Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Spa Treatment: Spa Village At Pangkor Laut Resort


Some fourteen years ago, a good friend of mine told me that her business associate was going to launch a spa magazine and I remember thinking to myself, "A spa magazine? Is there so much about spas to write about?"

Well, the spa industry was on the verge of booming, so of course, the magazine made sense. Ignorant me was young and besides, spas weren't common back then. Sleazy massage parlours, yes. Swanky spa treatment centres, no. So, at that time, the greater question was simply: Where do you go to have a spa treatment?!

The spa industry has changed by leaps and bounds over the years. Spas and wellness centres have been sprouting like mushrooms in the last decade. All over the world, enterprising individuals have opened spa treatment centres in shoplots in city centres and in refurbished bungalow houses in residential areas. Any self-respecting five/four-star hotel wouldn't be complete these days without a spa centre of its own. Countless number of books have been written about spas and hey, spa management too. The book Understanding the Global Spa Industry: Spa Management (published in 2008) stated:

The spa industry is currently the fastest growing segment of the hospitality and leisure industry with revenues exceeding those from amusement parks, box office receipts, vacation ownership gross sales and ski resort ticket sales.

It's a 2008 publication, no doubt, but just take a look around you and you know that its growth is showing no signs of abating. Spa centres have become mainstream these days and while some do have the aura of high-end "can't-touch-this" luxury, many are both luxurious and accessible.

In all my life, I've only ever had two spa massage treatments and both were during holidays abroad. Here, I’m documenting my spa experience at the Spa Village of Pangkor Laut Resort from last year’s holiday. There are several reasons why I delayed writing about this, one of which has to do with what happened to my father after my holiday.

I featured Pangkor Laut Resort over at Witoxichic the other day. In a nutshell, it is a hotel resort located on a privately-owned island off the west coast of Malaysia, along the Straits of Malacca.

Spa Village reception area

To borrow a paragraph from the booklet of Spa Village:

The Spa Village comprises a number of specially built structures designed to facilitate an extensive range of treatments from China, Japan, India, Thailand, Bali and Malaysia. These include eight treatment pavilions, a deluxe Belian Treatment Pavilion, three 'Healing Huts', which include Chinese Herbal, Ayurvedic and Malay Huts, two Bath Houses, three Spa Huts, three Nap Gazebos and a Spa Boutique. 22 beautiful Spa Villas situated over the sea offer direct access to the Spa Village.

The Spa Village was officially opened by the late Luciano Pavarotti in 2002. I would show you a photo of the wall plaque for it but I doubt that would be necessary. The Spa Village at Pangkor Laut Resort has won many regional and international awards over the years, so one does set foot in this sanctuary with high expectations.

Note: This is a long and image-heavy post. I decided against splitting it into two posts to preserve the flow of the story/experience.

I signed up for a basic Malay massage therapy session. Guests are asked to check in at the Spa Reception Desk 45 minutes prior to the appointment so that they get to enjoy the Bath House experience before the actual treatment.

Here's a run-through of the whole experience, peppered with short explanations from the Spa Village booklet (in italics).

Bath House Experience

To me, the Bath House experience was just as enjoyable as the massage session itself. The premise of this experience is that, under the guidance of a staff member, guests get to enjoy the bathing rituals of the region - Chinese, Malay and Japanese.

Foot Pounding


It starts off at this gazebo with a foot bath and some foot pounding. This ritual has its roots in feudal China when the practice of footbinding among young girls was the norm.

Women with bound feet frequently received foot pounding to seek relief from pain. The foot was carefully unwrapped and soaked in a basin of warm soapy water, dried and the soles pounded.


My experience: My feet were washed with soap in a low basin, rinsed and towelled dry. Then, they were stretched, given a short massage and then, the pounding began. The poundings with the wooden foot hammer were no dainty hits, mind you. It hurt (and tickled). This session took no more than ten minutes.

Changing Room
Next, I was shown to the Female Bath House (male guests are strictly prohibited from entering).



In the changing room, I was asked to remove my clothing and was given a sarong pareo to tie around my body. With my locker locked and the key safety-pinned to my pareo, I was then taken to the next section: The Malay Bath.

Malay Bath


In the traditional kampong or village, the Malay family walked to the nearest river to bathe, wrapped in sarongs. Waterfalls were useful for rinsing hair.


Before going into the circulating bath, I was led to the Wishing Well - tossed in a coin and made a wish. To be honest, I don't get this part in relation to the Malay bathhouse but I went along with it. After that, I was left alone to take a dip in the pool. The water was about waist-high and cold! It was invigorating, to say the least, and listening to the sound of the waterfalls pouring from the earthen jars was rather therapeutic. I must have spent about ten minutes there.

