Bangkok’s Mandara Spa and The Oriental Hotel’s spa

Both places of serenity and unique treatments

SPA at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok

No matter how often you visit a spa and try their treatments, there’s always something different. Perhaps something visual like a tropical flower floating in a bowl on the floor so that when you’re face in that small opening while you’re on you stomach, there it is, in full bloom and so colourful.. That’s just one of the niceties I saw when I was pummeled in Bangkok. Yes, there is a bang in Bangkok.

The Mandara Spa at The Royal Orchid Hotel is where you have a combination of wonderful treatments, high quality natural products and a stunning setting. The temple-like entrance is lit with floor candles set in a pool of floating lotus flowers. The décor while ultra modern, has the Thai serenity. That is the first thing you notice quickly followed by the aromatic scent which fills the air and the Zen music. All the perfect antidote for my aching jet lagged sleep deprived body.

Diminutive Poo was a fake. There she was, tiny, no muscle builder her, and during my massage, I finally learned never to judge a book by its cover. Poo should have a hurricane named after her. The force of her tiny hands that moved up and down my spine, into the neck area and the scalp, I’m sure was efficacious, but yes, there was pain.

Here modesty prevailed and with each turn from front to back, a colourful patterned sheet was held high between Poo and me while during the treatment, the sheet was draped over any area that wasn’t involved. Privacy and respect, I was told, was essential..

Many layers of my skin were first sloughed off with sea salt, rich in nutrients and from the shores of Thailand. This recipe was mixed with essential oils which Poo explained was for deep exfoliating results. The short circular strokes improves the circulation as well as removing the dull skin, she said and did leave my skin soft and glowing. The 50 minutes ended with lotion which she applied with gentler stokes. And the massage that followed, another 50 minutes, had a blend of various styles from Shiatsu with a deep tissue massage using pressure points and stretching techniques. To feel is to know – a proverb I made up the next day when I ached everywhere. During the three and a half hours, my scalp was massaged and the facial included pressure pint massage. Thai Herbal and Honey Facial was gentle yet this recipe is suppose to enhance the face’s firmness. All ended with a floating petal floral foot bath with some reflexology a belief that the body contains constantly flowing energy or “chi” which Poo told me unites with the reflex points of the feet. I did in fact, sprint out of there ready to take on this hectic city.

The Mandara Spa suggests that you arrive 15 minutes prior to your treatment so that the manager can assist in planning a suitable program.

Not that I’m a glutton for punishment, but two days later, I was at The Oriental Hotel’s spa for comparison. I had been to this stylish and once voted the best spa in the world a few years ago. Little has changed. The old teak building has floors that shine like a mirror, you remove your shoes on entering. The atmosphere is mystic and everyone whispers even though the treatment rooms are not even within hearing distance.

The last time, my room came with a large Jacuzzi and sauna. This time the treatments were in a smaller but very acceptable room with private shower, locker, vanity area, loo and a separate area for the floor massage mats. And the floral garland on the door signified that it was occupied. Again it was a three and a half hour experience. San, the esthetician lead me into the room where she handed me a pair of paper panties. Even with her passable English she explained what treatments I would have. First chamomile, mint and honey was spread over my entire body…except for the paper underwear. Here there was no chance for modesty . After a mild massage with that mixture, I was lead to the shower where the goo was easy to wash off. Back on the mat, San proceeded to smear me with sterilized seaweed and water. The fish smell permeated the air until she enveloped me, in a plastic cover like a sardine which San then topped with a hot electric blanket “to retain the heat and detoxify the body”. Removing this gunk was a lot more difficult but with the liquid soap and loofah mitt which was supplied, it finally was rinsed off. Still more time was left and San continued with a somewhat deeper massage. Her thumbs pressed leg veins and muscles I didn’t know existed. With the palms of her hands, she pressed either side of my spine as she sat over me. Ouch. I would have yelled ‘Uncle’ but I knew she wouldn’t have understood that single, significant, pain-filled word. Then slathered with lotions, this being the nice part only lead to more exploration as she went into my skull full force. But it did feel terrific. Only a yoga guru could have achieved the positions she then pulled and shoved my limbs.

For facials, the spa uses natural French Thalgo products. Nothing unusual here. First a simple exfoliant was used. San’s hands were so gentle it was hard to believe that same person had just tortured by body. Finally when the mask was washed off and I glistened, San brought in a large glass of papaya juice. I realized you just can’t go wrong with either of these spas. The women are specialist and take their tasks very seriously. They really know their stuff.

Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok has once again clinched “The Best City Hotel in Asia” and “Top 20 Hotels in the World” accolades in Travel & Leisure’s 2009 World’s Best Awards. Celebrating its 135th anniversary in 2011, the recently rejuvenated “La Grande Dame” has captivated the hearts and minds of Royalty and heads of states, industrialists and artists, famed travellers and local residents alike by its unrivalled service, luxury and elegance.