The Incredible Spa Capsule

Man is forever chasing his own tail. Spa and massage services came about because the busy working man or woman needed a way to relax and release tension. They desperately desire a good massage but yet have so little time to visit a spa that they invented gadget after gadget so that they can get a massage right at home.

Now, we have the ‘mother of all spa and massage gadgets’; a spa capsule that is so portable that you can place one in the home, office or even in the shopping mall. Imagine a full spa and massage service that you can enjoy right at the office without getting wet or even having to remove a single piece of clothing.

Check out the video which shows the spa capsule in action. Launched just 5 months ago, it was said to have swept through USA with many companies buying it for their busy employees in the office.

Would you have gotten one for the home or office? Or would you have preferred a gentle, delicate and well-trained masseur’s hand anytime?

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Relaxation Massage & Spa, Bangkok: Thailand

Thai Herbal BagI would not have come across this small but friendly spa boutique in Bangkok if I did not have a bad experience with another local spa. (See earlier article)

Relaxation Massage & Spa is a small spa boutique located on the 6th level of Big C Complex in Bangkok. The spa is located on the same level as the cineplex in the building.

As I stepped into the entrance, a smartly-dressed lady was sitting at the reception table talking over the phone in Thai. Although I did not understand a single word of Thai, but from her body language, I could tell she was trying her best to arrange an appointment with the other party.

While waiting for her to finish her conversation, she smiled at me and ushered me to take a seat at the waiting area and handed over their spa treatment price list. Shortly, she came over and explained to me their spa packages. To my surprise, she turned out to be the spa manager, and she spoke good English.

I told her my needs and she recommended their 2.5 hrs Herbal Rejuvenate Package which consisted of a Thai Herbal Scrub, Thai Herbal Bag Compress Treatment and a Traditional Thai Massage. I wanted a Thai traditional spa package and not having tried a Thai Herbal Compress Bag treatment previously, I agreed immediately.

It was almost 9pm when we walked into the spa and it closes at 10:30pm. The receptionist was very nice to ask if the therapists were willing to stay later than their usual working hours before committing to us. We were glad that they were willing to accommodate the extra late hours.

We started off with a a complimentary 15 mins floral foot bath. We then started on the Thai Massage and then it was the turn for the herbal bag treatment.

I was looking forward to the Thai Herbal Bag treatment. First, the Thai Herbal Bag was heated up in a hot pot. The therapist then used the hot Thai Herbal Massage Bag to quickly dabbed various parts of my back.

Ouch! That’s my first reaction but after a few seconds, as my body began to accept the hot body dabs, I began to enjoy the heat on my back as each dab began to stay longer and longer in one position. I was told that the herbal bag treatment is ideal for aching bones and joints, clearing blocked breathing passage ways and detoxifying the body.

I later read that this unique Thai Herbal Massage Bag or Luk Prakop (Thai hot compress) is one of the most interesting variety of the Thai Traditional massage. More than ten exotic Thai herbs (such as Lemongrass, Plai, Leech Lime, Curcuma, and Galangal) are pounded and put into small bags, heated up and then placed onto various body parts to relieve aches and pains. While under-going treatment, the Thai Herbal Massage Bag also gives a strong yet pleasant aroma.

At the end of the treatment, I was completely relaxed. I was very pleased with their service. The therapists did not do a rush job even though it was way beyond their working hours. I will strongly recommend this spa to fellow avid spa goers and will not forget to go back to them whenever I’m in Bangkok :)

Location of Spa:
6th Floor, Big C Rajchadamri (Opposite Central World Plaza)
Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330

Size of Spa: Three single treatment rooms, one open space of five beds for Thai Massage, 5 foot massage chairs
Facilities: Private Shower and jacuzzi

Friendliness: Extremely polite receptionist and massage therapists. Speaks good English.
Pricing: Ranges from US$18 to US$45 for massage only. Between US$85 to US$175 for spa packages. (The spa was having a 15% discount for spa packages when we were there)

Pix credit: http://www.wadudcorp.com

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Sivara Spa, Bangkok, Thailand

Sivara SpaSivara Spa is a luxury chain spa exclusive to Amari Hotels and Resorts in various parts of Thailand (Bangkok, Koh Chang, Krabi, Patttaya, Phuket, Samui, Trang)

On my last trip to Bangkok, I stayed at the Amari Watergate and Sivara Spa is tucked away on the 8th floor of the hotel and facing the swimming pool and health centre.

The Sivara Spa at the Amari Watergate Hotel in Bangkok is newly renovated to a modern and contemporary Thai style. As you walk into the reception, you can find a delightful interplay of bronze “lotus flowers”, water walkways, stones, curtains, candlelight and flowers.

