In traditional Chinese philosophy, "chi" is the universal life force. According to legend, Shangri-La is an earthly paradise, where everyone is young and happy. CHI spa at the Shangri-La, Vancouver offers a haven to restore your own life forces, enjoy some happiness and, if not actually achieve eternal youth, at least experience some anti-ageing therapies.
The downtown hotel, an engineering miracle of glass and light -- with fresh flowers at every turn -- hides a spa secret of luxury and serenity which can be yours as soon as you press the button for the fifth floor. On arrival, the water wall welcomes you. The reception area where you fill in your consultation form has carpeted floors, stone walls in neutral colours, soft sofas with orange throws, and an Eastern feel to the hand-carved artwork and furnishings.
CHI offers a "spa within a spa" environment. There are no communal heat facilities, pools, changing rooms or relaxation lounges. Instead, your treatment takes place within a private suite, each of which comes with its own fireplace, shower, relaxation area and changing space. There is also a suite for couples. Our suite was larger than some apartments we have rented, with a deep bath, personal steam room and golden glowing fire.
On the same floor as the spa is the hotel's health club, open 24 hours, with attendants who can help design a customised workout. From your cardio machine, look out through the 6-metre-high floor-to-ceiling windows down onto Vancouver's busy Georgia Street below. The health club also has an outdoor terrace, with pool and Jacuzzi.
The treatments at CHI draw on Eastern well-being therapies such as wellness massages, and also feature local and organic, hand-harvested wild seaweed in the "West Coast Wave" massage or the "West Coast Wrap".
The belief is that for good health, your life energy -- "chi" or "qi" -- must flow freely within the body. Movement is a key element in releasing any energy blockages, and many of the therapies at CHI are designed to release energy through massage and hydrotherapy. The signature "Wushu" massages are inspired by the stretching of the body for martial arts, and include not only stretches, but guided breathing, warm bamboo rolling and flowing Tai Chi massage movements. The facials sound tempting from their names alone: who wouldn't wish for a "Jade Jewel" facial with gemstones, or desire an antioxidant green-tea face compress if it delivers "Pearl Radiance"?
We tried the Aroma Vitality treatment (70 minutes, $175), which brings together elements of Swedish massage, shiatsu, and lymphatic drainage techniques.
Anyone who wants a perfect, private, pampering or pep-up experience.
Taking time out in your personal steam room, to loosen your muscles before your massage.
29th November 2013
Warm floors when you put your bare feet upon them; heated treatment beds; soft towels; attention to detail, so that your treatment room looks and smells beautiful when you arrive in it.
Cold floors when you put your bare feet upon them; therapists who use your treatment time to write up a list of product "recommendations" that they hope you will purchase.
Behind the scenes