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Tag: Spa

Sabah: Sun, Sea & Spas

If you’re a first-time traveler to beautiful Borneo, this is your quintessential tropical island. Beautiful white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and an endless supply of fresh coconuts. As with…

If you’re a first-time traveler to beautiful Borneo, this is your quintessential tropical island. Beautiful white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and an endless supply of fresh coconuts. As with all holidays, especially beach holidays, it isn’t quite complete without some pampering.

I visited Mandara Spa at Sutera Harbour Resort, a beautiful spa with sweeping views of the South China Sea. The spa’s lobby opens up to an airy lounge with cascading water pools and a spiral stairway leading up to individual spa suites. The wooden interior immediately brings on a cosy feeling.

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Warm ginger tea was served with a cold face towel scented with peppermint oil. A refreshing start to my pampering session. The spa’s signature massage is the Mandara Massage, four-hand massage. Despite being a spa addict, this was my first time having 20 fingers on my body at the same time.

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The four-hand massage is akin to ballroom dancing, if I may say. It requires a great deal of teamwork and practice. Both therapists massaged me with oil from my back to my feet with smooth and deep motions that are perfectly synchronised. I was quite amazed at how in-synced they were. The pressure was equal, the circular motions and long strokes were flawlessly choreographed.   

After doing my back, I was asked to turn over and then with the same technique, I was given the best head and foot massage. To have one highly-skilled therapist massaging my body is bliss, but to have two therapists doing so at the same time is extraordinarily special.

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The rainforest sounds continue to fill the air and I sip on a glass of water signaling the end of the session. I stare out the huge window overlooking the expansive seas with boats bobbing and thought – I can definitely stay here for hours – especially since the spa suite had a wonderful tub offering the grand view.

It was time to leave – but if you’re a spa lover like me – you wished the clock stopped ticking and the blissful surrender will continue. Fortunately, Mandara Spa is offering a special spa membership with “too good to be true” freebies. See the end of this article for more details.*

The pampering wasn’t quite over yet, I was ushered to the neighbouring Chavana Spa at the Pacific Sutera Hotel, the alternative mid-range stay with magnificent views of the sea and a huge family-friendly pool. Chavana’s bright and lively interior is quite different from Mandara. This day-spa is refreshing the moment you enter in with scents of lime and lemongrass infiltrating the air.

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Another first for me – I was about to indulge in their Elemis Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Facial, an anti-wrinkle facial using Elemis products. The British brand, Elemis is widely known as the leader in anti-ageing skin care products. Top worldwide spas use Elemis products because of its successive positive case studies. So I thought, why not give it a try! When it comes to beauty regimes, I’m very low maintenance. I enjoy the occasional facial but am mostly content with off-the-shelf products, cucumbers for puffy eyes and homemade scrubs.

For an hour and fifteen minutes, I was treated to delicate cleaning, cleansing and scrubbing with soothing movements on my forehead, cheeks and jawline. The lifting facial massage was most relaxing. Finally, a thin layer of mask was applied and then some serum, moisturiser with some essential oils completed the treatment. In between, my therapists gave me a relaxing shoulder and hand massage removing all the knots on my tense shoulders, often caused by bad posture and sitting at the desk for extended hours.

The Chavana Spa offers a range head-to-tow treatments for tired travellers, honeymooners or spa spa addicts like me. Their signature ‘Journey of the Senses’ is a two and a half hour session starting with a foot bath, body scrub, detox sauna, balinese massage and capping it off with an Elemis facial. 

* Mandara Spa membership: For RM399 the package includes 2 complimentary massages, 1 complimentary facial, a 50% discount voucher and a RM75 redemption voucher. Additionally, you receive a 20% discount on all treatments and other discounts throughout the year especially for spa members. Go to Mandara Spa for more details.

Note: The above treatment was offered to me complimentary courtesy of Mandara Spa and Chavana Spa. Thank you for a day of pampering!

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Peranakan Princess Pampering At Majestic Malacca’s Spa Village

In Malacca, the early Chinese community that settled in Malaya in the early 17th century were known as Peranakans or Baba (male) and Nyonya (female). They were mostly traders, merchants…

In Malacca, the early Chinese community that settled in Malaya in the early 17th century were known as Peranakans or Baba (male) and Nyonya (female). They were mostly traders, merchants or businessmen and were extremely successful, wealthy and influential. The Majestic Malacca was once a mansion owned by a Peranakan businessman and today, it has been restored to its former glory into The Majestic Malacca with an in-house luxurious spa, also known to be the only one to base its therapies around the healing culture of the Peranakan people.

