Are there spas in the UK? Of course there are. Can you get massages and steams? Yep. So why would you go all the way to Sri Lanka to cleanse your liver, eat healthily and recharge your body?
Because it's much easier and more enjoyable to do when your body is bathed in the warm of tropical heat, where fruit falls off trees wherever you look, where the tea is as fresh as it can be (no teabag-filled dust here) and where your eyes and ears are soothed by blue skies and seas.
From the sun setting into the Indian Ocean, to the exotic birds that land on your tea table, to the elephants rustling in the national park, Sri Lanka has everything to enchant. It's a warm, funny place, with just about all the beauty you can absorb in one trip. It's also the perfect place to unwind, with a series of treatments known as 'Ayurveda', designed to beat the stress out of your body with massages, steams, oils, treatments and baths. Even the simple act of having water poured over your back feels healing, and three days of that will pummel your body and mind into submission, the stresses and strains of the city life seeming a long way away.
The Ayurveda treatment begins with the food and drink you consume. Sure, we've heard it all before: cut out red meat and booze, eat more fruit and veg. However, on the coast of Sri Lanka where the temperature is always high, it seems the natural thing to do. In cold old Blighty we need stodge to keep us warm -here a steak and chips seems ridiculous. Fruit, green tea and crisp vegetables are so much more appealing, especially when the fruit is plucked fresh from a tree and sliced up on a plate for your breakfast. And the tea is so delicious it never really occurs that it is caffeine-free.
The west coast of Sri Lanka has fantastic sandy beaches, with blue waters and plenty of fruit stands and bars along its coastline. The breeze takes some of the edge off the year-round heat, and the blue skies are perfect for hang-gliding. But it's for health reasons we are here. The Sri Lankan diet is virtually vegetarian anyway, with lots of rices and noodles mixed with veg and spicy sauces. Aubergine is particularly delicious here, and perfect for absorbing those rich dressings. The cabbage is thinly-sliced and spiced, a long way from your Sunday roast.
You can choose your level of spiciness, as some patients don't react well to too much chilli. Allergies are taken into account, especially in a country where cashew nuts are mixed in with many dishes. You will not go hungry, and a 10.30am juice and afternoon tea with biscuits mean the body adjusts to its new routine pretty quickly.
Then there are the treatments. Even the most cynical of stress denialists have to admit that three days of being pummelled, scrubbed, steamed and covered in hot mud results in the body simply giving up trying to resist. The hot mud may or may not penetrate through to the organs as they would have you believe, but it certainly loosens aching back muscles - and washing it off afterwards leaves the skin tingling and feeling scrubbed to a gloss.
Similarly, having a steam in an old-school wooden bathtub may look ridiculous, but it gets into the most hardened of neck and shoulder muscles. Being washed by a lady afterwards may take you back to the days of being bathed by your mum, but it doesn't mean every inch of you is rinsed and cleansed.
After a morning of being scrubbed and steamed, and a lunch of veggie curries, salads, fruit and tea, the afternoons are yours to do as you wish. The spa has an excellent salt-water pool and plenty of loungers, so a swim and a read of a good book soon sees the afternoon speed by.
There are a million reasons to visit this jewel of an island, and health is just one of them. The Ayurveda's other retreat, near the town of Dambulla in the heart of the country, is a real treat. Just a handful of chalets are centred around a restaurant area with its own moat, and here the food is fresh and varied. It's an extremely quiet getaway, apart from the monkeys constantly climbing all over the roof. An extremely vigorous bamboo tree has blocked much of that out, but has allowed the local wildlife to put on a free show. The birds here are particularly colourful and noisy, and provide a great backdrop.
Being in such a remote place has obvious advantages, but after a couple of days a trip is a good idea. Luckily there a couple of crackers within a short drive away. Dambulla hassome of the most interesting cave paintings in Sri Lanka. It's a short but sweaty climb up a hill, past a huge Buddha, and free entry into the five caves, one of which, remarkably, is hand-carved.
It's the perfect warm-up for one of the true highlights of Sri Lanka, a climb up Siguriya. It's the site of an ancient temple perched high up a huge rock. On a hot day it's a very sweaty climb, but it can be done is stages, and the summit is well worth it. The views are quite breathtaking.
Barberyn Ayurveda Resorts: the pioneers of Ayurveda in Sri Lanka: http://barberynresorts.com/english/index.htm
Diyayabubla Art and Jungle hideaway: Five secluded luxury villas in the heart of the Sri Lankan jungle http://www.diyabubula.com/