We book into massages and facials when our bodies and complexions are feeling rundown from work and play, and that has been the raison d’etre for spas for as long as the notion of spas existed. Modern day spas typically draw from healing powers of steam and water: just think about the age-old Turkish hammams or the beautifying and healing rituals present in hot spring nations around the globe.

There’s also ancient massage techniques, where we press and knead away tension in the deepest layers of muscle and fibre. But what about emotional health? Or the knots in your back that return every day because of the way you sit? Or revisiting how to eat well to optimise your body’s health? Previously unconsidered as concern areas in the spa sphere, such alternative therapies are now available together with more traditional skin and body treatments at Asaya.

Asaya - Rosewood Hong Kong

Taking up two storeys of Rosewood Hong Kong, the harbour-facing spa space and health-forward restaurant yields gasp-inducing panoramas of the Hong Kong skyline — no matter where you look. Designed by interiors maven Tony Chi, it’s all high ceilings; elegant, flowy motifs (crafted from natural materials like stone and wood); and a procession of serene quarters that blend together seamlessly into one tranquil mothership. 

Asaya bills itself as a progressive, ‘integrative wellness’ concept. In the foyer, you can find several large tables laying out boutique wellness paraphernalia, from quartz and jade rollers to dry masks, to apothecary apparatuses for you to blend your own essential oils, scrubs and masks. It’s like the Ollivander’s of wellness: stocked with every magic tool under the sun to qualm any and all concerns pertaining to body and mind.

On the spa floor, treatment rooms (all of them suite-grade) flank the open courtyard — bathed in the faint musical trickle of water and birdsong. This open-air concept reinforces the ‘journey’ aspect found in most meticulous spas that fall into the ‘urban resort’ category. Treatment suites also embody the Rosewood Hong Kong’s central ideal of a manor house to ‘return home to’ — commencing with a small foyer to disrobe in, followed by a cup of tea in the main lounge-like area. Added perks include a substantially sized walk-in, as well as deep soaking tubs and private garden (the latter of which guests may enjoy at an additional charge). 

For spa goers looking for the mother of all retreats, Rosewood Hong Kong also offers two Asaya ‘Lodges’ — purpose-built for overnight, all-inclusive stays on the tranquil Asaya grounds.

 

Her treatment — Evelyn Lok, Associate Editor

From the booking stage to the pre-treatment welcome, Asaya’s team was as well trained and accommodating as the staff in the rest of the property, with warm and personable correspondence and a welcome where they already know your name. I wanted to pick the most eclectic thing on the spa menu to review, so I booked in for a 60-minute Expressive Arts Therapy session before indulging in a 60-minute facial.

 

Expressive Arts Therapy

Addressing emotional balance in a traditional counselling setting is rarely talked about as it is in Hong Kong, and indeed it’s totally unique to Asaya when it comes to the spa setting. Treatments run the gamut of private singing bowl therapies, to more in-depth cognitive behavioural therapy, to even hypnosis.

Expressive Arts Therapy uses imagery, storytelling, drama, music and visual arts as an integrative method to draw out the issues in your heart and mind, and hopefully help you find clarity and some kind of emotional release. Entering my spa suite with practitioner Kit Shum, an experienced yoga teacher, qualified expressive arts therapist and hypnotherapist, I was met with a large box of arts and crafts paraphernalia, with masks, markers, colouring tools and magazines ostensibly used for collage-making. I also own one of those meditative colouring books at home — I was skeptical that potentially paying guests would spend an hour just making art to release stagnant emotions.

Asaya - Rosewood Hong Kong

Then, after telling Shum about (without going into too much detail) a relationship conundrum I had been experiencing, she reached for the deck of OH cards. They were designed in 1982 by a Canadian artist named Ely Raman, and are predominantly used for storytelling prompts, as well as self-recognition exercises in counselling. I was told to reach for five word cards that I identified with most, with phrases such as ‘love’, ‘laugh’ and ‘let go’, followed by blindly drawing five image cards in order that eerily matched the word itself. The image for ‘love’ for instance was a couple twirling in dance; the image for ‘laugh’ was a man in a hospital bed (where the adage “laughter is the best medicine” immediately came to my mind).

At each stage, Shum prompted me to make connections about the cards with what I was going through, eventually leading me into a guided roleplay, with eyes closed, to help me identify with the roots of my anxiety, and help me discover solutions. Not being one to be vocal about feelings with strangers, I found the roleplay section rather challenging. However, from the moment I saw the matched cards I already felt like my choked up anxieties had begun to loosen up in my chest. By the end of the session, I felt surprisingly at peace, with the invisible knots caused by mental worries — that no massage can ever get to — totally soothed.

 

Lift by Sunday Riley

Amazed by my session of emotional therapy, I couldn’t wait to see what my next beauty regimen had in store for me. A detailed facial skin analysis took 3D snapshots of my skin, which revealed that my skin age, for the most part, matched my actual age. It judged based on terms of hydration, quality of pores, oil production, and noted that I was at risk of premature wrinkles and UV spots if I didn’t intervene. The machine could also measure the angle of my jawline, and saw that my right side drooped more than my left; while my right cheek and my forehead lacked moisture compared to my left side.

