28 of the most relaxing spas in Asia

28 of the most relaxing spas in Asia

If you're looking for the ultimate in chill out treatments, you're in the right continent. Just reading this list will send you into an altered state of calm

Asia is ground zero for spas. With hundreds of years of healing traditions and thousands of spas, this region has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to buying me time. From break-the-bank luxurious to any-old-Tuesday-night affordable, forget your worries and invest in some fragrant peace and quiet, skilled TLC and the priceless feeling of indulgent wellbeing. 

Therapeutic massage: Sutherland Chan Centre, Hong Kong

Hours hunched over a computer is a sure fire way to invite kudos with the boss, but also aches and pains in the muscles. Sutherland Chan isn’t a spa per se, but merge over 2,200 hours of western massage training with the nicest people in the world -- Canadians -- and the result is pampering perfection. As relaxing and nurturing or as deep tissue and targeted as you need, these guys know how to repair muscles, whether desk-damaged or sports-strained. Basic treatments: Therapeutic Massage, HK$650 for 45 mins. www.scchan.com.hk


Shilla SeoulShilla Seoul.

Wow-factor facials: Shilla Seoul, South Korea

Facials can be even more relaxing than a pampering massage, especially when adding in the resulting visible radiance factor. For ultimate flawlessness of service and results, the Guerlain Spa at the Shilla Seoul is all about comfy beds, white duvets, world class Guerlain products, and face, head and hand massages while masks get to work. Before leaving, the complimentary Guerlain make-up counter is like letting women loose in a toy shop. Basic treatments: Express facial, 155,000 won for one hour. www.shilla.net/en/seoul


Pampering pedicures: Crown Spa Resort Hainan, China

Live life dangerously. Asia is a big fan of taking the hard work out of getting rid of dead skin and at Crown Lotus Spa, in China’s Hawaii of the East, you can let a school of flesh eating Garra Rufa fish nibble calluses away. Banned in some U.S. states, you dip your feet into a pool and the carnivorous fish tuck in like piranhas. Screams of “euw” are soon replaced by chuckles -- it’s ticklish. Smooth feet, well fed fish; everybody wins. www.csrhn.com/crown

Oazia Spa VillasOazia Spa Villas.

Pure romance: Oazia Spa Villas Bali

Oazia is a retreat, and a place for holistic treatments and spa treats all at once. Despite its serious healing credentials, the sheer opulence of the villas and dreamy Moon Spa Ceremonies make it prime loved-up couples-ville. Rooms decorated with white billowing curtains, stone walls and greenery an arm’s length away, are home to therapies like Purnama -- The Light of the Full Moon. Full moon energy is harnessed for optimum healing during the Balinese flower oil massage and lime, grapefruit and sea salt scrub. www.oazia.com


Back to nature: Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort & Spa, Maldives

Float away in a sea of coconut milk and mother of pearl, before a massage of cowrie shells and warm oil, during CHI The Spa’s Kandu Boli Ritual. Listen to the ocean and the breeze in the banyan trees in their leafy spa pavilions. Turn off the spa music. And air conditioning. Blues and greens and therapists are all that’s needed here. Basic treatments: Kandu Boli Ritual US$180 for 90 mins; Himalayan Head and Shoulder Massage, US$115 for 45 mins. www.shangri-la.com



Luxurious manicures: i.sawan Residential Spa & Club, Grand Hyatt Erawan, Bangkok

Never underestimate the psychological power of a bit of nail grooming. Add in Vitamin E Collection products by Jo Malone -- famous for her lime basil and mandarin fragrance -- and i.sawan has hit the extremity jackpot. Soaking, cleansing, scrubbing, a mind-meltingly hot paraffin wax treatment and finally a massage for hard working hands, what’s not to fall in love with? Basic treatments: Jo Malone Manicure, 1,200 baht for 75 mins. www.bangkok.grand.hyatt.com


Boys on business: Four Seasons Hong Kong

2007 winner of Spa for Men of the Year at the AsiaSpa Awards, at The Spa, all suits are equal when letting it all hang out in the vitality pool, sauna, steam and flotation pool. Get yourself some newly-groomed brows, impress the wife with a chest, stomach and back wax or just treat yourself: Combine a Jatamansi scrub (that uses Himalayan salt) with any of the selection of massage treatments. Basic treatments: Four Seasons Fusion massage, HK$950 for 60 mins. www.fourseasons.com/hongkong


Altira MacauAltira Macau.

