Spa Rant-Protection First


Protection first

Once I went for a massage (I know, this seems to happen a lot), and it was seemingly going well. It was soothing massage, so there was oil involved and things seemed to be going well until I noticed a really odd scratchy/squishy sound. This was followed by some odd snapping sounds until I finally looked up and turned and realised my therapist was wearing rubber gloves.

Rubber gloves. For a massage. Seriously? In all my years of spa-ing that has never happened to me before. It was so surprising I asked my therapist why she was using gloves. Her answer was “it’s for your protection, and mine.”

Well this was another stunner. What did I need protection from? I assumed she washed her hands before starting the massage…and I didn’t think I was particularly germ-ridden.

To be honest, it didn’t feel THAT different getting a massage through…

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Dare to detox: A trip to Rasayana Resort in Pattaya

Just because I love to spa, definitely doesn’t mean I love to be healthy! It’s a bit ironic I know, having worked for three years on “Asia’s wellness bible.” I just love carbs (and chocolate) too much! But even I was beginning to feel it was getting to be a bit much…like did I really need to have three helpings of pasta at dinner? Probably not.

We choose Rasayana in Pattaya for a few reasons. First of all to be very honest, it was the cheapest. We already had tickets to Bangkok so it would only be a short drive to Pattaya and the package included the transfer. Secondly, it suited our timing. Most detoxes take at least 10 days, that’s how long you should be doing it to see results like weight loss etc. but I really didn’t have that time (story of my life). Also, for a detox newb like me, this seemed like a good ease-in option.

The package at Rasayana sounds more intense then it looks. It basically comprised of two days of Far Infra-Red Sauna sessions and colonics, raw food meals, one yoga class and three massages peppered throughout the stay. The first day we arrived, we checked-in, had our first raw food meal, a foot massage and then came back for dinner.

The hotel:

Fairtex is next to Rasayana and our package included three nights’ stay. This hotel looked like it had stepped out of the 70s (or present-day China). Everything was gold and gaudy and red and carpeted. It was hilarious. At least it wasn’t trying to actually be luxurious. The hotel has a huge muay thai ring, which I think is the main reason all the Russians were there, and lots of sports facilities. This was good because after the raw foods and colonics and sauna, we weren’t really interested in venturing further afield. Most days we swam. played squash and worked out. The room was large and comfortable AND it had cable, so we also did a lot of tv-watching. Truth: TV in bed in a hotel is one of my absolute favourite things to do.

The food:

Sigh. Raw foods are good for you. Cooked at 42 degrees to replicate the way nature intended for us to eat. Ergo, no meat, no processed foods, no dairy, NO CARBS. Given that my favourite food is mac ‘n’ cheese, it was torture. To be fair, it was really tasty. My favourite dish was the Mexican Taco Cups (above) which included a basket made of dehydrated carrots filled with spicy tomatoes and…something white and undefinable (by me anyway). I also really loved the banana smoothie which was simply banana, water and honey. Being lactose intolerant, the joys of smoothies has been largely lost on me, so this was wonderful and a great way to start the day. Now having been away from it for two weeks, I have to grudgingly admit that I miss the feeling all those healthy foods gave me.

The detox:

This was a pretty light detox as far as they go. But this was good as it didn’t leave us too drained and unable to do anything else. Plus this being my first time, I’m glad we didn’t go full-on into scary multiple colonics and clay drinks and whatever. I really liked the infra-red sauna as a good way to sweat out excess water and toxins. I also felt it made me sweat more  at the gym, or even walking around in the sweltering heat. We also got three massages in the package, a foot massage, Thai massage and light Thai-style lymphatic drainage, which I enjoyed immensely more than the Chinese pounding style.

The chamber of secrets…

Then there was the colonics. I haven’t been blogging very long so this might be a little TMI, but these were my first ever colonics (and quite possibly, my last). Colonics, or hydrotherapy, cleanse the colon via the *ahem* back-door entrance. It’s not exactly painful, but it’s uncomfortable. I guess I’d been lulled into a false sense of expectation by all my friends who “love” it. Plus it’s not exactly a passive experience where you just lie there and it happens. You have to do your part. At least through the ordeal, the therapist was extremely understanding and helped soothe my near panic. I’ll admit I felt pretty damned cleansed when it was all over, but I was super weary of doing it the next day. In the end I mustered up the courage and continued. The second time was much easier, so I guess it paid to ‘go with the flow’. Ugh okay I’ll stop now.

