Privacy, peace and pampering are three very important components to help a stressed out person relax. These thoughts ebbed and flowed through my mind as I lay in one of the Banyan Tree Spa Al Areen’s luxurious treatment rooms as my aching muscles were expertly soothed by one of the spa’s therapists.
Pampering as everyone knows is deeply enjoyable and is not only a treat enjoyed by women. Men too have long known of the benefits of massage, facials and manicures, and in today’s looks conscious world more and more men are stepping into a spa to relax and recharge their batteries. They know that nothing helps you get into the right frame of mind for a weekend break, a holiday or a tough working week ahead than a relaxing massage or soothing facial or indeed any treatment where you are waited on hand and foot by specialist therapists.
Needless to say the Banyan Tree is an expert at sorting out stresses and strains and putting a spring in people’s steps. The company’s philosophy is that the hotels should be a place to rejuvenate body, mind and soul and be a sanctuary for the senses. In the two years that the hotel has been open in Bahrain, its spa has rightly gained a reputation for its excellence that has spread across the Middle East.
And it is not just inside the spa. You are spoiled from the minute you enter the hotel. Staff greet you at the door and escort you to the spa, which with its high ceilings, dark wood panelling and exotic ornaments has the air of an exotic Thai palace. The impression continues once you are in the spa area itself.
After an introductory chat with Arthe, the assistant spa manager, and a consultation about the spa’s indulgent treatments I decided on the relaxing Lomi-Lomi massage. Originally from Hawaii the massage includes strokes using the thumbs, palms and elbows to help loosen muscles and reduce tension. We discussed what the treatment entailed and I was escorted to the treatment rooms where I met my therapist Jasmine. Guests at the spa can ask for either a male or female therapist to treat them.
The treatment room, or more correctly rooms, was a suite – the changing room had an outdoor bath and others have outdoor showers. Inside was a well-stocked ‘dressing’ table, a shower, mirrors and plenty of storage space! All were kitted out in dark brown wood and black stone effect, specifically chosen to put the individual guest in a relaxing frame of mind before the treatment commences. The outer room is where you are treated to a relaxing foot bath and foot massage when you arrive and the final chamber is the treatment room itself. The rooms are totally different to the usual small, dark rooms that are the norm in many spas. Here the high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows ensured plenty of light, and as they are built around their own courtyard there is total privacy. One of the rooms consists of two massage beds so that couples can enjoy a massage together.
During the footbath, where rose and mint leaves were added to the water, and I was given sweet, strong ginger tea to drink, the therapist Jasmine, asked about the type of oil I would like used for the massage as well as the type of pressure she would use – soft, medium or strong. I was also given the choice of eight different incense sticks to burn during the treatment – adding an even stronger personalised touch to the experience.
Once in the treatment room itself she ascertained that the temperature and music were right for me before she set to work. The next hour was total bliss and the only sound to be heard was the music in the background and every so often the soothing notes of the fountain in the outer area. All too soon, Jasmine was ringing a bell gently three times - the spa’s way to let clients know that the massage was over- and a gentle way to wake those who have fallen asleep during their treatment.
In slow motion I returned to the changing room to dress and when I left I was greeted by another attendant complete with lemongrass tea, crudites and fresh pineapple to eat in the seating area by the fountain, under a large gold coloured cupola. It was all so peaceful I could easily have curled up on the huge settee and fallen asleep.
All the therapists are trained at the Banyan Tree’s own academy in Thailand and have to have more than 300 hours of experience under their belt before they can be employed at any of the hotel group’s spas. Jasmine had spent two years working at the group’s Bangkok hotel before moving to Bahrain when the hotel opened two years ago.
As well as a wide selection of massages and facials the spa also offers hand, foot and hair treatments. All are suitable for both men and women. This month a new therapist will be joining the spa team who will specialise in men’s facials and hot shaving – something many men had been enquiring about.
The spa also offers special packages – and these are always a hit with guests who can book for either three, six or 10 day packages of treatments and relaxation before returning to the frantic everyday world. These include ones for people just looking to unwind, detox regimes and weight management programmes.
Apart from the spa the hotel has a Hydrothermal Garden where myriad water treatments, from the ice igloo to the brine cavern, soothe and revitalise different parts of the body.
As well as a separate spa areas for men and women the hotel’s Health Club has a large gym and separate training rooms for women.
All too soon my session was at an end and I was back in the reception area. The privacy, pampering and peace was total and in the whole time I was there I only saw the therapists, heard only the fountains and the music and was thoroughly pampered – no wonder the spa appointment book is busy weeks in advance.
First published in Men's Passion issue #7 October 2008