Deepavali – Festival of Lights

Deepavali - Festival of Lights27 October, Monday, is Deepavali or more popularly known as “Festival of Lights” to Hindus. Celebrated as Deepavali in Southern India and Divali in Northern India, this is one of the most significant festival for Hindus not just in India but across the world.

While Deepavali is popularly known as the “festival of lights”, the most significant esoteric meaning is “the awareness of the inner light”.

Central to Hindu philosophy, is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Deepavali is the celebration of this Inner Light, in particular the knowing of which outshines all darkness (removes all obstacles and dispels all ignorance), awakening the individual to one’s true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, imminent and transcendent reality. With the realization of the Atman, comes universal compassion, love, and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings Ananda (Inner Joy or Peace).

Deepavali celebrated with festive fireworks, lights, flowers, sharing sweets and worship. While the story behind Deepavali varies from region to region, the essence is the same – to rejoice in the Inner Light (Atman) or the underlying reality of all things.

We wish all our Hindu friends a Happy Deepavali Day!

(Part Text credit: http://en.wikipedia.org; Pix credit: http://www.malaysiasite.nl)

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Hydroponics – Grow your own food!

Yet another food calamity! Did you read about the recent massive baby milk contamination crisis in China? A deadly chemical – melamine – was added to infant milk formula to increase profit for unscrupulous milk merchants, resulting in 4 babies’ death and thousands of affected babies to date.

Milk derived products such as biscuits, candies, ice-creams, chocolates, cakes and even coffee sachets were affected too!

Due to the gloablised nature of business nowadays, countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia were affected as well!

What is the world coming to with regards to food? Increased use of pesticides. Chemicals in fertilizers. DNA alteration to induce growth. Contaminated water and air. Will our food ever be safe?

A healthy life-style means regular exercise, stress-free living and the right food. However, even the healthiest tomato or lettuce could be contaminated without anyone’s knowledge nowadays.

Isn’t the best solution then to grow our own food nowadays? However, many of us are city dwellers and many of us lead busy professional and working lives. Where and how do we have the time and space to grow our own healthy food?

The solution may be easier than you think. Hydroponics – the science of growing plants without using soil – require little space, care and skills. Yet, you can grow your own green and healthy vegetables and herbs in your apartment crop after crop. Interested in more information about this modern modern of growing your own food? Hop over to my newest hobby and interest blog on DIY Hydroponics!

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Four Seasons Spa, Doha, Qatar

I was fortunate to travel to Doha, Qatar in the Middle East recently. It was a smooth 8 hour overnight flight from Singapore – and I arrived at the Doha airport, sleepy but eager to find out what Doha is all about.

Doha is the capital of Qatar, one of the fastest growing country in the oil-rich Middle-East. Indeed, as we have often seen in the news, Qatar has sprung up like a new sparkling oasis in the Middle-East desert and Doha is literally sprouting with new construction, skyscrapers, shopping malls and highways everywhere.

I stayed at Four Seasons hotel in the West Bay – the new downtown district of Doha. Four Seasons is one of the newer and upmarket hotel in Doha and it even has it’s own private beach and yacht marina facing the Arabian Gulf.

The rooms in Four Seasons are top-quality and service is impeccable. What impressed me the most was the spa and fitness centre within the hotel – it is even housed in a building on it’s own and is certainly one of the most top class spa and fitness centre I have ever come across.

As a hotel guest, I was entitled to use the centre. Unfortunately, due to my tight schedule, I was only able to get a short tour of the spa centre; and did not even had a chance to use the facilities, much less have a massage.

The Spa, massage and fitness centre is linked to the hotel via a walkway. On the way there, I was already impressed, as it had a 2-level temperature controlled outdoor swimming pool and 2 tennis courts.

I pushed pass the grand door of the 2-storey building and it was a sight indeed! This must easily be the biggest spa and fitness centre I have ever seen with the latest and most fanciful spa and fitness facilities. (Note: The entire place is 34,000sqft)

The lap poolThere is a cafe, a relaxation lounge, a fitness gym, two squash courts and a exercise studio. What impresses most is the spa; with a large hydrotherapy pool, cold and hot plunge pool, reflexology zone and even two exercise lap pools (where water current pushes pass you to simulate that you are swimming laps in a proper pool)

The spa also boast hot sauna, steam room and even a ice-room! Yes, the room looks exactly like a typical ice storage room. There are also a couple of Swiss showers; where water jets shoot at you from 360 directions!

