Review: Afond Boutique Spa, Singapore

Being pregnant is one of the most incredible, interesting, challenging and rewarding experience in a woman’s life. I am now beginning to understand this experience. If I haven’t tell you yet, well, I’m into my 7th month of pregnancy!

As my stomach gets bigger each day, my lower back tends to ache a lot and I get numerous leg cramps every night! The pain can be quite bad and no amount of pain plasters, analgesic ointment or hot water could ease the pain. Being an avid spa goer, I kept asking myself if I should go for a massage to ease my pain. I have done a lot of reading & asking around and I get some people saying it’s a no no and some saying, yes, go for it. At the end of the day, I guess checking with your obstetrician and trusting your own body will be your best judge if you should go for a pre-natal massage.

In Singapore, it seems that Javanese and Indonesian massages are the most popular type of pre and post natal massages. There are also several Malay Macik(aunties) who seem to specialise in pregnancy massage and they can even come to your home.

Not all spas or therapists have the expertise in doing prenatal and/or postnatal massage. I did some research online and finally found one that has both the necessary expertise and the availability for the massage that I badly need. I’ve decided to check out the Afond Boutique Spa.

Afond Boutique Spa
Oriental Tap and Basin

Nice spacious room
Cosy Oriental lights

Nice spacious room
Keep your clothes in this Oriental cupboard

The Afond Spa has two branches. One is located at Chinatown and the other at Holland Village. I went to the Afond Boutique Spa located at Chinatown which is located in a 3 level conservation shophouse besides the popular Maxwell market at the fringe of the historic Chinatown area.

Afond Boutique Spa has a few luxurious couple rooms and private individual rooms with attached showers. Each room is decorated with oriental furniture, ornaments and lighting. I was introduced to my assigned therapist, Susan. She led me to the 2nd floor where all the individual rooms are situated.

Initially, I was quite skeptical about prenatal massage, not sure if it will affect my baby but I know I badly needed a massage as my lower back was really aching. I left myself in the good hands of the therapist but was prepared to stop if I feel that I’m not comfortable with Susan or if I feel that the massage is not going right.

One of the differences between a normal and prenatal massage is …… the lying position! As explained by the therapist, most women find it uncomfortable to lie face down right from the start of pregnancy because of their tender and swollen breasts. And it’s impossible to lie face down on a traditional massage bed once your belly has started to grow.

On the other hand, it’s also not a good idea to lie flat on your back either, particularly once you’re past mid-pregnancy, because the weight of your uterus puts too much pressure on the veins that return blood from your legs to your heart.

For these reasons, I was asked to lie on my side with a full-length body pillow in between my legs for support. I understand that some therapists performed the massage by asking the customer to sit on a chair as well.

Afond Boutique Spa
Hang your towel here if you need to take a shower

Nice spacious room
This Oriental Screen protects your modesty when you take your shower

Nice spacious room
Dry up and change into the undies; ready for the massage

Susan is indeed is a well trained pregnancy massage therapist. She knows exactly where a pregnant woman’s sore spots are and which areas and techniques to avoid. Very soon, I was in a totally relaxed mood and enjoyed the one and half hour massage session.

What exactly is Prenatal massage? Prenatal massage shares many of the goals of regular massage, i.e. to relax tense muscles, ease sore spots and improve circulation and general body tone. But it’s also tailored specifically to the needs of pregnant women and their changing bodies. It is recommended that prenatal massage is done only after the 2nd Trimester.

Do note the following pointers for pregnancy massage:

  1. Make sure you only engage a therapist that is familiar with pregnancy massage. It is best to get a recommendation from some-one you know or check out reviews online.
  2. If at any point you feel uncomfortable, stop immediately.
  3. Once you are comfortable with a certain therapist, you should engage the same therapist for future sessions.
  4. Skip the other spa treatments – no more steam, sauna, hot pool, scrubs or foot reflexology for this interim period. Facial and hair treatment is still alright.
  5. Although I do not believe in spa packages due to the many hard-sell spas out there, I believe a short-term pregnancy massage package with a familiar spa is worth it. If you’re a busy working to-be mother, a regular massage can take some of the stress and pain off a pregnancy, so a package deal may cut some of the cost involved.

Many mothers-to-be are on the look-out for a good pregnancy masseur. I will not hesitate to recommend that you call Afond Spa for a chat to see if they are a right fit for your pregnancy massage needs.

Address:
293/293A South Bridge Rd S’pore 058837

Size of Spa: About 10 private treatment rooms with en-suite showers
Friendliness: Friendly and professional
Pricing: 1 hour massage starts at S$70. Other treatment and massage services start from that price onwards. Discount available for visits before 5pm and first-time customers.
Others: Sport, ladies and pregnancy massage are also available. No hard-sell at this spa.