The end:

I’m really glad that we did this, especially prior to my Shanghai trip. While I can’t say I’ve given up on my love for pasta, and fries, and chocolate and bread (and many many more…) I am trying to be a bit more cautious of how much I eat, and what I do. This is obviously going to be very hard in Shanghai where I have no access to a gym, and plenty of access to delicious dumplings. But I guess we’ll see!

Spa Review: Mandarin Oriental’s Soothing Facial by Aromatherapy Associates

Greetings from Shanghai. Here comes my first post post-move. I’ve got a few more lined up though I have to say all this Mandarin learning is not going to leave much time for spa…OR…it’s going to be the one thing that drives me to spa more. We’ll see.

I have always been a fan of Aromatherapy Associates. So has my family, which explains how all my journalist freebies (and the stuff I’ve paid for!) tend to go missing in my house all the time. I’ve stashed the samples from this new soothing line safely under other bits and bobs.

I’ll review the line later after I’ve tried it for a few days, but this first-time trial of them during the facial pretty much has won me over already. The facial includes a dual cleansing, once with a set of brushes, an application of the oil which smells divine and a face massage using cold stones to boost circulation. Because I was just getting over a cold, they used room temperature stones instead since being overstimulated post-sickness is the perfect way to get sick again. I liked that thoughtfulness.

I super recommend my therapist Shanti since she patiently answered all my random questions and who helped me and my woeful circulation out by laying a warming wheat pillow filled with ginger, lemongrass and sandalwood on my tummy before the treatment. That kept the bugger soothed throughout the facial and massage. Naturally, I fell asleep during the massage but woke up to warm towels on my face when Shanti removed the mask. After an application of the serum and cream, I could already tell that my skin was looking better.

I had spent some time in the spa’s facilities before the treatment. Now I know why people make such a big deal out of the Landmark Mandarin Oriental’s spa facilities, because the one at the Mandarin doesn’t offer soaking pools. I was surprised, but the Chinese herbal steam room made up for it, and I’m hoping, helped me sweat out the rest of my cold/flu symptoms (I do feel better tonight).

This was also my first time ever at the Spa at Mandarin Oriental which I’ve been itching to visit since I read about the Eve Lom facials, the *ahem* “Lamborghini of facials” (still haven’t had a chance to try one of those yet). It’s really a top-notch spa, and it’s been around for quite some time – despite that it still looks beautiful. The only thing I found slightly off-putting (and which had nothing to do with the spa) was the way the other guests in the changing room kinda stared at me…for no apparent reason. I spent a good 15 minutes trying to figure out if I knew this pregnant woman and her mother (presumably) because they kept making eye contact with me! Not that, dressed in a robe and not much else, I really wanted to have an in-depth chat…
Images courtesy of the Mandarin Oriental

Spa Review: Melo Spa at the Sha Tin Hyatt Regency

One more Hong Kong-based post before I head to Shanghai. Hope I’ll have a chance to try out some spas while I’m up there. I’ve still got one or two more to do on Hong Kong but they’ll have to take a bit of a backseat to my attempt at studying Mandarin (oh boy).

It might be far away, but the Sha Tin Hyatt Regency is worth the trek out of the island, even out of Tsim Sha Tsui. Maybe being so far away makes them try harder? Or maybe it’s coz they’re staffed by students from the hospitality course at the university nearby. Whatever it is, it works. And their Chinese Restaurant Sha Tin 18 is pretty awesome too.

I’m nostalgic about the Melo Spa because it opened around the same time I started working at AsiaSpa and was one of the first spas I got to try out. I remember sitting in the huge jacuzzi in one of their couples’ suites (all alone) and thinking “OMG this is the life!” And the service and treatment expertise has made me come back countless times. I even donated an umbrella (by accident, but still).

This time I was invited to try out a new Payot treatment they were offering called the Total Nourish Repairing Treat. This one and a half hour massage began with a Swedish style back massage – which I apparently really needed because my dining room table makes for a poor office. The oil is hydrating, feels great on the skin and is totally soothing, but my favourite part of the treatment was the finishing hair and scalp massage where the oil is left in your hair to nourish it. By this time I was asleep (as usual). Head massages really do that to me.

