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Luxuriate in a gold-tiled pool at the St. Regis Lhasa spa in Tibet.
Luxuriate in a gold-tiled pool at the St. Regis Lhasa spa in Tibet.

High touch v. high-tech healing at spas around the world Add to ...

Italy: In a restless sea of franchised wellness and shifting bandwagon trends, The Spa at the Bulgari Hotel in Milan remains one of the most rarefied experiences in the European market. True, professional glamazons are drawn to the hotel's cinematic beauty; regardless, the vibe never verges into pretension. The spa sits in the centre of a 43,000-square-foot private garden with a framework dating back to the 1300s. Once the vegetable patch of a monastery, it's now an intricate, jungle-ish tangle of vines and evergreens. Recruiting some of the best bodywork pros in Italy, the spa is all about idle afternoons spent in hands-on pleasure. Massage protocols are followed to the letter: fingertips never leaving the body for more than five seconds; hands thoroughly washed before the therapist moves onto massaging face and scalp. Not surprisingly, the most popular treatment is The Frequent Traveller, designed to soothe the effects of environmental pollution and air travel. Bulgari Hotels & Resorts Milano at Via Privata Fratelli Gabba 7/b, Milan, Italy; 39-02-805-8051; bulgarihotels.com

Tibet: The peak of the Tibetan capital - at an ethereal 3,658-metre elevation - is now home to the world's highest high-end hotel, the St. Regis Lhasa. Attitude meets altitude at the newly opened resort's Iridium Spa, where five-star luxury meets mystical Tibetan spirituality. The hotel features 150 guest rooms and 12 villas that look out over snow-tipped Himalayas, poetically dubbed "The Roof of the World." Perhaps imagining the endangered landscape of the Dalai Lama colonized by Starbucks-addicted pamper pusses is nauseating. A swim in the ornate, gold-tiled heated swimming pool or a taste of Si Zi Kang restaurant's gastronomic take on Tibetan cuisine may temper your outraged tune. The spa menu incorporates herbal medicine and showcases therapists so fiercely hands-on they practically wrestle you to the mat. The St. Regis Lhasa Resort at 22 Jiangsu Road, Lhasa, Tibet; 86-891-680-8888; starwoodhotels.com/stregis


Singapore: Driven by generating results over feel-good endorphins, Singapore's Drx Medispa delivers high-tech therapies in a serene spa setting. It prides itself on being the only spa in Singapore to offer zero-gravity flotation chambers to combat sleep disorders, and Airnergy, an oxygen therapy system used in sports medicine to boost our natural regenerative ability. They also offer lipo slimming for the self-conscious, acoustic wave therapy for jittery types, and trichology for the folically challenged (treatments designed to enliven the hair and scalp with low-level laser therapy). Drx Medispa at 302 Orchard Road Tong Building #16-01, Singapore; 65-67331555; drxmedispa.com

Brazil: Brazil's Kurotel Medical Longevity Center and Spa offers a cutting-edge Cellular Revitalization Treatment, a pre-emptive strategy to improve immunologic response quality. With three staffers for every client, the centre provides truly personalized service by addressing all aspects of a guest's needs. With an international reputation for predictive, preventive medicine, Kurotel is one part pampering spa, one part state-of-the-art medical centre. Kurotel Longevity Center and Spa at Avenida Nacoes Unidas, 533 Gramado - RS, Brazil; 0800-970-9800; kurotel.com.br

Thailand: Located in the heart of Bangkok, S Medical Spa offers some of the most extensive spa facilities in Asia with qualified doctors, dermatologists and acupuncturists at the ready. The spa menu has the girth of the Toronto Yellow Pages - literally. Impatient types are drawn to the medical facials and laser technology for removal of acne scarring or unwanted hair. For the svelte-obsessed, there's "figure styling" technology to dissolve fat through non-surgical Lipolysis. Of course, this seems to work best on the already slim. I got chills at the sight of the colonic "throne room," which was a bit too like Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey for my taste. I found the programs focused on detox, vitality and relaxation much more appealing. A surprising delight is the dining, which greatly surpassed expectations. S Medical Spa at 2/2 Bhakdi Building on Wireless Road, Lumpini, Bangkok, Thailand; 662-253-1010; www.smedspa.com

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