British explorer Sir Vivian Fuchs once said that if you actually look like your passport photo, you aren't well enough to travel. After a 12-hour Songkran Festival party, I'd be lucky to even resemble my jaundiced ID picture. Good thing I saved the best for last on my Thailand itinerary, checking into the Banyan Tree Bangkok for one final spa weekend. When it comes to menus that read like sweeping romance novels, no hotel spa has perfected over-the-top pampering like the Banyan Tree. Most treatments take two to three hours and feature an inciting force, rising action, climax and resolution.
I choose the "Soothe Indulgence," which begins with a grounding footbath followed by a warm oil massage with calming properties of geranium, rosemary and cypress. My therapist uses varying strokes to stretch muscle fibres and increase oxygen flow. Next, she buffs my skin with a yogurt enzyme body polisher and envelopes me like a Fruit Roll-Up in a papaya body conditioner wrap. I imagine she must also be a violinist as her impossibly nimble fingers begin the enzyme and vitamin mask facial. She cleanses, then exfoliates, giving extra attention to forehead, nose and chin.
For the climax, she inks a series of eternity figure eights across my eyes with cooling gel on her fingertips - a welcome salve for sun-stroked skin. As a dénouement, I'm encouraged to loaf around the massive treatment suite to my heart's content, sipping on healing herbal tea.
This treatment promises clearer skin as the properties of fruit enzymes in the body polish cleanse and purify the complexion. The facial component is most suited for skin with heavy build-up, as dead skin cells are removed and the growth of new skin cells is stimulated.
Choosing a Thai spa online can be tricky; they all look rather similar - soft focus photos with orchids floating in cliché Zen-like pools. It takes one mere step into the Banyan Tree Bangkok Spa to know this is the real deal. Perched high above the central business district, the spa facilities exude beauty and rejuvenation. Even the most hard-to-impress spa aficionados melt at overtures like the Master Therapist Experience - kind of like getting a good working over from a "black belt" in shiatsu.
When the Banyan Tree opened its first destination spa in its Phuket property in 1994, it pioneered the tropical spa concept with Eastern therapies and holistic focus on spiritual, mental and physical harmony. The formula was an instant hit - an exotic blend of ancient health and beauty practices passed down through generations.
The Bangkok flagship spa offers unparalleled panoramic cityscapes, stylish guest rooms and flawless service. Splurging on the Banyan Tree Club Floor for your spa break is certainly worth it - it guarantees a decent-size suite with impressive amenities, and scores you access to the Club Lounge with open bar, and breakfast at the more exclusive Saffron on the 52nd floor.
Banyan Tree Bangkok at 21/100 South Sathon Rd., Bangkok; 1-800-591-0429, banyantree.com; $188 for 150 minutes.