Written by root. Posted in FEATURES


Published on January 17, 2018 with No Comments

Spa Village has the last word in honouring healing cultures.



Last December, Starhill Spa Village opened at JW Mariott, representing a rare opportunity for those truly on the go to buy a slice of solitude in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Even the menu alludes to a schedule that champions smart time-management. Pared down and practical, guests navigate through a simple menu checklist; a check box each for massage style (four options), preferred oil (10 choices), and add-ons (herbal compress, warmed stones, or heated herbal pack). It takes five minutes to complete, and you’re on your way to bliss. Because at this Spa Village, they understand that when pressed for time, no one really wants a 30-minute breakdown on what goes into say, a gong Bath Experience.

Smart or too stripped down?

Those familiar with the Spa Village brand know that each spa is an extension of the people and community they reside. Months, sometimes years, before a spa menu is crafted, spa personnel on the ground work with the local commune, researching its unique traditional wellness practices and long-practiced beauty rituals. At the spa, these home-spun remedies are transformed into sophisticated treatments, reflecting the history
and significance of the area, allowing guests to connect more deeply with local culture as they experience the veritable repertoire of nature’s medicine chest and local healing culture.

Essentially, a Spa Village reflects the history and significance of the area while remaining modern and indulgent for guests. And there in lies the success of the brand, filling a niche for a return to the past to enhance today’s natural healing and relaxation merges with the need for pampering and relaxation.

The concept of the Spa Village began with the opening of the first YTL resort, Pangkor Laut. Built on a leased private island that today remains 80 percent green, YTL Hotels and Resorts Executive Director, Dato’ Mark Yeoh Seok Kah, admitted to being a tad reluctant to give in to calls for a spa then. That was in the early 90s. He recalled, “Growing up, we didn’t have spas. But what we did have was a culture that had its own way of keeping people healthy. For me, the best part of Chinese healing was that a lot of it was through the food we eat. So when I decided to do a spa, I told my people, ‘Ok, we don’t want to copy Western spas. We’re going to show the world how we do it in Malaysia.’” And so, Spa Village, was born.

It was, in several respects, a game changer. At Pangkor Laut Resort, Yeoh would pioneer a spa concept that merges the three main cultures in Malaysia – Chinese, Indian and Malay – honouring its healing and wellness traditions, and taking inspiration from Malaysia’s local villages. While Chinese and Indian healing cultures were well documented, the Malay healing concept would proved then to be the most challenging to nurture, as it retains a tradition of secrecy, with ancestral knowledge strictly passed on from elder to apprentice. Malay healing was not known for its culture of inclusivity.

“I think we learnt earlier on that inculcating relationships was very important in doing the kind of spa we want to have,” Chik Lai Ping, Vice President for the Spa Division of YTL Hotels, explains. “For us, it wasn’t just about acquiring the knowledge, but we wanted to do it with integrity.” Spa Village would soon establish itself as a magnet for those seeking an approach to health and wellbeing connected to native roots and the indigenous people. Since the very first spa opened, Spa Village has received global recognition, not only becoming top in guest services, but the brand has also helped raise hospitality standards throughout the local hotel industry.

For Lai Ping, Spa Village is a success story on preserving local healing and care that has permeated mainstream spa. The philosophy of keeping the experience authentic means 90 percent of its spa ingredients are prepared freshly just prior to application. Signature treatments employ local botanicals, herbs and plants. At Spa Village Tembok Resort Bali, cold pressed coconut oils are sourced from a family at a neighbouring village. For the award-winning Tadau Kaamatan treatment at Spa Village Gaya Island Resort that honours the community’s harvest festival, Sabah’s hill-grown red rice is used. Likewise, locally-grown herbs, such as turmeric and galangal, are employed in the make-from-scratch body scrub at Pangkor Laut Resort’s Spa Village where the accompanying fragrant milk bath is scented with freshly picked jasmines and tropical magnolias from the resort’s vast lawn. And in Bath, even with UNESCO World Heritage waters on tap, Spa Village manages to shine, working the ancient therapeutic waters into a contemporary treatment called Freedom, where guests are cradled in a warm pool as they relax joint by joint. Suffice to say, each treatment is an essay in complete indulgence, with expert healing hands at work, taken in spa villas or huts that pay tribute to the resort surroundings and locales.

Naturally, Spa Village would find itself needed in an urban setting. Because of the brand’s philosophy, it transitions seamlessly from resort to city, blurring the distinction between the two and enhancing the senses for carefree luxury. Which brings us back to the stripped down affair at Starhill Spa Village. “We were clear from the beginning that the Starhill Spa Village would cater to those in a hurry but still looking to de-stress,” says Lai Ping. “The minimalist menu helps cut down decision making time. But while all else is pared down, the spa remains very much aligned to the Spa Village ethos.”

Fifteen years since the first Spa Village was opened, the brand now has spas throughout Malaysia, in Bali andmore recently, in the newly opened, Spa Village Koh Samui, Thailand. “Our presence has been growing in the UK with our award-winning Spa Village Gainsborough Bath Spa,” says Yeoh. Monkey Island will open in 2018, and others are in planning stages in the UK and Europe.

“Spa Village is the most successful brand of YTL Hotels. We ended the year on a high with the Majestic Spa named Urban Spa of the Year 2017 at the AsiaSpa Awards in Hong Kong. As we move forward my directive to the spa team is to continue to lead and innovate as a global brand while maintaining our unique virtues and values. We love and respect traditions, but embrace the exciting elements of the future,” Yeoh concludes.


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