When it comes to holiday gift giving, my mind is made up. No, I’m not talking about racing out on Thanksgiving night—on a full stomach—to engage in frantic ‘Black Thursday’ shopping. Phooey on that! Instead, I’m talking about giving that special someone a memorable spa package that includes one of the most soothing and therapeutic massages imaginable. Here’s the rub.
Recently, I revisited one of my favorite hotels in Washington D.C., the highly regarded and ideally located Mandarin Oriental. I last visited the Mandarin in 2011 as a prelude the U.S. Open at nearby Congressional Country Club. On a tight schedule, time didn’t permit me then to take in the Mandarin’s award-winning Spa & Wellness Center. Several colleagues from the area have frequented the facilities and raved about it. Now I know why. It’s not only excellent; it’s sublime.
In keeping with the hotel’s Pan-Asian theme, the Spa & Wellness Center exudes a quiet and inviting aura in a meticulously designed and decorated space. There’s such a Zen-like ambience of serenity and minimalism that too many descriptive adjectives seem out of place. And the experience itself?
- I was greeted in a reception area set off by rich oak floors, low lighting, soft music and a spectacular bronze ceiling. After being seated and offered a cup of herbal tea, my scruffy shoes were exchanged for sandals. (In terms of footwear, it was an upgrade.)
- A friendly staff member provided a tour of the facility and then showed me a locker area where I changed into a robe and prepped for the spa. There I happened to meet a man who appeared to be ending his stay. “How did you enjoy it?” I asked. “It was fantastic,” he quickly replied. He told me it was also his first time at the Mandarin Spa. “It was a birthday gift from my wife,” he added.
- I then waited in a nearby room for my scheduled spa treatment—the Oriental Bamboo Massage. I’ve had my share of massages before but none involving bamboo. I was intrigued by the brochure write-up: “A combination of hand and bamboo is used to ease away tension, release joint stress and balance the energy in the body.” What’s not to like?
- After a few minutes, I was met by Daisy, an attractive and slightly built specialist who guided me to our treatment room. A native of Bali where she learned her trade at an upscale hotel, Daisy was the essence of quiet, understated proficiency. She reviewed the elements of the treatment while also asking me to select a choice of scented oils for her to use in the massage. Oils provided not only a relaxing fragrance but complemented the massage technique.
- The treatment room had a sparse and elegant design and the low lighting and soft music set the perfect mood. Daisy’s regimen, employing hands, heated bamboo and stone, was highly effective and therapeutic. She was also sensitive and alert to those areas that were particularly tight, maintaining communication with me throughout the 80-minute session.
As noted, what made this spa extra special was the use of heated bamboo. A natural and earth-friendly grass, bamboo retains heat and thus gives therapists an extra tool to roll, knead and apply pressure to the body. To heat the bamboo sticks themselves, Daisy showed me the heating coil used to bring them to the proper temperature.
All in all, the spa treatment was one of the best I’ve ever experienced in terms of personal attention and overall ambience.
If I ever revisit the Spa I would change my routine to arrive, as requested, 45 minutes prior to the treatment. The added time would afford more opportunity to fully use the Spa’s other facilities, including its highly recommended Heat and Water Experience (no, it’s not a Disney attraction for adults.) This area boasts steam and sauna rooms as well as vitality pools and an amazing shower. The rain forest setting on the shower is a must.
The Spa & Wellness Center also features a 1,400 square foot state-of-the-art fitness center equipped with the latest training and cardio machines. There are also ab stations and free weights. up to 50 lbs. The Mandarin offers a 50-foot lap pool, heated comfortably and encircled by chairs and lounges. The Center delivers a comprehensive list of health and fitness programs—both full and half-day. And Spa treatments range from massages to facials to luxury pedicures.
Guess one could say no stone or heated bamboo is unturned at the marvelous Mandarin Oriental.
For more information, visit http://www.mandarinoriental.com/washington/luxury-spa/
One added note: From November 22 to December 29, 2013, the Mandarin is promoting a special Holiday Package, starting at $375, which includes deluxe accommodations, a welcoming amenity, wine or champagne for two at the classy Empress Lounge, valet parking (a $50 value), Holiday Spa Offer (mid-week only) and a special pastry gift on departure. For more details, call 202-787-6140 or visit http://www.mandarinoriental.com/washington/hotel/