Tag Archive | "Spa"

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From Tequila to Tea: A Different Kind of Detox

Posted on 30 July 2013 by MarkLean

A recent realignment in career direction has taken me from Asia’s bright lights, big cities and tequila bars to the town where I grew up, Ipoh, a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur on an expressway that snakes through hills and valleys.

In this city, formerly the world’s most prolific tin mining hub, the pace of life and traffic rolls along peacefully like the undulations of the postcard-perfect limestone hills that encircle the city like a natural fort. It’s also home, and as I get older, this takes on greater meaning. Home can be a place that gives us roots, giving a reassurance of belonging and familiarity and the knowing that no matter where we venture in the world or where we end up; there is always a place we can return to recharge and recalibrate.

So one Sunday, on an errand to buy top soil for my mother’s Rangoon Creepers, I find myself in a richly foliaged garden center stocked with the normal supplies and the rather unusual set-up of a table with a stand for tea. There, two men can be seen sipping from cups of hot water brewed not from tea leaves but from tiny pieces of wood. A chat with one of the men, Chai Enge Seng, reveals the tea derives from the wood of the various amber-colored barks and trunks, filling the garden nursery.

Chai tells me that the species, known in the wild as raja kayu or wood king, and as the garden variety cassia fistula, is sacred to the area’s indigenous people who never fell the trees, taking its barks and branches instead. Raja kayu is known to tap into the earth’s positive electromagnetic energy sources, and with each tree’s height and reach, good vibes are radiated to the rest of the jungle, keeping a calm equilibrium in what must probably be something comparable to the wild west of the tropics.

There is a story of an elephant that rampaged through a section of forest, devouring bananas, but the raja kayu was left untouched. The indigenous people who live in the jungles around Ipoh use barks from the raja kayu in their wells and other sources, to purify the water supply. While taking tea, Chai gives a quick chemistry class demonstration: he places four drops of iodine each into two canisters, one containing tap water; the other water from the raja kayu tea. The former turns a murky yellow; while the latter maintains its clarity.

The entrepreneurial plant nursery owner has created a variety of raja kayu products – tea, facial cleanser, shower cream, and beauty potion, all of which are based on the tree’s lab-tested detoxification benefits. I ask him about his future plans. “A spa, perhaps,” he replies, smiling.

Taking tea

Taking tea

Lined up

Lined up

The nursery

The nursery

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Mindless Behavior at Thann Sanctuary Spa

Posted on 16 July 2012 by Nina Babel

IMG_4124 - Version 2

Without a doubt, THANN Sanctuary unconventional spa ranks highly in my personal black book.  The unorthodox dark painted walls and dim lit rooms are tastefully decorated by sanctuary-décor reminiscent of the ocean. Unlike some of the other A-list spas, this minimalist casual chic atmosphere that doesn’t have an assembly line of tourists waiting for spa services.

What makes this spa unique is that 90% of its locations worldwide are centrally located in shopping malls within the urban city center. Bangkok has 2 locations: Central World and Graysorn Plaza. The downside of being in the mall is your subject to mall hours.

So, if you really want to lose your mind, you cannot go wrong with booking THANN Sanctuary’s 45 minute Aryuvedic Head Massage (Shirobhyanga) from the spa menu. I have absolutely no recollection of my out of body experience, but when I was awoken I knew the bliss of losing my mind was well worth it. I slowly slipped into a place of absolute Zen La-La land that had me feeling like I was walking on a cloud.

Another way to relive your THANN Sanctuary experience is through their THANN line of natural skincare spa products. The spa room has a variety of various signature THANN amenities to

sample before and after your treatment. In the end, this makes the shopping experience much easier. After my first purchase, I regretted not buying more, but now they have expanded with an online store. My personal fave that I adore is the black rice grain soap with charcoal and rice scrub.  The THANN staff is well versed and can recommend the best fit for your needs.

To make the most of your mind-blowing experience, pay particular attention to the spa etiquette. Especially if you’re a first-timer, there are some important do’s and don’t to making or breaking your treatment. Most importantly, give yourself enough time to get settled in and select your essential oils, ask questions about the differences in treatments, check out their display of products, and sip some tea and relax.

Bonus Tip: With my spa treatment, my room had its own steam room and I had 30 min to relax after my treatment. Ask reception about this bonus feature to your appointment.

