All over the map
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By Gary Walther
March / April 2008
If ever a city needed spas, it's Hong Kong. New York may never sleep, but it still turns off the BlackBerry now and then. Hong Kong never logs off. One therapist told executive editor Ann Abel, who profiles the city's exploding spa scene, that it's not uncommon for clients to try to take calls while on the massage table! She often heard Hong Kong described as "New York on steroids," which she dismissed as a cliché but came to realize was true. Any city that can revive a dead phrase like "on steroids" is a category of one.
For a long time, Hong Kong was apparently just too busy to develop spas at its luxury hotels. But in the past four years, which is to say overnight, it has let a thousand spas bloom. Grand Hyatt, Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental (two locations), Four Seasons—they've all added spas or built them into new hotels. This is quite in keeping with the city's hyperkinetic character, and alone it would make Hong Kong worthy of a profile. But there's an indigenous yin to this international yang: the city's rich and very accessible vein of traditional Chinese healing, from foot massage to moxibustion, curative teas to tai chi. It's why we're proclaiming that Hong Kong may well be Asia's most exciting wellness city right now, a place where up-to-the-minute luxury consorts with two-thousand-year-old healing traditions. Who knows? If Hong Kong isn't careful, it might even stop to take a deep breath.
Hong Kong's European counterpart is Ireland, where the spa scene has also gone from zero to 60 in just a few years. Our cover story is on the G Hotel, specifically its flamboyant design. It comes from the imagination of the world's most famous creator of hats, Philip Treacy. And back in Asia, we take you to what is now Vietnam's best resort and spa, the Six Senses Hideaway Ninh Van Bay on the country's southern coast. It's setting the bar not only for luxury in Vietnam but also for green practices—the resort is built almost entirely of biodegradable native materials, right down to the doorknobs and coat hooks, which are fashioned from coconut shells rather than metal.
In this issue we introduce a department aimed at the largest segment of travelers, those who go by car. Each installment of Spa Road Trip will take a scenic route and describe the top spa hotels along the way. We start with America's great spa coast, California from San Diego to San Francisco. In future issues we'll look at upstate New York, Colorado, and the Florida coast.
One by-product of spa travel is the desire to take the experience home with you—to create a home spa bathroom. The most sought-after element today is the egg-shape tub. We tell you why that's so and explain how the top models compare. Another one is the choice to live in a spa-based community, such as Sea Island Resorts in Georgia, which offers residents a top-notch spa, a sophisticated menu of fitness offerings, and avant-garde services such as having the resort "wellness chef" vet your pantry. It's food for thought, and yet another indication of just how deeply spa has penetrated contemporary lifestyle.