When is the best time to visit Asia’s Spa Resorts?

Beach ResortThe best time for a spa vacation in Asia is anytime! Who can resist the sun, sea, beach and massage lure of Asia’s spa and beach resorts at any time of the year? But seriously, is there a best time to visit Asia’s spa resorts?

Well, it all depends on what is your definition of ‘best time’? Is it your most convenient time? Is it when the weather is the best? Is it when there are least tourists and people? Is it when air and accommodation prices are lowest? What exactly is your definition?

My personal definition of best time is – low tourist season – because it means hotel and airfare rates tend to be the lowest and there are lesser people jostling with you for the beach, pool, dining table or even massage room! I’ll take a chance with weather – because being in Asia – it means that there can be many days of bright sunlight even during thunderstorm and monsoon seasons!

Thailand
The top spa resort destination in Asia is Thailand and the super peak tourist season for Thailand is November to February every year. You get reasonably good weather during this period and Thailand will be flooded with Europeans, especially Northern European, who flocked to Thailand to escape the cold winter. Flights and hotel fares for this period will be very expensive and spa resorts in Phuket, Ko Samui, Krabi, Bangkok and even Chiangmai or Chiangrai will be flooded with tourists of all colors and shapes!

The best weather to visit Thailand is between March to June as this tend to be the sunniest period and will also rain the least. Many spa and hotel resorts will define this as the normal period and charges will be reasonable.

My favorite time to visit Thailand is between July to October as many hotel and spa resorts slash prices to fill their rooms. This is considered the low tourist period for Thailand as Europeans stay away as it is summer anyway at home and also weather in Thailand can be finicky during this period – alternating between rain and sun.

You can possibly get steep discount even at exclusive spa resorts such as Banyan Tree, Six Senses and Marriot during this period. You may pay as low as US$250 a night for one of these exclusive hotel and spa resorts when they normally sell their rooms or villas at US$600 or more during normal and peak seasons. In addition, air tickets also tend to be the lowest during this period of time.

Indonesia
The other popular spa and beach resort destination in Asia is Indonesia; especially in places such as Bali, Lombok and Bintan. Peak tourist season for these places are December to January (for obvious reasons) and May to September. May to September is popular because the weather is the best, the best surf is up during this period and Australians, which forms a large portion of Indonesian tourists, will want to escape the cold in Australia.

Anytime other than these periods are considered normal period and some hotels and villas will adjust their prices accordingly to attract customers. The normal periods are also a good time if you are there for relaxation, romance or get-away-from-all purposes as shops, beaches, tourist spots and even the spas will also be less crowded. Some premium hotel or spa resorts may not lower prices but will offer certain enticements and promotions such as a discounted spa packages, long-stay discounts or airport pick-ups that are normally not available during peak seasons.

You can try your luck with discounts and special rates by calling or emailing the hotels directly. Some of them will be willing to offer good deals during low season if you try talking to the reservation office directly.

Taiwan/Japan
Taiwan and Japan boast some really nice and scenic natural hot spring spas along mountain ranges, the beach or rivers. Many of these are small boutique spas but there are some swanky, larger ones as well. One reason that these countries’ beautiful and natural hot spring spa resorts are not that popular with international tourists as yet is that many of these spa resorts are away from popular tourists routes and finding these spas tend to be a problem for tourists not familiar with the local language and geography.

Taiwan and Japan are popular with tourists all over the world during the summer months of May to October. This is the period when accommodation prices goes up and many popular tourists spots are packed with people. December to February are also peak periods for both year end holidays as well as Chinese New Year, which falls on January or February. One must never make the mistake of traveling during Chinese New Year as all transportation and accommodation will become scarce, expensive and packed.

To me, the window period between November and December and February to March are the best because there are lesser tourists during this period and accommodation is easier to arrange. Another reason why I like to travel during this period is that Taiwan and Japan has many open air hotspring spa resorts and in my opinion, natural, open air hot spring spas are best enjoyed during the slightly colder months and not during hot, stuffy summer months.

Singapore/Malaysia
Strictly speaking, I should not be putting Singapore and Malaysia under the category of spa resort destinations because these two countries had never had a tradition of spa and massage culture. However, things are changing and many of the world’s and local spa and massage resorts are starting to make a name in these two countries.

