A great spa treatment is guaranteed to brighten any kind of tough day you’re having, and in our heavily cortisol- and caffeine-fueled city routines, Hongkongers love to book themselves in for an hour of tension relief wherever possible. On a recent visit to W Hong Kong’s Bliss Spa, I’ve discovered perhaps what is the massage equivalent to a soul-soothing cup of hot chocolate on a rainy day — in the form of the venue’s signature Himalayan Salt Stone Massage.
The treatment offered at Bliss Spa is by Florida brand Saltability, which imports pink Himalayan salt stones from Pakistan. Palm-sized, hand-carved smooth salt stones are used to knead, warm and lightly exfoliate the skin. The salt itself touts 84 naturally-occuring minerals and salts, packed with benefits ranging from negative ions that help improve your breathing and circulation, to anxiety- and insomnia-fighting properties. There are also claims that pink salt can help reduce inflammation, calm the nervous system, even reduce the signs of ageing.
I’ve had hot stone massages in the past; I’ve even previously tried a Himalayan Salt Stone massage while on vacation in Vietnam (bad rhythm and the inability to find my acupressure points left me feeling aggravated rather than relaxed) — but neither did much to impress me. Sure, the warm stones are made to help release deep-seated muscle tensions, but I still typically preferred the manual soothing of a deep tissue treatment, when done right. Admittedly, a 75-minute session at Bliss converted me into a keen believer of pink salt therapies.
Bliss Spa is a stalwart sanctuary on the Kowloon side, with the hotel celebrating 10 years of operations this year — though with that, the spa is certainly starting to show its age. The dull light of the spa lobby and bubbly aquamarine hues of the corridors now hint at a kitschy space age design trend that was popularised in the early to mid 00’s. It was easy to feel skeptical for my review, yet the friendly and personable service — from the front desk to the changing room attendants to my therapist Annie herself — soon proved me wrong, with operations running smoothly like a well-oiled machine, nailing a perfect balance of being attentive without badgering or rushing the client.
It’s no wonder the spa is constantly accoladed with some of the most prestigious awards — last year, Bliss Spa was crowned the Urban Spa of The Year by AsiaSpa Awards, and The Best Spa Service of The Year by SpaChina Awards — considered the Oscar’s and Emmy’s of the spa industry in this part of the world.
As soon as I was led into my treatment room, the Hong Kong Island skyline fanned out before me, and I took a moment to marvel at the spectacular 72nd-floor harbour views before de-robing and slipping into the toasty spa bed.
With dimmed lights and lowered blinds, the room instantly transformed into a cave of comfort. I lay face down as my therapist got to work — diagnosing the tensions in my back with light presses to stretch out my stiff muscles. Laying the warm stones, a pleasant orb of heat ran up with a tingle up my spine. With firm pressure and a neutral non-scented sunflower oil, she began to knead long warm strokes along my back, before moving onto my thighs and calves, where I didn’t even know I was that knotted. I now know where my previous pink salt stone treatment had failed — the silky massage oil truly helped to create a seamless therapeutic sensation from stroke to stroke, so much that you didn’t feel when each movement began or ended, coaxing out the tension like stirring chocolate under a gentle heat.
Typical spa treatments are often accompanied by sounds such as Tibetan chants, birdsong or other such stereotypical tracks that lead to so-called blissful transcendence. Instead, a quiet tinkle of piano keys played, folding in the blissful vocals of Billie Holiday, Madeleine Peyroux and other delicious jazz crooning. I was surprised at first with this unusual music choice but I was positively spellbound — I eagerly sank into a state of deep relaxation.
Kneading with elbows along my meridian lines, the sequence of treatment techniques is largely based on properties from Chinese medicine — apparently working to balance the body’s electromagnetic field as well as moving and replenishing nutrients in the connective tissues. With the warmth of the salt stones washing over my back, shoulders and legs, I drifted in and out of a heavy slumber, waking only to flip over before my shins, feet and arms were tackled with the same tension-easing warmth.
Finishing off the treatment with a rapturous, toe-curling head and scalp massage, I opened my eyes to a happily refreshed spa glow — smooth, lifted skin where I felt lethargic and limp before, and the energetic sensation of waking up from a full night’s sleep. With the day transforming into night after my treatment, the harbour light show just starting to twinkle outside my window, it reminded me of the calming, cosy atmosphere of fairy lights during Christmas.
All too reluctantly, I got up and got dressed, drifting back to the changing rooms for a dip in the bubbling vitality pool. There are also experience showers equipped with massage jets, a dry sauna and an aroma steam room at your disposal. In the spa relaxation room I also discovered a row of day beds that looked out onto the city, touted to give the same effects as five hours of quality sleep in just a 20-minute nap. As tempted as I was to take another luxurious snooze, I had dinner plans, and I absolutely didn’t need the second nap — I hadn’t felt this refreshed in a long time. Thanks to the expert hand techniques, the welcoming service at Bliss Spa, and of course, the soul-reviving qualities of Billie Holiday, I think I’ve found the ultimate session to treat myself after a particularly long day.
The Saltability Himalayan Salt Stone Massage is priced at HK$1,850/75 minutes or HK$2,250/105 minutes. Bliss Spa, 72/F, W Hong Kong, 1 Austin Road West, West Kowloon, Hong Kong, +852 3717 2797