Girly sparties: Altira Macau

Although high rollers are the usual guests at the Altira Spa, get the posse together for a day-long 'sparty' at The Retreat, a private duplex of jet-lined pool, steam room, sauna, and heated loungers, with treatments in spa suites for minimum interruption of gossip and giggles. Include champers and snacks. Exclude boys -- unless they’re masseurs. Basic treatments: Swedish Massage, MOP880 for 60 mins. www.altiramacau.com


Beauty plus wellness: Rudra Spa Mumbai

Expansive Rudra ups the ante on the urban day spa concept. An alfresco courtyard outside, 22 spa suites following local décor are inside for Himalayan treatments and natural scrubs. Book the Beautiful Day Package for massage, facial, mani-pedi and spa cuisine. And above all, a hair spa and cut. Leave relaxed and swinging your locks like a shampoo model. Rudra Spa website



Casual friendliness: Dragonfly @ Fuxing Park, Shanghai

Sweet and affordable, casual yet professional, Dragonfly Retreats deliver massages and more across China with a refreshingly down to earth feel. Westerners love the hint of the Oriental, locals love the Western feel, everyone’s happy. Go Chinese, Japanese shiatsu, aroma or head and shoulders for massages or a Sothy’s facial, and where else offers a four-hand foot massage? Basic treatments: Aroma Oil Massage, 225 RMB for 60 mins. www.dragonfly.net.cn


Affordable pampering: Queen Spa, Shenzhen, China

Want a soak, a foot massage, a body treatment and quality down time with snacks while spending, like, nothing? Sounds impossible in the real world, but in surreal Shenzhen, Queen Spa is a one stop no-frills shop. Pools and slides are pre-treatment fun, foot massage armchairs take over from office chairs as you sip juice and nibble fruit, then book a massage in the warren of tiny, basic treatment rooms. If that didn't make you feel regal enough, jump in their gold Rolls Royce back to the border. Basic treatments: Chinese massage, RMB 168 for 90 minutes. www.queenspa.cn/en/queen_en.html


Big splurge: Armani/Spa, Tokyo

Giorgio outdid himself when designing his first ever one-of-a-kind spa on the fifth floor of Armani HQ in Ginza, Tokyo’s famous fashionista district. Black décor already bucks conventional spa design. The three-hour Armani Ceremony travels from room to room taking in gong banging, fizzy volcanic foot baths, circular massage bed therapy and Armani make-up fun. Eat or shop on your way out if you’re a diehard Armanista. Basic treatments: Il Ritiro massage, ¥17,000 for 50 min; Armani Ceremony ¥62,000 for 180mins. www.takanoyuri.com/armanispa/en/menu.html


Himalayan HealersHimalayan Healers.

Give back: Himalayan Healers, various locations, Nepal

Indulge in the best irony possible by getting a massage from an ‘untouchable’. Relegated by society, Nepal’s below-caste members get a helping hand from Himalayan Healers, an organisation that trains them to heal others through various kinds of massage, while empowering them to heal themselves of low self esteem, and rescuing them from generations of the worst kind of drudgery. A truly uplifting experience for everyone concerned. Basic treatments: Massage US$40 for 60 mins. www.himalayanhealers.org


Green resort spa: Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali

Deep, deep green, from the very first blueprint, Alila Villas Uluwatu is all about the eco design, construction and operation, and its Spa Alila serves up fresh goodness too. Natural ingredients -- think avocado and coconut smoothie for your hair, wild yam, papaya and lime scrubs, facials using cucumber and aloe cleansers -- create menus good enough for your plate or your skin. Basic treatments: Balinese massage, IDR 800, 75 mins. www.alilahotels.com


Kamalaya Koh SamuiKamalaya Koh Samui.

It’s all about you: Kamalaya Koh Samui, Thailand

Kamalaya has a winning combo of yoga and detox retreats, food that’s somehow healthy and more-ish, flawless service and a good helping of spirituality in the atmosphere and location. Lose all sense of the city in the daily rhythm of meals, meditation, classes, and plenty of relaxation under the Koh Samui sun, alongside a private pool, gazing at the ocean, under the stars. Basic treatments: Seven-day Basic Detox & Rejuvenation, 115,306 baht. www.kamalaya.com


Affordable healing: Nurture Spa Village, Tagaytay, Philippines

Stressed? Run down? Seriously ill? Nurture, an hour from Manila in the highlands of volcano country, rejuvenates with spa treatments, alternative medicine and health programs run by the renowned Dr Sam Dizon MD, who confidently takes in the medically needy, including cancer sufferers, for deep detoxes and serious healing. Indigenous wooden Ifugao huts, or dorms, make the experience affordable -- check in for a weekend or as long as it takes. www.nurture.com.ph


Celeb check-ups: S Medical Spa Bangkok, Thailand

Need some ‘work’ without getting papped? The lift directly from the underground car park, and the waiting rooms for bodyguards at S Med, mean celebs can book in for high-tech facial laser, IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) or de-wrinkling, slimming and sculpting procedures, colonics or simply spa treatments without compromising their safety or reputation. Exec check-ups are popular too -- find out how stressed you are, what issues you’re likely to get in the future and get invaluable doctor advice. Basic treatments: De-stress Massage, 2,000 baht, 60 mins. www.smedspa.com


Mandala SpaMandala Spa.

