Attention spa aficionados: Right on the heels of the success of Aryuvedic spas and treatments, one can always be sure they’ll be another wellness adjunct to interest spa goers. So be on the look out for another ancient but new spa experience.
On a mother/daughter trip recently to the Orient, we decided to indulge in a few spa treatments at the sumptuous five star Shangri La Hotel in Bangkok after a grand and hectic stay in Hong Kong where we also stayed at The Shangri-La. (My philosophy is if you’re on to a good thing, why change?)
Chi, the treatments which I’m convinced will be the next big wave, was our choice for a memorable morning.
In the Chinese philosophy, Chi is the universal life force that governs our wellness and personal vim and vigor. The Chi concept comes from the world of ancient secrets which have been revived and cleverly installed at the 1,000square metre spa Shangri La Hotel. Soon these spas within a spa with spacious and luxurious private suites, will be at most of this hotel chain worldwide and are the first to fuse centuries old healing traditions, philosophies and rituals originally from China and the Himalayas.
The basis which has been practiced for eons, is that Chi must flow freely within the body and if and when there is a blockage, illness follows. Therefore, the key to this strategy is to release the natural blockage with exercise, stretching, massage, hydrotherapy and not forgetting the mind through relaxation and mediation.
Ingredients, I was told by Faungfra, my tiny Thai masseuse with the strength of Atlas, assists the body’’ natural renewal.
Five important Chinese elements are the signatures for the therapies . Metal, water, wood, fire and earth, when working together, restore the harmony of yin and yang hence creating harmony.
Down a wood paneled foyer, far enough from the main lobby but still part of the hotel, lit only by floor candles with an aroma of scented incense, we were escorted by Arlene, an Australian born spa expert/manager, to a bright, large rich coloured room with several conversation areas. Here too, candlelight creates a serene mood among antique artworks from the Himalayan region. The architectural inspiration is of a Tibetan temple and I quickly realize that there’s a sense of being in this sanctuary of tranquility.
Before starting our discussion we were offered a choice of tea and a two page personal assessment form which had to be filled out before any of the procedures would or could be started. Included were likes and dislikes of colours, preference for early mornings or late nights, other personal favourites and much more about exercise, activity and general health.
Several essential oils, were then brought which we sniffed and decided on our preference. By the time we had had our second cup of herbal tea, and after the forms were analyzed, we received the results. Heidi, my daughter is ‘metal’ and therefore does exceptionally well at anything she endeavours and has high standards. As a mom, I proudly say that’s right on. My result was a double whammy of wood and fire. Wood loves travel adventure, competition and devoted to usual and different places”, Arlene read from the note passed to her and as a sceptic, wondered how much she knew about my choice of career. But if she didn’t, as a travel writer, those ingredients are all important. The fire angle is that I’m a “romantic and a natural leader, active and has little time to unwind.” I leave that for my friends and family to decide.
Metal people have muscular problems as well as respiratory issues. Heidi has constant neck pains
Meanwhile the fire and wood type has stomach problems especially in small and large intestines. Again the conclusions were startlingly on target for this naysayer.
The other elements were also explained. The earth person likes to look after other people and crosses themselves off the lists of helping others before themselves. Water is the secret of knowledge, loves new things, research and is very curious.
After ending our talk with Arlene, Heidi and I were both anxious to get started
Finally, we head off in different directions. Heidi gets the most spacious of the nine private spa suites. The Garden Suite, the largest in Bangkok which is over 107 square metres, has a garden with an infinity bath set into a lotus pond. Even though there’s a massage bed outdoors, she chose to stay in the luxurious space inside.
I was still jet lagged and gratefully accepted a darker room again candlelit.
Each suite has its own therapeutic tub, dressing area, loo and often both floor mats and massage beds. Teak sliding screens, have been based on traditional Himalayan lattice work separate and are easily moveable.
“Ring when you’ve undressed,” Faungfra told me in her sweet accented English as she pointed to the silver bell on the vanity table.. Obedient, I did what I was told. She arrived quickly, easily shifted the ‘modesty’ screen to one side. From there she led me to a very comfortable chair where I soaked my feet in coolish water as pink and white flower petals covered the surface and then had a short, too short I thought, foot massage.
I couldn’t believe her next suggestion. There was the tub, filled to the brim with several Jacuzzi nozzles spouting wickedly forceful warm water. Various coloured lights, green, blue, green, red, depicted the personality of the client. I lowered myself into the red lit (since I’m a fire person) tub filled with warm water which I asked to be made hotter. The several forceful Jacuzzi nozzles seemed to be strategically placed to hit all the right spots- calves, thighs, buttocks and arms. I was told that I must lie in the dark in the tub for 20 minutes. The first few minutes were agony since this was the last thing I’d ever thought I’d have to do at 9.30AM. Besides, I have trouble de-stressing and staying in one place. But I followed instructions and soon, in the semi dark room, felt quite relaxed and buoyant as I floated like a top like a cork. Right on time, Faungfra returned, big towel in hand. From there I was asked to lie on my stomach on the massage bed, head through a doughnut type pillow which had me starring into lotus plants floating in a large pot of water…very pretty.
She mentioned that the oils that were to be used for the massage were specifically chosen to detoxify the body and relax muscles
My choice of the many treatments on the menu was a Himalayan Healing Stone Massage, as was Heidi’s. This was inspired by the healing rituals of the Hor region of Tibet. It was customized for me using a combination of hot stones which had been heated in oils and herbs “to ground the body and restore vitality and cool stones to balance stress”, I was told.
The 90 minutes seemed to fly by and had I had the time, before booking, I would have opted for CHI Balance treatment which is a unique blend of Asian techniques encouraging the flow of energy. This includes acupressure, an energizing massage for yang stimulation followed by a relaxing massage for yin calm with the use of pure oriental oils to harmonize the Chi flow.
Another interesting treatment is Mountain Tsampa which is a barley scrub from the Himalayas and encourages skin rejuvenation, gently removing dead cells and refining the skin tone.
For couples, since most rooms have two massage beds, the Yin Yang massage presents “balance for the flow of relationship between two people”. Two therapists coordinate deep rhythmical strokes focusing on releasing tension and restoring peace and harmony..
My experience was so very special, and although I’m not a spiritual person, there was something very ethereal about the quietude of the room, the soft voiced technician, aroma of the oils, the gentle and soothing massage and for the finale the sound of
Tibetan singing bowls and when stuck ring are passed above and over the entire body to assist with mediation and healing. These ancient instruments originated in the mountain top temples of Tibet and produce calm and realization while having a profound effect on the energy of shakra system of the body. What always throws me is the Zen music which I find more distracting than silence.
When Heidi and I compared notes, she wanted to buy the bowls and accompanying symbols, so impressed was she with the unusual sound and effect. However, her assessment of the session was that her tiny masseuse, also with Herculean strength, did a fabulous foot reflexology and since Heidi is always suffering from neck pains, she was particularly fond of the attention and massage paid to that part of her back.
The synergy of massage, oils, ringing sounds all added an entirely new repertoire to my spa days.
Shangri-La Hotel, 89 Soi Wat Suan Plu, New Road, Bangrak, Bangkok