Spa Gone Wrong – How would you have reacted?

This letter appeared in the Forums Page of a major newspaper, The Straits Time, in Singapore on 27 December 2007. If you are female, would you have reacted the same way the letter-writer did or would the incident be acceptable to you? Do give your comments and feedback so that we know how females in different countries and cultures would have reacted to the same incident.

“Are You Comfortable With A Male Masseur?”
Spa gone wrongHAVING heard that Spa Botanica was a three-time winner of the Best Spa Experience award by the Singapore Tourism Board and reviews that they had one of the best service-orientated staff, I booked a one-and-a-half-hour spa session worth $217 on my birthday with a friend.

Imagine the shock I received when a male masseur entered the room. I quickly asked for a change of masseur and after a 15-minute wait, the manager informed me that there was no available female masseur. I had to wait for about one-and-a-half hours if I insisted on a female therapist.

She admitted that it was the spa’s fault for not asking the gender preference of my masseur earlier on, and assured me that the male masseur assigned was very professional.

Frustrated, I was left with no choice as I planned to end my massage at the same time with my friend. Although the male masseur was indeed professional, I left the spa with a bitter-sweet feeling. It was a special occasion for me and, having paid so much, I did not expect anything to go wrong.

So what exactly differentiates a top-class spa from the average spa if not for its quality of service? Despite boasting a superior service standard we have in Singapore, it is these little details that all services should be more attentive to in order to live up to our reputation.

Choo Yirong (Ms) (The letter writer)

Credit: Mon, Dec 24, 2007, The Straits Times


Christmas Greetings

Xmas candlesIt’s the time of the year where festive cheers are in the air permanently wherever you go in the streets with Christmas music, Christmas trees, artificial snow, decorations and fake Santas romping about.

May I wish all readers a very Merry Christmas!

For those of you who have never been to Asia before, well, let me assure you that the Christmas festive mood is true and well in Asia with many party revellers, shops, departmental stores , restaurants, pubs and TV and radio studios celebrating Christmas as if it has been a native Asian holiday for centuries!

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Conversation with a Chinese Massage Therapist

Body meridianI met Liu Lu when I went for a foot massage in a small shop near my house.

Liu Lu was my assigned foot massage therapist and it was soon obvious that she was a notch better than most local foot massage therapists I had experienced in Singapore. I struck up a conversation with her…

Liu Lu is from Shandong, China and had recently move to Singapore to continue to work as a massage therapist. She grew up in Wei Hai, Shandong, China and had enrolled in the Shandong College for Traditional Chinese Medicine in Jinan for a massage therapist diploma.

Liu Lu explained that one can qualify to be a traditional massage therapist in 3-years in most Traditional Chinese Medicine College in China. The courses she had to study were rigorous and included studying the body meridian, acupuncture, guasha, tuina, bagua, accupressure, reflexology, detoxification and others. She also had to do a one year internment in a Chinese hospital before she could graduate as a fully qualified traditional TCM massage therapist. (Note: Traditional Chinese Massage is fully endorsed as a form of medical treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment)

After graduation, Liu Lu worked in a different number of massage palors in Wei Hai and Yantai, China. She picked up other massage related skills such as slimming and beauty-related massage skills in these commercial massage palors.

Liu Lu also related that foot massage treatment is slightly different between China and Singapore. In China, no foot massage is ever started without a soak in a hot water hub added with Chinese herbs. The foot massage therapist may also use a reflexology stick which is much more painful then using just bare hands and knuckles. A complete foot massage also include massaging the ankle, calf, thigh and knee which is again not quite practised in Singapore.

She was also disappointed that her other traditional massage skills such as tuina, bagua and guasha were not popular in Singapore or other parts of the world despite these being time- honoured traditional Chinese massage skills.

Personally, I can only hope that with more Mainland China therapists coming to Singapore and other parts of the world, the standard of foot reflexology and Chinese Tuina massage will improve greatly as these Chinese therapists are highly trained in the holistic approach of massage as a total concept of well-being in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

If you would like to try out Liu Lu’s massage skills, do check out the shop she works for in The Icon, Tanjong Pagar Rd, Singapore.

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Review: Ayara Hilltops, Phuket, Thailand

Ayara HilltopsI recently returned home from Phuket Island, Thailand after a business meeting trip. I last visited Phuket 10 or more years ago.

This time around, Phuket appears to be very quiet. Usually by year end, this popular island resort off Andaman Seas, Thailand should be packed with tourists from Europe, US and Asia. I can only presume that business has not really pick up ever since the devastating tsunami of 2004 .

I stayed at the Ayara Hilltops, a small cozy 5 star luxury boutique resort. This hotel resort offers a spectacular view of the Surin Beach and the Andaman Sea on the north western coast of Phuket Island. The rooms are big and have a stylish décor in contemporary Thai/Balinese style with soft and soothing colors.

After 2 full days of busy meetings, I finally had the chance to unwind myself on my last day at the resort. I woke up early to have a quick swim at the pool, took a long and slow breakfast, relaxed myself at the deck bed by the pool again before heading to the spa.

Spa receptionThe resort’s spa, known as COMFORT SPAce, feature their own acclaimed [comfort zone] products and signature massage as well as traditional Thai massage. As I entered into the COMFORT SPAce, I was greeted with the traditional Thai greeting of “swadee ka” in a friendly and gentle voice.

The spa receptionist directed me to the waiting area, showed me the various retreat programs tailored to suit various individual needs. They even have a selection of pre-packaged spa and massage programs at at discounted rate.

