HAPPY NEW YEAR: THE BEST (and not so great) SPA EXPERIENCES OF 2018

I’m writing to you from my little pad in New York (Long Island to be exact). Hope you all had a healthy and happy festive season!

This year has been full of creative highlights.  I was fortunate to consult on some exciting wellness projects including a boho-chic Karma Spa in the Greek islands, a wellness retreat opening in Bali, a soon-to-be-launched Tibetan-inspired skincare line in New York, and an amazing day spa on Rottnest island in Western Australia.  2018 was a creative growth-spurt for me!

Oh, and I also purchased a little house!

I was actually planning to tone down my traveling in 2018 but in fact, I left New York at the end of February and aside from a quick trip back in June to see my boyfriend, I didn’t return to New York until September! Crazy but true. He had to fly out to visit me in various countries including Australia, Bali and the Greek Islands (he said he didn’t mind).

Here’s some of the highlights of 2018 including the best (and not so great) spa experiences…

BEST LUXURY SPAS AND TREATMENTS 

I finally tried the famous Japanese KOBIDO® Lifting Facial in Paris! 

This is one of the most sophisticated facials you’ll ever try. Dating back to the 15th century, the Kobido  Facial consist of hundreds of sculpting, lifting and toning techniques. What makes this special is that it takes years to learn the sequence and get certified to deliver this treatment. Mine was delivered by the masterful Sabine at Freepersephone Spa in Paris .  https://freepersephone.com/en

P.S. The Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris recently introduced the Kobido facial on their spa menu (https://www.fourseasons.com/paris) and you can also try this at SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain (https://shawellnessclinic.com). 

The Sleep Well Journey at the Six Senses Spa in Crete was epic

Sleep treatments and retreats are so on trend right now and this ritual was one of the highlights of my year (helped by the fact the therapist who delivered it was a master of his craft). Devised by Australian brand, Subtle Energies (www.subtleenergies.com.au), it included a guided yoga nidra meditation, marma-point facial, Nasya herbal oil application and mind-soothing warm oil Shirodhara – it was heavenly! www.sixsenses.com/spas/elounda

As was the sublime spa at the Mandarin Oriental in New York…

How lucky was I to experience the ‘Digital Wellness Escape’ at this luxe hotel spa!  This treatment was also delivered by a expert male masseuse (I see a pattern here). it included a soak in a crystal-infused bath and a therapeutic massage focused on my tech-tense neck, shoulder, and upper back area.  This spa lives up to its claim as ‘an oasis in the city’  – I felt like a goddess as I relaxed in the Amethyst Crystal Steam Room overlooking the grey New York skyline. www.mandarinoriental.com/new-york/manhattan/luxury-hotel

The Wellness Screening at the new Six Senses in Bali was a wake-up call

Being an ex-Bali girl, I couldn’t wait to experience the wellness offerings at the new Six Senses spa in Uluwatu. My half-day retreat included the machine-based Wellness Screening that analyzes several key biomarkers in the body. Unfortunately, my health score was only 76%, but on a positive note it gave me a  wake-up call. The highlight was the Aerial Yoga class delivered by their wellness director – yet another master in his craft (what is it with all these amazing male therapists)! www.sixsenses.com/resorts/uluwatu-bali

The Spa at the Four Seasons in Hong Kong just got better…

What can I say, the spa management team here are so on point right now.  I love their ‘wellness everywhere’ approach with healthy touch-points throughout the hotel. For example, they partnered with Certified Nutritionist and Functional Medicine Specialist, Miles Price, to introduce nutrient-rich meals in most of their F&B outlets.   Fitness-wise, they’ve collaborated with the best Pilates, Spinning and Barre studios in Hong Kong and offer class passes for guests – how awesome. This spa also houses the most luxurious steam room  in the region – it’s totally lush.  https://www.fourseasons.com/hongkong/

And my second Panchakarma Detox at Oneworld Ayurveda in Bali was transforming…

I’ve been writing about Oneworld Ayurveda for a couple of years now – it really is one of the most nurturing detox retreats in the world.  With daily consultations with Ayurvedic physicians,  you are taken care of every step of the way. Meals are personalized as are the herbal medicines and twice-daily treatments that feel deeply nourishing during your detox.  If you are serious about maintaining your health long-term, then Oneworld Ayurveda is an excellent choice.  https://www.oneworldayurveda.com

CREATIVE HIGHLIGHTS OF 2018

*Opening an Apothecary Massage Bar at Karma Spa on Rottnest Island in Western Australia was a dream come true. https://karmagroup.com/karma-spa/

*Commissioned to write not one but two articles for one of my favorite publications, Mindfood Magazine  https://www.mindfood.com was another coup. These included Treatment Trends and a  Niche Nurturing retreats article.

