Lyndell Nelis, spa director at Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai talks about the metamorphosis of a beautiful city sanctuary

Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai opened beside the Huangpu River in 2013. And as hotel employee No 11, I was closely involved with every step of The Spa’s creation. It was an incredible experience to see it take shape, with its energy and momentum fuelled by the passion of a dedicated team of colleagues.

The fruits de mer

Lyndell Nelis, spa director at Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai

When we were first discussing the design of the space, I was excited that it would feature original art and sculpture by Asian artists, part of a collection of 4,000 original artworks throughout the hotel. When I learned that the art and design was loosely themed on the butterfly, I experienced a flash of clarity and knew I had found a unique and rather whimsical direction for The Spa.

There is no other living creature that undergoes such dramatic change as the butterfly. It is alluded to throughout Chinese culture, its delicate metamorphosis representing the ability to change and become more beautiful with the passing of time. I felt this sense of transformation also perfectly captures the essence of Shanghai, a city so enthusiastically embracing change and development.

As the great Chinese poet Chuang Tzu said, ‘Am I a man who dreamed that I was a butterfly? Or am I butterfly, dreaming that I am a man? Perhaps my whole waking life is but a moment in a butterfly’s dream!’

I used this concept as the inspiration for one of our signature Suite Experiences – the Butterfly’s Dream. The two-hour treatment begins with a deep bath, infused with herbs of Chinese mulberry and night-blooming jasmine, followed by a rose body wrap, a full facial and warming moxibustion (a traditional therapy of burning mugwort). To complete the ‘metamorphosis’, pressure-point touch therapy is applied on specific reflex zones of the ears, scalp and hands to release energy blockages and promote natural healing.

Wellness is seen as being integral to a luxury lifestyle in Shanghai, one of the wealthiest cities in China, and that gives us scope to create the ultimate spa experiences for guests. While most local spas remain focused on traditional Chinese wellness therapies, we are innovating with high-tech international treatments, available at The Spa’s Beauty by Mandarin Oriental salon. I felt it was important to deliver visible, corrective results, and to chart them scientifically. The Spa is the first in Shanghai to offer technology such as CACI for non-surgical facelifts and body toning, Visia skin complexion analysis, which uses photo imagery, and the Biospace body composition analyser.

My favourite treatment is the Face and Body Duet, which combines the science of CACI with organic skincare line Amala. Living in a fast-paced city, I have an appreciation for efficiency, and in just 90 minutes I feel lifted, toned, firmed and fabulous!

Something else I enjoy, is starting my day with a steaming cup of The Spa’s signature bamboo and buckwheat tea, on my balcony overlooking the awesome Shanghai skyline. I love this city of contrasts: the glamour of its heritage architecture and its futuristic financial zone; the simplicity of a street vegetable market alongside the complexity of Chinese culture; the incessant bustle and change… and, yes, a bit of chaos. I feel so blessed that it has been my home for the past four years, having also lived here almost a decade ago.

The swimming pool at The Spa

The swimming pool at The Spa

At the end of the day, our Fitness and Wellness supervisor ensures I decompress with a circuit workout, or using the cross-trainer and rower. But my preferred way to unwind is to swim laps in the spectacular glass mosaic swimming pool, before 20 minutes in the crystal steam room and a laze on the heated tepidarium chairs, listening to the sounds of Oriental Wisdom. Well, someone has to do this job and be surrounded by all this beauty!

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