Book your appointment online and in advance. You can chance a walk-in appointment, but opt for this during the week opposed to waiting for the weekend.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: When I want savvy or hip, I visit Smart Bangkok Travel. I show people its not just travel, its a lifestyle.

WHERE TO FIND ME – You can follow Smart Bangkok Travel on Facebook here and Twitter here

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Bali’s top destinations for culture, adventure, romance, luxury and island relaxation.

Posted on 04 July 2012 by Stefan Russel

One of the reasons that I love Bali so much is the diversity of the island. A short drive can take you from one place to something completely different, making you fell like you have crossed several borders.
Below my tips to destinations in Bali depending on whether you prefer temples and museums, candlelight dinners on the beach, volcano climbing, holidaying with the rich and famous or you just want to get away from it all on a tropical island.

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India’s Grandest Royal Spa

Posted on 22 October 2010 by Nellie Huang

Plush, stylish and regal: Kaya Kalp – the Royal Spa gives new meaning to royal treatment. From the extravagant wellness treatments to the paradisical landscaping, the spa is especially designed to provide a living experience of regal being. Voted by many as one of the best spas in India, the Royal Spa is a perfect blending of old-world charm and modern-day spa pampering.

Stepping foot into the spa, it’s easy to see how Kaya Kalp has gained such recognition. Davina Hassell, the Spa Manager, guides me around the lavish property and explains, “The spa industry in India is still in its growing stage. I’m proud to say that Kaya Kalp is at the forefront of it and we’re working hard to strive for growth.”

The flagship Kaya Kalp spa located in ITC Mughal Agra Hotel is India’s biggest spa to date, sprawling over 99,000 square feet in area. Since opening its doors in 2008, the spa has already nabbed 8 prestigious awards, one of which is the Best City Spa awarded by Condé Nast Traveller.

Agra-ITC-Mughal Royal-Spa-Kaya Kalp- Relaxation Room

Mughal Interior

Inside the spa, the Mughal mood is infectious. Kaya Kalp is designed using many elements from Mughal dynasty architecture: from latticework to bronzed lamps to velvet upholstery. Delhi-based architect and landscape designer, Pradeep Sachdeva, uses the pomegranate fruit as the theme of the spa – a fruit representative of the Mughal dynasty. Ruby red pomegranate designs can be seen in the design on the walls, ceiling and white terrazzo flooring.

The spa ground extends to the lush, tropical gardens. Running fountains flow, while fragrant flowers and fruit bearing trees blossom under the sunlight. Adapting the garden concept brought in by Baber, the first Mughal Emperor, the Kaya Kalp – Royal Spa adds in that eden atmosphere that can be felt all over the city. We are after all in Agra, the garden city most famous for India’s emblem, the Taj Mahal.


Spa Treatments

After an exhausting day of visiting the city’s numerous monuments, a rejuvenating spa treatment is just what you need. From traditional Ayurvedic rituals to chakra balancing and gem stone massages, there is a large assortment of holistic treatments and spa journeys on offer. A Royal Mughal hammam, resembling those of the old Persian days, is another interesting feature of the spa. Enjoy a deep cleansing body scrub, an oil massage, a scalp massage or simply lounge around the bath. Couples who want some intimate privacy can opt for the Taj Mahal Romance treatment, which includes Ayurvedic massages, guided meditation and Shirodhara therapy enjoyed together.

Kaya Kalp poolPomegranate Journey

Curious to try out the spa’s most unique treatment, I book myself in for the Pomegranate Journey. My therapist first cleans my feet with water – a tradition used by the South Indians to welcome guests into their houses. To begin the journey, we start with a Pomegranate ritual scrub. Kaya Kalp’s signature blend of natural fruits such as pomegranate, lime and ginger, mixed with organic brown sugar allows the body to be gently exfoliated. It deeply cleanses, polishes and softens the body. Next, I get a deliciously healthy bath of pomegranate fruit essence, while sipping freshly squeezed pomegranate and lime juice. After feeling utterly relaxed, my treatment culminates with an Indian aromasoul ritual massage where my body is instantly revitalized with the use of traditional aromatherapy.

Towards the end of my journey, I feel enlighted – physically rejuvenated from the spa treatments, and intellectually enriched from experiencing India’s culture and history.

