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There’s nothing like a little pampering to get a holiday off to a great start but some Asia Pacific spas offer something more meaningful than a simple massage. With unique rituals that celebrate the local culture and create a sense of place, the following spas encourage visitors to truly engage with their destination. Even better, you can do it lying down.

Chuan Spa at Langham Place Mongkok, Hong Kong

Spa treatments are usually about looking inwards but most of the clients at Chuan Spa begin their visit looking out – at one of the best views in Hong Kong. This spa sanctuary located on the 41st floor of Langham Place hotel in the heart of bustling Mongkok offers stunning 360 degree views and over sixty different holistic treatments. Each one focuses on one or more of the five elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – fire, earth, wood, metal and water. Allow time to unwind in the oriental hot tub after your treatment so you can relax and enjoy the spectacular view.

Chuan Spat at Langham Place
Chuan Spat at Langham Place

Spa at Four Seasons Resort Jimbaran Bay, Bali

Water is the central theme at the spa at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay which combines Balinese spirituality with some of the best massage treatments from around the globe. Some use a traditional Balinese gayung – a vessel used to splash water infused with seaweed and herbs – while others feature the likes of Indian ayurvedic techniques or reiki from Japan. One of the more unusual massages involves a 15 minute ‘sound bath’ created by the deep boom of Balinese gongs which massage you inside and out with rich vibrations. It’s a strange yet deeply relaxing sensation and something that is truly unique. A must for true spa aficionados.

Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay
Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay

So Spa at Sofitel, Queenstown

Central Otago’s forests and riverbeds are reflected in the decor of the So Spa in Queenstown which takes its inspiration from the surrounding environment. Natural native ingredients such as manuka honey, beeswax, warm volcanic clay from Rotorua, and shimmering paua shells highlight So Spa’s therapeutic offerings, as does a potent undercurrent of Maori lore. The Greenstone Ritual, for example, is a sublime full-body treatment that ends with a greenstone massage. A reflection lounge draped with wispy curtains and furnished with deep chocolate brown leather couches provides the perfect spot to relax post treatment.

LeSpa at Sofitel Queenstown
LeSpa at Sofitel Queenstown

The Heavenly Spa at Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa, Fiji

Butterflies flitter through the treatment areas, flowers scent the air and the spa sound track is provided by local birds. This nature-inspired spa was the first of its kind for the Westin and remains one of Fiji’s best. There are ten outdoor treatment rooms at The Heavenly Spa which is part of the Sheraton Resort in Fiji but it’s the two suites designed as traditional Fijian bures which have everyone talking. Each one features an open-air bathing area surrounded by a private tropical wonderland of lush greenery and native blooms. Walk-ins are welcome but you should definitely pre-book or you could miss out.

Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Singapore

Traditional Chinese Medicine meets aromatherapy at this luxurious spa which is perfect for couples. Those in the know opt for the VIP Treatment Suite which has a vitality pool and luxurious couples’ steam shower featuring bamboo-inspired marble. Massages often combine TCM with other inspired therapies from around the world, bringing the richness of Asia’s healing culture together in one place. With over half a dozen treatments especially for men, the spa at Mandarin Oriental Singapore really does offer something for everyone.

Spa at Mandarin Oriental

In Balance Spa, Lombok

Lombok is the native home of the Sasak people and like many of Indonesia’s islands, this lush tropical paradise has its own unique massage style. Sasak massage is known for healing people both physically and spiritually, something which makes it the ideal choice for de-stressing on holidays. Scented oil is used to stimulate the flow of blood, oxygen and ‘qi’ (energy) using a combination of acupressure, reflexology and gentle stretches like those found in traditional Thai massage. Don’t miss the frangipani-draped spa at the Novotel Lombok.

Relax and unwind
Relax and unwind

Spa Village at Cameron Highlands Resort, Malaysia

Cameron Highlands Resort is located in the heart of Malaysia’s largest tea-producing region so it’s no surprise the restorative drink features heavily at the resort. But at the spa?  Relax, you’ll love it. Each treatment begins with a luxurious Signature Tea Bath infused with a delightful scent like rose, strawberry or mint. This bathing ritual dates back to the plantation’s colonial days and is designed to relieve stress, refresh the skin and slow down the aging process. More relaxation follows with a matching scented body scrub and therapeutic massage. You’ll smell as good as you feel after a treatment at this resort.

Spa Village at Cameron Highlands Resort
Spa Village at Cameron Highlands Resort

CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La, Beijing

Located in the heart of Beijing, CHI offers treatments which foster a connection with the city. Guests who enjoy strong massage will appreciate the deep finger pressure and unique hand rocking movements of Tuina, a dry Chinese pressure point massage along meridian lines. For something a little softer there are Sense of Place treatments which highlight Chinese culture and wellbeing traditions and draw inspiration from the Shangri-La legend. Local jade and other Asian ingredients are a feature of these decadent pampering sessions which can last for up to three hours. Sheer bliss.

Spa qualia, Great Barrier Reef

Australia’s aboriginal heritage form an integral part of the treatments at this chic Hamilton Island spa at qualia. Try the Kumali Ritual which uses exclusive signature products featuring Australian herbs and spices or experience Bularri Yarrul. This massage uses the weight of naturally formed stones to release tension and create a feeling of physical and emotional well being. If you can’t decide on one particular treatment there’s always The Dreaming, a spa sampler encompassing almost every part of the body.

Massage at Spa qualia
Massage at Spa qualia

Beach massage, Thailand

Thailand is famous for its beaches so what better place to have a massage than right there on the sand?  Many visitors assume the quality of a beach massage will be poor but that’s seldom the case. The trick is to opt for a massage area with a steady flow of customers (many tourists return every day of their holiday once they find a good masseuse). Being rubbed down with the warmth of the sun on your skin and the sound of gently splashing waves in the background is hard to beat and so is the price. Expect to pay around AU$20 for a one hour massage.

Disclosure: The writer was a guest of the operators (except for the beach massage in Thailand).

If you are heading overseas for your spa escape, you might also find our airport stopover tips, overseas safety advice, travel planning tips, and advice for avoiding scams helpful.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.