Filipino hilot: Mandala Spa and Villas Boracay, Philippines

The latest ancient healing tradition to hit industry headlines, hilot is a Filipino village healing using massages and herbal treatments with plenty of spiritual elements, adopted by most of the country’s spas. Body and foot massage (hilot and dagdagay respectively), plus cupping (ventosa) are the trifecta of treatments in Mandala Spa’s award-winning Hilot Trilogy; the essence of living history transformed into a present day experience. www.mandalaspa.com


Thai massage: Wat Po, Bangkok, Thailand

Why is the Buddha taking it so easy at The Temple of the Reclining Buddha, aka Wat Pho? Probably because he’s just had the most authentic Thai massage at this former Thai medicine centre. Since 1955 it’s been Thai massage Thai style here: forget luxury, line up next to plenty of neighbours, dress in a uniform of Thai pants and top, and get the real Thai massage deal of partly painful, partly blissful, prodding, poking and stretching. Hooked? Take a class. www.watpomassage.com


Mandarin Oriental Mandarin Oriental.

Traditional Chinese Medicine: Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong

TCM is everyday health for many Chinese. Get a taster, within reassuring luxury, antiques and artifacts, at the Mandarin Spa. Say “ahhh.” A TCM doctor will peer at your tongue, read the pulse with three fingers, and ask a few questions before recommending moxibustion (smoking herbal stick), acupuncture, cupping or bone setting (primitive chiropractic treatment). 5,000 years of know-how says you’ll feel better afterwards. Basic treatments: Body Massages, HK$990 for 60 minutes; TCM Doctor Consultation HK$1,100 for 45 mins. www.mandarinoriental.com/hongkong


Japanese traditions: Conrad Tokyo

Green tea nurtures guest / Fresh spring to stone and bamboo / Japanese wellness. There’s so much more to Japanese spas than Shiatsu. Tea ceremonies, Hinoki baths, bamboo sticks -- it’s all about perfecting the details during a Mizuki Spirit treatment at Mizuki Spa. Add a massage and facial, and a spa room with views over the city’s modern skyline. Relax post-pummeling composing haikus. Conrad Hotels website


JW Marriott MumbaiJW Marriott Mumbai.

Ayurveda: JW Marriott Mumbai, India

Fragrant herbs, teak tables and lashings of oil characterize many Ayurvedic body treatments, some bizarre, some downright scary. Try some of the easier basics at Quan Spa. Oil is poured on the third eye, that’s on your forehead, for close to hallucinogenic relaxation, or the royal Pizichil of massage, warm oil and herbal steam, or Spice Bundle Massage with hot compresses. Afterwards you’ll feel as powerful as Lord Krishna and as fragrant as a freshly fried samosa. Basic treatments: Aroma Fusion Massage, Rs3500 + tax for 60 mins. www.marriott.co.uk


Change a habit: Six Senses Destination Spa Phuket, Thailand

The curvy architecture of Six Senses Destination Spa off the east coast of Phuket, the bicycle to ride between villa and spa, the views, even the Balinese, Chinese, Indian and Thai treatments pale when compared with the incredible food served up here. Gluten-free bread like never before, kaleidoscopic salads that surprise with every crunch, fine dining pescetarian dinners -- return home with the motivation to spring clean habits of processed and fast food -- at least for a few weeks. www.sixsenses.com


Villa 32Villa 32.

Hot spring spa: Villa 32, Beitou, Taiwan

Hot springing with the Chens and Lis (Smiths and Joneses) can be a hectic squabble for the best, and smelliest, baths. Villa 32’s public or private suites bring calm to this quintessential bathing ritual, using the country’s volcanic plumbing bubbling up to heal with curing white sulfur. Natural surrounds add to the spiritual, as well as physical healing. www.villa32.com


Designer interiors: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, Vietnam

Take a bow as the grand dame of Hanoi learns new tricks with the opening of its theatrical Le Spa du Metropole. Drape yourself in textiles and colors, the reds of the Hao Dao (cherry blossom) room, the sleek greys of Exquis, the turquoise-beige combo in the Tonkin Suite. Mosaics, ceramics and artifacts, you’re in old, rich Vietnam. Traditional Dieu Cham facials and herbal poultices are the extra lime in the pho. www.sofitel.com


The Ritz-CarltonThe Ritz-Carlton.

Unusual treatments: The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Fancy being showered with milk? Yes. Being hit by bamboo sticks? Ok. A mulberry leaf on the eyes? Why? A hard boiled egg facial massage? Wtf? Techniques get progressively more eyebrow raising at The Spa Village, but they’re all indigenous and part of the Chinese Peranakan Treatment. And before escaping for civilization, their Sensory Room will increase the feeling of surrealism. www.ritzcarlton.com


Luxurious space: Green T House Beijing, China

You’ll need crowds of friends to rewind back to the Tang dynasty in Green T House’s Bath House Residence. But this is 2010 and surely there’s an orgy waiting to happen -- the rooftop Jacuzzi fits 20, but the house only sleeps eight, officially that is. Meanwhile massages in front of open fires, scrubs, baths and lounging around is the order of the day. www.green-t-house.com


The editor of "AsiaSpa" magazine for four years, and a travel and spa writer for more than a decade, Catharine Nicol has been based in Hong Kong since the Brits handed over their former colony. With the rest of Asia in her backyard, she's become addicted to the colors in India, the food in Thailand, the rural beauty of China, the motorbike taxis in Vietnam, the calm in Bali, the warm hospitality of the Philippines, and the spas everywhere.

Read more about Catharine Nicol