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Spas offer respite from the bustle of Hong Kong

ROCHELLE LASH The Vancouver Sun 01/12/2012 22:50
Spas offer respite from the bustle of Hong Kong - lifestyle - spa - Hong Kong

The world of wellness bridges the city's same contrasts of traditional and folksy vs. cutting-edge and contemporary. The various goals of modern spa life - fitness, weight loss, beauty treatments, relaxation and healing - are in sync with ancient Chinese practices like tai chi, massage, feng shui and herbal medicine. In Hong Kong, you can "spa" old or new.

On the new side, the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is the newest of the new. This dazzling hotel of classic luxury operates on the top floors of a shimmering tapered glass office tower. It opened in mid-2011 as the highest-elevation hotel on any continent, with jaw-dropping views from 490 metres in the sky, or nearly three times as high as Montreal's Place Ville Marie.

Your spa sojourn might start with the thrill of gazing out at the fabulous panorama of Hong Kong and its busy harbour below - from remarkable spaces on the 118th floor. The swimming pool and hot tub are enclosed in glass, so you don't have to be afraid to peek down, even if you're afraid of heights. After a dip and a soak, an attendant will wrap you in a bathrobe, and you are off to exquisite spa services like the hot Lava Shell Body Treatment, which melts muscle tension, or the Radiance Facial, which uses jade stone rollers to refresh the skin, awaken tired eyes and help focus the mind.

Pampering is a big part of a wellness day, and few places spoil their guests better than the luxurious Mandarin Spa. Owned by Jardine-Matheson, the iconic Hong Kong business conglomerate, the flagship Mandarin Oriental in the fashionable Central district has chalked up nearly 50 years of accommodating taipans (business tycoons) and tai-tais (ladies who lunch and shop). The Mandarin Oriental is known for its Michelinstarred restaurant, skyline views and special touches like toiletries by Hermès in VIP rooms. It has such topdrawer services as the Meet & Greet, in which an airport agent collects you upon arrival and ushers you through the long, confusing customs lineups.

According to the gold-standard Forbes Travel Guide, Mandarin Oriental Hotels operate the finest spas in many world capitals, including Hong Kong, where the spa is an exotic sanctuary with the sultry look of a 1930s Shanghai salon. More comprehensive than most hotel spas, the Mandarin's is a twostorey wellness centre with yoga and Pilates classes and private consultations with holistic experts.

The Imperial Jade Ritual is one of the Mandarin's most indulgent, relaxing treatments. This two-hour session blends Chinese massage, a scrub with ground rice and sesame, a body mask of green tea and algae and a ginseng facial. Especially for men, the Mandarin Barber has the air of a vintage gentleman's club and offers massages, facials, waxing and the signature Shanghai Pedicure, in which a barber shaves and kneads your feet until they are silky smooth.

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