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Hotel Review: Marina Mandarin, Singapore

It’s a strange feeling that I’ve traveled and chronicled sights and scene all over Asia but had no time to show the sights right in my own home – Singapore.

I’ve not been to the Esplanade, Suntec, Marina Square and Marina Bay Sands area for a long time. In fact, I’ve never even been to the Marina Bay Sands Resorts and certainly not the Esplanade area since the place has been enhanced. It’s funny that foreign friends and colleagues seem to have seen and taken photographs and know more about this area more than me!

So, it was time to make plans for a short stay-cation in that area. We chose the Marina Mandarin Hotel; both for the fact it’s one of the cheaper hotels in the area and that it has great view for photographing the surrounding area.

Welcome to Trader's Hotel
Nice spacious room and bed

Nice spacious room
Chair fit for any Chinese scholar

Nice spacious room
Spacious dressing and writing table

Beauiful singing birds at the corridor
Beautiful singing birds at the corridors

Driving to the Marina Square Shopping Mall car park wasn’t a problem. Looking for the parking area designated for the hotel wasn’t a problem. Finding the staircase leading to the hotel was a bit of a hassle. Apparently, the carpark does not lead straight to the hotel; you need to go up a staircase, come out near the hotel, go into the main entrance and then take a lift to the 5th level hotel reception area. Not quite a good idea to be lugging luggage and bags. Better to engage the valet service.

The hotel receptionist told us the rooms facing Marina Bay Sands Resorts were completely taken up. Pay more to upgrade. Bad suggestion!

We showed her our confirmation sheet that was printed direct from the hotel website. We had already paid more for a deluxe room because it faced the view we wanted and we had specified clearly we had wanted a high level, sea facing room.

After a bit of to and fro, we got the view we wanted; albeit on a low floor. Oh well, a low level sea-facing room is still better than nothing.

Corny sink design
View from the hotel lobby

Wonder how much is Evian water at the convenience store
Spacious atrium area

Many reviews rave about the view of the Twin Tower - this is my room's view
We had our high tea here

Work desk area
View from the hotel room window – what we came for

The hotel has a number of restaurants and cafes that seem to be well patronised at all hours. As locals, we know our way around and hit the Marina Square mall and the Esplanade area for our favourite food.

Towards dusk, we got ourselves busy by setting up a tripod and camera within the room for some fancy dusk and night photography. The room was just about the right angle for photographing the Marina Bay Sands resort and CBD skyline although I would have preferred to have been on a higher floor. The balcony was also a little small and odd shaped for spreading up a tripod and we had to put up the tripod within the room itself. That had to involve some shifting of furniture within the room itself as only one panel of the sliding window could be opened.

Drop off point is on a side-road; reception on the fifth level
Entrance to Marina Square Mall

Drop off point is on a side-road; reception on the fifth level
The CBD and Esplanade skyline by day

Drop off point is on a side-road; reception on the fifth level
Sunset and the early lights make nice photographs

KLCC is just next door; note Twin Tower in background
CBD area at evening dusk

The shuttle that brings hotel guests to Twin Tower
Our neighbours

Walking distance to the Twin Tower shopping mall and offices
Night fall and all the fancy lights came on

Although this is a 5-star hotel and was indeed grand in it’s hey day, the hotel does look slightly aged compared to all the fancy hotels in the area.

Other than the bad reception encounter we had, everything else was pleasant and the staff were cheerful and greeted us whenever we bumped into one. Room rate was indeed high and it did not even come with breakfast. Luckily Ya Kun is just round the corridor and we had Mee Siam and toasted bread for breakfast; much better than the usual hotel breakfast if I may say.

The hotel is busy and the restaurants, function rooms and atrium seems to be extremely busy at all times of the day despite the high prices charged in this hotel. Singapore is indeed living up to it’s reputation as a rich country.

Speaking of restaurants, we did had a unpleasant encounter at the Peach Blossom Chinese restaurant. We were at the restaurant reception and asked the restaurant manager for a Dim Sum menu. The manager did not look up from his counter and pointed us towards some menu on a table. We had a look through and decided to have Dim Sum. That was when the manager told us that Dim Sum order will close in 5 minutes. Is this guy dumb or what? Why didn’t he inform us when we inquired about Dim Sum?

The hotel has a large swimming pool, nice high tea buffet and corridors filled with nice art paintings and caged singing birds. I had a fun time listening to the birds. Apparently, they’ll not sing when I’m right below observing them but the moment I walk away, they’ll start singing. The moment I walk back, they’ll stop singing! I’ll certainly say they’re proud singing divas who know how to play the fame game.

