Bath to bliss: Chi, The Spa at Edsa Shangri-La, Manila offers the unique hammam, a luxurious Turkish bathing ritual. Photos by Jesse Bustos

Chi Spa’s Royal Hammam is a Turkish delight
CULTURE VULTURE - Therese Jamora-Garceau (The Philippine Star) - February 7, 2018 - 12:00am

One of the reasons I love going to the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel is that they’re the only Shang property in Metro Manila that has Chi, the Shangri-La chain’s luxe (but worth every peso) spa.

Regulars will be glad to know that Edsa Shang recently launched a Chi, The Spa membership card, which offers four tiers of membership for spa junkies.

“For all our guests who have been coming for years and new guests, we have a new membership program that we thought would make it more attractive to come and visit us more often,” said Amit Oberoi, Edsa Shangri-La’s general manager. “We have a new partner in (luxury skincare company) Kerstin Florian and have some new products for retail, and we offer specialized treatments like the hammam and Ayurveda.”

Spa consultant Barry White reintroduced us to Chi and its more unfamiliar pleasures. While spa-ing together is a no-brainer for most couples on Valentine’s Day, White says Chi is also perfect for groups of friends who want to “sparty.”

“The idea of the lobby is you can come with your friends, have a drink together before or after your treatment,” he says. “You can enjoy atypical amenities like chocolate and cookies. Those are not really spa foods but wellness is not always about carrots and cucumber; in fact, the definition of wellness is becoming richer now and relates to applying things in your life that actually make you happy.”

He notes that an underutilized element at Chi is its two outdoor Jacuzzis in the VIP rooms — suites that are “designed to be used not just for one or two hours but half a day. You can enjoy yourself with your partner, have a treatment, a Jacuzzi, a bottle of Champagne.”

Though massage and facials are Chi’s core businesses, what really makes Chi different from most of the spas in Metro Manila are its alternative therapies. “The hammam is very, very unique and very new in the Philippines, and we have two hammam facilities,” notes White. “You could bring six of your friends for a hammam party. It’s the hidden gem of the spa.”

Chi brought in a hammam expert to train Chi’s staff, and offers three kinds of hammam, from the basic 60-minute Turkish bath to the 120-minute Royal Hammam, which will make you feel as pampered as Cleopatra.

 

 

Cleopatra-style pampering

It’s the best bath you’ll ever have, and definitely the best bath someone will ever give you, with the possible exception of your mom when you were little. As a matter of fact, a Chi therapist told me she has a regular who comes for the hammam because it makes her feel as cherished as when her mom would bathe her in childhood.

First, you’re encouraged to take a steam.  A steam-cum-shower stall is located right inside the dressing room, and there you can relax for about 10 minutes before you’re led to the hammam room. There you lie down on a slab of marble covered with a sheet, and lay your head and feet down on soft folded towels. 

Then your therapist will proceed to pour a pot of very warm water all over you, starting with your head. (Note: Don’t do the hammam if you’ve just come from the salon or want to preserve a fancy hairdo.)

Once you’re thoroughly wet, the therapist proceeds to exfoliate you all over with a scrubbing mitt. After rinsing you off, she makes suds in a bowl with lavender soap and water, pouring the mixture into a white pillowcase. Then commences the most heavenly part of the hammam

First she will run the pillowcase gently over your limbs — a totally new sensation. Then she’ll squeeze the pillowcase to form meringues of soap bubbles. Next, as if you are a yummy dessert, you will be frosted with this meringue and, once you’re covered in suds, she will begin a foaming massage, which is around the time I felt like passing out from sheer bliss.

Then you are rinsed twice before the truly “royal” part of the hammam: she will mix fresh milk and honey in a bowl and proceed to baste you with it, like a queen or human Turkish delight. This sweet, sticky concoction is left to set while the milk softens your skin and the humectant honey keeps in all the moisture.

After five minutes, you are urged to stand up for the rinse, which you will do very reluctantly. Then you are told to shower to before experiencing one of Chi’s signature treatments, the Aroma Wellness Massage, which you can customize by telling your therapist which problem areas to focus on.

Verdict? Off the charts on the bliss-o-meter.

Ayurveda: Bliss plus benefits

Chi’s Ayurveda treatment, ranging from 60 to 120 minutes, is another service not many people know about. “’Ayur’ means ‘life’ and ‘veda’ means ‘knowledge,’” said one of Chi’s therapists. “It’s an Indian medical science that helps to give us long life and good health, and balances our beta brain waves to calm our body. It’s a holistic treatment.”

Nowhere near as elaborate as the hammam, first they do Abhyanga (“abhi” means “to rub,” “anga” means “limb”), a gentle, full-body massage using lavish amounts of virgin coconut oil. Also translated as “loving hands,” Abhyanga is considered in Ayurveda to be the simplest technique for longevity — so simple you can do it daily to yourself, though I definitely prefer Chi’s therapists.

Though an ancient tradition, it’s extremely relevant today to relieve modern ailments like stress, fatigue, and insomnia. On the physical level it’s so soothing I actually did pass out for a while and woke up completely refreshed from a nap.

Then they do Shirodhara (“shiro” means “head,” “dhara” is “flow”). You move from the massage bed to a wooden bed, lay your head on a plastic-covered pillow, and for 30 to 45 minutes, a thin stream of warm coconut oil is poured onto the middle of your forehead, which is reputed to relieve anxiety and mental stress, and improve sleep quality. (At the very least, it’s like a hot-oil treatment for your hair.) Your therapist also gives you a head massage as a bonus.

After you’ve been well oiled, the treatment ends with your hands and feet being wiped with hot towels before you shower to rinse off.

You can relax in Chi’s outer sanctum after that with fresh ginger tea and chocolate-covered dried mangoes to cap off your experience.

In sum, both Chi’s hammam and Ayurveda treatments are so unique they’re must-tries. Both would make a great spa date for a couple, while the hammam would also be perfect for a group “sparty.” And, if you’re a spa addict like I am, Chi’s membership card will get you more bliss for your buck.

* * *

For details about the Chi, The Spa membership card or to book a treatment, call 633-8888 ext. 7777 or email mailto:chi.edsa@shangri-la.com.

* * *

Follow me on Facebook (Therese Jamora-Garceau), Twitter @tjgarceau and Instagram @theresejamoragarceau.

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