Foun­tains of Youth

DestinAsian - - SPECIAL REPORT - By Judy Chap­man

Heal­ing through wa­ter— whether through steam, ice, com­press, and bathing—is the very essence of a spa. With its ben­e­fits so well doc­u­mented, it makes sense that lux­ury well­ness venues are ex­pand­ing their fa­cil­i­ties to in­clude wa­ter ex­pe­ri­ences that off­set our high-tech, high-stress lives. And the level of in­no­va­tion these days has gone off the charts: Mid­dle Eastern ham­mams are be­ing reimag­ined, float tanks are back in vogue, while tra­di­tional saunas and hot spring bathing are also ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a new wave. These are our rec­om­men­da­tions for wa­ter-in­spired treat­ments to drift, soak, and steam your wor­ries away.

Hy­drother­apy Prac­ticed for cen­turies in Europe as a cure for pain re­lief, stress, arthri­tis, and sleep dis­or­ders, hy­drother­apy is be­ing rein­vented for lux­ury spas. At Bali’s COMO Shamb­hala Es­tate ( co­mo­ho­tels.com), you soak in a min­eral-rich vi­tal­ity pool while mas­sage jets pum­mel dif­fer­ent parts of your body to boost cir­cu­la­tion. Over on New Zealand’s South Is­land, Aro-Ha ( aro-ha.com) takes a dif­fer­ent ap­proach, with out­door hot and cold pools that beckon after a day of vig­or­ous hikes and yoga. Mean­while, up­scale ur­ban ho­tels seem in­tent on cre­at­ing the ul­ti­mate ther­mal sanc­tu­ary for guests to re­lax be­fore their treat­ments. The mar­ble Wet Lounge at the Remède Spa at St. Regis

Sin­ga­pore ( remedespasin­ga­pore.com) is a prime ex­am­ple, where spa-go­ers can en­joy Mediter­ranean bathing rit­u­als in­clud­ing a black olive soap scrub, a Moroc­can Rhas­soul clay mud wrap, and Dead Sea salt baths. Remède’s award­win­ning Vichy shower de­scribes a mas­sage on an in­frared heated mar­ble bed, en­hanced with sprin­kles of rose and or­ange blos­som–scented wa­ter. In Europe, the Ital­ian fash­ion cap­i­tal is home to Shi­seido Spa Mi­lan ( shi­sei­dospami­lan

.com), the first such spa by the Ja­panese per­sonal care brand in the coun­try. Oc­cu­py­ing 1,000 square me­ters on the sixth and sev­enth floors of the re­cently re­vamped Ex­cel­sior Ho­tel Gal­lia, the venue beck­ons with plenty of nat­u­ral light, and guests can make use of both hy­dro­mas­sage and a wa­ter­fall wall to re­lax the shoul­ders and neck after a swim in the in­door pool. Next-Level Bathing Hot spring ex­pe­ri­ences and con­tem­po­rary bath houses have be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar in re­cent years. In Ja­pan, Hoshino Re­sorts of­fers a con­tem­po­rary take on hot-spring ryokan with its up­scale Kai brand. Lo­cated 90 min­utes’ by train from Tokyo in the Hakone hot spring re­gion,

Kai Hakone ( kai-ryokan.jp) fea­tures min­i­mal­is­tic, semi-open baths look­ing out onto wood­lands whose col­ors change with the sea­sons.

Amanemu ( aman.com) in Ise-Shima Na­tional Park is another tes­ta­ment to Ja­pan’s bathing cul­ture: set around a min­eral-rich ther­mal spring, the re­sort houses a 2,000-square-me­ter spa with two large on­sen pools, a pair of pri­vate on­sen pavil­ions, and a watsu pool. And for those who pre­fer to­tal pri­vacy, each suite at Amanemu fea­tures a salt-in­fused spring wa­ter bath.