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My three-hour pampering session began at the front desk where I filled out a questionnaire to determine the kind of treatment I needed; warm treatment for cooler body types and cold treatment for warmer body types. The range of treatments offered celebrates the incredible mix of Chinese and Malay ingredients that are often found in the Nyonya pantry but have been transformed to form a decadent concoction of spa treatments – ingredients such as eggs, palm sugar, ginger, birds nest, pandan, nutmeg and limau kasturi.

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After completing the questionnaire, I was whisked into a private changing room and asked to change into a plush robe. Then I was taken to an airy lounge with spacious Peranakan day beds overlooking the glistening lap pool. Purveyed with cold scented towels, hot Chinese tea and a Mandarin orange, my mind began to wander as my body started relaxing.

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My treatment started soon after as I followed my masseur, Redita upstairs into my private massage suite. Designed to please the eye, the wooden shuttered windows are drawn shut with the slightest hint of sun streaming in accenting the soothing light teal and creme colours of the wall. Two massage beds sat island in the room and the suite has its own toilet, shower and standalone clawfoot bath tub.

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Bliss began as my face was treated with to an exotic birds nest facial. Birds nest, a Chinese prized ingredient is lauded for its healing properties that are thought to boost immunity and bolster longevity. Jade rollers were used at the end of the massage to close the pores and tighten facial muscles. Almost lulled to sleep, my senses came to life as scents of sweet pandan infused the room. I was given a firm head massage before my hair was treated to a thick sweet coconut-pandan hair mask. The aroma almost made me salivate and crave for some good local dessert and I my mind drifted into pure bliss.

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Since I am pregnant, Redita proceeded to give me a pregnancy massage. Laying on my side, she massaged my back and shoulders giving utmost care to ensure my comfort. Her movements were seamless, with long firm strokes expelling all the knots on my stiff shoulders. She was also mindful not to massage my feet and kept the pressure light when massaging my lower back.

Just as I thought my treatment was over, I was treated with a special hair washing treatment, drawing on the twelve step Peranakan wedding preparation for brides. On each of twelve days leading up to the marriage ceremony, Nyonya brides are traditionally pampered and beautified which involves a different ritual every day. The hair washing ceremony ends with a hair combing ritual believed to eliminate impurities and negativity as the bride steps into a new chapter of life.

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After an ultimate three-hour pampering, I sank into the sprawling Chinese day bed and sipped on pot of soothing Chinese tea while savouring on some acar, pickled vegetables and wishfully hoped that the minutes stood still.

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Afternoon Tea, What’s The Fuss?

I’m sure women around the world would nod to an invitation for afternoon tea. The coming together around a beautifully laid table filled with delightful nibbles is one of the…

I’m sure women around the world would nod to an invitation for afternoon tea. The coming together around a beautifully laid table filled with delightful nibbles is one of the most sociable, relaxing and enjoyable events. Whether it is around local fare or the classic English afternoon tea stacked with scones, pastries and a pot of Earl Grey, women simply enjoy the company of friends along with a good nibble.

Regrettably, afternoon tea is not a daily ritual for most, especially for busy professionals and modern day moms with hectic schedules. Back in the day, afternoon tea was associated with the genteel society, expatriates and the affluent. After all, who could afford more than an hour during the day sipping on tea, nibbling on fine tarts and warm scones and superfluous chatting? Today, it is still an indulgence when we have the luxury of time.

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Much to my delight, I had some time to spare while on a short holiday in Kuala Lumpur (KL) and I had just the perfect place to savour afternoon tea. The iconic Majestic Hotel is a well-worn building dating back to the 1930s where it was a home away from home for international travelers and the perfect place for fancy government events and social gatherings. Recently, the hotel underwent a major facelift reflecting its glory days and the building’s symbol as a national heritage treasure.

DSC_3004Afternoon tea at the Majestic starts at 3pm through to 6pm where the hotel’s Colonial Café and tea lounge transforms into a stage of tables covered with crisp starched table cloth, laid with fine bone china plates, tea cups and tea pots. The actors are pleasantly poised waiters decked in perfectly white uniforms and aprons dancing from table to table pouring tea and serving fine delectable on multi-tiered china.

