Chinese healing touch amid five-star comforts
A residential retreat in Melbourne will get your yin and yang sorted
NOT only am I set to have my body fine-tuned, my yin and yang acutely balanced and my jing luo sorted, but I am entering a whole new world of acronyms.
Traditional Chinese medicine takes the easy shorthand TCM. But what’s all this SS stuff about? Secret Service, or worse?
The initials, it turns out, apply to the role of Francisco Cervantes, a former law enforcement officer from San Diego, who is my service stylist. At first this seems a very silly idea; what is wrong with plain old terms such as valet and butler? But hotels must keep reinventing themselves, striving for points of difference, and The Langham Melbourne is firmly in favour of the SS concept. And so am I; after just one night, I am plotting how to take my fabulously organised SS home without my husband noticing.
The SS is a bonus but the quest is rejuvenation courtesy of a Wellness Retreat at the hotel’s Chuan Spa, ranged over two levels, accessed from the ninth floor through a rounded doorway.
It’s tucked into a labyrinthine space of silk-lined walls, bamboo floors and moody colours — dull gold, mulberry and burnished red — and Chuan Spa feels like a members-only club, an oriental den where one could almost expect to knock three times and ask for someone (or something) thrilling.
In my case, the call is answered by Tasja, a TCM specialist who’s studied in China and Japan and has specialised in acupuncture. ‘‘Wellbeing and vitality,’’ she says, ‘ ‘ are enhanced through the nurturing of the three treasures: jing or life force, qi or vital energy, and shen or mind and spirit.’’
Depending on your requirements, Tasja, or one of her TCM specialist colleagues, will design a health program for weight loss or to enhance general wellbeing. My sluggish metabolism needs a boost and Tasja writes me a long list of suggestions, including six capsules a day of Dr Ron’s UltraPure Iodine Complex Metabolic Support Formula. I check Dr Ron’s website and it features pictures of contented cows that look very well-supported, which is an encouraging start.
To boost adrenals, says Tasja, I need half a teaspoon of Celtic sea salt and the juice of half a lemon (or a vitamin Ctablet) first thing in the morning with a protein break- fast. The advice is easy to swallow, as it were, and the setting of a luxury spa makes it even more palatable.
Langham Hotels International (19 properties either open or in the pipeline, including affiliates) has re-energised the notion of spa with its Chuan branding. At The Langham Auckland, Langham Place Mongkok (Hong Kong) and Langham Yangtze Boutique (Shanghai), there are even Chuan Residence guestrooms adjacent to the respective spas with infinity baths, silky decor and retro Chinese-inspired furnishings.
The 25-storey Langham Melbourne doesn’t have dedicated Chuan guestrooms but all is comfort, attention to detail and bird’seye views across its inventory of 387 rooms and plush suites in the Southbank precinct on the Yarra.
Its Chuan Spa was opened in 2005 with an appropriate feng shui blessing; it’s arrayed over a meandering 1060sq m of curving corridors, eight treatment salons, curtained relaxation lounges, and a health club with gym equipment, sauna, steamrooms and suchlike.
Chuan means flowing water and in the Melbourne facility the design takes inspiration from a classic Chinese garden; add to the mix a 15m indoor saltwater pool, ‘‘river stone snail shower’’ with 12 forceful jets (and rituals involving lemon myrtle marine salt) and a peppy Jacuzzi with a view. And there’s a terrace that opens from the low-lit surrounds of the spa to a broad panorama of the Melbourne CBD skyline.
The treatments are based on the principles of wu xing — wood, earth, metal, fire and water — and your particular element is decided based on a brief questionnaire. There is a wide-ranging menu of about 40 pleasurable treatments on offer, which could be said of most five-star hotel spas, but here there’s a holistic approach and an emphasis on pick-and-mix options. Choose, say, a 60-minute or 90-minute hot stone massage but add TCM body cupping, facial with certified organic or marinebased algae products, and a hydrotherapy bath.
Or book a TCM reflexology treatment (30, 60 or 90 minutes) and extras could include a hot-oil hair treatment and scalp massage, and a salt body scrub.
It’s a buffet of possibilities, depending on time available, but you’d be short-changing yourself not to go for the whole shebang and book, say, a Tao of Detox ( 21/ hours) or a Restore and
2 Renew (three hours).
Even if there is time for just a massage, try something in the TCMrange, such as a Tui Na, with acupressure, which works on the meridians ( jing luo) to bring your body into balance and harmony.
And of course there’s fragrant Chinese teas with petals and herbs, platters of sliced fruit, wafting oriental-jacketed attendants and all the fussing we have come to expect from new-age spas.
Then back to your Langham Club Terrace room for a roomservice spa dinner ( healthy noodles in a mushroom broth with a garden of Asian greenery, gingery juice, great salad) and the sort of carefree kip that surely must have been enjoyed by pampered imperial princesses of (well, maybe) the Luxe dynasty.
I sleep right through my SS’s call next morning. Later, Cervantes tells me he had wanted to know whether I was feeling nicely harmonious. Susan Kurosawa was a guest of The Langham Melbourne.
The Langham Hotel Melbourne spa terrace opens to a broad panorama of the CBD skyline