As far as spa offerings in the city go, treatment menus are typically standard, save for a few minor tweaks. This holds especially true for wellness hubs located at the heart of the city center. Wherever in the world you might go for a massage, Shiatsu, Swedish, Deep Tissue, and Reflexology are options readily available and understood by a diverse clientele. Once in a while, you will find signature treatments that truly showcase local culture.
A quick stay at the Ritz Carlton in Kuala Lumpur provided more than just premium accommodations in the bustling Golden Triangle District of Kuala Lumpur. It began with lunch at the award-winning Li Yen Restaurant. Elegance and modern opulence made for a fitting backdrop to famous dishes that included Li Yen’s Signature Golden Prawns, Abalone Cubes with Cucumber, and Fried Noodles.
The early afternoon hour following the hearty meal presented an opportunity for a quick nap at the suite. Plush pillows and beddings of the well-appointed room made it close to impossible to get up. But the promise of a truly extraordinary wellness experience at the hotel’s Spa Village compelled me to leave my little piece of paradise in the city.
A Unique Wellness Experience In The Golden Triangle
The spa at Ritz Carlton in Kuala Lumpur recalls the lines and shapes of a Zen temple. It is known among locals, tourists, and expats for offering an impeccable range of “sophisticated massage and facial treatments, integrated with healing practices of the region.” The treatment menu presents a curated range of massages, none of which I’d ever heard of despite having traveled wide and far in pursuit of new wellness discoveries.
Campur-Campur is a two-hour treatment that combines Malay and Thai massage techniques. It engages the senses through aromatherapy and sound. In true Spa Village form, there are several treatments specifically designed for couples. East Meets West is one such treatment that begins with body scrub using fresh, local ingredients. It is capped off by a classic Swedish massage and European facial. Of the many delicious offerings on the spa’s menu, that afternoon was dedicated to a three-hour Chinese Peranakan Treatment.
Discovering Chinese and Malay Healing Traditions
YTL Hotels’ Senior Vice President Chik Lai Ping shares that every Spa Village, including those in the city, draw from the location’s culture and past. She furthers, “We invest a substantial amount of time and effort to research their unique cultural experiences and revive their practices; finally incorporating them into our treatments.” Oils and other ingredients used by the therapist in administering the Chinese Peranakan treatment are made fresh and locally sourced.
An outdoor tube is filled with warm milk nectar peppered with colorful petals. “We will begin with a Milk Nectar Mediation,” signals the therapist. As soon as the body immerses in the creamy bath, all sores and aches melt away. Eyes gently close shut, drowning all worries and anxiety in the hypnotic sounds of water running and soft meditation prompts. A calm state of being takes over just as soon as the soak comes to its all-too-soon end. “Now we go back inside the treatment room for your facial.”
The tray of ingredients prepared specifically for the facial reveals two porcelain trays of powdered pearl and rice. In ancient Pernakan culture, pearls are crushed and applied to help brighten skin and defy age. More recent studies suggest that pearl powders boost cell turnover and cell repair. Addition of rice as a facial mask enhances skin radiance. It also acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
Two boiled eggs, sitting in what appeared to be a steamer bowl piques special interest. Once peeled, it is rolled onto the face to detoxify skin. “Also good for bruises,” adds the therapist. The feeling of warm eggs rolled onto one’s can be likened to getting a warm face massage except it is smoother and more soothing. Tea bags containing mulberry leaves are then placed over the eyes, to de-puff and soothe from endless hours dedicated to screen time.
A clay patch is applied onto the naval, which the therapist says will help with better digestion, sleep and metabolism. As it rested at the center of the belly, a moxa stick islit filling the room with herbal smoke. The stick’s red hot eye is cautiously positioned close to the body’s acupuncture points. “The heat and herbs in the Moxa stick will activate chi and release energy blocks,” assured the therapist. By the time the Malay massage begins, the mind, body and senses are ready to return to deep slumber. The only memory from the treatment’s closing minutes are of fragrant oils covering skin.
Finding A Place of Ritual And Sacredness In The Metro
The sense of ritual and sacredness that guided the entire experience was refreshing, especially in the midst of a bustling urban setting. As the waking hour came, I quietly wished that spas in my hometown of Manila had something as exquisite as this to offer.
Whether on a wellness trip, in the metro, we are constantly engulfed by waves of noise–text messages, group chats, emails, social media. That afternoon, all external noises were drowned out. It was as if the walls of the Ritz Carlton’s Spa Village had been built to keep us away from all the clatter of the city–if only for a few hours.
In an email correspondence following that unforgettable trip to Kuala Lumpur, Chik Lai Ping writes: “Incorporating old traditional practices into a modern spa set-up is not an easy task but with practice and determination, it has become our speciality and something that we do with a certain level of ease.” The Spa Village at the Ritz Carlton is a YTL masterpiece that truly offers more than just your usual wellness fare.