After a long haul flight, one of the best things you can do for your skin and mental well-being is hit the spa within a day or two. And, that’s just what I did at The Mandarin Spa located inside the iconic Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong. The Forbes five-star spa is reminiscent of old 1930s Shanghai with no detail overlooked. I’ve always loved how they weave both Western and Chinese traditions and techniques into treatments which is why I was a fairly regular customer here during our life in Hong Kong.
I normally choose a facial or massage, thinking that my tired post-airplane skin needs a lift or achy muscles a good rub-down (which they do, of course). However, the spa hosted me for a two-hour Imperial Jade Ritual, a treatment that is unique to the luxury hotel and is a combination of treatments that address the entire body from head to toe. As an avid spa-goer, I adore this sort of thing.
Water Therapies to Enjoy First
With a nanny arranged for my daughter through the concierge, I was free for three hours. But why three hours, you ask, if the treatment is only two hours? The Mandarin Spa’s lounging facilities are absolutely lovely and guests are invited to enjoy them 45 minutes prior to scheduled treatments.
I arrived a bit frazzled to the reception area as I was running later than I would have liked. A cup of tea while filling out my spa questionnaire hit the spot, my shoes were exchanged for spa slippers and then I was on my way to the women’s changing area where I swapped my clothes for a robe, placed belongings in a locker, and indulged in water therapies for a little bit.
Not unlike the hotel rooms, amenities in the changing facilities seem to cover most things you might have forgotten to bring. As a general rule, I don’t take too many spa photos as not to disturb other guests, but I had to discreetly snap one of these gorgeous sinks (as well as a few others below).
In addition to a lap pool and fitness center, a highlight (female changing room only) is the Kneipp hydrotherapy pools and ice fountain. Wading back and forth between in the hot and cold shin-deep pools is based on the water-based healing philosophies of a Bavarian priest called Sebastian Kneipp. Stones add a bit of reflexology to the experience and there are jets to use, if you like. The Kneipp pools’ detoxifying properties and ability to boost circulation helps combat jet lag so I took my time here.
Even the steam rooms kick it up a notch by diffusing Chinese herbs. I did not have time to try the hot and cold experience showers, but will do next time.
While it is tempting to enjoy the lounging facilities after your treatment, it’s likely that your therapist may recommend allowing the special lotions and oils to soak into your skin for a while. This means that washing them off in shower or an steam room, for example, isn’t advised. (All products used in treatments are of the highest quality, paraben-free and derived from natural ingredients.)
The Glorious Imperial Jade Ritual
I should start off by saying that access to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a major benefit of living in or traveling to Hong Kong. I became a believer in TCM principles based on personal success with using it to heal a variety of ailments from morning sickness to sinus trouble. The Mandarin Spa offers a unique opportunity to consult with a doctor of TCM where the resulting therapies can include cupping, acupuncture, bone setting and moxibuxtion (depending on your condition) in a luxury spa environment. It’s a cool opportunity to experience a bit of local culture, especially for first-timers.
But, if you’d like a dose of Traditional Chinese Medicine combined with a bit more Western-style pampering, I’d highly recommend the Imperial Jade Ritual.
My spa treatment room looked exactly like the one in the top photo. Not pictured is a shower area behind the small seating area, where I sat to have my feet washed upon entering the room.
Next, I pretty much collapsed on to the bed. We had arrived in Hong Kong later than expected the night prior and spent a busy morning at the Big Buddha. While beautiful herbal scents filled the room, my Imperial Jade Ritual began with a Chinese acupressure massage with a bit of reflexology on my feet and hands.
Rather than long massage strokes, authentic acupressure massages involve a tight kneading motion localized to a small pressure point in order to relieve tension and stimulates the body’s chi or energy. These acupressure points are located across the body’s 14 meridians and though I wasn’t counting, it felt like my therapist carefully massaged each one. The acupressure massage is a significant part of the treatment, and that is totally O.K. with me.
As I continued to lay relaxed on the bed, I was scrubbed from neck to toe with a sesame scrub that also had ground rice in it. Off with that dry, dull post-airplane skin! My therapist took great care to modestly cover me during the process and, of course, the spa provides disposable undies. Impressed by the lack of mess, I showered off the remainder of the scrub and returned to the bed for a green tea and algae body mask to lock in moisture and nutrients as well as stimulating circulation.
Not to be left out, my face received some much needed TLC through a ginseng mask and there was quite a bit of soothing massage action during the various cleansing and application of eye and face products. Cold jade rollers moved back and forth over my skin to close pores and lift skin. In addition to being a beautiful (and my favorite) stone, jade is revered for its metaphysical properties and thought to bless whoever it touches.
And after an amazing two hours, blessed is certainly how I felt, but I wasn’t exactly done.
Finish in the Tea Room
I relaxed with a final cup of tea under dimmed light. Light snacks, designed to energize the body through balancing the Chinese principle of Yin and Yang, are also available.
I had actually intended to duck into the Captain’s Bar for a very quick martini for old time’s sake before relieving the nanny, but I couldn’t bare to disrupt my state of zen and newly-detoxed body.
Don’t Forget The Mandarin Barber and The Mandarin Salon
Sammy at The Mandarin Barber used to cut my husband’s hair. Located on the 2nd floor with masculine Shanghai Art Deco decor, it’s not your average barber shop. It’s pretty much where Hong Kong’s movers and shakers go for a shave, cut and even a facial. My husband loved the in-mirror televisions and his hair really hasn’t looked as good since moving back to the States.
In addition to manicures, pedicures and hair, The Mandarin Salon offers the perfect treatment for calloused feet… the Shanghainese Pedicure (gents can book it through The Mandarin Barber). I discovered it late in our Hong Kong life, sadly, where my feet were often tired from pushing a stroller around town. Mr. Samuel So performs the pedicures now and his family has been glamming feet at the hotel since 1963. The treatment involves the gentle use of razor blades to slowly scrape away hard and dead skin. While that might sound scary, it’s not and I didn’t feel any pain. People with callouses and corns also swear by its healing powers.
The Bottom Line
No stay at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong is complete without a little in-house pampering at The Mandarin Spa. I just love this hotel because they do everything well.
The Mandarin Spa
5 Connaught Road
+852 2825 4088
*Spa treatment room, The Mandarin Barber and The Mandarin Salon photos are used courtesy of Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, who also hosted my treatment. As a fan and patron for well over a decade, this did not impact my opinion whatsoever.