Agra-ITC-Mughal Royal-Spa-Kaya Kalp-Treatment Rm2

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Looking to the Future of Spa

Posted on 09 September 2010 by Kim Inglis

After a decade of visiting, commenting on and writing about spas, I reckon I’m in a pretty good position to pontificate about the direction that spas are taking. It isn’t revolutionary any more to declare that the simple massage/scrub/wrap facility is now a dinosaur in this fast-growing field.

Increasingly, spas are offering holistic, multi-faceted options for clients that want much more that a good rub-down. Sure, the quick facial and massage has its place, and reputable spas with well-trained therapists will continue to prosper in this field (especially in urban centres). But, more and more, consumers are demanding that the spa offers more: The Ayurvedic and TCM philosophies of treating the person emotionally and spiritually as well as mentally and physically is taking root in modern, forward-thinking spas and wellness centres, especially in Asia. A host of new openings testify to this.

We have The Farm at San Benito in the Philippines, a host of medi-spas in Thailand, and Ananda in the Himalayas, as well as a number of Ayurvedic retreats in India. In the latter category Kalari Kovilakom — running all-encompassing programmes for a minimum of three weeks in a tremendously atmospheric palace estate in Kerala — is of particular note. Leading the field, however, is the wellness sanctuary and holistic spa resort of Kamalaya, on the island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand.



Not only are the programmes far-reaching in design and execution, the site an ode to tranquility, the professionalism of staff is second to none. When John and Karina Stewart first envisioned Kamalaya, their dream was to create a place that would benefit the people who worked there as much as it would their guests. As a result, the Kamalaya team is so much more than people doing specific jobs; it is people connecting with other people and along the way deepening their own self awareness and enriching their lives. This then transfers on to guests.

I can’t recommend the place highly enough actually. A recent stay saw me detoxing and slowing down; I enjoyed my regimen of yoga and therapies along with the odd treat; I met some cool people; I ate well (food was fab even though I could only choose from the detox manu); and I came away with some ideas of how to improve some aspects of my life. It certainly beats having a scrub and a wrap — that’s for sure!

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Traveling the ‘Eat Pray Love’ way

Posted on 06 September 2010 by Joel Quenby

Elizabeth Gilbert’s autobiographical travel yarn is a literary showcase for Bali’s exotic tropical locations. Here is our guide to four of the tale’s Indonesia-related travel recommendations

Movie star parade. Javier Bardem and some Pretty Woman wander a Balinese market

Movie star parade. Javier Bardem and some Pretty Woman wander a Balinese market

American writer and Travel + Leisure contributor Elizabeth Gilbert authored a bestselling 2006 “chick-lit” memoir of post-divorce globetrotting: Eat Pray Love. Her yarn was adapted into a movie and is now an international box-office sensation.

The original Pretty Woman, Oscar-winning Julia Roberts, plays “Liz” as desperate to escape her miserable existence in New York as a respected, profitable writer. So the 34-year-old hits the global byways seeking enlightenment (a journey outside her comfort zone, she never hesitates to tell everyone).

After attempting to eat Italy out of pasta and then go spiritual in India, Gilbert/Roberts lands on the Indonesian isle of Bali, which she thinks is “a fairly simple place to navigate … It’s not like I’ve landed in the middle of the Sudan with no idea of what to do next.”

However, this once-carefree paradise was shattered by terrorist bombs killing more than 200 young Australian tourists in 2002. The hangover of terrorism persists. New York Times movie desk don A.O. Scott, among others, criticized Gilbert’s, “Western fetishization of Eastern thought,” concluding the flick was, “unlikely to change anybody’s life or even to provoke emotions anywhere near as intense as those experienced … by its intrepid heroine.”

Not many cared, if 170 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List means anything. The book resonated with readers to the tune of more than 1.35 million copies, after 15 printings. Gilbert was on Oprah, and her book translated into 40 languages. Now the movie has given rise to a new customer for Balinese tour operators: spiritual seekers.

Not that Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika was complaining in 2009: “We have to be thankful, because the presence of the Hollywood movie star has given birth to Bali’s new title, ‘Island of Love,’” he said, “which will of course support our tourism.”

As for Elizabeth Gilbert, will Bali be forever in her heart? For those seeking a stretch, she recommends yoga tours of Bali with, “my sweet friend Mario at the Ubud Inn, at mariourip@yahoo.com.