*As was contributing to Destinasian magazine’s  http://www.destinasian.com annual wellness trends report.

*Crafting beauty blogs for www.ila-spa.com and www.ilapothecary.com  – in truth, there’s few jobs more inspiring for me than writing about health, wellness and beauty. I am so obsessed that I even love writing labels for skincare, teas and candles – that’s how much of a geek I am.

*Being appointed Spa & Wellness Ambassador for The Karma Group https://karmagroup.com

MOVERS AND SHAKERS – BEST BRANDS OF 2018

The Tides

I am so in awe of everything about this Dutch-born wellness brand. Their range of skincare is beautifully conceived as is their menu of treatments. Each is designed to reboot our body and brain through sequences of  functional products, innovative treatment techniques, massage, breathing, stretching, yoga, meditation and (mindful) exercise. www.thetideswellness.com

Equinox expands their Body Lab concept

OMG, don’t you love it when a spa doesn’t call itself a spa!  I am so obsessed about the Body Lab (spas) at these high-end fitness gyms,  I want to work for them!  Equinox is all about self-empowerment and high-performance. Who isn’t tempted to book in for a  ‘Performance Massage’ and ‘Regenerative Massage’.  https://www.equinox.com

Mokosh Skincare

I discovered this homegrown Perth certified organic Ayurvedic-inspired brand when doing the pre-opening of Karma Spa on Rottnest Island in Western Australia.  I love and feel good about supporting the small operators in our industry. Besides, their Rich Day Cream is divine! www.mokosh.com.au

Ancient Lake Salts

Another local brand we sourced when opening Karma Spa in Australia. These guys offer a comprehensive range of magnesium-rich salts, oils and bath products – all infused with wild harvested organic sea salt. You can experience these in warm salt scrubs at the spa – so good! www.ancientlakesmagnesium.com.au

Aman Skincare

When the world’s most luxury resort band launches their own skincare range, one needs to takes notice.  This is such an elegantly-crafted face, body and bath concept that reflects the energy and design of their resorts so beautifully. Just some of the key ingredients include maca, arnica, jade and homeopathics – Smoked Body Butter anyone? https://shop.aman.com/en/

Ilapothecary opens first flagship store in London

Conceived by my fav spa product brand in the world, www.ila-spa.com, this boutique brand fills a much-needed niche of  ‘modern remedies for modern times’.  Love some of their treatment names too including ‘Digestion Restoration’ and ‘Happy Hormone Equilibrium’. I can’t wait to visit! www.ilapothecary.com

SOME LOW-POINTS…

You can’t have the highs without the lows and working as a consultant is not always the easiest path. The work can be sporadic and sometimes clients take your ideas and run with it themselves (but as they say, what comes around goes around).

Auditing a well-known luxury five-star spa in Asia this year was also a little rough as it’s not nice to give negative feedback.  Hot tip: Take it from a 30-year industry veteran, no more Warm Stone Massages please! Get creative. No need to copy what other brands are doing either. Create your own niche – your customer is ready. Inspire them, confront them, help them grow… 

Loosing good staff is hard (Kristal, we miss you)!

5 INTENTIONS FOR 2019

*Complete my novel (s).

*Spend more time with friends and loved ones.

*More movement, more exercise, more dancing. 

*Book in for a retreat at Aro-ha in New Zealand (one of my top 3 retreats in the world)  – www.aro-ha.com 

*Join my sister on a yoga-hiking retreat in the French Pyrenees  www.radianceretreats.com

*Do another Panchakarma Detox at Oneworld Ayurveda (keen to do 14-days this time). www.oneworldayurveda.com 

Oops, that’s six already…

5 DESTINATIONS I WANT TO EXPLORE IN 2019

Sail around Croatia

And the Antartica

Explore Cambodia (and Laos)

Visit Portugal

Hike Bhutan (the new Six Senses five lodge trek looks inviting).

 

That’s all for now – see you  in 2019!

 

 

RETREATS FOR SLEEP AND CURES FOR JET LAG

With sleep deprivation on the rise, luxury hospitality and wellness brands around the world have introduced a series of treatments and retreat programs that can offset jetlag and relieve even the most long-suffering insomniac.