I wished I had the time to try the facilities not to mention a massage. The Four Season Spa certainly live up to it’s name as a up-market spa for the rich and famous in Qatar. You will need to spend at least half a day if not a whole day to soak into the grandeur and luxury that this spa can offer.

The hotel’s guest relationship officer who accompanied me on my spa tour proudly tells me that there is a long waiting list to become a member of the spa and fitness club. In fact, money cannot even gain you entry into the spa if you are not a hotel guest as club membership entry has been closed for quite a while due to overwhelming demand!

I have been to many spas in Asia; upmarket and otherwise. However, up to date, I have certainly not seen any in Asia that can match the Four Seasons Spa in Doha, Qatar for size, opulence and facilities! Even then, I hear that the Four Seasons Spa dwarf in comparison to some other spas in Qatar or elsewhere in the Gulf nations and Middle-East – gosh!

Pix credits: Four Seasons corporate website

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Newsbite: Singapore association not in favour of fish-spa services

Fri, Oct 10, 2008
The Straits Times

THE Spa Association Singapore has said that banning fish-spa treatments is the way to go.

Responding to a query from The Straits Times on such a ban in Texas and Washington state, the association said it did not encourage its members here to provide the service for safety and hygiene reasons.

The association, an umbrella body representing 75 spa or related business outlets, said that as far as it knew, none of its members offered fish-spa services.

An industry insider reckons that at least 20 shops here do so, the more well-known names being Kenko Reflexology & Fish Spa and Qian Hu Fish Farm.

Business operators said they were unaware of licensing requirements binding the business of using fish to nibble away dead skin.

They said, however, that they use filtration systems and ultraviolet light to kill bacteria in the water; they also said they check that their customers are clear of wounds.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore confirmed that it did not have regulations on fish being used this way, and that its priority was to ensure that they were unharmed.

At least two complaints have emerged this year against fish spas – the Consumers Association of Singapore received one, and The New Paper ran a report on two sisters who caught fungal infections from a fish spa.

Some operators said they believed the complaints came about because of black sheep in the industry who are in the business due to low entry requirements.

(I had earlier commented that Fish spas, which is increasing in popularity, may not be as healthy as it seems. To read more about fish spas and my observations, please click fish spa article here. )

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Newsbite: Fish pedicure banned in 2 US states

Fri, Oct 10, 2008
The Straits Times

DALLAS: Letting live fish give people pedicures could transmit infections, say the authorities in Washington and Texas, and the spa treatment is now banned in the two American states.

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation announced on Wednesday that fish pedicures – in which customers pay to have tiny fish nibble dead skin off their feet – are no longer permitted in the state, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The regulatory authorities in Washington state imposed a similar ban last week, said Seattle Times.

Ms Christine Anthony, spokesman for the Washington Department of Licensing, said it was impossible to sanitise live fish.

‘You can clean the tank, you can clean the water, but there’s no guarantee that the fish aren’t carrying something from the previous customer,’ she was quoted as saying by Seattle Times.

Officials also said the foot baths and holding tanks, because they are home to live fish, cannot always be properly cleaned and disinfected.

However, they said there had been no cases of anyone falling sick from a fish pedicure.

‘We are erring on the side of safety,’ said Ms Susan Stanford of the Texas licensing department.

This particular pedicure is a new entrant in American spas. It first gained attention after a Virginia-based spa told the media this summer about the benefits of using the fish instead of razors to slough away scales and calluses, the news reports said. Heavy media coverage followed.

The owner of Peridot Nail Salon, the only salon in Washington known to be offering the treatment, told Seattle Times she was ‘shocked and surprised and disappointed’ by the ban.

Ms Tweety Bui said the salon started offering the pedicures only last month, charging US$30 (S$44) for 15 minutes. The phone had been ‘ringing off the hook’ with calls for appointments, she said, with about 20 sessions booked for last weekend alone.

‘I’m booked two months out,’ Ms Bui told Seattle Times. Her staff have been calling clients to cancel the appointments. ‘I am so overwhelmed with all this that it’s not even funny.’

At the Zen Luxury Nail & Beauty Bar in North Texas, co-owner Kate Caldwell told Dallas Morning News she shut down her fish tanks after being informed of the ban by the state authorities. The shop had bought 500 guppy-like fish for US$2,500.

‘I am pretty disappointed,’ Ms Caldwell said.

She claimed that her salon had a rigorous safety protocol to avoid putting customers at risk. After each pedicure, she said, the foot basins are emptied and cleaned with a disinfectant. During that cleaning, she said, the fish are transferred to a ‘hospital tank’, where they are treated with an anti-microbial agent and isolated for at least a day.

