Celebrated spa author Bernard Burt embraces Asiaå...
From Thailand to the Maldive Islands - exotic Asian-style spa resorts create a unique sense of place. These are destinations where ancient knowledge blends beautiful therapies and mixes with modern skincare, where inspired designs draw on regional traditions and every sense is enhanced by settings of outstanding natural beauty å- it is a perfect place to experience spa - one that can create the best of all worlds!

Picture:Mandara Spa at Alila Ubud
Leading the way in developing regional resources are Banyan Tree Resorts, Mandara Spas, and Raffles International Hotels and Resorts. All are superb, yet no two are alike.
New for this year we will see: Banyan Tree Spa, Shanghai, located in the Westin Hotel, featuring Chinese herbal remedies; Starwood`s Luxury Collection introduces the all-suite Bora Bora Nui Resort, with two-story hilltop Mandara Spa and private bungalows, together with a spa menu that blends Polynesian and Indonesian traditions. Singapore-based Raffles now has Amrita Spa in Hamburg, Germany, as well as Beverly Hills, Calif., and Phnom Penh in Cambodia.Four Seasons Resorts also takes the spa experience to new heights. Recent developments include a private island in the Indian Ocean Republic of the Maldives, and a cooking school in Chiang Mai, the northern jewel of Thailand. Changing the name of two Regent properties in Thailand will further enhance Four Seasons` presence in Asia.

Thai Ties

New links between Marriott International Hotels and Mandara Spas are setting standards of quality service throughout the Pacific region. At the 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 facilities, from dining options and live music, to games and watersports.

Phuket also boasts the original Banyan Tree resort, a village of villas designed like ancient Thai houses in the Laguna Beach development. New Spa Pool Villas offer an open-air Jacuzzi and infinity swimming pool overlooking the lagoon, plus glass-walled suites for massage, dining and relaxation. Standard villas have lap-pool and massage pavilion (sala) in the garden, plus outdoor bath sculpted in granite, air-conditioned bedroom with amenities of a grand hotel.
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 the sun can be brutal. In the hands of therapists trained at the Banyan Tree Academy, skincare becomes an art form.

Bangkok has dozens of westernised spas, but only the Oriental Hotel blends East and West. Set on the Chao Phraya River, this day spa is housed in a 125 year-old residence. The Oriental; a favorite for authors Graham Greene, Somerset Maugham, and Joseph Conrad, ferries you across the river in a wooden boat. A haven of tranquility, the spa`s interior is all teak and silk, orchids and lotus blossoms. The menu of services includes Thai herbal treatments and massage, plus Thalgo marine therapy from France.


Traditional Thai massage has a new home in Bangkok. Resembling an ancient house of healing (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). Open to the public is also a cafeteria for organic cuisine, shop, and museum tracing the history of rural and royal massage therapies. Unlike tourist-oriented 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 programme sets an internationally-recognised standard of excellence for Thai massage.

Bringing the Institute`s programme to America, Norman and Nanthawon Dove, owners of Echo Valley Ranch Resort in British Columbia, Canada, offer training for professional therapists, as well as treatments in their authentic Baan Thai spa pavilion. Staffed by 10 therapists certified by the Institute, the Canadian resort launches its East Meets West programme this summer.


Join us next week, when Bernard Burt brings a special report on the latest developments from Four Seasons Resorts and how its unique spa philosophy will further enhance the company’s presence in Asia.

Bernard Burt is co-author of ‘100 Best Spas of the World’ with Pamela Price. The 2003 edition, featuring 25 new destinations, is now available on-line from Amazon, and from the publisher, Globe-Pequot Press.