In a sim­i­lar vein, re­sorts in Bhutan are cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the Hi­malayan king­dom’s long­stand­ing well­ness tra­di­tions. COMO Uma Paro ( co­mo­ho­tels.com) of­fers guests a hot stone bath heated solely by fire-roasted river rocks, which crack and steam as they sink to the bot­tom of a wooden tub, re­leas­ing min­er­als into the wa­ter. For an ad­di­tional layer of authen­tic­ity,

Amankora Gangtey ( aman.com) or­ga­nizes an un­for­get­table soak in­side a rus­tic stone shed be­long­ing to a lo­cal farmer, with views of the Gangtey Val­ley and its fa­mous 15th-cen­tury

monastery right from the com­fort of your tub.

And with com­mu­nity and con­nec­tion in­creas­ingly linked to longevity, com­mu­nal bathing is also gain­ing new ground. At Penin­sula

Hot Springs ( penin­su­la­hot­springs.com) out­side Mel­bourne, fam­i­lies and friends con­gre­gate in mag­ne­sium-rich out­door pools of vary­ing tem­per­a­ture. Vis­i­tors who go this south­ern sum­mer can even watch live mu­sic as they soak, thanks to the ad­di­tion of an am­phithe­ater over­looked by seven new hill­side pools. Show­stop­ping Saunas and Steams Sweat­ing is known to detox­ify the body and new stud­ies show that reg­u­lar sauna time can lower our risk of de­men­tia and boost car­dio­vas­cu­lar health. Bet­ter yet, the lat­est wave of saunas in Europe has se­ri­ously upped the fun fac­tor and lev­els of cre­ativ­ity. Scan­di­navia is lead­ing the charge on this front, as evinced by Löyly ( loy­ly­helsinki.fi)— Helsinki’s re­cently opened pub­lic wa­ter­front sauna com­plex—and megaspa The Well ( thewell.no) out­side Oslo, a three­level won­der­land with 15 themed saunas rang­ing from a jungle to a cinema. Those who pre­fer stay­ing put in the Nor­we­gian cap­i­tal should head to SALT, a tem­po­rary 5,000-square-me­ter cul­tural pro­ject on the seafront prom­e­nade. Run­ning through Oc­to­ber next year, it com­prises a se­ries of strik­ing wooden struc­tures in­spired by tra­di­tional Nor­we­gian fishke­hjeller (fish racks) used by no­madic Arc­tic com­mu­ni­ties. SALT’s Árdna ( salted.no) am­phithe­ater is per­haps the largest—and cer­tainly one of the coolest—pub­lic saunas in the world, where up to 120 peo­ple gather for group sweat­ing on tiered benches look­ing out through a glass wall to­ward the ice­berg-shaped Oslo Opera House, all while ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the­ater, read­ings, talks, and art ex­hibits. Vis­i­tors can even sip on a cock­tail at the bar while groov­ing to Nor­we­gian elec­tron­ica. Árdna is open for sauna ses­sions on Satur­day evenings, with ad­mis­sion in­clud­ing the use of two cold tubs out­side the struc­ture and a con­verted cen­tury-old bar­rel once used to store 6,000 liters of sherry.

Over in Scot­land, the Hot Box Sauna ( tay­mouth­ma­rina.com) has been billed as the coun­try’s first lochside sauna, with large French doors fram­ing views of Loch Tay, not to men­tion an even­ing DJ area and bar.

South­east Asia also has a di­verse se­lec­tion of note­wor­thy saunas and steam venues. The sauna at ESPA at Re­sorts World Sin­ga­pore comes with an un­for­get­table view, while the cen­ter­piece of Karma Spa at Karma

Kan­dara ( kar­ma­group.com) in Bali is the cliffhang­ing In­frared De­tox Sauna that of­fers jaw-drop­ping vis­tas over the In­dian Ocean.

The Spa at The Reverie Saigon ( therever­ie­saigon .com) is a stand­out for dif­fer­ent rea­sons: at 1,200 square me­ters, it’s eas­ily the largest and most lux­u­ri­ous spa in Ho Chi Minh City. The two-floor ex­panse con­tains ameni­ties like a ded­i­cated hair and beauty sa­lon, two open-air Jacuzzis, an al­most Olympic-sized swim­ming pool, and goldac­cented steam rooms in Car­rara mar­ble that are as deca­dent as the rest of the prop­erty.