There are indeed many, many nicer and grander hotels in the Suntec, Esplanade and Marina Square area. If you’re looking for the most economical and best positioned hotel that is with easy reach of Suntec, Esplanade, Marina Square, CBD and the Flyer, Marina Mandarin hotel certainly ranked as one of the best.

Marin Mandarin Hotel, Singapore
6 Raffles Boulevard
Marina Square
Singapore 039594

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Review: THE RETREAT Spa & Thalasso Centre, Singapore

I spent a wonderful weekend at the Changi Village Hotel recently (see earlier article). Of course, I was aware that there was an award winning spa located in the hotel and I took the opportunity to spend time at the spa.

I have heard of THE RETREAT for sometime but has always been unable to line a visit due to a busy schedule. With my staycation at the Changi Village hotel, it was the perfect time to check out this unique spa.

I had heard of the open air jacuzzi overlooking the South China sea that is unique for this spa. Earlier reviews I have read indicate that if you book a premium package, it comes with the use of the Jacuzzi. I was not disappointed when I called and it was confirmed that a premium spa package comes with use of the Jacuzzi at Level 9 of the hotel.

Changi Village Hotel
Entrance to the 8th and 9th level rooms

Changi Village Hotel
View from the 8th level entrance

Changi Village Hotel
The ultimate 9th level outdoor Jacuzzi room

The spa is actually located at Level 1 of the hotel. Here, you are checked in and you get to use the normal treatment rooms. While the spa entrance is small, I was surprised that the interior is much larger than I thought.

The spa also offer premium packages at Level 8 and 9 which offers view out to the South China sea. At these 2 levels, you have a clear view out to the sea and can watch planes taking off and landing at the nearby Changi airport with the difference that Level 9 offers the open air Jacuzzi in addition to the view.

We were ushered to Level 9 where I had booked a facial cum oil massage package while my partner had a RETREAT signature massage. We were allocated 2 masseurs; a more mature local Chinese and a younger Malay. Both were polite, pro-active with little touches and most importantly, good masseurs.

Changi Village Hotel
The treatment room on the 8th-level; nice view but no outdoor Jacuzzi

Changi Village Hotel
Another treatment room at 8th level

Changi Village Hotel
And then, there’s the 9th level outdoor Jacuzzi room!

The treatment room at Level 9 lives up to it’s reputation. You get a large treatment room that comes complete with sofa, sound system, toilet, shower and of course, the bubbling outdoor Jacuzzi pool that looks out to the ocean.

We were given 45 minutes of bubbly time and it came with hot tea and a chocolate fondue at the side. I never had a sweet tooth for chocolate fondue but at the moment of indulging in the bubbling water, chocolate fondue seems to be the most logical thing to complete the indulgence!

All too soon the 45 minutes of Jacuzzi time was up and the masseurs made their entrance to start the massage. I’m glad to report that the skills of the masseurs were up to mark and made an excellent complement to the entire package.

Changi Village Hotel
The room is large and spacious

Changi Village Hotel
First spa I’ve been to that provide a spacious sofa in the room

Changi Village Hotel
Toilet with a nice touch

Changi Village Hotel
Shower outdoor in the buff; cleverly hidden by shrubs from any peeping eyes

Changi Village Hotel
No one on the road below would have known you’re having a Jacuzzi above

Changi Village Hotel
Watch planes take off and land from your Jacuzzi

Changi Village Hotel
Pure indulgence!

Changi Village Hotel
I certainly did not want to go home!

We changed up and made our way to Level 8 where there is a small rest area where we had ginger tea. Or we could have spent some time at the outdoor hotel pool and admire the setting sun if we had wanted to.

All in, this had been an excellent time spent in a premium spa that obviously has spent time and effort in ensuring a nice and welcoming environment for their customers as well as ensuring the skills and services provided by their masseurs are par excellent.

Of course, the Jacuzzi package at Level 9 is premium spa indulgence that most of us can only afford once in a while. Given that there are many upmarket spas that does not justify the high price they’re charging IMHO, The RETREAT is one spa that I can safely recommend when you want to spend hard-earned money for that occasional indulgence or that special occasion that we all do deserve in this hectic city life that we lead.

Address:
#01-03A, #08-01 and #09-01
1 Netheravon Road
Singapore 508502

Size of Spa: About 10 private treatment rooms spread over 3 levels
Friendliness: Friendly and professional
Pricing: 1 hour massage starts at S$90. Other treatment and massage services start from that price onwards. Special package for use of private rooms at Level 8 and 9.