“It isn’t near any beaches, so the tourists who come to Ubud are a self-selecting and rather classy crowd; they would prefer to see an ancient temple ceremony than to drink piña coladas in the surf.”

A view over Ubud, Bali's cultural hub (by Brian via Flickr Creative Commons License)

A view over Ubud, Bali's cultural hub (by Brian via Flickr Creative Commons License)

“This could be a lovely place to live for a while,” wrote Elizabeth Gilbert of Ubud, Bali’s arty cultural hub, where traditional painting, dance, carving, and religious ceremonies still thrive. The author spent four months cycling through quiet villages on the slopes of Mount Batur, sampling Indonesian food, acquainting herself with locals, taking yoga classes—and writing a certain book.

Ubud is famous for holistic traditions; here lie foundations upon which Bali’s thriving spa industry are mounted. Even its very name derives from the word ubad, describing the abundance of medicinal plants indigenous here. Rock-cut temples tucked into layered rice terraces also grace the landscape. The Balinese worship a unique composite of Indian cosmology, Tantric Buddhism, local animist traditions and ancestor worship.

Local medicine man (in reality, as in the film) Ketut Liyer claims Ubud is a rare tap of the earth’s healing energy. That is tricky to confirm, but the place is demonstrably removed from Kuta’s surfer scene and Seminyak’s trendy shopping. This is Bali’s hippie chill-out zone, where alternative lifestyles are staples. Ubud has twice hosted the Bali Spirit Festival—an annual celebration of yoga, dance and music.


“The medicine man, as it turned out, was a small, merry-eyed, russet-colored old guy with a mostly toothless mouth, whose resemblance in every way to the Star Wars character Yoda cannot be exaggerated.”

Julia Roberts cycles Penestanan to study The Force with Ketut Liyer

Julia Roberts cycles Penestanan to study The Force with Ketut Liyer

Just outside Ubud lies quaint Penestanan where a signboard indicates the Hindu-style compound where the small, weathered seer from Eat, Pray, Love lives. Gilbert learned meditation with this local balian (shaman).

Gilbert describes Ketut Liyer as “a priestly figure, somewhat mystical.” Nobody knows Ketut’s age, but his business card offers health, meditation, palm reading, astrology, painting, woodcarving, homestay … Plus a map to his front porch.

Many Indonesian communities prefer traditional healing to science. Medicine men address spiritual as well as physical needs, blending massage and meditation with herbal recipes. Ketut hails from long line of mystics; his grandfather inducted him into the family trade—after he had died, incidentally. That’s right, the deceased man apparently mentored his grandson via the medium of dream.

After the movie’s release, Time said, “his bamboo mat is an almost necessary stop on Bali’s increasingly popular spiritual tourist circuit.” The Yoda-alike’s bank account is no longer empty. Ketut charges almost the average weekly wage, US$25, to read your palm. For that price, though, he will say you are smart—and live to be 110-years-old.

Traditional Balinese Healing

“Thank God my best friend in Bali is a healer,” and I ran into Wayan’s shop … She took one look at me and said, “You sick from making too much sex, Liz.’”

Wayan Nuriyasih's Traditional Balinese Healing: a small clinic, home and restaurant

Wayan Nuriyasih (top left) in Traditional Balinese Healing: a clinic, home and restaurant

To Gilbert, Wayan Nuriyasih is a “strikingly attractive Balinese woman with a wide smile and shiny black hair down to her waist.” She can be found in Traditional Balinese Healing—“a very small medical clinic and home and restaurant all at the same time.”

The gentle herbalist speaks proficient English, although, “because she is Balinese, she immediately asked me the three standard introductory questions,” according to the writer. “Where are you going today? Where are you coming from? Are you married?” (Despite this stock-standard patter, Gilbert lingered five hours on her first visit and later raised $18,000 to build Wayan a better house.)

Wayan treated the author’s urinary tract infection with strange noxious potions. “In less than two hours I was fine, totally healed.” After that, Gilbert “would trust Wayan with any illness whatsoever,” reckoning her “one of the most successful businesswomen in Ubud.” (In fairness, bloggers also rave online about Wayan’s miraculous abilities.)

