Six new spas in Bangalore, Moscow, Hong Kong, Budapest and London

1 Feb 2006 by business traveller

Landmark Oriental Spa Hong Kong

Located on the fifth and sixth floors of the new boutique Landmark Mandarin Oriental (see Business Traveller December 2005-January 2006 for the hotel review), this new Oriental Spa is a giant 1,950sqm, state-of-the-art facility set right in the heart of the Central business district.

Visually stunning with faultless service and one of the most comprehensive ranges of health, beauty and massage treatments in Asia, it scores particularly highly in both having a yoga studio with fixed weekly timetable, and a fully equipped Pilates and Gyrotonics studio (personal lessons are available in each).

The lower floor contains a hi-tech gym, with cardiovascular and weight training equipment, including treadmills, step machines, cardio bikes, weight machines and free weights. There are also "his and hers" changing areas and a spa café and lounge.

Upstairs there are 15 private deluxe treatment rooms, including a huge spa suite for couples, with individual changing rooms, crystal steam room, vitality pool, two treatment tables and a kang bed (used for shiatsu and Thai massages). Each his and hers spa area contains rainforest showers with multiple water jets, including blue "cold mist", yellow "country rain" and red "tropical rain", as well as an ice fountain, vitality pool, amethyst crystal steam room and an aroma steam treatment to cleanse and detoxify.

I started the day with a yoga class, and was very impressed with the instructor (there are several) who took time to correct several of my postures as if I was a regular instead of a hotel guest. In the afternoon I returned for a treatment on the upper floor. While I was waiting my shoes were exchanged for comfortable slippers ("an enduring oriental welcome signifying the leaving of the external world behind").

I tried "A Taste of Traditions" Orient-style, which is a treatment using ancient Chinese massage therapy known as Tui Na to "open and stimulate the meridians of the body and increase the flow of energy and replenish vitality". Other options included aromatherapy, Swedish, Thai, aroma stone, and Reiki and reflexology.

WHERE? The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, 15 Queen's Road Central, tel +852 2132 0011; mandarinoriental.com.

TREATMENTS Almost limitless. As well as the ones listed above, you can choose from: Rasul, a traditional Arabian ritual cleansing treatment; Laconium, dry heat in a tiled Roman-style chamber; Turkish Hamam baths; saunas; rainforest steam room; and a Zen relaxation room.

SIGNATURE THERAPY There are several, including exotic ayurvedic, and face therapy, which is described as "advanced treatments to take facials beyond cleansing and moisturising into progressive facial massage, connective energy facial massage and holistic de-stressing".

PRICES To get the best out of a visit, book a combination of treatments  in blocks of time (called time rituals). Two hours (with one hour 50 minutes treatment time) costs HKD1,920; £140, while three hours (two hours 50 minutes treatment time) costs HKD 2,880; £210.

Amrita spa, Swissotel Krasnye holmy, Moscow

The name may be Oriental (in Sanskrit, amrita refers to the magical elixir of eternal youth) but there was no mistaking the Eastern European vigour of my massage at the Amrita Spa and Health Club at the new Swissotel Krasnye Holmy in Moscow.

The Amrita brand comes from parent company Raffles International and was launched in 2000. Since then it has been expanded around the world.

An early morning appointment was my only free time, which perhaps wasn't the ideal moment to experience a Swedish massage; in truth, an extra hour's sleep and an orange juice might have been preferable.
Once there, however, I discovered the magnificent swimming pool, and although the spa isn't large – being on the third floor of the hotel opposite the main restaurant, Café Suisse – it's all tranquillity inside. With natural materials and earthy colours, the four treatment rooms feature frosted mirror glass walls with softly illuminated ceilings. The elliptical swimming pool is surrounded by a slate tile deck that also houses a whirlpool, and there are all the fluffy robes, towels and slippers you'd expect from a five-star hotel. The gym is full of new equipment, though for once I headed straight for the nearest massage bed where any chance of falling asleep was pummelled out of me.

WHERE? Swissotel Krasnye Holmy, Kosmodamianskaya Nab 52, Building 6, 115054 Moscow, tel +7 095 787 9800; moscowswissotel.com.

TREATMENTS Tranquillity body wrap, Toxi-cleanse and thermal mineral body mask, and the Amrita Spa foot and leg treatment. Facials include a Vitamin boost (80 minutes) and Gentleman's facial (55 minutes). Massages include sports, Thai, Indian and Swedish.

SIGNATURE THERAPY The Spirulina body wrap (60 minutes) is rich in proteins, minerals and enzymes, promoting detoxification, fat loss and general recovery.

