We know that China has taken the capitalistic route for a long time and is on it’s way to becoming a rich country. We can see the rich and famous spending serious money on all sorts of luxurious items – cars, fashion, food, housing, entertainment…. and high-end spas.
I was in Xiamen, China recently and had the chance to catch a taste how the noveau and rich live in China – by visiting one of their most upmarket spa.
I had been in Xiamen before and really enjoyed visiting Riyuegu – an open air hotspring resort out in the countryside. This time, I did not have the luxury of time and will need to make do with a visit to a spa within Xiamen itself.
There are many foot reflexology places in Xiamen and I have been to their hotel spas previously. This time round, I wanted to go where the locals go and not where tourists will go. I ask my hotel concierge to direct me to an upmarket spa where the rich and famous in Xiamen will go. He promptly recommended that I try the RI-Star spa. (The spa is pronounced as Li-Jing in Chinese).
The taxi driver had difficulty bringing me to the spa. Not a good sign that this is a famous upmarket spa in Xiamen – not when a taxi driver is not aware of it’s existence.
Eventually, we found the spa. Or should we say the building… because the spa occupies it’s own building. No doubt it’s a small building and located in a side-street but the entrance to the building tells you it’s a place to be reckoned with.
The entrance and lobby reeks of opulence. You can feel that it is different from other spas. This was confirmed by the price list – everything are priced at least 2 to 3 times that you’ll need to pay at most good quality spas in China – and matches the price of upmarket spas in Singapore. Even the entrance price to the spa – without any treatment thrown in – cost a hefty US$20.
I decided to check out it’s grandiosity.
There are separate spa entrance for male and female. Once past the entrance, attendants jump to attention to serve you from clothes changing to showing you to the showers to pouring cups of tea. By the way, the changing area is where an offer was made to wash and dry my socks… and where the impression scale begin to take off!
Once past the changing area, you enter the wet area which includes cold and hot pool, steam and sauna rooms, a small lap pool and in the middle of it all – a live aquarium and food area.
It was obvious that the spa is not brand new but was definitely opulent when it first opened and despite it’s age, attained a certain level of class. (I later found out that the spa is more than 12 years old but still remain as one of Xiamen’s highest-end spa).
I used the facilities and then hit the shower. Unlike most spa which kept one or two choices, you had a whole selection of brands of shampoo, cleanser, tooth-paste and even facial scrubs and toners to choose from. The towels are soft and fluffy – closer to hotel towels then the typical thin towels you find in spas.
The Wet Area
The food and rest area
This was the first time I see food and drinks served in a wet area. As soon as I sat down, I was offered a choice of tonic soups and a selection of local delicacies including steamed sweet potatos, stewed eggs and oyster noodles. I tried all of them and they were delicious.
I was then lead to a 2nd level where the massage treatment area were.
Each treatment room has a TV… not that I would want to watch TV during a massage. I had opted for a 1 1/2 hour Royal Jade massage; which is very much like a hot stone massage that you may find in Japan or Thailand. However, instead of hot stone, heated Jade were used, which the Chinese believe to have detoxification and medicinal effects.
I never had a hot stone (or Jade) massage before; believing it to be a gimmick and also because it tends to cost a premium. I’m glad I did try it this time because the effect of hot jade on the body does have a therapeutic effect you may not get from other forms of treatment.
After a very satisfying massage, I was lead to the rest and food area. I had complimentary fruit juice and Chinese dinner. The dinner was very satisfying with attendants again on full alert to my every move and request. In most other places, you need to stand up, wave your hand or look around for an attendant to come to you. Here, a mere look upwards mean an attendant will appear at your side!
You can then choose to relax in one of the soft sofa available, watch TV or listen to the live performance of a Chinese Pipa performer. (Pipa is an ancient Chinese musical instrument – and yes, it’s a live performance). Or choose to smoke a complimentary cigarette or cigar. This is also the area where you can mix with your partners – if you are visiting with members of the opposite sex.
At this point, a guest relation officer approached us, to talk to us about membership schemes. Apparently, this spa sells membership, and membership entitles you to treatment discounts as well as a whole private section area within the spa. Members are also entitled to visits to similar LiJing spas in major Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Qingdao, Zhejiang and Hangzhou.
The GRO tells us the spa is known as a CEO spa as apparently, many top CEOs within China are members. The spa chain even publishes it’s own magazine and list major movie and TV celebrities such as Zhang Ziyi and Li Bing Bing as members. Hmmmm…
I decided to check out the audio-visual room where a high-resolution projector was showing a movie. I had a choice of smoking and non-smoking section and again, attentive attendants will set you down comfortably and pour you drinks. I told the attendant I would like to rest and to wake me up an hour later.
An hour later, it was time for me to get up to change to leave.
A quick choice of the varied shampoo and cleanser and a shower later, I was refreshed and ready to hit the streets. I paid at the reception area and was offered a salute from the security guard as I stepped out. This is a special spa indeed.
Will I come back? Yes and No.
Yes, because this is obviously a very special spa with superb facilities, service and massage standards. Despite being a little bit dated and expensive, it’s well worth it.
No, because I simply don’t like that smoking is allowed in both the wet area and rest area. And no, because I am sure there are still many good spas waiting for me to discover in Xiamen and in China.
If you are a first time visitor to Xiamen, go visit Riyuegu. Only then should you choose the RI-Star spa. Have fun!
Location of Spa:
128 DongDu Road, Xiamen 361012, China
Size of Spa: Hugh. Has it’s own 3 storey building
Facilities: Full spa facilities. Wet area, rest area, movie area and private member area.
Friendliness: Extremely Friendly. Extremely attentive.
Pricing: Spa entrance at US$20. Treatment starts from US$65.