Thailand has one of the world's richest spa cultures, but I love this hotel's Chi spa for ignoring it. Instead, Shangri-La looked north and created a Himalayan sanctum within the sprawling 799-room hotel. The company hired a wellness expert who spent 25 years studying with Buddhist monks in Kathmandu to develop treatments like the Mountain Tsampa Rub with barley and 13 Himalayan herbs and a hot stone massage using rocks with mantras carved into them by Himalayan monks, an Australian aromatherapist to create essential-oil blends based on the five elements of traditional Chinese medicine (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water), and a TCM doctor from Hong Kong to ensure authenticity. Aesthetically, the spa is neither urban-glam nor tropical-lush but a cool, contemplative temple — brick walls, crimson and gold silks, and antique Himalayan weavings. Ian Brewis, Shangri-La's senior director of spas and health clubs, calls the look "Armani does Tibet." Whatever the inspiration, the ten oversize treatment suites, each at least 750 square feet with its own infinity tub, steam shower, and relaxation area, feel anything but monastic. — A.A.