Guangzhou is a busy, developing city, and there is little downtime. But knowing the importance of taking time out to relax and rejuvenate, I have decided to visit the beautiful new Spa at Mandarin Oriental and indulge in a holistic treatment. I am told that this will provide both mental and physical rejuvenation, which sounds like the perfect antidote to the stresses and strains of daily life. I therefore submit myself willingly to the attentive and experienced staff at The Spa and begin my journey.
Mandarin Oriental, Guangzhou, located in the heart of the downtown Tianhe District, has been welcoming guests for over a year with its luxurious East meets West aesthetic, which instantly calms you the minute you enter the hotel. This can be via either TaiKoo Hui, the prestigious shopping mall that links with the hotel en route to The Mandarin Cake Shop (whose exquisite cakes offer a taste of the indulgence to come) or the first-floor lobby.
Arriving at the latter, I am greeted by an impressive tree installation, which dominates the central space. Hardwood extends from the entrance to the reception, complemented by sleek marble. A small table nearby offers catalogues for The Spa and samples of ESPA essential oil, and sitting on the very welcome, luxe leather bench in the lift, I’m anticipating a major pampering treat.
Upon reaching the fourth floor, I walk through a beautiful garden that feels a million miles away from the bustling commercial area on the ground. In this tranquil oasis I already feel peaceful and uplifted before I find, almost hidden behind the grasses, the glass door that leads to The Spa.
The Spa boasts six single suites, each with private steam showers and changing areas. There are also three suites for couples, which allow guests to enjoy treatments with a friend or partner, and a VIP suite that provides the ultimate sanctuary with a vitality pool and relaxation and treatment spaces. To add to the bliss, guests can indulge in delicious Aromatherapy Associates products, either while enjoying a bath in The Spa or having a restorative ritual.
There are a variety of treatments available, all of which are designed to stimulate the senses. They include the Oriental Essence body massage, part of the pioneering Mandarin Oriental Signature Therapies, which includes a bespoke custom-blended Quintessence essential oil created by Aromatherapy Associates for restorative and rejuvenating benefits; the Crystal Light body treatment, which relieves muscle tension and increases circulation; and the new Qi treatment, which includes a green tea and bamboo scrub, an Oriental bamboo massage and Chinese reflexology, as well as Qigong techniques (physical exercises and breathing).
My own treatment begins in a small private area where I put on slippers and sip chrysanthemum tea. It is a Chinese custom to create culinary remedies such as soup or herbal tea to soothe the body, and the slightly sweet tea served at The Spa is a natural detoxifier that also helps to lower the body’s temperature.
The Spa’s Water Temple
As I sit and sip, a therapist runs through an in-depth questionnaire regarding my current wellbeing and needs. The consultation touches on recent work patterns and sleeping habits, as well as my expectations of the spa treatment. To restore my generally healthy but slightly rundown body, I choose the two-and-a-half-hour signature City Garden journey. I walk through an aisle of cylinder-shaped ‘rooms’ to reach my VIP suite, complete with treatment room, a bathing area, sauna and vitality pool. In the low-lit room, the light music, fresh citrusy scent and candlelight further enhance the relaxed atmosphere.
I start with the Tian Quan experience, a unique Chinese bathing therapy rooted in ritual, which aims to relieve stress and muscular pain, increase blood circulation and detoxify the body, opening the pores to allow creams and oils to deeply penetrate the skin during the treatments that follow. A hand-blended mixture of detoxifying pure ground coffee is used as a scrub, which is rinsed off before my treatment continues in the vitality pool.
I feel I am floating above a sea of lavender
After 20 minutes of soaking and water massage in the pool, all of the stress and tension has melted away from my shoulders and core. Also included in the ritual is a warm and luxurious bath that is infused with refreshing kumquat and chrysanthemum. The treatment continues with some wonderful aromatherapy, which makes me feel as if I am floating above a sea of lavender. For this stage, I was invited to choose from several different aromas to ascertain my preferred scent and establish which one would treat my body and mind the best. I am told that each day we relate to different smells, which is why this process is the starting point of many of the therapies.
Following the preparation of my skin with brushing and exfoliation, I have an all-over body wrap using a poultice combined with essential oils of natural sugarcane and mulberry. Both of these ingredients contain high levels of vitamin C and are valued for their antioxidant properties. Meanwhile, the combination of thermal bathing and wrapping serves to raise the body temperature, which in turn helps to eliminate toxins through perspiration. I relax, knowing that I will feel lighter and calmer.
The VIP Suite’s bathing area
After a refreshing shower, the therapist pampers me with a soothing lavender body oil, the final step in the treatment, and embarks on a wellness remedy for my back, which was knotted from spending hours sitting in front of my computer. As she performs a gentle shiatsu massage on my neck, shoulders, legs, arms, hands and stomach, I lie on the treatment bed, meditate and eventually fall asleep. I dream that I am at the seaside listening to the waves and bird sounds – a breeze blowing softly. When I wake up to the light rhythm of the massage, I feel supple and carefree.
My therapeutic journey is long enough to take in all of my tailor-made requirements – although my therapist suggests that I could prolong the revitalisation process with a longer, deeper rest in the room. But, for me, a glass of green tea and refreshments served after the treatment provide a pleasurable ending to my Mandarin Oriental spa experience, and I feel ready to face the world again.