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Review: Changi Village Hotel, Singapore

Changi Village has been a rustic retreat for Singaporeans for many, many years. Many Singaporeans grew up with memories of camping, chalet-holidays, BBQ, swimming, fishing, beaches, seafood and other youthful activities in this rustic North-Eastern part of Singapore.

For Singaporean men, this place holds even greater sentimental value as many of them would possibly have served National Service in the vicinity; either as recruits in Pulau Tekong, commandos in Hendon camp and others in the many airbase camps around the area.

I haven’t been to this part of Singapore for many, many years as work kept me busy and holidays usually meant a trip overseas and not to this part of Singapore. Well, recently I made a return to Changi Village by having a weekend ‘staycation’ in Changi Village hotel, which is smacked in the midst of Changi Village. I’m glad I did.

Changi Village Hotel
The colourful front facade of the Changi Village Hotel

The hotel has a nice tall lobby
The hotel has a nice tall lobby

The first impression you have of the hotel is the colourful front facade. The hotel is not tall and the colourful facade makes it blend into the low-rise buildings around the area and not stick out like a sore thumb.

The hotel has an impressive tall front lobby and check in was quick and speedy.

The hotel room though was a minor letdown as it tends to be minimalist. There was no real intent to dress up the room and while all the essential furniture and utilities were available, one tends to think that the hotel expect it’s main clientele of airport travellers(from the nearby Changi International Aiport) and weekend local holiday makers not to be spending a lot if time in the rooms.

The minimalist room
The minimalist room. Toilet in the background

Basic room furniture
Basic room furniture

The toilet looks into the bedroom
The toilet looks into the bedroom. Privacy is maintained by drawing a curtain

The room look out to the greenery outside. Some higher floor rooms has sea view.
The room look out to the greenery outside.
Some higher floor rooms has sea view.

The rooms may be bare minimum but the hotel surprisingly has a full repertoire of well-equipped facilities that a weekend or transit guest will probably find useful such as a gym, two swimming pools, a Koi pond, a 7-11 store, an award winning spa, a wine bar, a pool-side sun deck and several restaurants including local, Japanese and Italian.

I tend to agree that time at this hotel is absolutely not meant to be spent indoors; not when there are so many things to do and food to savour just minutes outside the hotel.

Two swimming pools amongst lush greenery
Two swimming pools amongst lush greenery

Italian restaurant at the rooftop that overlooks the South China sea
Italian restaurant at the rooftop that overlooks the South China sea

A Koi pond garden. Children would love feeding the Kois
A Koi pond garden. Children would love feeding the Kois

Changi Village has long known to be a food haven and it remain the case even till today. There are seafood restaurants, cafes, pubs, wine bars and cheap hawker food mere steps from the hotel. You’ll be spoil for choice!

For those looking for activities to do, fear not, for there are many to do. You can walk, cycle, jog, swim or fish by the beach, take a boat to Pulau Ubin, visit historical and war sites in the area or simply chill out and breathe in the fresh air.

Plenty of food options just around the corner
Plenty of food options just around the corner

The ever popular Pulau Ubin seafood restaurant
The ever popular Ubin seafood restaurant

Great city view from the room
Stroll, swim, cycle, fish by the beach.
Keep a look-out for suspicious immigrants and smugglers!

Visit the many historical and WWII sites around the area
Visit the many historical and WWII sites around the area

Hire a small boat to go fishing or take a boat ride to Pulau Ubin  for even more physical activities
Hire a small boat to go fishing or take a boat ride to Pulau Ubin
for even more physical activities

Will I recommend this hotel? Absolutely, especially local families who would like to spend a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Changi Village has a life of it’s own and it takes a weekend to savour the rustic Changi Village ambiance. I just wish the hotel room rate would be a bit better.

Breakfast at the hotel was a tad disappointing given that there are so many food options just outside the hotel. Because breakfast was disappointing, I did not take up the local food buffet lunch because I was sure I can get better and cheaper food outside.

Service at the hotel is generally good and I was greeted by housekeepers and maintenance workers whenever I bump into one. Thumbs up for the service.

There were a couple of things in the room that I find not quite right. Firstly, I couldn’t get the overhead rain shower to work… it shouldn’t be that complicated to work it.

The TV in the room kept advertising in-room movies but for the life of me, I couldn’t find any buttons on the TV remote control that says “Movies”. How am I supposed to watch movies then?

The room comes with free internet but only the wired version. No wireless is available which is surprising in today’s world of iPhones and iPads and especially also since a good portion of the guests in this hotel are savvy world travellers.