PRICES The Spirulina costs R1,900 (£38); the Vitamin boost R4,000 (£80) and Gentleman's facial R3,000 (£60). Massages cost from R1,700 (£34).

Leela Health Spa Leela Palace, Bangalore

In the boom town of Bangalore, few hotels pack the punch of The Leela Palace. Ideally located close to the airport on the way into the city, the 256-room property runs at close to 100 per cent occupancy throughout the year and has a new wing opening next year.

It's a green oasis of a place, with the bustle of the city kept firmly outside the gates. Within the grounds there's one of the finest, and largest, outdoor swimming pools of any non-resort five-star hotel in the world, a yoga studio overlooking it, and an excellent spa (1,860sqm) with whirlpool, sauna, steam and relaxation areas as well as an ayurvedic centre.

As you'd expect from a five-star hotel, the service is excellent. I wandered down to the spa to inquire about the possibility of a treatment, and was immediately seen by an ayurvedic specialist who inquired after my general health, what I was hoping to achieve from the treatment, and how long I was staying for – since ayurvedic treatments are ideally conducted over a number of days.

As I only had a single morning I opted for a four-hands ayurvedic massage, assuming it would be like two treatments in one. It was, however it's not for the bashful since apart from a pair of paper pants I was naked in front of two male therapists. The massage was unlike any I've had: having four hands instead of two means that with your eyes shut it's impossible to keep track of what's happening and so you are more or less forced to relax. The treatment involved an incredible amount of oil, which even after several showers over the next couple of days was never quite removed, but I'm told that this is part of the ayurvedic experience. On the flight home I was very relaxed without feeling exhausted.

WHERE? The Leela Palace Bangalore, 23 Airport Road, tel +91 80 2521 1234; theleela.com/Bangalore.

TREATMENTS Ayurvedic, though there are also Espa products and treatments available.

SIGNATURE THERAPY Abhyanga Snana, a synchronised massage which "increases the blood circulation, relaxes the body, and enhances proper energy flow throughout
the day".

PRICES Massages start from Rs1,700 (£22) plus tax. Abhyanga Snana with two therapists costs Rs2,500 (£32) plus tax.

The peak, Jumeirah Carlton Tower London

On the 9th and 10th floors of Jumeirah's London property just off Sloane Street, the The Peak Health Club and Spa (membership around £3,000 per year) certainly attracts a high-flying crowd. Now augmenting its traditional Sisley treatments, it has recently become a specialist in Pevonia products and therapies.

The health club side of things is impressive, with a fully equipped gym with Technogym cardiovascular and Cybex resistance equipment. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a recent hotel visitor to the Peak, I was told, though thankfully on my visit everyone was of a normal size. Personal tuition is a big thing here, and there is also a studio for spinning and yoga classes. On a different floor there's a 20-metre indoor stainless steel swimming pool with a whirlpool, sauna and steam facilities set alongside a tropical water garden.

The spa and beauty treatments by Sisley and Pevonia range from detox wraps to body peels, contouring treatments and a choice of Thai, aromatherapy, lymphatic and Swedish massage. The treatment menu comes on a neat purple card and has a huge choice. The Pevonia treatments are excellent, as are the ingredients, including an age-defying caviar balm, the perfect aftercare to follow Pevonia's skin-fit caviar treatment.
I was particularly impressed by the care taken before the treatment in diagnosing my exact skin type. In fact, the therapist decided that my skin was too sensitive for the treatment I had booked and instead gave me a milder version, something I was grateful for since my skin was tender for a few days afterwards (regulars probably won't have this problem).

The therapist was excellent and informative; apparently over half of the facials at The Peak are for men, and many men are regulars with once a month being the recommended frequency.

WHERE? The Peak Health Club and Spa, Jumeirah Carlton Tower, Cadogan Place, London, tel +44 (0)20 7858 7008; jumeirah.com.

TREATMENTS Pevonia and Sisley, including a large range of Pevonia for Men treatments.

SIGNATURE THERAPY The new Pevonia skin-fit caviar men's facial.

PRICES The skin-fit caviar treatment is £70. The 75-minute Pevonia facial for men costs £55 and a 60-minute Swedish massage costs £65.

Sodashi, 51 buckingham gate London

Still recovering from what I was now referring to as "the Moscow massage" courtesy of the Amrita spa at Moscow's Swissotel, I was glad to have a gentler experience at Sodashi.

The spa isn't new, but the concept behind it is, as it's the first chemical-free hotel spa in the UK. Sodashi is Sanskrit for "wholeness, purity and radiance", and this Australian brand uses only natural plant extracts and essences. "If we can't make it naturally, naturally we don't make it" is the quote from Megan Larsen, its founder and managing director.