There are three spacious zen-themed double rooms and 5 single treatment rooms. Each of the themed double rooms is assigned to a signature treatment.

In the spa brochure own words, the various themes for the treatment rooms are:

The Mystical Forest room harnesses the spirit of the forest and allows guests to meditate on the power of nature. This botanically-inspired room features a tropical rain shower to wash away the stress of the day. The refreshing blends of essential oils used for the massages will leave the body feeling rejuvenated.

In Floral Bloom room, you can guarantee that tension will drain away and the spirit will be revived with a rose petal bath in this floral paradise. The fragrances of flowers will cleanse and purify your soul, whilst the ylang ylang, lavender and marjoram essential oils, used in the treatments, provide the ultimate feminine indulgence.

In the Herbal Inspiration room, the healing qualities of herbs – known for centuries, as nature’s gift to mankind – are combined with luxurious pampering.

I opted for the “Sarada Package” (2hrs) treatment which comprises a oil massage & facial. I was not keen to do a facial and the receptionist was flexible enough to change the facial to a body scrub instead.

From the lighting and temperature in the room, to the volume of music and pressure applied during massages or scrubs, the therapist was so caring and considerate for my entire treatment. The gentle therapist at the spa truly live up to the gracious spirit of the Thai’s spa culture.

For total relaxation, the Sivara Spa also offer a complete range of massage, spa, facial and body treatments. The selection of treatments include Thai and oil massages, body polishes and wraps, facials, and even a customized half day, full day, multi-days spa program. There is also the awesome 4-hands massage, which has become the signature treatment of high-end Thailand’s spa, but due to time constraints, I could not find time for this famous treatment.

The prices in the Sivara Spa are typical of hotel spas and are hence slightly on the high side. If you are a guest of the hotel, make sure you pick up a discount voucher at the hotel conceige which will entitle you to a 10% discount and a free floral foot bath.

Note: The Amari hotel and Sivara spa also has a honeymoon package and ultimate relaxation spa package at special prices for a minimum 2 nights stay. Do check the hotel website for promotion details. 

Location of Spa: Amari Watergate Hotel, 847 Petchburi Road Bangkok 10400, Thailand
Size of Spa: Three couple treatment rooms, five single rooms
Facilities: Private Shower and jacuzzi in couple’s room

Friendliness: Extremely polite receptionist and massage therapists
Pricing: Ranges from US$60 to US$120 for massage only. Between US$115 to US$220 for spa packages. Gift certificates and membership schemes available.

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Massage Chair = Personal Live-in Masseuse?

Massage ChairA personal home massage chair has suddenly become a vogue item to have at home.

A few years ago, some people would have purchased a massage chair at home because they may be suffering from back pain, neck pain, buttock pain, headaches, and even leg pain and stress and hence would want a chair to release some discomfort at home.

In those days, most chairs would be made from artificial leather and offer only one or two mode of massage – mostly vibration and kneading. Most of these chairs cannot fully recline and to be honest, most were not good-looking and may not blend well in a home if you are a fussy home maker.

Most chairs would have cost about US$1,500 to US$2,500, and were mostly bought by children as a gift to their elderly parents or by the elderly themselves.

Fast forward to today – and you’ll find that the trend of buying massage chair is not a one-time fancy or fad but instead, massage chair has almost become a vogue item to buy for the home.

No longer is the massage chair bought by children for their elderly parents but most likely by the children for themselves or for their new homes. The new massage chairs of today are likely to be made from real leather or suede, are good looking, can fully recline, has multiple massage functions and can even massage or vibrate in accordance to music or a movie!

Hence, some people will simply want a nice massage chair that looks good in their living room or office so that they can relax and just listen to their surround sound movie or music system! For others who are still keen on ‘real massage features’, new massage chairs today can perform all of these massage functions: –

Kneading – also known as “shiatsu”, kneading rolls outward from the spine and feels much like 2 hands alternately rubbing your back.

Percussion/Tapping – this is the light “karate chopping” on a client’s back that you’ve probably seen before on TV. Increased blood flow and muscle stiffness relief is the benefit gained. It feels wonderful.

Rolling – Basically, wheels just roll up and down the muscles on either side of your spine. Here are the benefits: 1.) gentle moving of the spinal bones, and 2.) stretching of the spine and the muscles around it.

Foot and calf massager – many of the new chairs have an attached ottoman that has a calf and foot massage feature administered by an airbag system. This feature is a real “must”, especially if you spend a good portion of your day on your feet.

Full recliner – if you want your massage to be as deep as possible, you need to get a massage chair that has a reclining feature. And the further back the recline, the greater the intensity of the massage.