Sleep Treatments

Luxury skincare and wellness brand ESPA collaborated with binaural rhythm experts—who stimulate the brain through differences in frequency between the left and right ears—to devise the high-tech Sleep Ritual now offered at ESPA Life at Corinthia London. The two-hour experience starts with abdominal yogic breathing and visualization before moving on to a scalp and hot-stone massage. Spa-goers then listen to binaural rhythm audio as the therapist performs acupressure on the feet.

Guests at The Peninsula Hong Kong can unwind through the 120-minute Peninsula Sleep Ceremony, also created by ESPA. In the privacy of a candlelit spa suite, you’ll be treated to an aromatic bath, meditation, and deep breathing exercises to clear the mind, followed by a restorative hot-stone massage and a facial and scalp massage. Recommended for late-night arrivals, the treatment is also available at Peninsula spas in Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, and New York.

Over in Thailand, the Bangkok and Chiang Mai properties of 137 Pillars Hotels and Resorts deserve a mention for the 90-minute Sleep by Design Therapy launched last year. This is enhanced by a Glyph headset playing binaural beats while a full-body massage is performed to the rhythm of your breathing patterns. Guests staying in the suites can also request a Sleepdown Service, in which a “sleep butler” and “sleep curator” prepare the room with temperature control, mood lighting, and luxury sleep amenities—including bergamot bath salts for an indulgent pre-bedtime soak.

Meanwhile, neighboring Cambodia’s Song Saa Private Island offers the jet-lagged and insomnia-prone an antidote in its 2.5-hour Night Spa Ritual by leading British brand Ila Spa. Designed to shield the nervous system from sensory overload, the treatment cocoons spa-goers in aromatherapy-infused body scrubs before slow, sleep-inducing Ayurvedic marma-point and facial massages.

Devised by Australian spa brand Subtle Energies, the newly launched two-hour Sleep Support Therapy at Perth’s Crown Casino Spa also harnesses Ayurvedic techniques to regulate the body’s natural rhythm. The treatment begins with deep pranayama breathing and a full-body massage, progressing to a marma-point facial massage—aimed at activating the pineal gland believed to regulate circadian cycles—before closing with a guided savasana meditation.

Sleep Retreats

Six Senses was one of the first hospitality brands to realize that sleep was just as important to personal wellbeing as diet and exercise. Its Yogic Sleep retreats, developed with in-house yoga master Dorelal Singh, are oriented on the state of consciousness known as yoga nidra, and comprise restful treatments and sleep-boosting amenities and cuisine. Six Senses has also collaborated with renowned sleep doctor Dr. Michael Breus to roll out a “sleep upgrade” worldwide, enhancing villas with optimal room temperatures, lighting that boosts melatonin production, organic bedding, and humidifiers for easier breathing.

If you’re planning some downtime in Melbourne, consider the Sleep Deeply program at the recently opened Willow Urban Retreat, a chic wellness space dedicated to yoga, movement, whole foods, and healing. Half- or full-day itineraries balance mindful exercises with therapies that include Ayurveda, acupuncture, and holistic massage, as well as naturopathic prescribed meals. A three-day option is also available, while those staying for longer periods of time can extend the program up to six weeks.

Thailand is another top choice for sleep-centric vacations. At Koh Samui’s luxury wellness sanctuaryKamalaya, the Sleep Enhancement program is available as a standalone offering or can be integrated into any retreat stay. It includes lifestyle consultations, treatments, healthy meals, plus activities to reduce an overactive mind and other issues that contribute to poor sleep.

In Indonesia, one of the newer arrivals to Bali’s spa scene is Revivo Wellness Resort. The Sleep Well retreat here teaches methods that can be easily implemented at home; after your consultation, you are prescribed a customized program that incorporates meals, activities, and a range of treatments. Expect acupuncture, Ayurveda, or reiki alongside hammock yoga and meditation. Meanwhile in Ubud, the latest offering at eco-wellness lodge Svarga Loka is the 7-, 10- or 14-night Deep Restorative Sleep Retreat led by energy-field practitioner Eros Ferrari. The cause of poor sleep is identified and cured in daily healing sessions with Ferrari, and guests also enjoy detoxifying saunas, sound healing treatments, and pressure-point massages.

This article originally appeared in the October/November 2018 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Snooze Control”).