idea. Unless you want to torture yourself with all finest smells of Thai dishes.

A few insider tips on raw food detox retreat

* Be open
If you have any health issues, if you can’t stand a particular ingredient, or if you’re not happy with anything that is happening around you – let someone know.
* Be flexible
Let go of what you don’t need anymore, be it a bad eating habit or a reaction that doesn’t make you, or the people around you happy.
* Go solo
The mood swings might reveal not the brightest side of you. That’s why you’ll do better if you do a detox retreat alone, without your partner or best friend.
* Don’t go to a food market
Not even “to have a look.”

Daily routine at the Chivasuka

Detox at Chivasuka near Chiang Mai

Green juices and lemon water with cayenne pepper to kick off the day.

Here is a rough timetable of the retreat at Chivasuka:
7.30 – 8.30: waking up and having your first detox drink and green smoothie
9.00 – 10.00: breakfast
10.00 – 13.00: free programme or a trip to a jungle, tea plantation, Lisu Lodge community or a sauna
13.00 – 14.00: lunch
14.00 – 17.00: free time, a raw style coffee and red smoothie as a snack will be served
17.30 – 18.30: yoga or a Thai massage
19.00 – 20.00: dinner

I don’t think we ate two same things in one week. So no, raw food detoxing is not about green salad and yellow papaya. The array of meals at Chivasuka was pretty admirable and we tasted different fresh salads, creamy soups, raw sushi that we managed to prepare ourselves, and amazing desserts made by Jan.

Detox at Chivasuka near Chiang Mai

Someone’s happy about a hand made sushi roll!


You’ll stay in a fully furnished and very bright bungalow on the top of Lanna hill with some spectacular views. Get ready to watch the scenic sunrises right from your bed! There is a hot shower in the bathroom, a couple of bamboo cupboards, and natural homemade toiletries all in the bungalow.

Detox at Chivasuka near Chiang Mai

Bright room crafted by locals.

Our most favourite spot was the terrace with comfortable recliners and a tea set with some organic oolong tea we could prepare anytime we fancied a hot drink. If you’re an active addict, like our fellow travellers Sarah and Nathan with whom we did the detox retreat, there also is enough space to do some basic workouts on a wooden terrace.

Detox at Chivasuka near Chiang Mai

Sipping delicious fresh oolong tea.

Other activities at Chivasuka Retreat

If you feel up to it, explore the neighbourhood around the Chivasuka Retreat, and you can hike with a local guide to the jungle and local villages nearby. You can also visit Lisu Hill Tribe village where you can learn about an interesting community-based project with a great cause: to preserve the natural heritage of the area.

Detox at Chivasuka near Chiang Mai

Planting trees at the Lisu Hil Tribe village.

One of the places you shouldn’t miss out on while staying at Chivasuka is the Araksa tea plantation, which is one of the oldest ones in Thailand. On 20 hectares, they grow about 45.000 plants of mainly assam tea. You’ll be able to get your hands on picking the tea leaves yourself, watch the art of roasting tea and learn about the tea culture and production that has tradition of 70 years in Araksa. And, of course, sampling the tea!

Detox at Chivasuka near Chiang Mai

Roasting tea leaves is a work of art!

Alternatively, you can visit a public sauna at a local Buddhist temple. Sadly, the place was under the reconstruction during our visit, so we left sweating only from the heat outside.

Depending on your mood, you can join a yoga class that Karin leads in the evening. The class happens in a small garden for now, but they plan to build an appropriate space for yoga and meditation very soon!

Detox at Chivasuka near Chiang Mai

“I’m not hungry, I’m not hungry, I’m not hungry.”

Occasionally, there is a local Thai masseuse at Chivasuka who can give you a very relaxing Thai massage using a special technique, quite different and softer than you might be used from the massage shops in Chiang Mai.

What to bring on a detox retreat

You’ll need to feel as much comfortable as possible so make sure to pack these with you:

Cotton top
Bring a couple of them and make sure you feel comfortable. What you pack will help you to feel at ease during detox.

You’ll need them for yoga, meditation, hiking, or even for sleeping when it gets colder at night.

Hiking shoes
In case detox means for you active holiday, bring your favourite hiking shoes so you can explore nearby area of Lanna hills.

Water bottle
Drink. Drink. Drink. That’s what you’ll need to do during your detox here. Whether you’ll hike, chill out on a sundeck or help out in the kitchen, keep it with you.

Yoga mat
Chivasuka provides some yoga mats, but if you travel with one that you’re used to, bring it.

Warm jumper
Well, once sun goes down, you’ll feel like putting on one more layer, so make sure you pack a warm jumper.

How to apply for a detox retreat at Chivasuka

Head over to their website, check their programmes and drop them a message to arrange the dates and after you fill in the questionnaire.


Have you ever done a detox retreat? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!

Disclaimer: We were kindly hosted by Jan & Karin at Chivasuka for a week. All challenges, swinging moods, happy stomachs and opinions remain our own. 

4 Responses

  1. Karin & Jan

    Hi Ivana and Gianni,
    In the past weeks we had the great pleasure of welcoming two of your blog followers at Chivasuka, who had read your open and great article. What a beautiful synergy.
    Jan and myself wish you a happy Christmas wherever you spend it on this amazing Globe.
    May your Nomadic Dreams come true in 2017!

    • Ivana Greslikova

      Hi Karin, hi Jan,

      These are some really great news! We’re happy that we can spread the word about Chivasuka because you’ve been helping so much other people and you actually inspired us a lot, too. Wishing you Merry Christmas, and that you can welcome more and more people willing to give it a try and spend a week learning about new things. Big hugs from both of us!


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