ESPA is not just a spa; it is a wellness retreat. Inconspicuously located in the western corner of Resorts World Sentosa, it is fractionally out of earshot from the shrieks and screams of the rollercoaster riders at Universal Studios Singapore. And, being sprawled over 10,000 square metres of gardens and forest, it is the antithesis of Singapore’s mainland metropolis. It is the perfect spot to get a solid dose of ‘me-time’, away from the usual chaos and stresses of everyday life.
ESPA is absolutely massive, with everything from Forest Onsen-style Pools to a 24-hour gym and even a restaurant. The ‘changing rooms’ are a labyrinth of dimly lit, mahogany corridors, connecting you to the Heat Experience room (sauna, steam room and access to the outdoor pools) and tea lounges. They also have private spa suites that come with an extra hour of post-treatment recreational time – an extremely popular option amongst couples (though I hesitate to imagine why).
Sadly, the rain put a bit of a roadblock between the outdoor pools and myself. And as for the gym, while the full-equipped and spacious facility was impressive… on this day, I had absolutely no intention of raising my heart rate beyond the absolute minimum.
Having just come off the back of an intense tennis session the evening prior, I had my eyes set on their Fit For Life Signature Retreat which involved a combination of their Indulgence Hammam Ritual (being, as far as we know, the only spa in Singapore with a hammam) and a deep-tissue head, shoulder and back massage to help with any muscle tension.
For those who are perhaps unfamiliar with a hammam… it is essentially a traditional Turkish bath. A ritual involves being bathed, massaged and vigorously scrubbed by a masseuse while your body rests on a large, warmed marble slab in a steamed, dimly-lit room. The hammam room itself looks like something out of the Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets, albeit cleaner and much more inviting. Fresh warm water gushes from the brass-coloured taps, overflowing from the large stone basins while condensation drips from the walls, with a mystical echo resonating between all four corners of the room.
Already lulled into a semi-conscious state by the warmth and dim lighting, I felt a little like a child being bathed and prepped for school, before having fully woken up. Throughout the Indulgence Hammam Ritual, the only sounds heard were the clattering of the shallow metal bowls used to thrust warm water at me from a distance, a bizarrely calming experience. My eyes bleary with drowsiness, I remember gazing at the white light flooding through the skylight throughout the ritual… it was ethereal.
Still in my Zen state, my body was vigorously scrubbed to rid me of those pesky impurities that seem to keep making their way back onto my body. My therapist did all of the work, even making the effort to lift and scrub each limb while I lay in my minimally conscious state. The only genuine moment I remember with absolute clarity is when my eyes were covered with a small towel, making me suddenly anxious about a potential accidental waterboarding. I held my breath.
Post-scrub, my eyes opened by just a fraction as I felt a cool wave of bubbles rush over my body for my foam massage, before my hair wash and mud body mask. Combining massage techniques with a thorough cleansing ritual, every part of my body was buffed to a polished brass standard. While it was not as rigorous as I had anticipated (a common characteristic of Turkish hammams), I was glad. My body felt cleansed and my mind, clear. It was all I could ask for.
The deep-tissue massage however, was not as relaxing… but for all the right reasons. I had clearly under-estimated the size of the knots in my back that suddenly felt more like a series of over-sized rubber band balls across my shoulders. With pinpoint accuracy, my masseuse undertook a mission to rid me of all this pent-up aggression by applying (frankly, impressive) levels of pressure on all the key trigger points.
Having just hurled water and bathed me for an hour during the Indulgence Hammam just prior, this entire affair must have been quite a formidable workout for her. (Perhaps “Fit For Life” was more relevant to her than to me!) Like an athletic-grade sports massage, she teased out each and every one of my niggly bits that had gradually built over time.
Feeling loose as a goose, it was time for lunch at ESPA’s restaurant, Tangerine. The menu (designed by celebrity chef Ian Kittichai) keeps wellness in mind by indicating both the nutritional information and which dishes best complement ESPA’s treatments. Everything sounded incredible – not only for their health benefits but for the fact that they made no compromises in delivering flavour. There were no ‘all-liquid detox’ diet choices here, and having a plate of meat and veg (and dessert!) was very much still an acceptable option.
I opted for their Hawaiian Papaya Soup to start (accompanied by a plump scallop at its epicentre, garnished with sour cream and kaffir lime dust), which was sweet and deceptively rich for something so light in calories. Chased down with some warm bread, dipped in olive oil and toasted five-spice, it was off to a good start. The Asian Style Sea Bass and Salsa was equally delightful, as a chunky fillet of skinless fish rested above a nest of Napa cabbage and Chinese celery dressed in a lime-chilli sauce. For dessert, my eyes were set on the Avocado Espuma with Goma Ice Cream. At just over 200 calories, I would have gladly ordered five. Though that being said, while servings at Tangerine are deceptively small, the meal was both satisfying and incredibly filling.
To combat the fullness, there was only one solution. I made a beeline for ESPA’s Sleep Zone – a dark chamber of various cubbyholes decked out in the types of beds you would otherwise expect to find in an A380 first class cabin. For the third time that day, I lay down, shut my eyes and let total relaxation take hold all over again.
By Marissa Trew | Images courtesy of ESPA
ESPA, Resorts World Sentosa, 8 Sentosa Gateway, tel: 6577 8880, rwsentosa.com
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