Many of Asia’s cultures have a long history of healing techniques and traditional medicines. Some of the continent’s top luxury hotel spas now incorporate these treatments into their menus for the ultimate pampering experience. In my search for Asia’s best spa treatments, I came across four that stood out above the rest:
The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong — Radiance Jade Facial
The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong’s spa might be the highest in the world—situated, as it is, on the 116th floor—but the stunning harbor and city views from the floor-to-ceiling are secondary to the ESPA treatments that take place in its 11 hushed treatment rooms (including two couple’s suites). The signature experience here is the 80-minute Radiance Jade Facial, which draws upon the semi-precious stone’s reputation for healing and good fortune to relax and rejuvenate the skin.
Take your time enjoying the spa’s steam room and sauna, or an invigorating swim in the fitness center pool on the 118th floor before changing into a robe and meeting your therapist in the relaxation lounge. After a quick consultation on your skincare regimen, selecting the essential oils for the aromatherapy portion of the experience and a soothing foot bath, your therapist will examine every inch of your skin in detail, picking out trouble spots to concentrate on, and tailoring the treatment to your individual epidermal needs.
Then a light steam, some extraction and the use of a tiny electrified rod to remove oil buildup and congestion (yes, it stings a little, but it is quick and leaves your skin clear). After the hard work comes the truly decadent part. First a cleansing exfoliant, then a soothing masque is applied and while that goes to work, you will enjoy a gentle scalp, neck and shoulder massage. Then it is time for the jade rollers, which have been chilling in a bowl of ice. They awaken the skin with a delightful jolt of freshness as they are gently worked over the t-zone, along the cheeks and the jaw line. The jade has a dual purpose of both shrinking pores and promoting circulation to make those little lines fade away and produce a slight glowing effect.
The treatment ends with the application of Skin Radiance Moisturiser by ESPA which both tones and hydrates the skin for that soft, dewy look, great for refreshing you after the long flight to or home from Hong Kong.
Four Seasons Chiang Mai — Royal Lanna Treatment
Hidden away in the lush, jungle-covered hills of the Mae Rim Valley, Four Seasons Chiang Mai feels like stepping centuries back in time as you look out from your room over small rice paddies to the jagged peaks beyond. The spa complex is tucked away in its own corner of the grounds for utter seclusion.
The spa recently introduced the Royal Collection of treatments that incorporates ancient Thai healing techniques and recipes created specifically for them by Ytsara. The most extravagant of these is the Royal Lanna using Princess Dara Rasami’s Rose. This one-of-a-kind blossom was cultivated by the Lanna princess for whom it is named, and who loved English roses. According to lore, when she was betrothed to King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) of Siam, she brought the rose she had created with her as part of her dowry. Today, the large, thornless pink rose is grown exclusively for the Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai in the nearby mountains and blended into a powder for the Royal Lanna Signature Treatment.
Taking place in your own private treatment suite complete with shower and changing room, the therapy begins with a gentle silk-gloved massage that sets the stage for a full-body exfoliation incorporating the essences of seven flowers: lily, jasmine, ylang ylang, sarapee, champak, pikul, bunnak, and Princess Dara Rasami’s rose. Mangosteen, which is called the “Queen of the Fruits” in Thailand and is prized for its age-fighting antioxidant properties, is used along with citrusy vetiver extract to gently exfoliate the skin.
Once the skin has been cleared and cleansed, a nourishing rose tea wrap is applied, and then the spa’s rejuvenating oil blend (also with mangosteen extract for a firming effect), is used to massage the body. Finally, a touch of 24-karat gold leaf is applied to the hands and the third eye for a truly regal finish.
Shangri-La Bangkok — Thai Herbal Compress Massage
The flagship of Shangri-La’s vaunted spa brand is found at its landmark Bangkok riverside property, which has created a menu of “Sense of Place” treatments for a truly Thai experience. Originally developed thousands of years ago as a way to soothe the aches and bruises of returning soldiers, the Thai Herbal Compress 90-minute experience is a new take on time-honored healing traditions and includes aromatherapy, therapeutic massage and thermal treatment.
It actually utilizes many of the same ingredients you will find in rich Tom Kam Gai soup—lemongrass, turmeric, ginger, keffir lime and tamarind—though here it is their medicinal properties on full display. In combination, they purify the body of toxins, have natural antiseptic properties, stimulate the metabolism and the immune system, promote circulation and help reverse the wear and tear of aging on the body.
Your treatment begins with a calming foot scrub and bath incorporating many of the same ingredients, then continues with the application of hot poultices containing the medicinal herbs that both relaxes the muscles and the mind with the heady mixture of scents. Fully relaxed now, it is time for the full-body massage component tailored to your personal taste and incorporating everything from Swedish to shiatsu techniques. Ninety minutes might just not be enough!
Park Hyatt Siem Reap — Apsara Massage
The Park Hyatt Siem Reap opened in the former landmark Hotel de la Paix last August, providing a new, luxurious sanctuary at the gateway to Angkor Wat. The hotel’s intimate spa is tucked away at the end of the shaded pool area, and contains just six treatment rooms surrounding an open atrium one floor above the spa reception and fitness center. Guests are welcomed with a cup of hot tea and escorted to their room to shower and change in private before their treatment. There is also a rooftop area where yoga classes take place.
Named after the heavenly dancers from Hindu mythology said to bestow luck and good fortune on those they favored (and whose images you can see in the intricate bas reliefs that line the walls of Angkor Wat’s temples). The Apsara treatment combines both healing and relaxation techniques to work out the aches and kinks of days spent trekking through temples and braving the busy streets of Siem Reap.
The Apsara massage, which is either 60 or 90 minutes, delivers traditional healing essential oils such as ylang ylang, jasmine and lotus—all made from locally harvested plants—to the body with a gentle but firm combination of effleurage and pressure point techniques all intended to quiet the nervous system, promote healthy sleep and release both physical and emotional tension so that you are ready for another day out exploring the area’s rich cultural heritage.