Service at the spa is excellent and you get the feeling they really train their therapist to not only say the words, but mean them too. It’s easy to tell when people are being insincere despite what they’re saying, especially in spa. When I mentioned I liked the smell of the oil, my therapist gave me a small sample to take home and try. Also a nice touch. The treatment is available throughout autumn.

Image courtesy of Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Sha Tin

Laos – a trekking and eating adventure through Luang Prabang

I’ve wanted to visit Laos for ages but have always been too chicken shit to do it alone. So when it turned out a fellow gainfully unemployed friend was travelling through Cambodia around the same time I’d be in Bangkok, I jumped at the chance to convince her to join me.

The plan was to do three days in Luang Prabang, see the main sights, walk around the city and leave. To be honest, I cheated a lot and pretty much copied the itinerary that my friend James at Plus Ultra did. The only difference is we probably ate more croissants. Luang Prabang has a very quaint, village feel about it (despite the fact that all of Spain seemed to have decided to visit while I was there). The main streets and sites are all easily accessed on foot, while tuk tuk drivers and guesthouse owners alike are more than happy to take you to the Kuang Si Waterfalls and Pak Ou caves, which we did in a day.

On our third and last day, we decided to do something different with a trekking itinerary through the mountains. This was predominantly different for me, since most of my holidays barely involve exercise. I hardly ever make it to the gym on trips, let alone the wild outdoors. But this trip was entirely worth it. Organised by Tiger Trails, a company that works with locals to create responsible tourism activities, the trek basically takes you four hours through the mountains, visiting three villages along the way, ending with a boat trip to Tad Sae Falls. There’s something pretty special (especially for a carb queen such as myself) to look up and see yourself surrounded by nothing but ripe rice and mountains. I’d never seen so much green in my life.

Our last dinner in Laos also echoed our first since we headed back to Tamarind, a well-known popular restaurant that is all about extolling the virtues of the local cuisine. It was also here that I discovered a carb-lover’s heaven – STICKY RICE. Eaten with your hands, rolled into a ball and dipped into sauces, it was amazing. So good I totally didn’t take any pictures of us scarfing it down. The photo is obviously blurry because I was rushing to eat.

I’d always wanted to visit Luang Prabang but it was so much better than I’d expected. We had great weather despite it being the tail end of rainy season, and also the opportunity to do something a bit different (ie. exercise). Walking the streets in the small main area of town was also pretty peaceful, if sweltering at times. I would totally recommend it to anyone looking to visit the region.

Some useful links:

Tamarind Restaurant:

Lao Wooden House

Tiger Trails (the company we did our trek with)

Spa Review: Bliss Spa’s FatGirlSlim

Bliss was one of the first spas I tried in Hong Kong when I was young and innocent and hadn’t started spa-ing for a living. So it was always a real treat to be able to get anywhere near the spa (or be able to afford it). Now that Bliss has been around for awhile, and I’ve had the opportunity to try quite a few other spas in the city, it’s lost a little bit of its shine, but I’ll admit I felt pretty excited when I was given the opportunity to try a treatment there recently.

I was at the spa to try their FatGirlSlim treatment. I used to really poo-poo slimming treatments till I was finally coerced into trying one at another W (Taipei) and then I have to admit I was hooked. I didn’t walk out the size of a supermodel but all the unsightly bits appeared to have been smoothed away, at least for awhile. FatGirlSlim didn’t involve the intricate wrappings that the Rodial treatment at W Taipei did,  but it did involve a dry brushing and seaweed cocoon that dried and peeled off like rubber. Weird yes, but also detoxing. I suspect the results were less visible because this treatment wasn’t particularly severe but I did feel like the more blubbery bits of me were less visible. It included an application of the Fat Girl Slim product line and I really do think those help as far as homecare goes.

They always say a slimming treatment isn’t as effective without a whole regime/programme, so as far as visible results go, I’m pretty sure you need to go a few more times to see more of them with this treatment. I wouldn’t say I had the hottest legs or tonest tummy after but I definitely felt better when I was done…though I went out and ruined it right after by having a glass of champagne.

Love the wet facilities of this place!

Photos courtesy of the W Hong Kong.