View from the other end of the bath

Herbal Inhalation
With the Malay bath done, it was time for some herbal inhalation at the other end of the pool. After exiting the water, I was shown four wooden vents, one at each of the four corners of the landing. Steam was subtly billowing through the vents.


This step basically involved leaning over the vents and inhaling the herbal steam. Each had a different purpose:

• Passion (steam from fennel seeds and cloves)
• Uplifting (steam from patchouli and citrus peel)
• Detoxifying (steam from chrysanthemum blossoms and peppermint)
• Calming (steam from frangipani blossoms and pomelo peel)

After that bit of aromatherapy, it was the Japanese Bath next.

Japanese Bath


Behind the first set of sliding doors (not authentic shōji), there was a waiting area. Guests would sip tea while waiting for earlier guests to finish their bathing in the next room. However, as there were no guests before me, I was whisked straight away, past another set of sliding doors to the Japanese bath section.


The Japanese bath typically starts by scrubbing the body with a Goshi-goshi cloth. Wet the cloth with some bath gel, wash the body and use the dipper to pour water over yourself before stepping into the heated Rotenburu pool.


Goshi-goshi cloth

And that is precisely what one would do. This bath section could accommodate a maximum of six guests at a time (three on each side). You just take a seat on a low-stool, turn on the tap to fill the dipper with water and go about exfoliating your body with the bath gel and Goshi-goshi cloth (still wearing your pareo, of course). When done, you walk out to the Rotenburu (rotenburo?) pool outside, dropping your used Goshi-goshi cloth into the wooden bin on the way out.



Rotenburu Pool
The Rotenburu rock pool was lovely! The water was warm and perfect to soak your freshly-scrubbed body in. This was actually the best of all the steps in the Bath House ritual, if you ask me. Here, I was served a refreshing cup of honeyed ginger-lemongrass tea. I must have spent about 10 minutes in the heated pool before I was beckoned by a staff member to proceed to the final section – for more exfoliation.

Shanghai Scrub
Previously offered exclusively to males in Shanghai. The body is vigorously scrubbed with a body brush and rinsed with sizzling hot water.


The Shanghai Scrub takes place on this long granite bed/table. Basically, you lie face-down on the thin mattress and a spa staff member would first pour lukewarm (it’s really not sizzling as in their description) water over the legs, body and arms. Then, she scrubs mainly the back, arms and legs with soap and a scrub cloth, followed by more water to rinse off the soap.



That marks the end of the Bath House ritual. After towelling dry, I was given a brand new, dry sarong to change into (you get to keep this piece of sarong as a memento of your treatment at Spa Village). I was then escorted back to the Spa Village library-cum-waiting area and served a(nother) cup of honeyed ginger tea while I waited to be called for my massage session.

Spa Village library/waiting area, with the Nap Gazebos in the background

Massage
I booked an 80-minute Malay massage therapy session. It took place in one of the air-conditioned treatment pavilions with full bathroom facilities. The pavilion is accessed through a long courtyard.


Once inside, it was peace and tranquillity. I could hear the soft hum of the air-conditioning, and gamelan music was playing in the background. The pavilion, which had a high conical ceiling, had two massage beds (for couple massage sessions, where applicable). The photos just above and below show what a typical treatment pavilion looks like inside.


The Malay massage technique consists of long kneading strokes that focus on the muscles and pressure applied to various points on the body.

My masseuse was a petite lady from Bali but, my oh my, she had strength in her arms! She massaged using a fragrant oil and when I asked what it was, she informed me that it was an oil made with, inter alia, lemongrass, garlic, onion, turmeric and citronella, which she said was great for circulation.

I don’t think I need to say much about the massage session itself. I came out of it with looser muscles, feeling relaxed and reinvigorated, and my skin glowing and very moisturised. Oh, they do serve you one final cup of ginger tea to conclude the treatment.

Note: The above spa photos were taken on a different day when there were no guests in the Bath House. All photos belong to Witoxicity and were taken with permission from a staff member.

Conclusion
This is something I would recommend to anyone who has the chance to visit Pangkor Laut Resort! I enjoyed every minute of the whole experience, especially the Bath House ritual.

I paid the equivalent of about €110 for the 80-minute ala carte Supreme Massage Therapy. If you prefer a shorter massage session, there is also a 50-minute Deluxe version that costs about €25 less.


There are many different kinds of spa treatments and packages to choose from, including specialist healing programmes (choose from Ayurvedic, Chinese and Malay). Every spa session booked comes with a complimentary Bath House experience. This Bath House ritual is not to be missed! It's the perfect way to wind down and prepare the mind and body for the actual spa treatment that follows.