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The hall echoes with soothing instrumental music played on the grand piano just beneath the magnificent gold dome ceiling. Light chitter chatter and laughter join the ambiance as I nibble on fine pastries, cucumber sandwiches, and warm scones with clotted cream while enjoying a cup of soothing Earl Grey.

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My thoughts traverse to bygone years where the history of tea drinking was very much of the nation’s history. During the British rule, tea was introduced from China and Europe, both the Chinese and Europeans had a knack for picking and brewing tea leaves. As inquisitive travelers and the affluent society traveled the world, they brought with them small quantities of what was then known as costly and unusual herbs. This ‘herb’ was an exotic and rare commodity and became a luxurious indulgence only for the rich.

Today, with mass agriculture, tea has become a daily beverage known for its health benefits. It is the perfect alternative to coffee and carbonated drinks. I particularly love green tea and will always have a sachet tucked somewhere in my bag.

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The creation of afternoon tea as a ritual was the idea Anna Maria Russell, the 7th Dutchess of Bedford. She set it at 4 o’clock between a full breakfast and supper (dinner). It was the perfect time for ladies to come together to share stories and would sometimes include indulgent gossips.

Subsequently, afternoon tea permeated society and since Malaysia was once under British rule, afternoon tea was woven into its social tapestry. Carried out with thoughtful attention to detail and consideration of style, the sharing of a cup of tea reminds us of our links with the past, of the olden cultures and of the importance of recognising and appreciating the innate beauty to be found in such simple actions.

Extravagant Bliss

At the Majestic Hotel, where all things from yonder are celebrated, afternoon tea can be accompanied with an extravagant massage aptly dubbed “English Afternoon Tea” to mark a truly memorable experience. I was whisked to the Majestic Spa, a separate building from the hotel with its own infinity pool overlooking the Moorish-style railway station and the buzzing city scape. The cosy interiors of the spa breaths refreshing colourful tones against the stark white walls, tall whimsical arm chairs on glossy black flooring. This distinctive minimalistic art nouveau style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s famous Tearoom of Scotland is reflective of the era where tearooms were a place for businessmen to meet and read the paper and where ladies gathered to socialize and play cards. To sum it, it was a place to lounge and relax.

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My 2-hour spa treatment started with a refreshing citrusy mocktail before being ushered to the lounge area above the reception. Once here, everything feels secluded and private. My masseur, a fine young lady proceeded to give me a foot scrub. The signature ‘Gift from the Garden’ scrub which is a mix of lavender petals, rice husks and other beautiful handpicked herbs from the English garden. The warm lavender scented water is poured into a beautiful foot wash basin where my feet are left to soak. She proceeded to give me a head and scalp massage, a prelude to the bliss that was to come.

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The rest of the spa was in a treatment room that is exceptionally spacious. With a standalone clawfoot bathtub, separate shower and toilet and two massage beds, the room was more than welcoming. Pampering continued with a decadent body scrub that looked and smelled good enough to eat – a mix of milk, honey, rice husks and berries. By this time, I was already feeling luscious but it did not stop there. A spa experience would be incomplete without a massage. The long, firm strokes repelled any tension left in my body and finally it capped off with a fragrant English rose facial and some relaxing breathing exercises.

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The treatment was seamless and being a spa addict, I was utterly contented. Despite it being a 2-hour treatment, the hours seemed to have drifted by. As I sip on my camomile tea and savour the homemade oatmeal biscuit at the spa’s reception, I can’t help but wish time stood still.

*Go behind the scenes and peel over the layers of history of the enchanting Majestic Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.
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Navutu Dream, Siem Reap: A Slice Of Serenity In The Kingdom Of Wonder

Cambodia, a Kingdom of Wonder where ancient ruins lay bare with legendary stories etched on its walls and aged tree roots form the foundations of fortified temples, a kingdom where…

Cambodia, a Kingdom of Wonder where ancient ruins lay bare with legendary stories etched on its walls and aged tree roots form the foundations of fortified temples, a kingdom where the sun announces a new day before the rooster ruffles its feathers and children cycle off at the break of dawn for another day at school.

For the traveler, Cambodia is a magical experience, especially when you arrive in Siem Reap and explore the notable Angkor Wat and the other surrounding temples. Walking on foot or cycling around the temple circuit can be extremely tiring and the sun rather unforgiving as the day unfolds. However, returning to a quiet haven after a day of exploring makes all the difference to the memorable experience.

