Bernard Burt’s Best: Asia Arises


Asia Arises
Four Seasons Resorts takes the experience to new highs. Recent developments include a cooking school in Chiang Mai, the northern jewel of Thailand, and a private island property in the Maldives. Changing the name of two Regent properties in Thailand will further enhance Four Seasons’ presence in Asia.

New this year: Banyan Tree Spa, Shanghai, located in the Westin Hotel features Chinese herbal remedies; Starwood’s Luxury Collection introduces the all-suite Bora Bora Nui Resort with two-story hilltop Mandara Spa and private bungalows, blending Polynesian and Indonesian traditions. Singapore-based Raffles now has Amrita Spa in Hamburg, Germany, as well as Beverly Hills, California, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Pangkor Laut in Malaysia designed by Sylvia Sepielli was featured in the March-April issue of HL&S.)

Thai Ties

New links between Marriott International Hotels and Mandara Spas are setting standards of quality service throughout the Pacific region. At recently opened JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa on Thailand’s popular Phuket Island, I experienced total serenity in a garden pavilion where Balinese rituals mix with traditional Thai massage. Set on a three-mile stretch of undeveloped beach, this luxurious Marriott was designed by the same architect responsible for the Four Seasons Chiang Mai. Ideal for families, the resort offers a wide range of dining options, live jazz, tennis, and water sports.Contact: Marriott

Phuket also boasts the original Banyan Tree resort, featuring villas designed in the style of ancient Thai houses. New Spa Pool Villas offer open-air Jacuzzi’s. Plus there is the infinity swimming pool overlooking the lagoon, glass-walled suites for massage, dining, and relaxation. Standard villas have access to the lap pool and massage pavilion (called “sala”) in the garden, plus an outdoor bath sculpted in granite. My mornings at the beach were followed by the balm of treatments that combine elements of native healing and contemporary sun protection. The spa complex includes an open-air restaurant and air-conditioned Cybex-equipped gym. Golfers enjoy direct access to the resort’s championship course (greens fee and caddy for about $70) but be warned the sun can be brutal. Contact Banyantree

Bangkok has dozens of westernized spas but only The Oriental Hotel truly blends East and West. Set on the Chao Phya River, opposite the hotel, this day spa is housed in a 125-year-old former residence. The Oriental, a favorite of authors Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, and Joseph Conrad, ferries you across the river in a wooden boat. A haven of tranquillity, the spa’s interior is all teak, silk, orchids, and lotus blossoms. The menu of services includes Thai herbal treatments and massage, plus Thalgo marine therapy from France and Jurlique skin care from Australia. Contact Mandarin Oriental

Traditional Thai massage has a new home in Bangkok. Resembling an ancient house of healing (called Baan Thai), the Department for Development of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine at the Ministry of Public Health welcomes visitors for treatments such as foot massage and herbal compresses (luk pra kob). The cafeteria for organic cuisine, gift shop, and museum tracing the history of rural and royal massage therapies are all open to the public. Unlike tourist-oriented temple Wat Po, the Institute is staffed by doctors dedicated to preserving and reviving ancient wisdom. Under the direction of Dr. Pennapa Subcharoen, M.D., the comprehensive training program sets an internationally recognized standard of excellence for Thai massage.

Wok Workout

Deftly flipping my wok, I mixed curry paste, herbs, fish sauce, shallots, and prawns to create lunch at the new Lanna Cooking School in the Four Seasons Chiang Mai Resort. Outfitted with an apron and impressive array of knives and utensils, my first exercise at Thai cooking was almost as much fun as eating the results. Directed by Chef Pitak Srichan, whose wok is famous, the half-day program includes demonstrations and hands-on cooking. Even beginners like myself have no problem, thanks to helpful assistants who measure and set out the ingredients and take care of cleanup. Housed in an open-air pavilion, the school has views of the mountains and rice paddies. We worked at eight gas stoves equipped with the latest in exhaust hoods, then enjoyed the fruits of our labor in an outdoor dining pavilion set amid landscaped gardens above a waterfall. Complete with an herb garden and kitchenware boutique featuring Thai celadon dinnerware, the culinary center was integrated with the resort by Bensley Design Group of Bangkok. Classes are scheduled daily, Monday to Saturday, with a variety of dishes built around northern Thai staples: rice, fish, chicken, and pork. Each session costs $85 per person, and you get to keep the apron, recipes, and a special gift.

The Lanna Spa honors an ancient northern kingdom, a crossroads of Burmese, Laotian, and Chinese cultures. Housed in a stunningly beautiful structure, spacious air-conditioned treatment suites include an herbal steam room, outdoor soaking tub, or tropical rainshower massage table. Swimming pools enjoy views of the majestic Mae Rim valley, often shrouded in haze, lit by flaming torches as night approaches. Surrendering to the allure of the resort’s main restaurant, I dined on coffee-sauced duckling prepared by one of my classmates. Contact

Going Native on Kuda Huraa

Step ashore at Four Seasons Resort Maldives Kuda Huraa and experience the serenity of a private island. The journey begins aboard a dhoni (a traditional Maldivian wooden boat) as it cruises across turquoise waters to the spa’s wooden deck. Enticing scents of sandalwood waft through the air from aromatic burners resting on tall stone columns. Warm herbal teas and cool juices are served at the tented reception area, where you select from Ayurvedic, Maldivian, Thai, and Indonesian treatments.

Perched at the edge of the private island’s white sandy beach and atop the turquoise ocean are five thatched-roof treatment pavilions designed with couples in mind. Following a sandy path to your private pavilion, you enter a wood-clad dressing/changing area equipped with steam shower and enclosed toilet. Beyond the changing area is a private garden courtyard with open-air shower, and to the right, two wooden massage tables. Sliding doors open directly to the sea allowing panoramic views of the turquoise water. Built into the floor decking underneath your massage table is a rectangular viewing port allowing you to enjoy mesmerizing ocean scenes. Water-borne, you can soak in hydrotherapy tubs, or enjoy an overhead Vichy shower in the Maldivian Monsoon ritual. Developed by Belinda Shepherd, who is based at Four Seasons Resorts Bali, with Andria Lake, the Maldives Resort Spa focuses on the ocean and its rich bounty of healing elements plus the natural herbs and intoxicating spices of the surrounding lands. Shepherd says “Not only does the location take guests on a unique escape to a private, serene oasis, but the interesting treatments and talented staff make this magical island location a spa lovers dream!”

Design influences from India and Morocco prevail in your lodging. Bungalows with thatched roofs, tented awnings, and sheer curtains add an air of sensual, calming escape. Nautical details such as thick roping and wooden floor decking complement the heavy, textured walls and soothing color palette used by interior designer Hinke Zieck to enhance the island experience.

Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa occupies the entire island of Kuda Huraa, with 106 bungalows set on 12 acres surrounded by pristine jungle. The island is situated in the North Mal© Atoll, twenty-five minutes by speedboat from the capital, Mal©.  Transfers are provided by Four Seasons’ own fleet of speedboats. Contact Fourseasons.

Some Articles Related To Asia Arises :

Healing Lifestyles & Spas Team
Latest posts by Healing Lifestyles & Spas Team (see all)

Comments are closed.