Singapore and Malaysia are popular with tourists and business travelers all year round and accommodation prices tend not to range too much between peak and non-peak period. The traditional peak periods tend to be December to February and May to July as these are school holiday periods and Singapore and Malaysia parents tend to flock to each other country’s spa and hotel resorts during these periods. Avoid a spa holiday at all costs during these periods if you do not want your holiday destroyed by screaming children and fussing parents.

Malaysia’s hotels rates has traditionally been one of the lowest in Asia because it is not over-run as yet by tourists although tourists from Middle-East are coming in greater numbers as Malaysia is seen as a safe tourist country with a similar Muslim culture. The most popular spa resorts are in the island of Penang, Langkawi and KL city. Try visiting during the non-peak seasons and you’ll be surprised by the low rates you can get compared to other Asia countries.

Singapore hotel fares had always been reasonable for many years considering that this is a very modern and well-run city. However, hotel fares has shot up very highly in the last two years and unless you are visiting Singapore for other reasons, I will not recommend flying in just to check out Singapore’s spa resorts. You are better off getting better spa value and service in the other countries.

Well, now you know what are the best timing and weather to visit Asia’s top spa resorts. Hope this has been useful and you’ll now know how to plan your spa holidays in Asia accordingly!

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Bikram Hot Yoga

There are many schools of Yoga. One of the fastest growing Yoga practice is Bikram or Hot Yoga.

Bikram Yoga is a series of 26 postures with 2 breathing exercises practised in a room heated to 105ºF (40ºC) in 90 minutes. Each posture in the sequence is designed to safely stretch and open the body in preparation for the next posture. The Bikram Method stimulates the organs, glands and nerves and systematically moves fresh, oxygenated blood to 100 percent of the body.

The heat is believed to stimulate blood flow in the body, encourage toxin loss through sweating and lessen the risk of muscle injuries due to cold muscles. Hot Yoga can be practised by both beginners and advanced practitioners alike because the series of postures are the same for every session and all practioners can only get better with each session. Watch the video below to see the response of Hot Yoga practioners.

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Disappointing Kenko

Disappointing Foot MassageTen years ago, I remembered going to Kenko during lunch hours for shoulder and back massages whenever I needed one. It was a useful 20 minutes perk-me-up especially when work was hectic and stress-level was high. Kenko, then a small massage shop, was simply decorated and situated at Tanglin Shopping Centre, Singapore. The boss or manager was extremely friendly and the masseurs’ skills invariably good.

Since I stopped working around that area ten years ago, I had never visited Kenko. Over the years, I had seen Kenko move from strength to strength in Singapore – expanding into many branches and going up-market in decor, services and clientèle. I had wanted to try them out for old time sake but their new up-market prices stopped me each time. I would rather go to my regular foot masseur at almost half of what I need to pay at Kenko.

I was busy and had not had a foot massage for a long time. I happened to pass by Kenko in Chinatown one day. The nice decor and atmosphere lured me into the shop. I decided on a S$48 dollars for a 45 minute foot bath and massage.

The shop was nicely decorated and the massage chair was one of the most luxurious I have ever seen. Soft curtains, soft lights and soft music completed the mood. The male masseur assigned to me looked experienced and I was confident I was in for a comfortable foot massage from an experienced masseur.

The luxurious leather massage chair was fitted with a foot-bath; so there wasn’t a need to bring in a hot tub of water. However, the water in the foot-bath was only luke-warm and there didn’t seem to be any crystal or herbal essence added to the water; just plain, warm water. The foot bath had a couple of mild bubble-jets. It was nothing more than putting my feet into bubbling lukewarm water. It certainly pale in comparison with foot baths that I had done in many other places – especially the Taiwanese version where the foot bath are invariably the highlight of a foot massage.

My feet was quickly dried off and the foot massage started. I don’t remember any cream, lotion or powder being applied. The foot massage was weak, being a series of thumb and first finger presses; starting with the toes and then going round the feet. It was simply press, press, press and there were no deep second knuckle pressing, thumb presses nor any knuckle scrubbing so commonly expected of foot massage. There were also no massage of the ankle, calf nor knees except for a couple of tapping action.

