Anantara Spa

[Image: Courtesy of Anantara Spa]

Shanghai has a reputation for humungous skyscrapers, outstanding cuisine and frenetic energy, and it’s largely true. On a recent visit, I was 40 minutes late getting to an official launch event just a few miles away, as my party and I sat in standstill traffic. And, just as the movies portray, Shanghai’s sidewalks do indeed teem—with permanent and temporary residents, tourists, business visitors, and verbose vendors of all sorts.

This all adds up to a need for wellness treatments, and thankfully the PuLi Hotel and Spa delivers. In the city’s western Jing’An District, the relaxed vibe is apparent as soon as you pass the tranquil outdoor water feature with urns atop river stones in a shallow square pool. The entry and lobby are quite spa-like themselves, echoing the charcoal and mid-gray tones of its chilled and spacious spa—one of almost 40 highly rated Anantara Spas throughout the world—within.

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The low-lit reception of the spa and its calm staff, reassuringly proficient in English and glad to answer questions about the facilities, put the visitor at ease. Dark gray and brown ceramic tiles, polished wooden floorboards and classic Asian furnishings, are interspersed with zesty Indian and Thai tactile metallic details and fabric highlights. Along the wide cozy corridors that lead to five treatment rooms are seats and occasional tables, where tea can be enjoyed in peace and quiet. These elements continue into the single or double suites, with their ensuite showers and changing rooms.

Foot rituals—a soak and scrub in a warm-water bowl—begin many good-quality spa treatments in Asia and there’s a trend for tying them into a sense of place. Therefore, the use of ling zhi (reishi) mushroom and ginger (believed to have nutritious and blood circulation benefits, respectively, in Traditional Chinese Medicine) in the footbath at Anantara is an on-point touch. My therapist described in an engaging way how these natural properties and others used in the treatment can boost health.

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The spa offers massage treatments and body scrubs using green tea and rosehips, as well as traditional Chinese and Thai massage manipulations focusing on meridians, pressure points and stretching. The Anantara Signature Massage (60 min./from US$168, 90 min./US$236 Mon.-Fri.; slightly more at weekends) incorporates some acupressure but mostly uses the guest’s choice of signature aromatherapy oil for a combination of manipulation. Kneading, wringing and stretching are delivered exactly to the pressure requested, with a couple of checks that all is comfortable with the lighting and chill-out music volume too. It’s a tension-relieving combination, during which I requested increased pressure to prevent myself nodding off to sleep for a second time.

This spa is on the edge of one of Shanghai’s great parks that’s home to the large Jing’An Temple—a good spot for a blissed-out post-spa stroll. Although I didn’t get a chance to partake in this particular sightseeing opportunity, I did reap ongoing benefits of the massage by sleeping like a baby that night.

—Andrew Dembina

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