Then again, the inconveniences are minor and it wouldn’t be real problems if you are not in the room most of the time. Which is what staying in this hotel is all about – not staying in the rooms!

CHANGI VILLAGE HOTEL
1 Netheravon Road
Singapore 508502

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Review: Studio M Hotel, Singapore

A recent home renovation project gave me the excuse to check into a local hotel for a couple of days recently. I did some research online and as well as a friend’s recommendation made me decided to check out The Studio M Hotel near the Merchant Court area.

It helped that S$185++ per night was a relatively good price considering the expensive hotel room rates in Singapore especially in the city area. I was also piqued by the hotel’s claim to be offering a 2-level loft room for each guest.

The Studio M hotel
The Studio M hotel

Great city view from the room
Great city view from the room

First impression is that the hotel has a small and limited carpark. You are likely not to have a parking lot if you arrive late at the hotel although the hotel is good enough to offer a cash-back if you had to park elsewhere.

The lobby and ambiance of the hotel of the hotel feels nice. You can tell it’s not a high-end hotel, more like a high-end economy hotel, but the simple yet tastefully done decor and layout more than compensate.

First impression of the room is interesting as this is the first loft-designed room I have ever stayed in. You do get a ‘2nd floor’ built within a room and your bed is located on the 2nd level overlooking your ‘living room’.

It looks cool and zen-like and remind one very much of the shoe-box apartments of Japan. In fact, there seem to be many touches of Japanese-influenced interior design at work here.

Great city view from the room
View from top of loft

Great city view from the room
Nice concept but not exactly safe for children or older folks

Great city view from the room
The bed and TV are on the upper loft

Great city view from the room
The sink and coffee corner

The room does indeed looks cool – that is – until the impracticality sets in, literally with a few bumps on the head and knocks on the legs. Let’s start with the toilet.

Think of an airplane toilet and you’ll get what I mean. I enjoy my morning toilet with a magazine but you literally cannot do it here because you need to sit up straight on the bowl. There is literally no space to stretch to hold out a magazine. I pity the larger sized Caucasians who must have a struggle just to wipe their backside!

The sink is located in the living room due to space constraints. Your clothes are lined out for all to see because there is no cupboard or even curtain for the simple rack that serves as a ‘clothing cupboard’.

The toughest part is the bed on the 2nd level. I must reprimand the architect or designer who decided that half of the ceiling above the bed is a dropped ceiling painted in the same colour. I hate going to bed because I bumped into the ceiling more than once! How can anyone design a ceiling with 2 different heights above a bed is beyond my comprehension…

However, to watch TV, you have to be in bed because the TV is located on the 2nd level. Hence, I spent most of my time outside the room.

Great city view from the room
The tightest toilet space ever

Great city view from the room
Roll right and hit the wall or stand up and hit the ceiling!

Great city view from the room
Cracked walls: Shoddy building and maintenance work for a new hotel

The hotel has a nice lap pool, fitness centre and cafe on the 2nd level. The open air, wooden planks, chill-out seats and spacious layout compensated for the claustrophobic effect of the rooms and I was not surprised it seems popular all the time.

Food is served here as well as a cafe on the ground level. Disappointingly, all food served are Western and you cannot find a single local item on the menus. Luckily, the hotel is located in an area where there are many eateries and restaurants, and food was not really an issue.

The hotel seems popular with locals and it is obvious that many are here on stay-cations. However, I will not recommend this hotel for young children or older folks due to the small rooms and the steep stairs they need to climb just to get into bed.

There was a single long queue waiting to check out at the same time as myself. I was shocked to see a Western couple going to a staff at the other end of the counter and that the staff served them!

Will I recommend this hotel? I doubt very much if I will because once you get past the novelty value of staying in a loft-room, the impracticality of staying in such a room makes you yearn for the boring but familiar and practical layout of a typical hotel room.

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Review: The Joy Spa, Singapore

The area around Mohammad Sultan Road, UE Square and Merchant Court in Singapore has become a Yuppie hang-out for gourmet food, coffee, wine and entertainment. I like this place for it’s wholesome but comprehensive availability for good food and drinks. It has become a hang-out of sort for me and friends recently.

Sometimes, after a night of food and wine, we seek the solace of a good massage place to relax before making our way home. This has always been a problem because most massage and spa establishments in Singapore normally accept customers up till 9pm only. Unlike Hong Kong, Taiwan or China, where such establishments open up to the wee hours of the night, it’s tough luck scenario for Singapore.