Gilbert had previously noticed Wayan’s shop’s blackboard with a curious handwritten advertisement for the Multivitamin Lunch Special outside a nondescript building behind a restaurant garden of ginseng, aloe vera and jasmine. The “delicious and nutritious” concoction of water spinach, ginseng, salty seaweed and spicy tempeh comes with each ingredient carefully labeled with its healing properties:

Red rice: for a healthy heart
Grilled coconut: relieves rheumatitis
Tomato chutney: healthy for gums
Mutabilis leaf: relieves stomach gas
Bean sprouts: strengthens weak muscles

Maya Ubud Resort & Spa

The grand Maya Ubud - where Elizabeth Gilbert wrote sections of 'Eat, Pray, Love' in 2006

The grand Maya Ubud - where Elizabeth Gilbert wrote sections of 'Eat, Pray, Love' in 2006

Where better to base a pilgrimage than the very hideaway where Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the Balinese section of her memoirs back in 2006? (Maybe you can even reserve the exact room occupied by the author in her moments of literary inspiration.)

Set amid 10 hectares of landscaped garden enveloped by steep valleys, the layout of Maya Ubud Resort & Spa flows from its hilltop vantage point down to rice paddies besides the Petanu River 30 meters below. Pitching itself as a “spacious, stylish, luxurious environment in which to enjoy some of life’s better moments,” the resort has won loads of awards. VIP International Traveller readers voted it Most Beautiful Wellness Resort Worldwide in 2006.

“The task in Indonesia was to search for balance,” wrote Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love—a balance between pleasure and devotion, specifically. Well, Devotion To Pleasure Leaving One Balanced is probably the mandate of the therapists at Maya Ubud’s riverside spa, who cater to romancers in customized couples’ thatched treatment pavilions.

The resort’s website convincingly essays its spa’s sensual wares: “soothing hands … aromatic herbs, oils and lotions … flower-filled baths … treatments that smooth, stimulate, and pamper … private treatment pavilions provide individual oasis in which refreshing and aromatic oils sooth and relax.”

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With a little help from Thai friends

Posted on 28 July 2010 by Joel Quenby

Cynics may deem it a desperate measure to combat dwindling tourism, but Thailand should be commended for promoting its emerging drug rehabilitation sector

By Joel Quenby

Landscaped gardens at Channah Thailand, Kanchanaburi province

Landscaped gardens at Channah Thailand, Kanchanaburi province

“Go Cold Turkey in Thailand!”—as the official slogan presumably won’t go. Admittedly, such a catchphrase would be a far cry from the usual tourist-board platitudes (excluding Australia’s inspired “So Where the Bloody Hell Are You?” campaign, naturally). “Rehab tourism,” though, is a logical extension of therapies already offered by Thailand’s acclaimed surgery and spa industries, which already draw growing numbers of medical tourists.


"They tried to make me go to rehab, I said: Yes, please!" Channah's poolside guest villas

Spearheading the Thai rehab revolution are two upscale detoxification resortsChanna, located by the River Kwai, and Breathing Space, in the Chiang Mai mountains. Both are picturesque, secluded and decked out with designer on-site spa and fitness facilities.

Channa’s pampered “guests” stay in plush bungalows with private verandas, home cinemas and a maid service. Treatment-wise, they are offered a newfangled 28-day regime of psychotherapy, fitness coaching, counseling and group work—at less than half the price of a week at Britain’s celebrity recovery center, The Priory.

Channa boasts a 92 percent program completion rate, which is, “Among the very best results for any clinic in the world,” says the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Breathing Space, meanwhile, bases its treatments on the standard 12-step program practiced worldwide in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

Somehow one imagines that celebrity posterboys/girls will be in short supply for this campaign. One person who definitely won’t be promoting it is disheveled Brit-rocker, the Libertines’ Pete Doherty.

At the height of his junkie shambling, Kate Moss’s ex was sent to Wat Thamkrabok temple in central Thailand in 2004 (by none other than Eastenders’ Dot Cotton or her doppelganger, actress June Brown, whose godson has been hooked on crack).

The Spartan Buddhist way station is reputedly the world’s toughest clinic. The grueling treatments dished out include medieval beatings with a bamboo cane and being force-fed a black concoction of herbs that induces all-day vomiting marathons to purge impurities. (Spectacular displays of projectile spewing draws clapping from spectators invited in to witness the wretched addicts grappling their demons in public “vomit shows.” Not so much kicking you while you’re down, as applauding.)

It may sound comparable to Guantànamo—guests are even accommodated in a communal septic tank (okay, I made that one up)—but, incredibly, almost 70 percent of the tens of thousands of troubled people treated at the temple since 1958 have managed to stay drug-free, according to one Australian study.