With T-zone oil over-production, an abundance of dead skin cells and debris causing dullness, plus a need for some serious jawline architecture, I was prescribed the ‘Lift’ facial by Sunday Riley — billed as a ‘retinol-infused, lymphatic facial massage’ that stimulates circulation, depuffing the skin and ending with a LED collagen-boosting treatment and hyaluronic acid mask.

Asaya - Rosewood Hong Kong

To say Sunday Riley has a cult following is quite the understatement. Spanning over a decade of success, the independent brand from Texas is much more than the hit brand that keeps calling to us at Sephora sales. Created by its eponymous founder, Sunday Riley’s products are devised to target all kinds of concerns, whether it’s photo-ageing and pigmentation or fine lines and clogged pores. Nonetheless, I was ecstatic to try a whole suite of the products to eventually see which one was worthy for me to pick up at the store.

Like all facials, this one began with a cleansing step. My therapist layered Ceramic Slip, the brand’s potent pore-cleansing cream cleanser, with Good Genes, a lactic acid treatment to help slough off the skin’s top-layer gunk and makeup residue. A refreshing, cucumber-scented toner (named Martian) also came packed with skin-clearing properties without drying out the skin. My skin was then drenched in Tidal, a thirst-quenching gel cream mask that also comes packed with two kinds of hyaluronic acid, papaya enzymes and other ingredients to clarify and even out the skin tone. Normally I found gel creams not nearly as hydrating enough for my parched skin, but this one felt like it was constantly oozing with water which my skin gratefully drank up.

My therapist flipped on the steam here, before performing a quick, relatively painless extraction by hand, to get the niggling last bits of whiteheads that weren’t melted off with the first few steps. She then used a hearty dose of Juno, an antioxidant-packed skin oil to massage my decollete, shoulders, and face, using pushing, circular motions to help flush toxins out through my lymphatic system, extending all the way to my hands.

For the final potent skincare step, my therapist massaged on a layer of A+ — an advanced-strength retinoid serum that acts as a magic potion for dark spots, dullness, pigmentation and uneven texture. Then, she attached a red light LED mask over my face, the warm glow lulling me to a gentle drowsiness as it worked to boost collagen production in the deeper layers of my skin.

I woke up to smooth, brightened skin, with my pores virtually disappeared, as well as a longer, slimmer neck and decollete where my jawline restored some visible tautness. My skin glowed with a rose-cheeked hue of healthy circulation. I was thoroughly impressed by the nourishing, skin-taming powers of Sunday Riley by now, despite it leaving me a tad oily. Before leaving the room, I patted on some powder just to even out dark circles and control the blinding shine, to astonishingly smooth results. I was obsessed.

60-minute Expressive Arts Therapy is priced at HK$1,500; PEAR-3D Facial Skin Analysis at HK$480 and 60-minute Lift by Sunday Riley at HK$2,980.

 

His treatment — Randy Lai, Watches Editor

Asaya - Rosewood Hong Kong

Despite possessing a level of interest in spa culture that hovers somewhere around ‘wilful ignorance’, I’d simply heard too much praise heaped upon Asaya to be dismissive. In Hong Kong the concept of integrative wellness is an extremely novel one; and its applications for men — fitness, mental health, and sensible eating — seemed, at least on paper, to offer benefits outside of the luxury hotel norm. Intrigued, I booked myself in for a three hour journey of wellness, following loosely in the footsteps of our intrepid beauty writer Evelyn.

My initial treatment proved relatively orthodox: consisting, in short, of a period of physical assessment followed by sports-style physiotherapy. This was followed by the same 3D skin analysis which my colleague underwent: a process that I’ll discuss in more detail shortly (if for no other reason then its capacity to benefit men in a much more revelatory way). Armed with a clearer picture of my skin, I opted to close out my trip to Asaya with an ‘Anti-vice’ facial — a treatment tailored around reversing many of the abuses men habitually expose their own skin to, made possibly by a culty product range that’s equal parts beauty and science.

 

Posture correction

As part of their mission to provide integrative wellness solutions, the team at Asaya offer a range of physical therapies which build on the combined wisdom of sports science and human movement. This in and of itself is not unusual, but as with the wider Rosewood hotel, there’s an almost religious obsession with fielding only the very best: manifesting in consultants who, very often, have the knowledge, rep, and results to start their own practice.

Without sports-related injuries or a recurrent medical condition to tackle, I opted instead for 60 minutes of posture correction — just one of nearly half a dozen treatments designed to improve the function and movement of your body. Again, in an act of distinction amongst its spiritual peers, Asaya fields their own in-house therapist: a gregarious English bloke by the name of Terry Burge. With more than 25 years’ experience (11 in Thailand), Burge is a body work guru of some renown. A lifetime in the construction and professional sporting industries led to him developing a direct, efficient, and affable style of physiotherapy, which has yielded fantastic results in quite literally thousands of clients across the globe.

