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Spa Sanctuary

By: Mary Bemis
Posted: June 9, 2008, from the December 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

At i.sawan Residential Spa & Club, spa-goers find respite in the privacy of their own spa cottages. Bangkok welcomed a new level of luxury spa with the opening of i.sawan, a sanctuary tucked away on the fifth floor of the Grand Hyatt Erawan. The hotel, built in 1991, is located across from the Erawan Shrine, a popular tourist attraction. Erawan is the Thai name of a mythological three-headed elephant god, and the friendly looking creature is evident throughout the property—from statues of all sizes to the tiny elephant symbol on the restaurant’s menu, denoting spa cuisine.

Officially opened in November of 2005, i.sawan Residential Spa & Club is comfortably situated in an outdoor garden space, high above the hustle and bustle of the city. The location is an apt one when you consider the fact that the word i.sawan signifies the fifth level of heaven in Buddhism.

“This actually is Hyatt’s second-generation residential spa; the first one was Plateau at the Grand Hyatt Hotel Hong Kong,” explains Gordon Tareta, global director of spa operations for Hyatt Hotels. “We will never do another i.sawan, but that’s not to say there may not be similar elements in another project.” Hyatt Pure, states Tareta, is the umbrella brand, and i.sawan is a spoke in that brand and a stand-alone brand that will not be duplicated. “We look at each spa and project and ask, ‘Who is my target market, what’s in my marketplace and what is different, yet still will be accepted?’ ” he says. With this particular property, the big question was: Is there a spa for the locals? This includes a segment of very, very affluent and sophisticated spa-goers who travel outside of Thailand for the spa experience. With this in mind, i.sawan was born.

Cottage retreat

Designed by renowned American architect Tony Chi, the spa and club cover more than 75,000 square feet. This space originally housed a health club and restaurant. There are six spa cottages, five of which surround a beautifully landscaped courtyard that leads to the outdoor pool and The Breezeway, a casual and contemporary restaurant that serves spa cuisine. The remaining cottage is set apart from the rest for those seeking an ultraprivate retreat. Each cottage is 1,000 square feet and contemporary in decor, and contains a bedroom, living room, nicely appointed bathroom, spa treatment room and large private patio in a landscaped garden. They can be booked for day escapes, in addition to overnight stays.

“We thought about building the cottages a few years ago,” recalls Richard Greaves, general manager, who has been with Hyatt for 20 years, opened the hotel in 1991, was transferred in 1996 and then returned three years ago. “The biggest surprise has been the cottages. They’re a huge hit, attracting Asian and European guests of all age groups.” Everyone who experiences the new property loves it, relates Greaves. “After being open for six months, we were very close to achieving where we needed to be,” he says.