Recently, an article appeared on the newspaper, Straits Times, that said “Midnight Pampering” (ST, dated May 15th, 2011), and alerted me to possible late nights massage retreats. One such establishment mentioned, The Joy Spa, is located right in Merchant Court itself!

After a usual weekend dinner and drink in that area, my girlfriends and I wanted a foot massage badly (after a long and hectic work week) and we remembered the article that appeared on Straits Times. Off we go hunting.

The Joy Spa is located at Robertson Walk, a location which is closed to a lot of expatriates living there. The decor of the spa is tastefully done, nothing elaborate but simple, cosy and soothing.  At The Joy Spa, it’s really a head to toe one-stop provider.  You can opt for Foot Massage, Body Massage, Manicure or Pedicure, Facial Treatment and Body Treatment.

Neat recliner massage chairs
Neat recliner massage chairs

The Holy Land
All chairs face inward for privacy and peace from the hustle and bustle outside

We were lucky and managed to get a 3 slots at the same time at The Joy Spa.  We were glad because it was already past 9.30pm.

There are 8 recliner chairs for foot massage, 2 chairs for body/shoulder massage, 3 chairs for manicure/pedicure, 4 single rooms & 1 couple room for body massage.

Good thing about this place is, all the massage chairs faced inward to their interior decor (smart thinking), otherwise, it will be very disrupting as the shop is located just outside a noisy restaurant/wine bar. Due to good sound insulation, you cannot hear the noise outside till you open the main door and walk out.

Neat recliner massage chairs
The place was heavy into dim lights and mood lighting

Neat recliner massage chairs
Throw in some billowing smoke

Neat recliner massage chairs
Don’t forget the Zen stones too!”

We had 3 ‘Uncle’ therapists who did the foot massage for us.  We started off with a 10 mins herbal foot soak followed by a 60 mins foot massage. Ginger tea were served while we were soaking our foot. Skills wise, all were a thumbs up.

From their skills, we could tell that they were experienced therapists.  One of my girlfriend has even confirmed that she will be back one week before our 60 mins sessions were up!  We had a good chat with the therapists and found out that this shop has been opened for more than one year.  Very soon, our sessions were over and the therapists used hot towel to clean our foot.

“Your Joyful Moments of Peace, Wellness & Beauty begins here.”  This is the tagline on the brochure I picked up from The Joy Spa.

True enough, we left the shop feeling Recharge and Refresh.  Time for a good sleep!

Note: The shop opens till midnight NOT 3 am as stated in the ST article due to lack of therapists.

Size of Spa: About 5 private rooms and 8 public chairs
Friendliness: Friendly
Pricing: 1 hour foot massage starts at S$60. Other treatment and massage services start from that price onwards.

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Review: The Benjaphan Thai Herbal Spa, Singapore

I was looking for an authentic Thai Massage in Singapore and The Benjaphan Thai Herbal Spa seems to pop up frequently on the search engine whenever I searched for authentic Thai Massage in Singapore.

I’m a die-hard Thai massage enthusiast. I need a Thai massage fix every so often and since I was not in Thailand but Singapore, I decided I had to trust ‘Mr Google’. I decided to check out The Benjaphan Thai Herbal Spa and booked an appointment.

The Benjaphan Thai Herbal Spa is located at one of the older shopping mall in Bukit Timah area. The decor of the spa is quite simple & rustic, with the furniture made of Teakwood and Thai silk and they even have the Thai Massage day beds.

Foot massage chairs near the reception area
Foot massage chairs near the reception area

So far, so good. True enough, the massage therapists are all from Thailand. Second tick in their favour. There was a strong wiff of Thai massage oil and lemon grass in the air. Third tick in their favour.

I opted for the 120 mins Thai Aroma Oil Massage while my partner chose the 120 mins Royal Thai Massage.  We were put in separate rooms as the Royal Thai Massage was done on the raised Thai Massage bed in the public area while my Oil Massage was done in the privacy of the room.

I was not really impressed by the Aroma Oil Massage. It felt like any ordinary Swedish massage and not the strong, smooth strokes of Thai oil massage.

The Royal Thai Massage was done on a raised flat bed in a public area. That’s quite typical of a authentic Thai massage setting. Unfortunately, most Thai massage places would also let down the bed curtains; hence, ensuring some privacy even within a public setting. However, the masseur left the curtains up; hence, exposing my partner to full public view throughout the massage.

All 4 raised beds were empty while we were there. Instead of choosing the furthest bed, the masseur also chose the nearest bed, which was within the walking path for guests and staff walking to the toilet and changing room. All sense of privacy was totally stripped.