Sodashi is hidden away in a courtyard behind the Crown Plaza Hotel on Buckingham Gate, close to London's Victoria Station, and there are a lot worse places to visit if you've just stepped off the Gatwick Express. The spa is run by Taj hotel group's London property, 51 Buckingham Gate. It is small, and a strange mix of elegant 21st century spa and rather old-fashioned gym, though there are plans for a renovation of the old metal lockers in the changing rooms.

It is also slightly hampered by the floor space in the elegant building it occupies, with the spa bath and steam rooms being on the lower floor while one of the treatment rooms is upstairs. That said, the treatments are unique and for those who want a 100 per cent natural experience, it is worth hunting out. It is also, presumably, the reason for this spa winning so many awards.

My choice was a Sodashi signature body massage, which was extremely gentle. The idea is that smooth stroking encourages an increase in lymphatic circulation and relieves emotional and physical tension – which it did, because I was asleep within a few minutes (I was jet-lagged).

There are also Swedish and Sports massages with the option of a "4 hands" massage for those who want the most for their money.

WHERE? Spa at Fifty-One, 51 Buckingham Gate, London; tel +44 (0)20 7769 7766; 51-buckinghamgate.com.

TREATMENTS Facials, salt therapy, body wraps, organic sea scrub, body polishes, Sodashi signature body massage and aromatherapy massage and several other massage therapies.

SIGNATURE THERAPY  Jet Lag Recovery Programme, a four-hour programme consisting of enlivening salt therapy (60 mins), purifying body mask (30 mins), Sodashi jet lag recovery facial (60 mins), a fresh fruit juice and light lunch, costing £295.

PRICES From £26 for a men's manicure up to £399 for a one-night spa break. My signature massage cost £70.

Ajaran, Kempinski Corvinus Budapest

The Kempinski Corvinus in Budapest was one of the first international five-star hotels to open in the city. A recent revamp has seen it reclaim its position as one of the best in the city, despite outstanding new arrivals and competitors such as the Four Seasons Gresham Palace.

One of the improvements is the excellent addition of the Ajaran Spa. The variety of hotel spas is well illustrated by those in the Kempinski brand, ranging from more traditional medical-style spas such as that at the
Climatic Health Resort of Falkenstein Königstein Frankfurt, to the Six Senses Spa at the Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay Bodrum.

As the name suggests, the Ajaran is Asian-themed, though with an interior designed by Hungarian architect Ágnes Bálint. Philosophically, Ajaran combines southern Asian spa tradition with western discoveries from cosmetic research. In practice this means the spa takes its recipes from tropical plants such as those used in the traditional herbal medicine of Indonesia ("Jamu") and complements them with ingredients from anti-ageing research aimed at the needs of a western skin. The treatments are divided into a choice of harmonising, regenerating or energising. Royal Lulur, for example, is characterised as harmonising and is a
Balinese massage combined with an exfoliating mix of rice powder, spices and flowers, resulting in a lavishly toned skin texture. Asian Spice Regenerating Source, on the other hand, involves woody, fragrant spices intended to evoke warm sensations and pleasant memories.

The Ajaran spa has all the facilities you would expect from a European luxury brand like Kempinski, including a sauna, steam bath, two variable pressure showers, ice fountain, pool with countercurrent jets, Asian spa suite with two-person bath, heated Kneipp benches, solarium, and fitness centre. A difference from many spas is that the showers, baths and sauna cabins are all fitted with audio speakers, aroma diffusers and adjustable lighting.

There are many different types of massage available, including Thai massage (the spa has two trained Thai massage therapists and contains a purpose-built cabana) and Pantai Luar, a Balinese exfoliating massage employing heated "dumplings" compounded of pure botanical substances and oils.

There is also a hot stone treatment, here called LaStone (described as the "skilled placement of heated and cooled stones of varying weights to evoke certain bodily responses"). For once, I went for a traditional massage and it was excellent, with pressure adjusted on request, and a lovely relaxing experience before and after in the wet areas of the sauna.

WHERE? Kempinski Hotel Corvinus, Erzsébét ter 7-8, 1051 Budapest, tel +36 1 429 3585; kempinski.com.

TREATMENTS Massage choices include Hawaiian Lomilomi which is characterised by broad, sweeping strokes using the entire arm. Noted for treating various types of congestion and blockage.

SIGNATURE THERAPY A range of Ajaran programmes and two Ajaran massages: Balinese and Energising Sources.

PRICES Ajaran programmes range from €59 to €145; Ajaran massages cost €71.

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