Both spa owners said they would probably keep the fish as pets for now.

‘We have fish food,’ said Ms Bui.

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Massage, molest or misunderstanding?

Fri, Oct 10, 2008
The New Paper

Singapore

WHAT was supposed to be an hour of relaxation ended in tears, a bitter dispute and a police report.

Nora, 31, claimed that a masseur molested her during an hour-long afternoon full-body massage on 9 Sep 08. The housewife and mother of two young children asked that her real name not be used to avoid any stigma.

But the manager of the Chinatown massage place, Madam Jean Chia, 42, denied any wrongdoing on the masseur’s part.

She said she called the police after Nora asked for $2,000 as compensation. A police spokesman confirmed that Madam Chia called the police and investigations are ongoing. The masseur was not arrested and is assisting with investigations.

Read the full newspaper article here.

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Review: Kim Spa, Phuket Town, Thailand

Kim SpaOn my last trip to Phuket, Thailand, we rented a car and drove around this popular Thai tourist island. One of our destination was Phuket Town.

Phuket Town is an old town and the administrative centre on Phuket island. There are distinct Muslim, Thai and Chinese enclaves and it is clear that Chinese influence in the town is obvious with a good number of Chinese temples and Chinese old-time architecture houses.

Phuket Town is off the regular tourist route and the entire town was sleepy and quiet on the Sunday that we drove in. Tourists tend to spend more time in the beach where almost everything is available as well rather then to come to town. Tourists who do come to Phuket Town tend to congregate downtown where a few modern shopping malls, large bargain-price markets, fast food restaurants and souvenir shops were gathered.

Among these few busy streets were a couple of small but modern and clean spas. These spas offered almost similar type of treatments and prices were very competitive – even lower than those available at the beach.

I guess it was because there were only a few streets in Phuket town that tourists congregate so the local spa operators have no choice but to stay competitive. I was particularly attracted to one of the promotion package that Kim Spa, one of these small spas, offered. The spa and massage promotion package consists of a body scrub (60 mins), choice of massage (60 mins) and a facial treatment (60 mins) – a total of 3 hours treatment for the unbelievable low price of 900 Baht or US$30!

I was in Spa heaven and chose to try out Kim Spa immediately! Kim Spa has a nicely decorated reception and rest area. On the first floor, it has about 10 cosy massage chairs for foot reflexology and a small corner for a foot bath. The 2nd floor is for Thai massage (beds are on floor) and 3rd floor is for facial and other body massage treatments.

My hubby opted for a foot massage and Thai massage for 2 hours. I opted for the 3 hours spa promotion package. While waiting for my masseur to prepare the treatment room, I whispered to my hubby that I couldn’t believe a body scrub treatment can last for 60 minutes. I kept telling myself … how much time can one person scrub the body? Will my skin drop off??

Shortly, we were led by our masseurs to our treatment rooms. My hubby started his foot bath on the 1st floor which is an open area foot massage area. I was led to the 3rd floor which had private treatment room and en suite shower. My masseur greeted me with the traditional Thai way “sawadee ka” with both hands together and bowed.

Although language was a barrier, we had no problem “communicating” with each other by sign and body language. The masseur indeed did a thorough body scrub and for sure she took more than 40 minutes before heading me to to the shower. My choice of Swedish massage was, in my opinion, average but the facial treatment was indeed refreshing. The masseur went through 2 to 3 rounds of scrubbing and cleansing my face. She then placed many layers of cucumbers on my face that made me feel very “cool” and relaxed. The smell of the cucumber were so refreshing. The facial ended with a cold mask and facial massage.

When my treatments were completed, the masseur led me to the reception area to relax and enjoy their complimentary floral tea. Overall, I must say this place is value for money, environment is neat and clean and most importantly, the staff were friendly and not pushy.

However, my husband who is an addict of hard massage was not impressed with their Thai massage and reflexology skills. He claim that the Thai and foot massage here were “too soft” and obviously toned down to cater to the many farangs(Thai for Caucasian foreigners) tourists in Phuket. He feels that shabby run-down massage shops run by old ladies offer the most true and authentic ancient Thai massage with the accompanying body-distorting poses, back standing and bone cracking twists. He feels that this is the ultimate form of massage! Funny guy!

Location of Kim Spa
Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand
Size: 3 storey shop units with massage chairs on the ground floor and individual rooms on 2nd and 3rd level
Facilities: Toilet, shower and rest area

Friendliness: Polite staff and good massage therapists.
Pricing: Starts from US$20 for a facial, wrap, bath or body massage. Various spa and massage packages available and starts from US$60.

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