I opted for the daily pre-package deal that included a herbal steam bath, a jacuzzi, a body scrub, a massage and a facial. I was served with a cold rosemary tea and a wet towel. The wet towel had a aromatic lavender fragrance. As soon as I finished my drink, the therapist led me to the treatment room. The therapy rooms are of a good size with their own private steam bath and jacuzzi. The spa houses a total of 6 treatment rooms inclusive of 4 double suites and 2 standard suites.

Spa Treatment RoomWow, the treatment room is so big. There is a separate wet area for shower, toilet, steam bath and the jacuzzi. The therapist explained the sequences and duration of the treatments and left the room so that I can enjoy myself. The session starts with a 15 mins herbal steam bath followed by a 20 mins soak with milk bath in the jacuzzi. The therapist returned to the treatment room with a smile and led me to the treatment bed to start the body scrub with tamarind.

I have never felt such a slow, gentle and smooth body scrub before. In most other spas, the therapist will just do a quick scrub over your body. But this time round, I felt that the therapist scrubbed every part of my body with such gentle and skillful strokes. With the right pressure, the body scrub was aimed at removing dead skin cells to brighten the skin tone, and also aids in removing stubborn cellulite. I was then ushered to the shower room to cleanse away before adjourning to the treatment bed for an oil-prep lavender floral ex foliation .

Spa Treatment RoomThen, it was an hour of blissful “Calmly Love” massage. This is a soft, gentle and relaxing massage to thoroughly loosen up your muscles and calm the body. The routine employs long, slow movements and gentle, soothing strokes to restore peace and harmony to your body, mind and spirit. The therapy ends off with a relaxing facial, which enhanced my overall therapeutic spa experience.

From my many years of spa-visiting experience, I really like spa therapists in Thailand as they are always so gentle and really take their own time to massage your body. It was as if Thais are born to be gentle, smiling spa therapists and perhaps why Thailand is also known as the Land of Smiles!

The whole spa experience left me feeling totally rejuvenated as the therapist gave my muscles that much needed knead with such skillful strokes that left me feeling much lighter as I stepped out of the spa after three and a half hours. What bliss!

Note: The hotel and spa also has special honeymoon, romantic and spa packages promotions. Do check the hotel website for more details.

Location of Spa: Ayara Hilltops Resort, Phuket Island, Thailand,
Size of Spa: About 6 massage treatment rooms
Friendliness: Friendly receptionist and masseurs
Facilities: Swimming Pool, Jacuzzi, Shower
Pricing: Minimum US$120 for a 60min massage. Spa and Detox special package available.

Transport: Many airlines serve Phuket direct. Ayara Hilltops is a 20 mins drive from Phuket airport


Winners for SPAASIA Crystal Awards 2007

Summit LogoThs prestigious SPAASIA Crystal Award was held at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel, Manila, Philippines, between October 3 to 5, 2007.

At the end of the 3 day event, the fourth SpaAsia Crystal Awards were handed out to deserving Asia-based spas and spa organisations. The award winners were measured and tested by impartial judges, industry peers and readers of SpaAsia magazine. The prestigious Best Awards were given out to:

Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
The Mandarin Spa, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong

Giraavaru Sacred Water Ritual – The Spa & Ayurvedic Retreat, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru

ESPA International

LI’TYA Spa Dreaming St Kilda Sea Baths

COMO Shambhala Estate at Begawan Giri

ESPA International

COMO Shambhala Estate at Begawan Giri


ELEMIS Tri-Enzyme Resurfacing Facial

The Barai, Hyatt Regency Hua Hin

Chiva-Som Academy

Six Senses Resorts & Spas

The Dheva Spa & Holistic Center, Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group


Samantha Foster

Spa Village Group


Hot Stone Massage – What is it?

Hot Stone Massage

A relatively new type of massage therapy that is gaining fast popularity is Hot Stone Massage.

Although it looks like a relatively modern massage technique that is designed to cash in on the popularity of fancy massage methods, hot stone massage practitioners will tell you that this form of massage has been in practice for many hundreds of years and it’s roots can be variously traced to Egypt, India and Indonesia.

In hot stone massage, warm stones are placed at various points of the patient’s body. More often than not, massage therapists choose to use basalt stones, as they are conducive to retaining heat well. Also, the stones that are used are often ones that were found in riverbeds as these stones tend to be quite smooth and rounded. A common size for a stone used in a hot stone massage is roughly the width of a chicken egg. The stones are placed in an electronic heating element so that they can be warmed to the proper temperature before being placed on the patient’s body.

The hot stones are placed at several different points on the patient’s body. Some of the more common places for stones to be placed include across the back, in the palms of the hands, or in the area between toes. The heat that the rocks emit helps the body’s blood circulatory system to become more open and can also help to clear out the lymphatic system. Also, the warm temperature can be helpful when it comes to making the patient more relaxed during the procedure.

The stones may be moved around and reheated or placed on different parts of the body during the massage and the therapist will likely to perform many different massage motions on the back with their hands as well in order to help the soft tissues of the body to become more relaxed and to allow the lymphatic nodes to drain more successfully. Some therapists choose to do part of the massage with the stones as well as the stones’ firmness can be helpful when it comes to reaching deeper parts of the tissue that fingers may not be able to reach.

Hot stone massage therapists claim that their type of massage is quite helpful when it comes to helping to eliminate the agony of back pain, assisting poor blood circulation and relieving stress and anxiety.

A typical hot stone massage session will last somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half and you can expect to spend anywhere between US$50 to US$150 per session. Be sure to find a massage therapist that is licensed so that you can ensure that you are getting your money’s worth!

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