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Located two kilometres from Siem Reap’s bustling town center is Navutu Dreams. Tucked in the corner, at the end of a dusty road, Navutu’s entrance opens up to a spacious and simple lobby decorated with delicate wooden furniture and handcrafted wooden sculptures. Friendly hotel staff play great host at welcoming you back to this amazing retreat.

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Behind the lobby is where the real relaxing begins. Surrounded by lush rice fields, Navutu’s 1.5 hectare land is perfectly manicured with palm trees and tropical flowers abloom. The resort has enough pools to satisfy sun-seekers, water babies and health enthusiasts. There is an 18-meter long freshwater lap pool and a salt water family pool and a private salt water lounge pool at the end of the property enclaved around palm trees.

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Hidden in nooks and corners of the compound are hammocks for a quiet snooze or a good read. The resort also has an open lounge with spacious day beds and a selection of excellent reads right next to the lounge pool. White-washed villas with flat open roofs polka-dot the compound. A glimpse of Santorini or that of Greek islands, with open cabanas draped with white-curtains dancing to the rhythm of the wind.

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My Grand Tour Room, one of three kinds of rooms offered at Navutu follows the same expansive concept. The large room incorporates seamless geometry in the smooth curved walls leading into the open closet and bathroom. Combining clever use of space and simplistic design, a capacious quarter-shaped bath tub is carved in the corner between the bedroom and toilet overlooking a small garden.

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The smooth wood panelled floors distinguish the bedroom and living space, while cobbled stones and tiles form a pathway into the bathroom area. The minimalist décor in the room lends to the vastness of space. Unique wood carvings of native men and women used as wall pieces and table ornaments stand as a reminder of South East Asia’s rich art tapestry.

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At Navutu, it’s hard to resist a spa treatment. The resort offers wellness programs that include detox, acupuncture and ancient healing methods. The massage and spa menu is made up of a selection of the Asia’s best massage and beauty treatments including the traditional Khmer Massage, the invigorating Indian Head Massage, their signature Queen Bee Facial using local organic ingredients such as wild rice for exfoliation and wild honey as a mask and a range of body scrubs and wraps.

The therapist led me upstairs along the white-stoned stairs into an open air deck where my massage therapy started. I dipped my feet into a bowl of jasmine and lime speckled water and was given a sea-salt scrub along with a cup of cold ginger tea on a sunny afternoon. I was led into the massage room, the warm ray of sunshine beaming in from the round windows with wooden covers. Along one wall an array of bottled local herbs and ingredients such as turmeric, ginger, lemongrass and star anise are stacked on a wooden shelf and on the other, a basket of organic herbs together with the traditional Thai ‘Luk Pra Kob’, a muslin sack tightly packed with herbs and essential oils used for herb rituals. I remembered little of my massage as soon as it started. Lulled to sleep by the soothing deep and long massage strokes along my back, I was carried into dreamland before waking up later to be given an amazing shoulder and head massage.

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Amidst the busy exploration, I was glad to have stumbled on this tranquil retreat in the Kingdom of Wonder.

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Thermal Baths in Budapest

Our days in Europe have been spent walking, jumping, hobbling and dragging our feet in the most tired of hours. Nothing could remedy this better than a hot thermal bath…

Our days in Europe have been spent walking, jumping, hobbling and dragging our feet in the most tired of hours. Nothing could remedy this better than a hot thermal bath in one of the many thermal pools within Budapest. Since the city literally sits on inactive volcanoes, hot springs and thermal pools sprung to existence. We packed our bags as if heading to the beach, except that it was a cold wintery day. We chose Szechenyi Bath as it attracts a younger clientele, not wanting to be swimming with old aunties and old uncles with big beer bellies. The day was soon getting dark and the temperature had dropped even further, now at -4c. The thermal pool incidentally was an outdoor one. Taking up the challenged, we rushed from indoors to outdoors in our swimming gear and nothing more than a thin towel. The run proved worthwhile; in a mere few seconds we found ourselves submerged in soothing warm water. Steam blurred our vision and I was guessing there were at least 50 people in the pool with us. We sank into bliss and watched the playful activity around us. White star dust gently disappeared into the water. I looked up and realized it was snowing!

Whether it was psychological or real physical evidence, all aches and joints disappeared after 2 full hours of soaking.

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