Stuart Forster reports on Bangkok spas for luxury wellness and relaxation in Thailand.
The modern world may well be characterised by global connectivity and 24/7 availability but, increasingly, people are realising that unwinding and de-stressing are important elements of staying physically healthy and mentally sharp.
Consequently, the wellness market is booming and growing numbers of patrons are realising the need for digital downtime and some self-indulgent but much needed ‘me time.’
Bangkok has long been recognised as a leading destination for invigorating spa treatments and relaxing massages. This bustling city of nine million inhabitants has a rich sprinkling of leading hotels with luxury spas, some of which are open to day visitors as well as to guests staying overnight.
Since the 1990s, when traditional Thai-style massages boomed in popularity around the globe, more and more people have been heading to Thailand to experience treatments at the hands of well-trained masseurs and masseuses on their own turf.
Many visitors are surprised to learn that one of the leading establishments for Thai medicine and massage is at the Wat Po Temple, or alternatively as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, a venue better known as popular tourist attraction.
The Wat Po Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School was opened in 1955 and over the past 66 years thousands of graduates have learned how to apply Nuat boran, as the ancient technique of healing with the hands is known in this part of the world.
Thanks to Doctor Shivago
It’s said that the origins of the science – today normally applied to patrons wearing loose-fitting clothing while lying on mattresses – can be traced back more than 2,500 years to Shivago Komarpaj, who was a physician to the Buddha. Komarpaj passed his knowledge on to Buddhist monks, who gradually integrated elements learned from India, China and neighbouring South-East Asian lands.
In the spas of Bangkok today, traditional Thai massages are just one of many forms of treatment on offer. Perhaps there’s gentle irony in people visiting Thailand’s luxury spas to escape from the strains of executive decision making and the exhausting effects of globalisation as it means rejuvenating via treatments whose origins stem from around the world.
Ayurveda and Shiatsu treatments
You’ll find treatments encompassing elements of Ayurveda, from India, Shiatsu, from Japan, to the classic oil massages that were developed in Sweden. And, of course, there can be much more on offer, depending on the expertise of the therapists.
Even before spa treatments in Thailand begin, the soft and lilting vocal intonation of Thai therapists has a soothing effect – so too do their gentle gestures – helping engender a sense of calm in which wellness can thrive.
Leading spas see this period prior to the treatment proper as an important element of the relaxation and rejuvenation process, allowing people to detach themselves from the stresses and strains of daily life, consequently opening themselves to the details and nuances of the treatment that is about to be administered.
The city of angels
Coincidentally, Thailand’s thriving capital is known as Krung Thep in Thai. This translates as the “city of angels.” Recipients of well-administered treatment from an expert masseuse in Bangkok may go home believing that name is derived, in part, from the therapists ability to create a heavenly atmosphere.
Aromatherapy also plays a subtle role in establishing the pleasant ambience that guests experience in Bangkok’s top spas. Extracts from locally grown plants and herbs – among them citronella, jasmine, lemongrass and ylang ylang – are used to perfume the air.
The heady blends of essential oils are selected to complement the chosen treatment, contributing to the holistic sense of well-being that practitioners swear has a positive effect on health and, they say, stimulating recovery from certain ailments.
Effective and relaxing treatments
The carefully chosen decor of the treatment rooms within the leading spas, including the calming colours of the subtly lit treatment rooms, also play a role in maximising the effectiveness of the treatments. Though Bangkok is one of Asia’s most vibrant cities, the spa treatments are carried out in oases of calm that seem far removed from urban life.
No matter what has kept you busy in Bangkok – whether it’s business-related, seeking out bargains in the stores of the Ratchaprasong shopping district, or touring the cultural attractions of the city’s many temples – a spa visit can enhance the experience.
The following Bangkok spas offer a comprehensive range of treatments:
For information about the country, see the Thailand Tourism website.
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