Prices has not only not fallen over the years but have gone steadily up especially with a number of new features and are generally between US$1,500 to US$8,000 depending on leather quality and number of fancy mechanism. Most of these chairs are manufactured in Japan or China under a few big Japanese brands such as Sanyo and Panasonic. In other parts of Asia, local brands such as Osim, Oto, VGO, Omega has sprung up and are active sellers of the home massage chair and other home health products.

If you live far away from shopping malls or prefer to shop online, you can buy new massage chair recliners at a good price at this massage chair online site. This company offers a 90 refund policy, ships internationally, is managed by a doctor and carry most of the major and reputable brands. By far, this is one of the best on-line website for massage chairs I have seen.

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Stay Motivated At Work!

I’m sure everyone of us had faced this before – going to work everyday and wishing we’re on holiday somewhere else! Yes, I face the same rut too; getting up every morning to go to work but in reality wishing I was on a spa holiday somewhere else, especially so when work is hectic and giving out too much stress!

Well, to stay motivated at work until the next holiday, here’s a video of a classy 6-star spa resort in ChiangMai, Thailand. Tip: Tell yourself you need to go to work to earn a pay to enjoy this!

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Massage and Back Pain Relief

Lower Back PainBack pain is a very common ailment for moms, gardeners, blue-collar workers, weekend sports warriors and sedentary office workers. Most back pain sufferers have tried traditional pain relief like muscle rub creams, muscle relaxant pills, chiropractors, and even physical therapy. If your pain is still nagging you, massage should be something you are willing to investigate.

Healthcare professionals are recognizing the value of massage therapy and recommending to their patients to include massage therapy as part of their pain management treatment plan. Today, many healthcare professionals, are in favor of using massage therapy, in additional to more traditional treatments.

A study on back pain and massage therapy conducted in 2001 at the University of Miami found that massage does lessen lower back pain, depression, anxiety and improve sleep. It also showed that massage improved range of motion and improved serotonin and dopamine levels (as reported in the International Journal of Neuroscience, 106, 131-145).

Research shows that massage has the following benefits to those who suffer from back pain:

  • It improves blood circulation, which aids in the relief of sore muscles from physical activity
  • It relaxes muscles so that range of motion can be improved
  • Relaxation also improves sleep, which can be a problem for those who suffer from back pain
  • It increases endorphin levels. These endorphins are chemicals that the body produces to make you feel good and which helps to manage pain

The massage therapy that has been the most beneficial to lower back pain sufferers has been “neuromuscular therapy“. This therapy is also called “trigger point myotherapy“.

This massage technique uses alternating levels of concentrated pressure for the areas of spasming muscles. The therapists uses the fingers, knuckles and elbow to apply the pressure. The Japanese Shiatsu and Chinese TuiNa massage therapy employ such massage methods and are hence suitable for pain relief massage.

When someone is suffering from back spasms the muscles are painful to the touch. The muscle is lacking in blood flow, which causes the pain, due to an excess of lactic acid. The lactic acid makes the muscle feel sore especially after physical activity.

Massage relaxes the muscle, which in turn, releases the lactic acid from the muscle. Now the muscle should be receiving more blood and thus more oxygen. Some patients will feel initial pain until the lactic acid is released from the muscle. The therapist will respond to the physical level of pain as experienced by the patient. The therapist will adjust the pressure based on what the client tells them.

The massage should never be overly painful. The patient will usually describe the pain as being a “good pain” when describing the pressure. The patient should experience a fading of soreness following the therapy after a day or two.

Pix Credit: http://images.jupiterimages.com

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The Garden Spa, Bishan

SpaAs a keen spa enthusiast, I was surprised to find out that my older sister, a modern cosmopolitan working mother in Singapore, had never been to a spa or a massage! This is so unacceptable … and I felt that it was my personal mission to let her experience the wonders of what a spa can do to one’s mind, body and soul!

I decided to buy a spa package as a birthday treat for her at the Aramsa Spa – The Garden Spa located at Bishan Park. As this was a surprise gift for her, I called her one week earlier to ensure she allocated 3 hours of her time for me.

The Aramsa Spa – The Garden Spa was opened in August 2006 and it was billed as Asia’s first outdoor spa in a park featuring more than 22,000 plants from 200 species. This 7,500 sqm (cluster of eleven low-level buildings) has twelve treatment rooms that include massages, body treatments and facials, a wellness studio, corporate events room and outdoor courtyards, organic health cafe and a retail outlet.

GardenOn the day of her birthday, she was driven to the spa by me. We arrived at the spa 15 minutes before our booking slot. At the spa reception, there were 4 staff sitting at the reception table. The decor of the spa is rustic yet modern but the reception area was really small for such a large and busy spa! One of the receptionists showed us to the common bathrooms to change and asked us to wait at the lounge for our therapists.