Flunked relinquishing junk: Pete Doherty

Flunked relinquishing junk: Pete Doherty

But it’s clearly a hardcore regime; a far, anguished cry from mollycoddling, celeb-friendly detox haunts. Predictably, lily-livered Doherty lasted just three days (before legging it back to heroin-induced oblivion).

“The singer seemed unwilling or unable to let go of his dark side,” Phra Hans, a Swiss spiritual counselor at Thamkrabok, told The Independent.

However, bearing testament to the medical establishment’s faith in Thai-style detox—and, if accurate, the temple’s astonishing success rate should speak for itself—the U.K.’s National Health Service sends selected patients to Thamkrabok.

It makes sense to me. Who would not prefer to “go tropical”—preferably in five-star style—for their discreet cleanup? It beats trembling it out in some dingy motel, stark detox clinic or damp rehab hideaway any day.

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Thumbs up?

Posted on 03 June 2010 by Joel Quenby

Alternative therapies, holistic treatments, Eastern remedies—and most spa offerings—have made limber forward strides in recent years (perhaps due to their proponents’ increased flexibility).

Such sensual pleasures were once derided as so much snake oil. Rubdown joints proffered inconsistent, wildly swinging services. Their remedial benefits were debatable. And prevailing conservatism relegated anything remotely “alternative” to the domain of hippy-dippy weirdos. No wonder holistic frisking had an image crisis.

The Age Of Spa Enlightenment seemed to tag along with Political Correctness and New Man. Presumably, the latter’s trial spa sessions opened their eyes and minds (as well as their pores). Before long, we were all learning to embrace our senses. These days, 91 percent of all people adore an occasional massage (and the remaining 36 percent probably would, too, if they tried). That’s scientific fact.

CHI Spa at Bangkok's Shangri-La hotel (courtesy of Shangri-La Image Library)

CHI Spa at Bangkok's Shangri-La hotel (courtesy of Shangri-La Image Library)

Now look at us. Global Spa Mania reigns. Well, not quite—but we are spoiled for stress-leavening choice in Southeast Asia. Some of this region’s spas rank among the finest anywhere, offering stunning designs, soporific furnishings, (face) packed treatment menus—all refined with infinitesimal attention to detail.

When it comes to the staff, Asia’s conscientious therapists’ gentle, sensitive comportment and hands-on wizardry raises industry standards to an art form. Their intuitive, tactile expertise can induce paroxysms of bliss. (I once experienced hallucinations undergoing Balinese deep-tissue kneading at The Banyan Tree Spa; it must’ve been an off-menu bonus.)

Industry-wise, spa treatments have graduated from beardy quackery to legit complementary medicines. They enjoyed a watershed in May 2009, when the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence explicitly backed complementary therapies for the first time, recommending state-funded acupuncture or massages to patients with chronic spinal pain.

So far, so progressive…

Now, responding to the ever-growing army of gadget addicts welded to Blackberries, iPhones, touch-screen devices and hand-held poke-pads, the spa at Bangkok’s VIE hotel is offering a 30-minute, warm oil “Blackberry Thumb Massage” for Bt1,500++ (US$46++).

That’s half an hour dedicated solely to massaging your hitchhiking digits. Fifteen minutes per oily thumb-twiddle—in theory, anyway. Really, I bet the treatment, like most foot massages, extends to a bonus shoulder, neck, head and back-rub as well.

Hands-on healing (by Robert via Flickr Creative Commons License)

Hands-on healing (by Robert via Flickr Creative Commons License)

Could “Blackberry Thumb” actually be old-fashioned repetitive strain injury (RSI) after receiving a nifty PR makeover? I’m sure grateful pamper-fans, wellness aficionados, socialites, celebs, models and yuppies are literally itching to sample a cheeky thumb-job.

Do you think the “Blackberry Thumb Massage” is a handy sign of the times—a canny addition to the healing canon? Or is this digital spa twist a stretch too far?

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A Must-Go Spa in Noosa

Posted on 25 May 2010 by Kim Inglis

Noosa, 120 kilometers north of Brisbane on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is a laid-back, relaxed area that is beloved by “those in the know”. There’s none of the frenzy of the Gold Coast, little in the way of suburban sophistication, and lots in the way of good old-fashioned hospitality. It’s become known as a “lifestyle choice” destination — people haven’t moved there to opt out, but rather to opt in to what the area has to offer: clean fresh air and abundant natural beauty, a healthy climate and a healthy attitude, an outlook that encourages creativity.