Once one foot was finished, the same action was started on the second foot. No towel was wrapped around the finished foot so common in most other foot massage palours. The whole sequence finished quite soon and certainly did not feel like the 45 minutes that I paid for. The masseur then washed my feet before drying them again. This was where he made the mistake that you may sometimes come across when washing hair in hair salons; not ensuring the water was warmed up before starting the wash!

I was totally disappointed! This was certainly one of the worst foot massage I ever had and I suspect that the masseur was new, inexperienced or not well trained in foot massage. The shop was busy during the period I was there, with customers coming in and out for shoulder and body massage, but none for foot massage. I can only speculate that foot massages are no longer popular in up-market shops such as Kenko and perhaps the quality of foot massage had suffered as a result.

Even the ‘tea’ served to me at the end was not hot tea but plain cold water. I’m okay with either but why serve water in a tea-cup complete with tray when it’s just plain water? I or any customer would have expected hot green or ginger tea when served on a tea-cup as in the case for most up-market massage boutiques.

I paid up and left quickly. Once out of the shop, I knew for sure I hadn’t had a real foot massage – my feet did not have the warm, fluffy and tingling feeling I normally have after a good foot massage.

Luckily, it hadn’t become too late into the night. I decided that I needed to go look for a real foot massage elsewhere!

Location of Kenko Spa Boutique, Chinatown branch
211 South Bridge Road, Singapore
Size: Mid-size massage boutique palor with multiple rooms

Facilities: Toilet

Friendliness: Polite staff and massage therapists. Receptionist a bit pushy with selling massage packages.
Pricing: Ranges from US$35 to US$40 for massage only. Between US$85 to US$175 for massage packages.

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Ginger Scrub and Ginger Wrap

GingerThe ginger plant has a long history of domestic cultivation and is thought to have originated in China and then to India, Southeast Asia, West Africa and the Caribbean.

Ginger is commonly used as a cooking spice in Chinese and South-East Asian culinary. Ginger is a pungent food that promotes energy circulation and increases the metabolic rate.

However, in the medical world, Ginger has been an important component used in Chinese and Asian medicine for both external and external use for many centuries. Ginger is most commonly known for its effectiveness as a digestive aid. It helps to relieve indigestion, diarrhea and stomach cramping. It is known to increase vital energy and balance our internal ‘chi’.

In the wellness realm, Ginger has been used widely to effectively stimulate circulation of the blood, remove toxins from the body, cleanse the bowels and kidneys and nourish the skin.

You can always find treatments like the Ginger Scrub and Ginger Wrap in a spa menu especially in a spa that specialises in Javanese or Balinese massage. In Indonesia, it is believed that ginger can also help to relieve aching muscle and detox your body. In fact, a ginger scrub and wrap is also a popular Indonesian post-natal treatment for women who had just given birth as it helps to reduce the body from being bloated and clear toxins from the body system.

The sweet aroma from a ginger scrub will also help your mind de-stress and in turn relax and rejuvenate your body. No wonder Ginger Scrub and Ginger Wrap have been very popular with spa goers in the past few years.

So after hearing so much wonders about ginger, I finally decided to try out the Ginger Scrub and Ginger Wrap. When I walked into the treatment room, the fragrance of ginger was already in the air. A bowl of crushed ginger was being heated over a burning candle. The masseur started by gently rubbing the heated fresh ginger on my back. As she moved along to the other part of the body, she kept asking if the ginger scrub was too hot for my body. When she finished, she gently wrapped my entire body with clear sheets and led me to a steam room. I was asked to stay in the steam room for half an hour. She explained that with the aid of the heat in the steam room, the purifying, detoxifying and hydrating process of the body under the effect of the ginger wrap will be enhanced!

The stimulating effects of the ginger scrub was an awakening experience to the skin. The Ginger Wrap is supposed to help reduce “wind” from my body and burn fats. No wonder I was perspiring like crazy. I should remember to weigh myself before and after a ginger scrub and wrap the next time!

After a warm shower and a 60 mins massage, I really felt so much lighter and refreshed. I highly recommend that you should add a Ginger scrub and wrap to your next spa visit especially if you are into detoxification or weight loss!

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