Despite the lack of privacy,  my partner dozed off during the 120 minutes of massage, as she had just arrived from a long and tiring flight. That was how relaxing the experience was but on a second thought, if this was an authentic Thai massage, how could one person slept all the way through as authentic Thai massage would certainly have kept one awake with the many twist and turns of the body?

Tea was served after the massage. As we were there during non-peak timing, we were offered a discount off the menu price.

Will I be back? I doubt so. I had enjoyed Thai massage so much in Thailand but seem to find the same massage experience elusive once outside of Thailand. As much as these Thai spas outside of Thailand offer authentic Thai decor and Thai masseurs, these Thai masseurs simply seems not to be able to match the skills of their counterparts back home. Maybe the best masseur talents are secretly kept at home and only the second rated ones make their way outside of the country. That seems to be the only logic I can think of…

Size of Spa: About 5 private rooms and 4 public beds
Facilities: Shower and changing room

Friendliness: Friendly
Pricing: 1 hour Thai massage starts at S$85. Other treatment and massage services start from that price onwards.

Pix credit: www.singaporemirror.com.sg/

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Beauty, spa and wellness trade show

logo

Are you a professional in the spa and wellness industry? Or a very curious onlooker?

Well, you’ll be glad that a trade exhibition for the spa and wellness industry will be held in Singapore soon. Beauty and wellness trade visitors can check out the spa and wellness industry in Singapore and Asia at the Intimate World Asia from 15 – 16 July, 2010.

The two days will see fashion, spa and beauty industry players and operators search for potential trade and partnership opportunities. Members of local Singapore Spa associations as well as neighbouring spa associations can take part in networking sessions, seminars and product presentations and future entrepreneurs can pick up a tip or two about the industry and increase their product knowledge.

Intimate World Asia also incorporates Health & Alternative Asia where health products and services like organic food and supplements are showcased. Traditional remedies and alternative treatments like addiction and holistic treatments are also offered in this Trade show.

The exhibition will be from 15 – 16 July 2010, Hall B at the MBSS from 10am to 6pm

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Review: Ayuthaya Royal Thai Spa, Singapore

Note: I receive emails from readers and one of the top questions has been: Where is the best Thai massage spa in Singapore? Read this article for your answer…

I’ve been a keen fan of Thai massage for a long time. Once or twice a year, I’ll make a trip to Bangkok or Phuket to indulge in my Thai massage fantasy and have always returned home refreshed and recharged.

What happens when I am too busy to make a trip to Thailand? I look for a local Thai spa that can deliver to the same quality of massage and service as an authentic Thai spa. I’ve checked out quite a few in Singapore and had hesitated to make a recommendation – until I came across Ayuthaya Royal Thai Spa – which matches a good quality spa in Thailand when it comes to ambiance, decor, quality of spa products used and the quality of the masseur.

The Filipino receptionist who picked up my phone call was polite and knowledgeable and we quickly firm up a date for my visit. Ayuthaya Royal Thai Spa has 2 branches; one at Pan Pacific hotel in Marina Square area and the other at Gallery hotel near to Clemenceau Avenue. I decided to visit the Gallery Hotel branch.

Massage at Phuket airport departure lounges
Ayuthaya Royal Thai Spa is located at Gallery Hotel

Gallery Hotel is an interesting avante garde hotel located near to Havelock Road. The spa is located at an annex of the hotel and I was able to find it only upon making a few inquires with the hotel staff. Even then, I ended up entering the spa via it’s back entrance and not the main entrance.

The spa is typically Thai; with lots of Teak furniture, flooring and colourful Thai cushions and curtains. The receptionist informed me that there is an ongoing promotion and I paid less than S$200 for a 45mins body scrub, 1 1/2 hours of Royal Thai massage and 45mins of foot massage.

The spa has about 6 treatment rooms, including 1 couple room. All rooms come with en-suite showers. I was lead to a room and a Thai masseur entered soon and started my session.

The scrub was quite standard. Nothing to shout about. Then the Royal Thai massage session started and my-o-my, this was one of the best Thai massage I had anywhere in the world; be it Thailand or otherwise. The masseur put in 101% effort and her strokes were just out of this world. Definitely a 5-star effort.

It ended all too soon and the foot massage started. Unlike other places, I was able to lie on the bed while the masseur carried on the foot massage. I had forgotten that traditional Thai foot massage uses a stick instead of fingers and it can be quite painful. I had to endure a good 45 minutes of pain as the masseur carried on poking the stick on my foot.

I came out of the room thoroughly refreshed and recharged. The foot massage hurt a bit but pain is always inversely proportionate to the light floating feeling you get after a good foot massage.