Asaya Hong Kong

After a quick introduction in the courtyard, Burge and I adjourned to one of Asaya’s treatment suites, where he kickstarted the session with a brisk game of Q&A. As with any good physio, observing the patient in their ordinary state is an important part of the healing process. I was asked to stand upright so my posture could be examined, and all the while was asked a polite series of questions. What was my office environment like? How much exercise did I do? Did I usually carry a heavy bag? You get the gist.

Consequently, I explained that I worked at a cubicle, that I’d had some previous problems with stress-induced muscle pain, and that I worked out very infrequently at a gym. Based on these answers (in addition to some minor elaboration), Burge was able to intuit my office set-up was “less than ergonomic”, and that, in order to reduce stress on my back and shoulders, I needed to broaden the range of upper body workouts I was doing. Though this whole part of the process was strictly hands-off, I’ve since applied some of Burge’s advice in day-to-day life, and can confirm his observations were spot-on.

The posture assessment was followed by a mixture of assisted stretching and sports massage-esque isolation techniques. After instructing me on how to release some of the tenseness in my muscles via a series of controlled stretches (which you can easily do at home) I was asked to hold several poses while Burge them in order to isolate the more stubborn, burrowed-in kind of bodily stiffness. In a manner akin to ‘call and response’, he’d apply a gradually increasing amount of pressure to various vertebrae, then wait for me to assign a numerical value to the pain (as applicable).

Using this technique, we were able to narrow down my ‘pressure zones’ to the neck, left shoulder and lower spine — all common sources of grief for people who spend much of their day tapping on keyboards from a maladjusted chair. A few well-placed twists and pulls helped to dissipate the worst of the pain, whilst more importantly, leaving me with the tools I needed to tackle such problems at home in the future.

 

GOA ‘Anti-vice’ skin solution

Like Evelyn’s Sunday Riley facial, the skincare component of my journey began with a thorough skin analysis conducted with the aid of PEAR 3D. The system takes dozens of photographs (at different angles) of the user’s face, analysing them in relation to standardised dermatological criteria (e.g. elasticity, tone, fine lines, and degree of UV exposure).

Guests generally select their preferred facial at time of booking, though the report compiled by this system can be invaluable in helping you pinpoint the area in which you’re most obviously deficient. A copy of the results can also be emailed to guests upon request. Needless to say, in a matter of minutes PEAR 3D had helped to elucidate some of my skin’s biggest problem areas: there was a pronounced lack of elasticity due to insufficient collagen; above average UV exposure brought on by my lifelong refusal to wear sunblock; and tonal dullness in specific areas including my forehead and right cheek. 

Armed with these new (and somewhat disheartening) revelations, I opted for the GOA ‘Anti-Vice’ treatment — the only facial in the world formulated around undoing the damage caused by internal and external stressors endemic to the lifestyles of young, professional men (i.e. alcohol, smoke, fatigue etc). After ushering me back into the same palatial spa suite where I had done my posture correction session, my therapist began by applying the first of three GOA products — the Collagen + Control face serum — in relaxing circular motions.

Amongst other things, the award-winning solution is packed with a proprietary ingredient called Dark Phyto-Matter: consisting of vitamins, antioxidants and organic ingredients which facilitate production of healthier collagen, whilst also reducing the appearance of fine lines, discolouration and acne. The serum’s small water-free molecules absorbed rapidly into my pallid skin, and were a fantastic complement to the GOA regenerative face cream: like the serum, this velvety smooth potion is formulated with Dark Phyto-Matter, resulting in an unbroken procession of products which help to ratchet up the amount of collagen production in dull, element-damaged skin.

Thanks to a relatively quick and painless extraction, a few of my pores were noticeably red following the treatment, yet the overall effect was as impressive as it was rapid. I’d entered the treatment with skin that was tough, blemished and verging on the colour gray, and yet within the space of 60 minutes looked dramatically refreshed — a no-brainer for guys during the holiday season.

Sports therapy (HK$1,800), 60-minute Anti-vice by GOA men’s facial (HK$1,980), PEAR 3-D facial skin analysis (HK$480) 
 

The verdict

Every luxury spa aims to offer its clients transformation of wellbeing when they pass through the doors, but Asaya at the Rosewood Hong Kong has managed to prove that it’s a cut above the rest. With thoughtful offerings for niche or hardly ever considered (and much needed) notions of wellness in the spa sphere such as emotional wellbeing, diet and posture, Asaya has effectively carved out its own benchmark.

You could say such offerings are nothing new — you could easily find a chiropractor, nutritionist or art therapist elsewhere with probably less burden on your wallet — but to experience these benefits in such a holistic, luxurious wellness space makes it the first of its kind in Hong Kong. Coupled with the spectacular location of the Rosewood and the elegant design by New York interior designer Tony Chi, Asaya is a true destination for wellness that takes care of you from head to toe.

Asaya, 6/F, Rosewood Hong Kong, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 3891 8588

Evelyn Lok and Randy Lai