The Peninsula Hotels spa and wellness treatments, Asia: Hotel's perfect touch of relaxation

If I, improbably, make it to a ripe old age, then I'll have a few elements of my otherwise unhealthy lifestyle to thank.

First, I never took up smoking. Second, I didn't buy a car until my first child was on the way, nine years ago. Third, I've managed to counteract my overconsumption of food and alcohol with playing sport, something I still pretend to do well into middle-age.

However, it was my discovery of the benefits of massage, while holidaying in Thailand in my 20s, that has probably most aided my prospects of growing old.

I couldn't count how many thousand treatments I have had since then but every time I have a massage, I feel the stress flooding out of my body, sense the accumulated toxins being released from my rigid muscles.

If I sound like a massage zealot I am, a modern-day bloke with a Roman emperor's delectation for pampering who has, over the decades, been walked upon in Chiang Mai, kneaded by not just two but "four hands" on Bora-Bora, had warm oil dribbled over my third eye in Sri Lanka and grape seeds and pulp rubbed into my skin during vino-therapy at the George V Hotel, in Paris.

In that time, the global hotel spa industry has exploded. Nowadays, every luxury property has to have its spa, to add to its swimming pool(s) and gym. This is not simply a reaction to a world increasingly full of stress-heads. It reflects an understanding that having a superior spa can influence a guest's decision on where to stay and the recognition that "health and wellbeing" are important considerations for guests, be they travelling for business or leisure.

Nor is it any longer enough for the top properties to offer a full range of treatments in lavish surroundings. Now that the spa business has reached maturity, the best must stay ahead of the rest in offering the latest natural therapies and having the most highly trained staff.

The Peninsula Hotel Group, constantly expanding from its flagship base in Kowloon, Hong Kong, is one luxury brand determined not to get left behind, introducing a cohesive "wellness" strategy last year that is gradually spreading to all its properties.

Launching, appropriately, at the Bangkok Peninsula, the "Wellness" campaign combines treatments, products and nutritional cuisine drawn from top spa and skincare companies including the Paris-based Biologique Recherche, ESPA, which runs more than 500 spas in 60 countries, and Australian wellness brand Subtle Energies, which specialises in 100 per cent natural products.


 The Peninsula has also created a Naturally Peninsula range of healthy menus and dishes, formulated by group executive chef Florian Trento and Australian nutrition adviser Kim Murphy.

"There is a growing awareness about the connection between nutrition and how we feel in our daily lives," says Murphy, "and Naturally Peninsula gives guests new dining choice."

"The new line will take a more holistic approach to healthy eating, which includes gluten-free, low-sugar and high protein options," she adds, "and healthy dishes with a focus on seasonal fruits and vegetables, sustainably sourced seafood, superior cuts of meat, nutritious whole grains, organic spices and market-fresh herbs, while avoiding artificial flavourings, refined sugars and preservatives".

Sampling the Naturally Peninsula breakfast in Bangkok, I'm treated to a panoply of superfoods such as berries, spirulina and tomatoes and the menu is free of gluten and refined sugar. It is surprisingly flavoursome too.

A few months later, I visit the Peninsula Hong Kong for a three-course Naturally Peninsula lunch. The meal includes wild scallops with sustainably farmed caviar, goose with gingko in organic soy milk with wolf berries and fresh yam slices, and slow-cooked organic Australian beef slices, with peas, carrots and turnip.

I also sample new wellness treatments at both hotels.

I begin, on my first night in Bangkok, with a two-hour sleep ceremony devised by Susan Harmsworth, CEO of ESPA. The experience begins with an aromatic bath in a private wellness suite, continues with guided meditation and a hot stone massage and concludes with a face and scalp treatment. The sleep ceremony not only induces a good night's shut-eye but helps diminish jet-lag too.

In Bangkok, the Peninsula's legion of therapists is gradually undergoing training in Thai traditional massage at Wat Pho temple, best known for its giant reclining Buddha. Regarded as the spiritual home of Thai traditional medicine and therapeutic knowledge, this will help ensure authenticity in related treatments in all the hotel's spas.

It has to be said, though, that hotel spas charge enormous fees for these treatments, often available nearby for a fraction of the cost, albeit without the jazzy robe and slippers. The Peninsula charges 5400 baht ,or $205, for a "Royal Thai" massage, which comprises nearly two hours of tweaking and stretching.

But then if you're staying at a high-end Peninsula Hotel, the price of a massage is probably less of a consideration than the quality of the treatment and the spa environment.

In Bangkok, the spa is set over three levels of a Thai colonial-style building by the Chao Phraya River. It is all dark wood, lush fabrics, scented candles and a hushed ambience that could soothe a teething baby.

In Hong Kong, the spa covers more than 1100 square metres of the hotel's seventh floor, with views over Victoria Harbour from all 14 private treatment rooms. The design fuses traditional Chinese elements with marble, wood and textured granite.

The male relaxation room where I prepare and debrief has a hammam-style steam room, a sauna and "aromatherapy experience" showers.

In Bangkok, after undergoing a skin diagnosis with therapists from Biologique Recherche, I emerge with armfuls of lotions, creams and hydrating serums. So many that in spite of my obvious need for them and instructions on when to apply what, I never open one jar.

I fare better with the Sattva treatments and products formulated for the Peninsula's Wellness programme by Sydney-based company, Subtle Energies.

At the helm of this family company is Farida Irani, who is dedicated to developing aromatic essential oils from what she calls "the vedic flora pharmacy", sourcing them direct from farmers and distillers and blending them for their health benefits.

The Sattva treatments available at the Peninsula combine ayurvedic essential oils, clays and herbs with modern massage techniques.

Before my first treatment, in Bangkok, I work through a questionnaire, ticking off various physical and emotional characteristics to establish my "prakuti" or "dosha body type". This helps my therapist determine what oils to use.

A bath soak and "Mogra calming blend" are prescribed and we are away on a two-hour journey into a herbal wonderland.

Before heading to Hong Kong, four months after my Bangkok Wellness treatment, I pre-book another Simply Peninsula Sattva treatment.

The Sattva Vedic aromatherapy full body massage and facial Marma therapy is this time designed to combat the fatigue of weeks of travelling for work and my overnight flight from London.

Using warmed essential oils, the treatment both invigorates and detoxifies my body, leaving me ready for my return home.

For this would-be Roman emperor, experiencing these new Peninsula treatments has taken my long career of indulgence to new heights, and restored my hope of ageing (dis)gracefully.




Qantas has regular flights to Bangkok and Hong Kong from Sydney and Melbourne; see


The Peninsula Bangkok has rooms from $365 (see and the Peninsula Hong Kong has rooms from $655 (see

Daniel Scott was a guest of Peninsula Hotels and travelled with assistance from Qantas.