LET’S HIT THE HAY SPA

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - HOW I TRAVEL - CE­LESTE MITCHELL

Spa treat­ments and hol­i­days go to­gether like mas­sage oil and Enya. Per­son­ally, my “hol­i­day mode” means face down and drool­ing, and prefer­ably with frangi­pa­nis waft­ing un­der my nose. But just as food fads are get­ting more lu­di­crous (donug, any­one?), the ther­a­pies you can try around the world are get­ting weirder than Michael Jack­son circa 2002.

Some­times a spa treatment can be quirky in its quest for con­nec­tion to a place – warm seashell mas­sages in Fiji, shall we say – or ties with tra­di­tion, like be­ing whipped with branches in a Venik mas­sage in Rus­sia. Oth­ers might make you squirm – like the now ubiq­ui­tous fish foot spas in Thai­land; make you thirsty, like beer baths in Aus­tria, and cause you to question your san­ity – cac­tus mas­sages in Mex­ico (ouch!).

Then there are treat­ments that re­ally rub you into the des­ti­na­tion. Af­ter a day of hik­ing in the Rock­ies, why not treat your­self to a cannabis mas­sage? Denver, Colorado, is re­port­edly lead­ing the le­gal weed well­ness scene. In Thai­land, Orange is the new Mas­sage Oil at the Chi­ang Mai Women’s Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion, where you can be mas­saged by fe­male in­mates for a steal.

Just as me­mories of an in­cred­i­ble food ex­pe­ri­ence can trans­port you back to that lit­tle trat­to­ria in Italy, so too can flash­backs of a spa treatment – for bet­ter or for worse.

When pho­tog­ra­pher and dig­i­tal in­flu­encer Lau­ren Bath found her name down for cryother­apy while on as­sign­ment in Monaco, she “fig­ured it would be some de­light­ful thing”. “Fast for­ward to an hour later and I was stand­ing be­fore a tech­ni­cian in my un­der­wear, a pair of socks, Croc san­dals, gloves and a head­band about to step into a -110°C room. To say that I came out trau­ma­tised is an un­der­state­ment,” she says.

For me, the Gold Coast hin­ter­land will for­ever be the place where I med­i­tated with a horse. Equine ther­apy is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar at Gwinganna Lifestyle Re­treat, plac­ing stressed-out guests shoul­derto-shoul­der with a stal­lion whose in­stincts hold a mir­ror up to your mon­key mind. “They have a very beau­ti­ful way of guid­ing us to the ar­eas we might not like to look at,” trainer Me­gan Bard­s­ley says.

Wish you were feel­ing more like a filly or colt your­self ? At Ho­tel Heubad in north­ern Italy, since 1903, they’ve been wrap­ping well­ness seek­ers in damp hay, pulled from un­fer­tilised meadows above 2000m of al­ti­tude, said to soothe stiff joints, mus­cle cramps, and even obesity.

Vinother­apy is an­other grow­ing spa trend. While I’d nor­mally ad­vo­cate drink­ing the ben­e­fits, I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber O’Reilly’s Rain­for­est Re­treat be­cause I soaked in a tub of their shi­raz (and felt like the side of beef in a bour­guignon).

Es­o­teric sound baths and vi­bra­tional tun­ing treat­ments have long been favoured by new-agey spas. At Gwinganna, my fellow Es­cape writer, Paul Ewart, found him­self naked, “in a room kit­ted out with a sound sys­tem that would make any top-tier club in Ibiza jeal­ous” be­fore he was trans­ported away in a Spirit of Sound treatment.

“While a med­ley of world mu­sic and a ‘sounds of na­ture’ al­bum boomed in my ears, I was mas­saged by my ther­a­pist, be­fore she picked up an in­stru­ment – rain­maker, bongo drums, or sym­bols – and cir­cled me. The thought that there may have been some­thing naughty in my pre-spa cup of tea did cross my mind,” he says.

For Amanda Woods, an­other whose words ap­pear reg­u­larly here, the 7 Chakra Dhara mas­sage in Bali at the Ayana Re­sort and Spa turned into the spirit tune-up she never knew she needed. “Af­ter a long mas­sage the ther­a­pist started rub­bing oils on my chakra points, then gem­stones and crys­tals were placed on top … but when she started us­ing the sound of tun­ing forks, one for each chakra, ev­ery­thing kicked in,” she says.

“By the time she’d struck the sev­enth one and was mov­ing it around my head I felt like my en­tire body was vi­brat­ing.”

Good vi­bra­tions or not, my motto is go weird or go home dur­ing your next spa ex­pe­ri­ence. That way at least you’ll have a good story to tell.

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