Spa Village is owned and managed by YTL, which also owns Pangkor Laut Resort. According to the website, Spa Village has a network of spas in other parts of Malaysia and one in Bali.


More information:
More photos featuring
- Pangkor Laut Resort and Spa Village
- Emerald Bay (the main beach of Pangkor Laut Resort)
Spa Village website

14 comments:

crazypoplock said...

Oh my... because of your "spa" post, I bought a "Spa" coupon from a discount coupon indian site lol. I can never pay that much cause maybe im a student or not used to body massages.. or maybe i never had one lol. Love your blog!

http://crazypoplock.blogspot.com/

Paulina said...

wonderful place!

Anonymous said...

Great post, I enjoyed reading it. As the write-up was so detailed and because you were showing these amazing step by step photos one could almost picture getting this treatment. ;) Well I wouldn't mind, when is the next flight. :D

What a heavenly place! This resort is Absolutely Beautiful and it looks so Peaceful!

Take care, Nicole xx

Noniek said...

The resort looks nice! If ypu like spa,you should visit Bali because lots of spa there!

jam said...

Great post about a very interesting place. Your pictures really brought the spa experience to life. I just spent 30 minutes browsing the Spa Village website.

Witoxicity said...

@crazypoplock
Wow, you bought a spa coupon so soon after reading this post? I'm impressed! Anyway, spa/massage sessions don't always have to be expensive. I'm sure if you shop around, you'll find respectable places that give great spa treatments too. I was on holiday, so I couldn't say no to a little pampering. I hope you'll enjoy your spa session! :) And thank you so much for your supportive words about my blog! :D

@Paulina
It is! :)

@Nicole
Thanks, my dear! :) I'm really pleased you enjoyed this article. It's pretty detailed but don't worry. When you get to the resort, there will still be many other things about the island and the Spa Village for you to discover on your own. I couldn't possibly show everything in this series of posts on Witoxicity and Witoxichic. I'm glad I was allowed to snap these shots on another day. As you can imagine, it would have been impossible to take pictures with only the pareo and the locker key on me! :D Have a lovely weekend, Nicole!

@Noniek
Oh yes, Bali is a paradise and I've heard a lot about its spas. [checks calender for next trip] ;)

@jam
Hi, Jam! Thank you very much for your kind words. As I mentioned to Nicole above, it was great that I could take photos of the Bath House, etc. It did make documenting the experience much easier. 30 minutes? Well, it does sound like you're captivated! :) I remember spending several hours myself checking out the websites of the resort and the Spa Village. It's a great getaway! :) I hope you'll have a great weekend!

Nat said...

Oh my goodness. I never knew a spa resort could look so.. so.. hm the word escapes my mind. Let's just say I never knew it could look like that! That's like a vacation place of its own! That's just wonderful. One day when I am older I shall have to treat myself to one of these places!

Adis said...

Wow, this looks pretty neat :o! Already looked pretty awesome judging from the other pictures, but this :D... I'll add this to the list of things to do before I turn old and wrinkly :)!

Witoxicity said...

@Nat
That day will come soon, I'm sure. :)

@Adis
Well, if you look around on the internet, you'll see many more places like this in other parts of the world and then, you'd also want to add these to your list. Hee hee! Yikes, so much to do and see before we kick the bucket! :P

Anonymous said...

Move over ladies it's my turn to take a dip in the pool and get a relaxing massage. :) LOL

Googles for nearest spa now.

Great post and pics of your spa experience. Awesome resort photos on witoxichic too hun. PARADISE!

Hope you are having a great weekend. "KTee"xx

ChinaDoll said...

Reading your post makes me want to go the the nearest spa and have a massage session...seems like you really enjoyed and had a very relaxing time....envy much! hihihi Hugs!♥

Witoxicity said...

@KTee
And? How was the pool and the massage? I bet you didn't want it all to end, eh? ;D Seriously, I hope you'll give yourself a treat one of these days with a spa treatment. You deserve some pampering! :)

Thank you for your supportive words about this series of posts, my dear! I'm very happy that you enjoyed reading them. My weekend went well, thanks. I hope you had a lovely one too. Have a great week ahead, KTee! :D

@ChinaDoll
I had a lovely experience at the Spa Village. The service there was impeccable and so, I thought it would be nice to share it with my readers. Yes, yes, go book yourself a treatment at a spa near you. It doesn't always have to be a comprehensive package. Even a simple massage can do wonders to help your body relax. Take care, ChinaDoll. [hugs] :)

Anutka said...

Wish I was there! The place looks amazing, exactly what I need right now!

Witoxicity said...

@Anutka
I'm sure there are spa centres near where you live. Go check them out! :)