Traditional and contemporary wellness philosophies are brought together to relax and rejuvenate at Bangkok’s Oriental Spa. By Parineeta Sethi
There is a cool breeze blowing over the Chao Phraya River. It is a surprisingly pleasant afternoon and I wake up from a siesta just in time for my appointment at Oriental Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. Little do I know then that the ‘walk’ to the spa would be a boat ride across the river!
Housed in a restored century-old teak-wood house, Oriental Spa offers treatments built around traditional Thai and contemporary Western techniques. I enter the spa to find that it brings nature indoors; flowers, foliage and water bodies complement the floral fragrance and the sunshine-filled spaces. I sit myself down in the lounge and sip on a cup of herbal tea while a therapist enquires about my health and preferences to customise the therapy I am to experience. I’ve always enjoyed sampling indigenous culture when I travel, and so, naturally, my eyes don’t budge beyond the Essence of Thailand section in the spa menu. I opt for the ‘Spirit of Isaan’, a two-and-a-half-hour ritual that incorporates natural elements from Thailand.
I’m led to a beautifully appointed specialty treatment suite with vitality pool, and after the symbolic foot cleansing, I lie down on a traditional floor mattress. Using a mixture of black sticky rice, coarse coffee beans and jasmine rice soap, the therapist starts the detoxifying exfoliation and body wrap. The scrub leaves the skin tingling and the wrap further cleanses the skin. Once the remnants of the mixture are washed off, the ‘Oriental Bamboo Massage’ starts. Using kneading techniques and stretches, the therapist helps completely relax me and brings the ritual to a close with an uplifting head massage.
I step into the boat, and feel the evening breeze calm me down further. As we approach the hotel across the river, Bangkok’s skyline glistens into life, and my eyes light up in wonder…