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Spa Sanctuary

Mary Bemis 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.

In addition to the spa cottages, there is a 75,000-square-foot spa facility with nine treatment bungalows—three are for double occupancy. The spa features a separate hair salon and a separate nail bar—said to be the first of its kind in the city—that is doing a booming business, as well as an excellent fitness center called The Greenhouse, complete with a juice bar and movement studio. There are also two squash courts, as well as an outdoor tennis court.

To date, there are 330 club members, with a 500-member cap, who use the spa and receive a 20% discount on services, according to Greaves. Twenty percent of the spa’s clientele is made up of locals who favor booking facials. The spa employs 45 professionals and features Comfort Zone, an Italian skin care line. This marks the exclusive debut of the line in Thailand. The spa menu is made up of four distinct categories: Purity, Energy, Harmony and Thai.

“We wanted our local customers to have exposure to international lines,” explains Tareta. “We wanted a performance-oriented line, and one that met with the skin types and climate conditions that also had the presentation and sophisticated packaging.” The opportunity as a global spa company, he says, is to bring in things that are tried and true.

The spa not only is answering the needs of its local clientele, which is made up of well-to-do Thai citizens and expatriates, but it also is satisfying the needs of global spa travelers who have a hankering for superpersonalized and customized experiences. Thailand, after all, is a spa mecca, and i.sawan is a welcome addition.



Today's Spa: Spa Sanctuary--On the Menu

A sampling of Thai-inspired treatments from i.sawan Residential Spa & Club in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Thai Retreat

(a full-day spa package)

Time & Cost: 3 hours and 40 minutes, $221

This tranquil all-day experience begins with an Herbal Footbath, followed by an Oriental Foot Massage. Next is the Inner Balance Body Envelopment, an aromatic rejuvenating treatment that is rich in botanical sea elements and essential oils of bergamot and mint. A 90-minute Thai Royal Lotus Massage—an authentic Thai massage that uses herbal packs and ends with a cooling application of jasmine flower water—completes the spa experience. A lunch or dinner at The Breezeway is included.


Time & Cost: 60 minutes, $72

This Thai-inspired facial draws on the ancient beauty secrets of the land to revive the skin using natural vegetable collagen extracts of ginseng and gotukola.

Sesame Seed and Almond Polish

Time & Cost: 45 minutes, $72

This service consists of a moisturizing body exfoliation that uses crushed black sesame seeds in sweet almond oil to gently smooth and nourish dull, dry skin.

Exotic Pedicure

Time & Cost: 60 minutes, $24

Tropical fruits and Thai herbs combine in this luscious treatment that replenishes dry skin. The service includes a scrub, mask and foot massage.

Thai Herbal De-Stress Bath Service

Cost: $53

This luxurious service is available to in-house guests only. Inspired by the indigenous healing traditions of Thailand, this is one of four exotic baths that blend herbs and oils into the guest’s bathtub of mineral-rich water. In this treatment, plai powder, turmeric powder, papaya juice, gingerroot, mint leaves and jasmine flowers are ceremoniously poured into the bath. Lemongrass tea and a Thai fruit plate come with this special service.

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