Three decades ago, in Sept 1993, Bangkok welcomed one of the city's very first luxury wellness retreats, the Oriental Spa, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Set in a meticulously restored century-old golden teakwood house on the bank of the Chao Phraya River, the spa was designed by world-acclaimed interior specialist John Morford to recreate a serene space that evoked the refined elegance of an upscale Thai home. The concept is amplified by an array of Thai-inspired holistic therapies, perfectly aligning with its architectural elegance.
Today, featuring 14 private treatment rooms across the three-storey manor and a comprehensive range of body and facial treatments and fitness sessions, the Oriental Spa continues to set new standards in spa experiences.
Among the most popular options on the menu is the "Essence of Thailand series" of treatments that employ deep-rooted therapeutic wisdom from different regions in the country. The 'Lanna Ceremony', for example, uses tok sen, a rhythmic body-tapping massage that draws inspiration from the northern Thai tradition, while the 'Spirit of Isaan' incorporates a kneading massage technique with detoxifying ingredients from the northeast.
To mark its 30th anniversary, the spa is adding two new body treatments to the Thailand series plus a selection of innovative activities to promote the wellbeing of the mind and spirit of guests.
The newly launched "Life Along the Chao Phraya River" captures the essence of Thailand's central territories through traditional Thai massage and Thai hermit stretching techniques.
The "Sense of Pak Tai" body treatment, which I recently experienced, pays tribute to the time-honoured healing traditions of Thailand's southernmost region.
It showcases a solar plexus-focused acupressure technique from the ancient Langkasuka kingdom, corroborated by master Nasruddin Chetnarakul, one of the very few experts in Langkasuka therapy.
Concentrating on the network of nerves in the abdomen area, the treatment is believed to help promote and align the flow of energy in your navel chakra. It is ideal for individuals dealing with joint or muscle discomfort, circulatory issues, digestive concerns or symptoms of menopause.
The 180-minute session starts with sea salt foot exfoliation in the private treatment room that is decked out with an exquisite personal touch.
It is followed by a warm body scrub using grated dry coconut and a half-hour body wrap in nutrient-rich Dead Sea mud mixed with black cumin extract, another remedial ingredient of the Lankasuka era.
After the skin is deep-cleansed and thoroughly nourished with pampering hydration, the well-trained therapist begins her acupressure magic on your body, pinpointing the chakra spots.
A hot-stone compress method is also applied to help alleviate tension and boost blood circulation.
The comforting aroma from the massage oil enhances the massage -- itself a special blend of black cumin and phlai (cassumunar ginger).
The journey ends with a relaxing scalp massage and a serene lounging retreat with a platter of snacks and sips of herbal tea.
For its anniversary month, the Oriental Spa is partnering with Thai designer-cum-medicinal tea master Sarran Youkongdee to offer geography-themed tea blends using traditional Thai herbs and flowers. The limited-edition teas are served to complement the Essence of Thailand spa treatments.
Every weekend throughout September, the spa also rolls out a series of wellness activities to elevate the peacefulness of the mind and enhance physical and mental resilience.
Adding to an existing range of yoga classes, fitness schedules and meditation sessions, there will be a step dance workout followed by sound bath therapy and a cacao ceremony on Saturday and muay Thai boran class accompanied by a meditation session on Sunday.
Using a singing bowl to create an echoing sound and vibrations, the professionally curated sound bath is a full-body meditative experience guaranteed to promote deep relaxation, reduce stress and balance the chakras.
The cacao ceremony, meanwhile, takes guests to the ancient Mayan and Aztec traditions through a gratitude-focussed ritual that will spiritually guide and connect participants with the universe and their inner selves.
The celebratory wellness activities are open to both in-house guests and the general public.
A 15% discount on any treatment in the Essence of Thailand series is offered throughout September. Advance reservations are required.
The Oriental Spa is located at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. It is open daily from 10am-8pm.