Ham­mams Reimag­ined

No longer re­served for the Mid­dle East, the tra­di­tional ham­mam has un­der­gone a makeover in Asia and the Amer­icas. Last year, Amatara

Well­ness Re­sort Phuket ( am­atara­phuket.com) launched the world’s first Thai-in­spired ham­mam, a 250-square-me­ter space clad in vi­brant mo­saics and mar­ble for an op­u­lent Asia-meet­sMorocco vibe. Here, guests lie on a heated stone slab while ther­a­pists ap­ply Thai herbal scrubs and muds to cleanse the skin. At Bali’s Mu­lia

Spa ( themu­lia.com), the Well­ness Suite con­sists of ham­mam ta­bles, a con­tem­po­rary steam room, and saunas with per­son­al­ized mu­sic, scent, and color ther­apy. The sig­na­ture of­fer­ing is the two-and-a-half hour Mu­lia Mer­maid that in­cludes a float in the hy­dro­tonic pool, an aro­matic steam ses­sion, and sea salt ex­fo­li­a­tion. China is also get­ting in on the ac­tion; look out for the open­ing of the Ham­mam Suite at the Man­darin Ori­en­tal Wang­fu­jing Bei­jing ( man­dari­nori­en­tal.com). Far­ther afield, the ar­chi­tec­tural show­stop­per of the mo­ment is the

Tierra Santa Heal­ing House ( faena.com), an 84-square-me­ter ham­mam cut from Ama­zonite stone at the Faena Ho­tel Mi­ami Beach. In­side its Wet Spa, guests em­bark on an in­vig­o­rat­ing jour­ney through hot and cold rooms, which range from the com­mu­nal ham­mam and tep­i­dar­ium to a two-seater ice par­lor.

Sa­cred Show­ers

As the el­e­ment of pu­rifi­ca­tion and re­newal, wa­ter has deeply spir­i­tual con­no­ta­tions. In Bali, two re­treats out­side Ubud bring trav­el­ers a mean­ing­ful spa ex­pe­ri­ence with a lo­cal touch. The Wa­ter Bless­ing Rit­ual at Fivele­ments ( fivele­ments.org) in­cludes med­i­ta­tion, chant­ing, and a bless­ing by a Ba­li­nese priest, while guests at the re­cently opened Oneworld Ayurveda ( oneworl­dayurveda.com) take the wa­ters at his­toric Tirta Em­pul Tem­ple as part of an ini­ti­a­tion into a Pan­chakarma de­tox. Also in In­done­sia, guests at Nihi Sumba Is­land ( ni­hi­ho­tels.com) can opt for a jungle trek to the se­cret Blue Matayangu Wa­ter­fall whose cas­cad­ing wa­ters pro­vide a sooth­ing sound­track to a guided med­i­ta­tion. And for a cleans­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with an el­e­ment of fun, The Ritz Carl­ton, Koh Sa­mui ( ritz­carl­ton

.com) is slated to open in Fe­bru­ary with a “spa vil­lage” that of­fers a Songkran Shower, in which wa­ter is thrown on guests be­fore treat­ments. Over in In­dia, spa go­ers at the Ra­jasthani palace­ho­tel of Raas De­vi­garh ( raas­de­vi­garh.com) can re­bal­ance their Svad­histhana wa­ter chakra with the Dance of Heal­ing Wa­ters: a two-hour ses­sion com­pris­ing a warm co­conut oil pour­ing, a warm salt scrub, a restora­tive mas­sage, and more.

The ham­mam at Tierra Santa Heal­ing House, in­side Faena Ho­tel Mi­ami Beach. Be­low: Tak­ing a dip at Penin­sula Hot Springs Aus­tralia.

An on­sen pool at Amanemu. Right: Amatara Well­ness Re­sort’s Thai­in­spired ham­mam.

Look­ing out at the South­ern Alps from a sauna at Aro-Ha New Zealand. Be­low: Un­wind­ing at Re­sorts World Sin­ga­pore’s ESPA spa.

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