South East Asia’s Best Spas & Retreats

We asked South East Asia based travel writer, Cynthia Rosenfeld, for her favourite retreats, hotels & resorts in South East Asia.

Maalifushi by COMO, Maldives

Rare is the resort yoga teacher who can successfully teach an experienced Ashtanga yoga practitioner. Yet my practice was greatly enhanced in only two intense private sessions at lifestyle maven Christina Ong’s second outpost among these palm dappled atolls off India’s southern tip. Therapists too at the 8-room COMO Shambhala Retreat spa rank among the Maldives’ most skilled and intuitive. A Balinese inspired haven of healing from healthy living of Singapore lifestyle guru Christina Ong.

http://www.comohotels.com/maalifushi

Upper House, Hong Kong

In a city where waterfront, sky piercing spas of palatial dimensions come equipped with the latest tricks of the trade, this sleek business hotel offers none of the above, just one lady named Elaine who rocks up with her portable massage table. The old school rubdown that follows however, is hands down Hong Kong’s best. Yogis should extend their business trips over a weekend for morning sessions in the intimate tropical garden.

www.upperhouse.com/en/default.aspx

Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hong Kong

Eight yoga and Pilates classes fill the daily schedule at this centrally located, naturally lit studio where the emphasis is on Ashtanga but the schedule incorporates plenty of beginner classes and abbreviated sessions for those on the go. I like to treat myself for such good behavior by adding the Oriental Spa’s new signature and rightly award winning Bastien Gonzalez-Sodashi Pedi:Facial:Synergy, a head to toe duo which combines my all time favorite foot treatment with the only spa products I’ll let touch my face.

www.mandarinoriental.com/landmark/

Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Tokyo, Japan

This sky high spa’s half day package of indigenous pampers begins with their original Azuki Bean Scrub, a gentle but effective exfoliation with finely ground Japanese azuki beans which contain saponaria, an organic foaming agent that lifts impurities from the skin. Next came the Kiatsu, designed by the spa’s own therapists and blending what they know from experience to be the most effective therapies of Japanese Shiatsu and Thai Massage.

www.mandarinoriental.com/tokyo/

Amansara, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Spa manager Vijaya Goyal spent over a year training four blind local Khmers, two men and two women, who now perform massage therapies as skillfully as any sighted professional. I return regularly for these literally life-changing foot and full body massages that offer serious relief for temple tour sore muscles and my soul.

www.amanresorts.com/amansara/home.aspx

COMO Shambhala Urban Escape, Singapore

This serene 700 square metre retreat along Singapore’s Orchard Road is a convenient haven for yoga, Pilates, Gyrokinesis®, massage and specialist treatments that brings together several of lifestyle guru Christina Ong’s own personal healers like Rohan Quarry Day who repurposes car seat belts to add resistence as he rotates my limbs in octopus inspired directions, moves he calls Active Isolated Stretching “to stir up the body and release what’s hidden in the deepest layers of your muscles” which he promises will “really peel the years off.”

www.comoshambhala.com/singapore

Nihiwatu, Sumba Island, Indonesia

Since the arrival of versatile, or shall we say flexible, Australian yogi Chelsea Graham, Indonesia’s iconic surf resort is stealthily gaining a reputation as a wellness retreat as well. Until the outdoor yoga pavilion and tree house gym are complete later this year, complimentary classes and private sessions at the jungle sala and on the sand are on offer daily. Walks along Sumba’s ultra photogenic seashore complete the waterfront workout schedule while there’s always a wave breaking for those who want to hang ten.

www.nihiwatu.com

Ulpotha, Sri Lanka

“Ulpotha is there to be enjoyed as one wishes” is the mantra, one I repeat both on days when I decide to do nothing but laze about in the ambalama, or shaded day bed, overlooking the red rice fields as well as when I motivate to the twice daily yoga practices led by visiting bold face names from the wellness world. Either way, I always make time for this island’s most indulgent yet effective Ayurvedic treatments, in the thatched roof spa hut and outdoor herbal baths.

www.ulpotha.com

Trisara, Phuket, Thailand

Two hands make a massage and four can double that pleasure. So when Anthony Lark, this resort’s founder suggested I try his signature treatment, which adds ten more talented fingers, I willingly went horizontal. For ninety blissful minutes, all three Thai therapists at my favorite Phuket luxury address harmonized their elongated Swedish strokes, paying special attention to my always aching lower back and jet lagged joints with the pressure point precision of Thai massage. That’s as much as I remember, before their seamless synchronicity lulled me to sleep.

www.trisara.com

The Siam, Bangkok

“Jab, kick, jab, kick” commands Khun Bee, the Muay Thai boxing master at this hotel’s sleek gym along Bangkok’s Chao Praya River. On each morning of my three-day program, I suit up in the retro-glamorous inn’s custom black and white satin boxing shorts and sleek leather gloves embroidered with my name, because Bee promises Muay Thai is “fantastic for burning fat. Its a six pack short cut!” In fact, from my first punch at his sparing pad, I’m hooked. The Siam’s Muay Thai private one day to weeklong training programs can be tailored to any level, from ring virgins like me to advanced boxers, and extend to daily treatments like Thai massage with herbal compresses and Sodashi facials in the hotel’s sublime Opium Spa.

www.thesiamhotel.com

Peninsula Shanghai

The Peninsula Spa offers over 1,200 square meters of indulgence but two treatments made my time in Shanghai especially memorable, I would say even life changing. Kasia the resident yoga teacher introduced me to Iyengar with a private session between the photogenic swimming pool and panoramic balcony. She had me at the first position, held longer then we typically do in Ashtanga and by the end of our session, I was making plans to incorporate this tradition into my on-going yoga practice. Later that same day, I managed to squeeze in Traditional Chinese Meridian massage with the hotel’s resident expert which had me feeling like I was walking on air, even amidst Shanghai’s notoriously smoggy stuff.

http://shanghai.peninsula.com/en/default

Waldorf Astoria Beijing

Though the slippers felt like walking on clouds, I entered one of this hotel spa’s 7 treatment rooms, hoping for a relaxing unwind but not expecting anything special. Wynton Zhai surprised me, one well placed stroke after along along my body’s meridians. His skill was such that I asked the Mongolian therapist where he trained, then nearly fell off the table to learn his teacher was none other than one of my own Asia spa gurus. Beyond the serene spa, the Yabu Pushelberg interiors at this 176-room hotel a stone’s throw from the Forbidden City, balance Chinese latticework, lacquer and silk with a museum quality contemporary Chinese art well worth a gander.

www.waldorfastoria.com/beijing

From bases on 3 continents, Cynthia Rosenfeld covers the most memorable and decadent destinations around the world for publications including The New York Times, Travel & Leisure and How To Spend It.

By Cynthia Rosenfeld

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