Shortly, two therapists came to us and led us to the treatment room. As this is the first time my sister was experiencing a spa treatment, I opted for an individual treatment room so that she could be at ease. We could hear the birds chirping as we walked through the pebble footpaths to our treatment rooms.

The massage treatment room is of a good size with a single seater sofa in a corner. The outdoor rain shower and sunken bath are in the open greenery area. Aida, my therapist, introduced herself and led me to the sofa to soak my foot in a hot water that has been filled with mineral salts.

Spa BathShe carefully dried my feet and led me to the treatment bed. I started off with a body scrub. In between the scrub, the therapist asked me if her scrubbing technique was acceptable, which was very nice of her. To my astonishment, she was so attentive that she even scrubbed my belly button! When she finished the scrub, she turned on the shower, ensured the water was at the right temperature before leading me to cleanse myself.

While I was having my shower, she quickly cleaned up the treatment bed and got ready for my massage. The massage was one of the signature massage for this spa…. The Aramsa Touch Massage.

I guess most spa will come out with fancy names for their massage treatment and this is no different. The Touch Massage is nothing more that a Shiatsu massage with some aromatherapy techniques thrown in. Oh well…

After the treatment, we were ushered to the lounge for some tea and cookies and to relax. I asked my sister about her first spa experience and her only word was “shiok”; a local expression for an extremely exhilarating and wonderful experience. The hot lemon grass tea with pandan leaf (a tropical fragrant plant) and honey at the lounge was unique and certainly a plus.

I am glad my sister like her first massage experience and had left the spa feeling recharged & radiant. One more happy spa and massage member! Time to give myself a pat on the back for adding another die-hard spa and massage fan!

Location of Spa: Bishan Park, Central Singapore
Size of Spa: Twelve private treatment rooms, wellness studio, organic health cafe and a retail outlet.

Friendliness: Friendly masseurs.
Facilities: Private Shower in Room. Lounge,
Wellness studio
Pricing: Special UOB promotion of S$88 for scrub and massage. Normal spa prices for other packages.
Transport: Central, Singapore. Free Parking at Bishan Park.

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Affordable massage at Bintan, Indonesia

Clear blue water off the Kelong Restaurant at Bintan IslandBintan Island is the perfect getaway from busy Singapore if you want to take a quick break fast, cheaply and economically. Just 45 minutes by fast ferry from Singapore, you go from the hustle and bustle of a busy city to the peace and quiet of a blue water and clear sand tropical island.

However, landing in one of the hotel resort in Bintan Island can be expensive, as they have pegged all prices to Singapore dollars at Singapore cost of living! While you may physically be in Bintan, Indonesia, you are paying Singapore equivalent price for a meal, for a beer or even for a massage as long as you are within the premises of the hotel!

Here’s a tip for all massage enthusiasts to Bintan who wants to save some money. If you are prepared to forgo the luxury settings of a hotel spa and yet enjoy the nimble fingers of Indonesian massage ladies, go off the Bintan Hotels and head to the villages and towns!

If you are in the Bintan Hotel Resorts, take a 10 minutes shuttle bus and go to Pasar Oleh Oleh. In this small village just off Bintan Resorts, you will find shops, grocery stores, restaurants, hair salons and massage salons at local prices.

Tanjung UbanAlternatively, if you have more time, take a taxi (S$50) for 4 and go to the nearest town at Tanjung Ubad and enjoy old town Indonesian charm.

Here, you can find traditional Indonesian delicacies in local food stalls, local markets that offer fresh seafood to bring home, DVD shops offering the latest DVD discs and various local massage palors that will provide quality tourist massage services at local prices. Try out the popular Indonesian Massage or the Indonesia Coconut cream wash where coconut cream is used to both massage and wash your hair!

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Guest writers and reviewers welcomed!

Are you a Spa and Massage enthusiast too? Do you have your independent opinion on what makes a good spa or massage? Love to write but too lazy to start a website or blog?

Guess what? I am looking for fellow spa and massage enthusiasts to help write articles on fitness, massage therapies, holistic lifetyle, alternate treatment methods or to provide reviews on spa resorts and establishments.

You must be able to write in English. If you want to provide spa and massage reviews, you must have visited the venue yourself. You can write a favourable, neutral or even non-favourable review but they must be true and not made-up or dependent on the hearsay or opinion of a third party. Your self-taken pictures of the spa/ massage establishment and a link to their website will be highly appreciated.

We want to be a genuine and fair spa and massage review and blogging site. Hence, we will reserve the final rights to edit your submission or not to publish your article(s). Of course, if we do use your submission, we will provide full credit to your name and if you have a website or blog, we’ll provide a link too.

So, pick up that mouse and send us your best reviews and articles!

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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.

Diagram credit: http://www.kheper.net 

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