A holistic approach to beauty and wellness is at the heart of The Oriental Spa at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong. Our correspondent reports on its unique range of treatments and emerges with a glow
Sometimes, visiting a hotel spa can be underwhelming, a soundtrack of woeful whale song and overpowering fragrance doing little to disguise what is patently a reconfigured function room with paper-thin walls. The Oriental Spa at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong exceeds all expectations, however.
The entrance of the two-floor spa
Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2015, The Oriental Spa has earned awards, accolades and a roster of seriously dedicated patrons. It is also central to the hotel: to put its commitment to wellbeing into perspective, although there are only 109 guest rooms and suites, some 7,620 square metres over two floors are devoted to the vast spa. That kind of space is hard to come by in a resort, let alone in the heart of one of the world's most densely populated cities. But space is not everything. It's how that space is used and what the guest experiences that matters. As I make my way to the 5th-floor entrance, one thing becomes clear – at The Oriental Spa, 'holistic' is not a marketing term; it's built into the DNA.
First, a lovely fragrance of jasmine, lime and spice wafts from the scented candles dotted around the spa, so alluring that passers-by often wander into the hotel lobby to ask what it is and where to get it. (Answer: the spa boutique.) Secondly, there is the atmosphere. In place of the sound of gushing water or the aforementioned sea creatures, tracks from the Oriental Wisdom series help create a tranquil mood.
The heated vitality pool and tepidarium chairs at The Oriental Spa at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
Then there is the look – visually, the spa is remarkable, with great restraint in its design. There are no garish floral displays, billowing curtains or bizarre statuary. Instead, there is elegance, warmth and light thanks to beautiful materials: a mix of maple and oak, cream-coloured marble, resin panels, and touches of bamboo. It also quickly becomes clear why I was advised to arrive early for my appointment and why so many city residents clamour to become members. For it is here that you find Hong Kong's first-ever hotel Pilates studio, as well as a yoga studio, where anyone can sign up for private lessons or join a group class. There is also one of the city's most amazingly equipped fitness centres, and a tantalising 18-metre, heated indoor swimming pool, with a comfy corner to enjoy a light snack and healthy drink.
On arrival, I am welcomed with a delicious and fragrant cup of tea and introduced to the spa's heat and water facilities upstairs, where the traditions of the ancient world work their magic on modern stress. The menu of treatments includes experience showers, which use a variety of coloured lights, fragrances and water flow to provide gentle massage; a heated vitality pool with water jets that massage the entire body or just the neck in isolation; an ice fountain for the ultimate cool-down; tepidarium chairs, adapted from an Ancient Roman method of evenly warming the entire body; and a Zen relaxation room, to gather your thoughts between treatments.
I am set adrift on a cloud of lavender and sandalwood, half-asleep and have in awe of the reverent treatment
The men's and women's facilities are separated, and there are men-only options of a dry or tropical-rain sauna, while ladies can enjoy the detoxifying laconium and the amethyst crystal steam room, where the combination of aromatic heat and a mesmerisingly beautiful amethyst crystal release tension, promote healing and improve concentration. The spa also has a hammam for men and a rasul for women, which can be booked for private, individual or small-group scrub-downs inspired by Turkish baths. You can even try Tian Quan therapy, a bathing ritual that unites the herbal aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine with a Himalayan salt scrub, steam shower and the dry heat of rasul.
The Oriental Spa is also one of only a handful of locations in the world – and the only place in Hong Kong – to have a Bastien Gonzalez Pedi:Mani:Cure Studio. Here, podiatrists trained by Gonzalez himself work their magic while you sit in a comfy, custom-designed chair. Gonzalez believes that the 'cure' aspect is as important as beautifying the foot, so his treatments combine podiatry techniques, skin and nail care, administered with mini drills, lengthy massage and buffing to a high shine with chamois leather.
The spa also offers a unique collaborative treatment with another world-leading beauty pioneer. The Bastien Gonzalez-Sodashi Pedi:Facial:Synergy brings together Gonzalez's three-step pedicure with an age-defying Samadara facial from Sodashi, the cult-favourite Australian skincare brand famous for not having a single chemical in its products.
The VIP Sanctuary Suite includes a vitality tub and dual massage beds
As I lie down on the bed and prepare for four-handed heaven, I apologise for my hypersensitive feet. 'We love complicated feet!' the podiatrist reassures me, deftly tending to my toes with mineral-rich Black Diamond Scrub while the Sodashi therapist performs the facial, which includes cleansing, a hot-towel massage, a penetrating mask and an application of their key product, Samadara Ultimate Age-Defying Elixir – a holistic face oil that combines 15 botanicals with rose quartz crystals to enhance the power of the plant formula.
From the start of the session, incorporating a gentle head, hand and arm massage, I am set adrift on a cloud of lavender and sandalwood, half-asleep and half in awe that my feet are being treated as reverently as my face. The two highly skilled therapists work in quiet tandem throughout, bestowing equal bliss. After 75 minutes, my face is glowing, my feet are happy and I am ready to return to the urban jungle. No wonder this two-for-one treatment has been winning so many awards.
It's also clear why The Oriental Spa has earned so many accolades. Famed for its carefully curated menu and exclusives (Bastien Gonzalez, Sodashi, Clinica Ivo Pitanguy), it is a fine example of the Mandarin Oriental Spa ethos. The question is where to begin. I say, when in Hong Kong, do as the celebrities do: book a few hours in the discreet and beautiful Sanctuary Suite for a personalised day of escape, either alone or with a friend. Just arrive early to enjoy all the spa has to offer.