I am a cheapskate and there is also no tradition of tipping in Singapore. However, the Thai massage I just had was absolutely wonderful and I ended up giving my masseur a generous tip! That tells you how good it was.

Location of Massage Palor:
1 Nanson Road #02-11 Singapore 238909

Size of Spa: Moderate, with 6 private treatment rooms
Facilities: None

Friendliness: Extremely Friendly
Pricing: Single massage treatment starts from US$45. Combined packages available.

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Review: Spa Infinity, Singapore

I’ve always like a day spa that let you hang around and use the facilities as long as you like. My favourite was the this spa at Paragon shopping centre at Orchard Rd but I believe it has closed. I like spas that has hydrotherapy facilities, rest area, free-flow of food and drinks and great ambiance. Sometimes, it’s great to hang out and relax instead of swooping in and out of spas and have your relaxed mood spoiled by the crowd and noise outside.

I received a mailer for Spa Infinity. It has all that I wanted. Hydrotherapy facilities, rest area, in-house food and no time limit. What’s more, there was a promotion for $S39(US$25) per person. It was a irresistible offer and I made an appointment for the earliest weekend for my hubby and myself. We wanted to see if we can make this our regular spa hang-out.

The spa is located at the basement of Far East Shopping Centre at Orchard Rd, a shopping mall smack in the middle of the busiest shopping area in Singapore. We arrived at 5pm and walk into the stylish reception area of the spa. There were 4 people at the reception; 2 Chinese men, a Malay lady and a Caucasian man. That’s where the start of the bad impression began.

None bothered to look up nor greet me. It took a minute before the lady eventually looked up to greet me and acknowledge my appointment. A man took over and ushered us to the respective changing room.

Perhaps, I could better describe it as the locker room cum changing room cum dressing room in a space slightly bigger than a bedroom. Next to it is the wet area where there is a jacuzzi pool, a sauna, a steam room, 2 showers and 2 toilets. There were 3 guests in the jacuzzi and I would definitely need to squeeze in next to a stranger if I decide to join them. All in, only elbow room for everyone if there are more than 5-6 guests moving in the area due to the tight corners.

Hydro facilities
The hot and cold pool – just nice for 4 people – more will be a squeeze

Suana
See-through Sauna room – A nice designer touch interior deco

We next meet at the rest lounge which consisted of about 6 sofa sets as well as 6 recline leather seats for watching TV. Very soon, we were called and 2 Chinese ladies lead us to our individual massage rooms. The massage rooms are small and just right for a single bed. My masseur uses Chinese Zhi Ya (Finger accupressure) method and was a bit rough in her handling but was generally alright.

My hubby  came out complaining he had a masseur straight from the twilight zone. She was a huge frame Chinese woman who insisted on practising deep finger and elbow massage on all the vulnerable areas; neck, shoulder blades and hip bones. She even deep-pressed his leg’s calf muscle which resulted in pain even after 2 days. Although he has a high threshold for pain, he had to ask the masseur to use less pressure and her answer was to promptly increase the pressure and at the same time, insisted he had not been sleeping well or adopting a wrong walking posture.

On another occasion, she noticed a tight spot in his back muscle. Instead of increasing stroke frequency or pressure, she literally started pounding that spot with clenched fist.  Pound, pound, pound pound…. as if she would be able to pound the tightness away!

As connoisseur of  good massage and spa, we know the difference between a good and bad massage. This was obviously a wannabe masseur masquerading as a Chinese acupressure expert.

We met at the rest lounge again and decided we would like some food; as was promised in the promotion mailer. Instead, we were told that food was served only on weekdays but would make an exception for us. However, almost all food on the menu had been served out leaving us only with sandwiches.

By then, our impression of this spa had drop to almost ankle level and the fact that food was not available even when promised simply reinforce our belief that this is one spa we will not be visiting again. We were glad to pay up and make our way out to look for food in the vicinity. We even jokingly said that we’ll probably need to look for a real masseur to undo the damage the spa’s masseurs had done to us!

This was one spa we came with high expectations but left with little.

Location of Spa Infinity 545 Orchard Road , B1-22 Far East Shopping Centre, Singapore 238882
Size: Mid-size spa with private massage and facial treatment rooms. Showers not available en-suite. Advertised as being 9000sqf but certainly does not feel that spacious
Facilities:
Hot/cold pool, sauna and steam rooms, rest lounge, food cafe
Friendliness: Polite but not pro-active
Pricing: Starts from S$39 for a promotion with use of facilities and 45mins massage. Normal prices start at S$75 and include other facial and chiropractic treatments as well.

Pix credit: http://www.spainfinity.com.sg

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