I knew I was in a city where everything is bigger when I learned my hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, Macau, with its 213 rooms, is considered “boutique.” The truth is, in Macau, that is small. Most of the properties on the island are home to thousands of rooms, and the majority are at full occupancy. With the dizzying array of sights to see, people to watch and delicious cuisine to discover, I knew my “boutique” hotel would be a sanctuary.
On a late afternoon, the day after my arrival via a 13-hour flight and a one-hour ferry ride and following a morning spent sightseeing, the Mandarin Oriental, Macau became even more of an asylum for this weary traveler. My pre-dinner activity involved unwinding at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Macau, and it was a selfishly needed indulgence that catapulted me from jet lag back to my normal state.
Macau itself is an interesting blend of its Chinese heritage — both past and present — and the European influences of its time as a Portuguese colony. The hotel’s spa envelops that hybrid into the décor, with hues of blue and red, and spa treatments using Chinese bao ding balls in signature therapies.
I was overly eager for relaxation — I arrived rather early for my treatment. After I filled out the requisite paperwork and enjoyed a few sips of a welcome drink, my masseuse greeted me and whisked me back to my luxurious spa suite, with indescribable views of the city. The spa’s suite experiences take place in spacious treatment rooms, offering guests their own hideaway, including private shower facilities. The large bathroom features marble countertops, a steam shower, a whirlpool tub and any amenity one would want for showering and getting ready.
Being there as the sun set and the city’s night lights switched on added to my newly acquired tranquility. Above it all, I let my tension melt away and prepared to be pampered in the award-winning spa for the next two hours. I was scheduled for the signature Macanese Dragon Experience which includes a body scrub, a steam shower, a whirlpool bath and a Chinese lymphatic body massage.
My treatment began with a foot ritual. I reclined onto the cushioned seat tucked into the corner of the suite and dipped my toes into the warm, perfumed water as my therapist began to gently wash my feet. Blissful … after only five minutes.
As a child, I despised having my feet touched; it took my dad and mom working in tandem to hold me down and clip my toenails, and they joked I came from the womb kicking the doctor as he grabbed at my feet. Those feelings of discomfort disappeared over the years, and today I love the few brief moments of massage during a pedicure. That moment in Macau was no exception.
This was my second such foot ritual before a spa treatment — my first was at Qasr Al Sarab in Abu Dhabi — and it was just as soothing. My therapist massaged the pressure points in my feet, and I thought of how perfect a welcome this was to my Macanese Dragon Experience.
First up was the body scrub. The scrub contained coffee beans, almond oil, sea salt, frankincense oil and pink grapefruit oil. Still feeling the lingering effects of my foot ritual and the comfort of the spa, I remained in la-la land throughout the scrub, despite the abrasive-but-oh-so-good-for-your-skin techniques of the treatment.
A steam shower and whirlpool experience followed. I rinsed the scrub from my body as I stood under and in the steam produced from multiple showerheads. The pressure and steam opened my pores before I stepped into the bath, the water treated with clove buds, mandarin peel and cinnamon oil poultice.
Night had settled in Macau, and I let the jet bubbles rise around me as I stared into the view over my left shoulder. (The wall of windows and the magnificent view were available in both the treatment room and en suite bathroom.) I must admit, I’m not one for sitting still for too long, but the view lulled me into a few peaceful moments. I did, however, get out before the therapist indicated my time was up. I was ready for the massage to start.
Lymphatic massages are characterized by light, rhythmic strokes. In tandem with the barely-there brush strokes, my therapist used Chinese bao ding balls, or Chinese medicine balls. They are typically seen manipulated in the palm of the hand to improve manual dexterity. A body oil — a blend of macadamia nut, evening primrose, coconut, olive, geranium, ylang ylang and vanilla oils — was also used.
At first I worried the pressure of the medicine balls would be too much, but the rhythmic, circular motion as they moved across my skin was so relaxing it was a lullaby. So effective, in fact, I actually fell asleep — a first for me. Sure, I’ve dozed in and out during an especially good massage, but I was so completely comfortable, I drifted into the REM sleep I’d so desperately craved the night before, when jet lag reared its ugly head and kept me awake from 3 a.m. onward.
I awoke to a gentle nudge from my soft-spoken therapist. I stopped myself from muttering the age-old “five more minutes” and begrudgingly accepted that my two hours of bliss had come to an end. I was, thankfully, utterly restored. A sluggish, exhausted traveler entered the spa and a revitalized, relaxed one left. This was my first evening of the trip, and it woke me up to appreciate all that lay ahead on my itinerary for the next three days.
After changing for dinner and checking out of the decadent spa, I floated back to reality.
The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Macau
Avenida Dr. Sun
Yat Sen, NAPE
tel 853 8805 8888
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