As a result, there are a number of truly excellent outlets visitors can patronize: some fabulous markets, an extraordinary cooking school with attendant modern Thai restaurant, a Queensland winery beginning to make waves on the international scene, a spa or two. Actually one spa — Ikatan. www.ikatanspa.com at 46 Grays Road, Doonan, Noosa.

Laid out in Balinese village style, Ikatan is serenely beautiful

ikatan spa

ikatan spa

ikatan entrance

ikatan entrance

Marketing itself as a Balinese day spa, Ikatan is eons away from the average Aussie Day Spa in attitude, offering, setting and service. Certainly it has an inspired Balinese-style setting with garden pavilions, tropical plantings and a wonderfully inviting vibe; but day spa? No, it’s more like a mini destination spa (without overnight rooms … but we can always hope for expansion in the future) that looks at its patrons with an all-encompassing eye. Catering to the whole person — mentally, physically, emotionally — it is run by a dedicated team that are truly committed to giving, as the owner says, “sincere, authentic quality treatments with plenty of time for clients and a quiet, relaxed environment”.

There are two broad bands of therapy: those that have their roots in the natural ingredients and traditions of Bali and those that use the Elemis product range. This may not be as antithetical as it first appears, because the success of British spa and skincare brand Elemis lies in its ability to combine natural active ingredients with cutting-edge technology. So, as with Balinese therapies, the core lies in the natural world.

I highly recommend one of Ikatan’s three-hour packages, but if you have time to spare, splash out on a five-hour extravaganza that throws in lunch as well. Body treatments include massage tailored to clients’ needs as well as spicy, warming Balinese borehs, vanilla bean and coconut wraps and body scrubs, as well as the usual foot and hand pampers. Facials all use Elemis products which are great for sensitive skin, harnessing specific ingredients for specific results: anti-ageing, reduction of fine lines, de-stressing of skin, tightening and firming, reduction of pigmentation and acne scarring and sun damage. You name it, the therapist with advise and administer.

My therapist, Joy, hailed from the Philippines and was a real joy. She didn’t talk when I wanted to relax and tune out; she intuitively sought out neck and shoulder stress; and her hands were suitably strong on the back and light as air on the face. The massage pavilion was airy and comfortable, the music unobtrusive and the whole experience chilled enough for me to snooze off for a while in the middle! In my book, that’s always a sure indicator of a spa’s credentials; if you are comfortable enough to nap lightly on the massage bed, you must be in safe and secure hands.

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Amy Ma

Food & Drink + Hong Kong

Amy is a regular contributor to the South China Morning Post and Wall Street Journal amongst other publications. [...]

Pua Mench

Hong Kong

Pua is a writing and traveling enthusiast based in Hong Kong, with a weakness for all things related to the culinary arts and healing modalities, and a passion for sustainable living. [...]

Kim Inglis

Wellness Spa

Kim has been an editor and journalist for over 20 years, more than half of which has been spent in Asia. [...]

Nellie Huang

Travel Adventures + Singapore

Nellie has been published in Food & Travel magazine and Lifestyle, and is a contributing author of V!VA's Guatemala Guidebook. She writes to travel, and travels to write. [...]

Sarah Jane Evans

Travel Adventures + Borneo

She has published travel articles in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia in publications including: Vacations and Travel magazine... [...]

Carrie Kellenberger

Photo Blog + Taiwan

She has traveled throughout Asia, finding work as a writer, editor, educator, voice over artist, photographer, and nightclub singer. [...]

Mark Lean

Kuala Lumpur

From writing about music, Mark expanded his focus to design, fashion, food and travel. In recent years, he has explored the highs and lows of Asia. [...]

Joel Quenby

Entertainment + Asia News

Joel is a British writer and journalist who's lived, worked and traveled in Southeast Asia since 2002. He's filed yarns for numerous publications...[...]

Alex Gunn

Chiang Mai

After several diverse careers as a circus performer, school teacher, psychotherapist, stunt pilot and university lecturer he can now be found poking about far flung markets, museums, restaurants and odd places in and around Chiang Mai.. [...]