The Oriental Spa at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong melds slick city style and state-of-the-art treatments with age-old relaxation philosophies, says Tina Chan
Photography by George Apostolidis
For those new to Hong Kong, the presence of two Mandarin Oriental hotels within a block of each other is baffling. Think of it this way: the large, sea-facing, flagship Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong is the big sister, with her imposing stature, long tradition of excellence and wordly collection of restaurants and facilities; The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong is the funky younger one – slim and trim, with just one bar, one restaurant and one award-winning spa.
The Oriental Spa at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental is hard to beat as a venue for a top treatment. Arriving on the fifth floor and entering the corridor to The Spa itself, I’m immediately calmed by a sea of neutrals. The marble reception area, glass staircase and walls of discreet product displays all add to the effect of a luxury boutique.
After being welcomed, I’m led into the space hidden to the right, a ‘secret cavern’ with an airy changing room and showers, stocked with Aromatherapy Associates goodies. It has a feeling of intimacy and exclusivity.
Next, I am taken through the maze of heat and water facilities. A women’s Amethyst Crystal Steam Room, which aims to impart ‘mental peace, tranquillity, inspiration and meditation’, replaces the usual spa steam room. And, instead of a regular jacuzzi, there are vitality pools equipped with in-water loungers and hydrotherapy body jets that target specific parts of the body, easing away any aches.
The dry-heat sauna that usually functions by pouring water over a hot rock stove is also absent for ladies – in its place is a Roman Laconium, heated to a less intense temperature via the walls and fitted with a cold-water hose to cool down the body; gentlemen have, I am told, a Turkish Hammam, and both a dry and tropical rain sauna. There are also experience showers featuring coloured lights, refreshing scents, massaging body jets and cooling ice mists; an ice fountain; a row of tepidarium chairs; and a Moroccan Rasul Room for women, which accommodates up to four. A warm glow bathes the entire Spa space, complementing the sandy marble floors and rock-textured walls.
The spa is hard to beat as a venue for a top treatment
The facilities, of course, are only the beginning. The proliferation of grand apartment complexes in Hong Kong, complete with clubhouses and their associated heat and water stations, means that locals hardly need cross the street for a cornucopia of spa experiences. But there’s a reason why the luxury set choose to visit The Oriental Spa: welcoming, magical and unique, it’s a tranquil retreat from the city below – but not such a jarring contrast that you cannot reconcile the two environments – and it is renowned not only for its proprietary signature rituals, but also its discerning choice of partner-brand treatments that target a variety of needs.
Somme Institute, for example, is exclusive to The Spa, and its 30-minute Express Facial is aimed at the working woman as it’s performed quickly and without the removal of eye make-up, finishing with the application of tinted moisturiser rather than balm. For my treatment, I have chosen the indulgently long (75 minutes) Pure Detox Facial which uses Clinica Ivo Pitanguy and promises to drain excess water from the face, smooth the skin’s texture and restore radiance.
Having arrived 45 minutes ahead of my treatment time, I still have half an hour to kill and I know just how to spend it – I swathe myself in towels, pour a glass of lychee-infused water and recline in the Steam Room.
My therapist, Nicole, is due to collect me from the Relaxation Room – a kind of transition chamber filled with recliners and refreshments, where spa guests can wind down before or after treatments. Just before she arrives, I pop under the ‘cold mist’ setting in the experience shower for an instantly refreshing sprinkle of fine cold water, which is surprisingly far from shocking against my warm skin.
I’m led through another ‘secret’ door and down a corridor, to where the 12 treatment rooms and the Sanctuary Suite lie. Nicole tucks me under a towel as she explains the procedure and also the philosophy of the Ivo Pitanguy brand, named after its founder, a Brazilian cosmetic surgeon.
The sensitivity of my skin is then expertly assessed before it is subject to exfoliation and steam. The darkened room has barely enough illumination to make out the checkered pattern on the ceiling; music plays softly in the background and I can hear the gentle pluck of the guqin, a Chinese zither.
Nicole answers my questions in a cheerful manner when they arise, but works with quiet efficiency, which allows me to completely relax. She begins the treatment by cleansing the face and then massages in a powder-water compound to act as an exfoliant. The process is repeated while a steamer puffs away at a close distance, and then comes the rough patch – extraction. Nicole is systematic and quick about the task. She then applies a thin clay mask and, while it dries, puts oil on my chest and shoulders, as her strong hands snake across kneading out knots. A facial massage follows and then the layers of final product are applied with equal dexterity.
It’s disappointing to hear the gentle ‘ding’ of the hand-struck bell signalling the end of my facial. As Nicole escorts me back to the Relaxation Room, she suggests a few changes to my daily beauty regime that might improve the clarity of my skin and, as a parting shot, instructs me not to put on make-up or wash my face for the rest of the evening, so that the various ingredients used in the treatment can finish their work.
When I am once again fully dressed, I emerge in the reception area to a chorus of smiles and greetings and ‘How was your treatment?’ The Spa staff seem genuinely interested in the answer.
Far from ready to return to the fray of Queen’s Road Central below – indubitably Hong Kong’s busiest stretch of concrete – I do a bit of window-shopping instead, right among the displays of designer beauty and wellness products in The Spa.
This seems completely fitting in Hong Kong, where retail truly is therapy. And with the perfume of the products still lingering, it is only natural that you would want to take part of The Spa experience home with you.