Hubert Burda Media

Oh, Mega!

Relaxation gets its own zip code as the latest Asian spas muscle in with titanic parcels of land. By Andre Frois

IT’S SAFE TO assume that spas thrive on stress. In Asia, where countries like China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore are well-documented world leaders in national average stress levels, businesses that offer the relief of tension from minds and bodies tend to enjoy impressive longevity. As this trend matured and developed over the past decade, industry old hands foresaw the rise of a new breed of mammoth-sized institutions as the next logical step in the evolution of physical indulgence.
“The ‘mega-spa’ tends to offer an extensive variety of treatments, which are not restricted to services from one source. These establishments usually comprise of a wide variety of remedies and alternative therapies from different parts of the world,” enlightens Mary Yong, founder and executive director of The Gentlemen’s Lounge in Tangs Orchard.
A long-time player in the spa industry, Yong has seen these majestic new citadels, often branded as pathways to wellness for the mind, body and spirit, feature everything from chiropractic care and acupuncture, to aesthetic procedures and treatments tailored for kids.
Yong elaborates that the housing of every form of pampering possible under one roof is, in itself, a form of indulgence that entices patronage. “Those seeking a retreat in mega-spas do not have to run from one place to another to enjoy all the rejuvenation and detoxification that their bodies need. The lure is that the client saves on air travel as well as time, which is very precious in our world today. A lot of customers are now more savvy and expect more with each spa,” she explains. “The idea is to make ordinary spas pale in comparison.”
Carol Ann Kelley-Elwell, representative of Ananda In The Himalayas, however, rebukes that her clientele do not just comprise of the jaded and educated. “At Ananda, it is a mixture of nationalities. Some are spa junkies and some are just there for the spiritual connection,” she divulges.
Local Hideaway
Conceived by an award-winning design team, ESPA in Resorts World Sentosa, is a staggering 10,000sq m giant themed on total relaxation and recreation amid verdant nature. Because simple outdoor and indoor swimming pools won’t do, this southern sanctuary was fitted with Singapore’s first authentic Turkish hammam, vitality and forest onsen-style pools, rock saunas, and crystal steam rooms. Hidden from the stresses of the world by gorgeous foliage, patrons are spoilt for choice by numerous traditional and modern therapies specially tailored for before and after childbirth, the face and body, and relieving the stress from minds and bodies of busy professionals. Thereafter, ESPA’s local and foreign visitors alike may retire to private beach villas, garden spa suites or designer pavilions to rest and relax.
Get Away and Return Different
Offering panoramic views of the Gulf of Thailand, Chiva-Som‘s gorgeous garden villas and lakeside pavilions in Hua Hin tempt customers who check in to never check out. One wouldn’t need to anyway, since this thoughtfully self-sufficient sanctuary has its own dry cleaning service, sports injury clinic, fitness amenities, a nearby golf course and even offers private butler services.
Very stringent about minimising carbon emissions and energy usage, Chiva-Som utilises fresh local produce to prepare both its local favourites and international cuisine. One may also opt for special cleansing diets or take classes to learn how to cook more healthily. Its aesthetic clinic offers treatments like botox, lipolysis, laser skin rejuvenation, thermage skin tightening and contouring, and hair removal, while its wellness spas offer relaxation and detoxification techniques via either conventional medicine or naturopathy. Seeing to visitors inundated by the wealth of wellness options, in-house doctors and nutritionists offer complimentary consultations and advise a programme tweaked for each individual.
Nature the Healer
The choice getaway of Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra and Uma Thurman and rated as one of the best destination spas in the world by Conde Nast Traveller’s readers for eight consecutive years, Ananda In The Himalayas combines over 80 treatments under its mega roof. Among them, the most popular are the warm oil treatments, hot baths, massages, aromatherapy and yoga performed according to the Hindu medicine of Ayurveda and Abhyanga, while other therapies are centred on the ancient philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga. The West is also present in Ananda’s healing rituals, in the form of a sauna, heated swimming pool, steam room, modern gym, hydrotherapy facilities and beauty centre. Fancy a herbal oil treatment designed to normalise your sleep patterns? Ananda’s personal mission is to relieve patrons of the tensions of the world primarily through its uplifting natural surroundings. With the Himalayan Mountains as its backdrop, India’s first destination spa (and one of the world’s first) is also the beautifully preserved former royal palace of the Tehri Garhwal district’s Maharajahs. “Once the Viceroy’s Palace, its accommodations are themed on modernism and serenity,” Kelley-Elwell describes. Sessions can be conducted in the spa’s sizeable amphitheatre or in one of its many yoga pavilions and treatment rooms. The resort provides solace to those who seek it, in the form of scenic villas that provide unobstructed views of the Ganges as well as the mountains, and treetop dining where cuisine is based on Ayurveda. Guests, typically males and females aged 35 to 60, also have access to golf courses, white water rafting and elephant safaris nearby.
Old-School Remedies
In a surprising departure from the common practice of bringing eastern and western treatments together in one facility, Aman at Summer Palace Beijing grew to become one of Asia’s most popular mega-spas by offering oriental well-being techniques that endowed Chinese royalty with their renowned longevity. The worldwide resort chain themed its Beijing foray on allowing guests to be pampered as if they are bluebloods.
The Chinese health treatments that Aman at Summer Palace Beijing provides include tui na massages, heated gemstones, cupping and acupuncture, which are meant to create the inner body heat that the Chinese believe to be essential to good health. While the Summer Palace is a UNESCO heritage site with a history that dates back almost a thousand years, the resort itself used to be the waiting chambers for those seeking an audience with the Empress Dowager. It also tucks away a secret door through which guests may exclusively access the Summer Palace.
Yet, Yong is unperturbed by the rise of these titans: “Given the sheer size of mega-spas, fatigue and drops in service standards amongst their staff can occur after some years, if the spas are not well monitored.” Small spas have an edge over these giants — compact setups encourage regular interactions that allow therapists to gain better familiarity with patrons and their bodies, and are thus able to develop more focussed and personalised treatments.
However, the ball is still in the mega-spas’ court. Come the day that they succeed in overcoming this challenge, regular-sized establishments just might become a thing of the past.
The ‘mega-spa’ tends to offer an extensive variety of treatments, which are not restricted to services from one source