What’s it like to spa during these times?
It had been the day I was really looking forward to. When the Government announced spas could commence from this month, I swiftly booked a spot at Spa Village Kuala Lumpur. But Covid was still a grim reality. So there I was, struggling with my inner self: was this a much needed self-care or selfish indulgence?
During the days of Covid hunkering down, my body took a beating from the daily Zoom meetings and online workshops that redefined the realities of work. My shoulder blades were the first to be battered, followed by the lower back – no thanks to the prolonged hours (and perhaps bad sitting posture!) of screen time. All the tools I had invested to recreate a spa at home did nothing to give relief. Not the beautiful rose quartz facial-roller-and-gua-sha duo I purchased online, nor the arsenal of essential oils streaming ethereal wafts of mists from my faux wood diffuser.
The day prior to my appointment, I turned anxious. To go or not to go? “Our staff have all been vaccinated,” says Chik Lai Ping reassuringly, when I called her at the spa. As Vice President of YTL Hotels, Spa Division, Lai Ping oversees the operations of all the 10 award-winning Spa Village – seven in Malaysia, two in the United Kingdom and one in Bali. “We took that time during the lockdowns to intensify our health and safety protocols. Just as our guests can’t wait to return, all of our staff can’t wait to welcome everyone who is tired and just need some relief and relaxation.”
The Spa Village is known for treatments that honour the healing cultures of the region in which each resides. At Spa Village Cameron Highlands for example, guests experience a treatment that draws from the Orang Asli’s (original people) deep understanding of plants, herbs and flowers that have the power to heal. In Melaka, treatments highlight age-old practices of Peranakan families (the Baba and Nyonya, a unique combination of Chinese and Malay culture). I’ve had an egg roll facial that, while sounds weirdly disturbing, ended up to be deeply relaxing.
For my first post-lockdown treatment, I chose to have the Sensory Sound Bath. It’s a treatment I’ve had once before and a much needed one during this pandemic. It starts off with a hot stone massage that combines facets of Tui Na and Thai movements before ending with the melodic sounds of a Symphonic Gong. Despite its somewhat woo-woo reputation, some scientific studies have shown how sound vibrations help lessen anxiety, promote relaxation and ease muscle tension.
There’s no mistake that the spa experience during these times is different. The staff at Spa Village remain as warm and friendly as ever. But the subdued nature of the times lingers in the air. I arrived to an almost empty reception (“We stagger guest arrival times”, says Lai Ping). In the treatment room, workstations are kept bare (“to make cleaning and sanitising easy”). And, in line with Government’s guidelines, pre-treatment rituals and welcome drinks are put on hold until further notice. Despite all this, I was actually comforted by the confidence-enhancing protocols to ensure the spa can remain operational in the new normal.
In my treatment room, as I lay stretched out on the ground, my therapist, Sriwati – speaking softly through her mask and face shield – was coaxing me to “inhale … and slowly exhale”; her gloved hands hovering over my face. I hid my smile behind my mask. It seemed almost comical, because I could barely make out the ginger-nutmeg scent through my mask. It didn’t matter, though, because I was already languid from the vibrating floor and soon, surrendered myself to my therapist’s expert strokes. Surprisingly, despite the gloved hands, the rubber did nothing to diminish the tactile experience that I so craved.
I was on the verge of dozing off by the time the sound bath came around. Calm enveloped me, and the months of lockdown built-up stress and anxiety simply washed away. “Now more than ever, everyone’s longing for that human touch,” Lai Ping said as we caught up at reception later. “The burden on spas like ours is even heavier now as we try to balance authenticity in our treatments with keeping to the enhanced health and safety measures.” Despite the challenges of the circumstances, Lai Ping added, “Our role is to ensure guests are able to block the realities of the moment as soon as they step through our doors. Even if it’s just for an hour.” Indeed, that was exactly what I got. And at that moment, surrounded by the serenity of the spa’s herb garden and plunge pool, I can almost tell life will soon return to what it was before. InsyaAllah.
The H Factor
From the way the staff swapped the spa’s standard knee-length bath robe for a longer one to accommodate my modesty, it was clear that they have had ample experience in welcoming Mulimah guests prior. Except for the Sensory Sound Bath room (which has specially designed vibrating floors and is sound-proofed), all other treatment rooms have ensuite bathrooms for ease of privacy. So after changing into my spa attire in the locker room, I put back my hijab and was then escorted to my treatment room across the hallway.
5 Priceless Touches (Covid Edition)
- A therapist who gets this Muslimah!
- Essential oils rich in Malay heritage (think ginger, ylang ylang, black pepper and nutmeg)
- The vibrating floor that lulls you to sleep
- Sound bath!
- Their cute retail space where you can purchase the luscious oils.