I entered the Mandarin Oriental spa in Macau. There was a sharp pain in my shoulder as I arrived. Perhaps it was from carrying my heavy baggage all the way from San Francisco. The Cathay Pacific flight from SFO to Hong Kong and then the ferry from Hong Kong to Macau went quickly, and I slept for an amazing 7 hours. And now it was time to reward myself for the long trip.
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The aroma as I entered the spa area was enough to tell me to put all stresses and concerns aside. The peaceful, inviting area beckoned to me to come further inside. So I did. And I was not disappointed. From the moment my shoes were exchanged for spa slippers at the Mandarin Oriental spa. I knew it was time to unwind

As I handed over those shoes, I felt I handed over a part of myself and was ready for the unloading of any burdens I might be carrying. The spa was warm and quiet, with just a hint of melody in the background and a soothing fragrance. It seemed as if I was the only one there.

I later found out that this is all deliberate. According to Sean O’Connor, Group Spa Manager – Design & Development, this is actually all part of the plan to make you THINK you’re the only one there. They call it “Guest Traffic Management” and it’s designed to make sure you don’t meet any other guests either before, or after, your treatment. The Mandarin Oriental realizes you may not want to feel embarrassed meeting a stranger when you’re somewhat vulnerable in nothing more than a spa robe, particularly with your hair down and tousled, no makeup on and your contact lenses stashed safely in your locker.

“I am very proud that we manage visitors to our spas,” says O’Connor. “You’ll very rarely meet another person, so you don’t have to feel naked behind a robe. We make you feel special–as if you’re the only person there–because, to us, you ARE the only person there–the only person there who matters at that time. That’s part of our management. We want to delight our customers always, and that level of detail is something nobody else has. The ambiance and the experiential aspect are second to none.”

And he’s right. After changing into a swimsuit, I checked out the Vitality Pool. There were three different places or seats here–one was a sit-up spot and the others were in the shape of 2 lounge chairs. Each had jets sending refreshing bubbles onto my body. Hmmm, I could have stayed there for a long time.

The Experience Shower had an energizing mist that descended over my body, and it would have provided cold water had I been brave enough to experience it. I wasn’t, though. I stuck with the Tropical Rain Shower option, it was all-too-soothing.

Then it was onto the massage experience. First the therapists led me into a warm, darkened room and washed my feet and my legs.The foot washing felt like something out of the Bible, and it was both unexpected and strangely welcome – I’d never had anyone wash my feet and legs before. The Foot Ritual is an honorific experience that forms part of the “Spa Journey” and harks back to Oriental heritage – of which Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is so proud.

The treatment itself was nothing short of intoxicating. With its long, soothing strokes, the massage pressed into every one of my tired, aching muscles with firm, but gentle, determination. Every knot dissolved as the tension melted away under the expert kneading of my massage therapist.
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The whole, indulgent, experience lasted longer than any treatment I’d ever had — an amazing 1 hr and 50 mins, yet it seemed to glide by as I fell effortlessly in and out of sleep.

If you need to feel relaxed then THIS is the place to go. The hardest part of my treatment in Macau’s Mandarin Oriental was getting off the table. I felt like the massage table and I had become one. Ah, bliss. The treatment table is custom made in America to MOHG specifications and is called the MO Experience Bed.
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Be sure to choose whatever scent works best for you at the beginning of the massage treatment. I chose the citrus one for its refreshing aroma. And as for that pain in the shoulder? What pain? I woke up from what felt like the most relaxing spa treatment of a lifetime and the pain was, bewilderingly, gone.

The whole experience at the Mandarin Oriental in Macau quite simply puts the ahhhh back in spaaaaah.

But don’t just take my word for it. Check out what others have to say.

Vincent Rossemeier, a freelance journalist from the US, says: “For me, it was the most personalized spa treatment I have ever received. I thought the therapist really listened and customized treatment to points on my body that really needed attention.”

And Teresa Bergen, author of the book The Vegetarian Asia Travel Guide
(www.teresabergen.com) couldn’t agree more: “I had the Macanese Dragon
experience, which included a body scrub, foot bath, long massage, and time in the hot tub.

“All I can say is–beautiful facilities, great aromatic products, and Lisa–my therapist–had marvelous hands. My skin felt so soft afterwards!”

A massage like this is just what you need before, or after, a visit to some of Macau’s best sites–whether that be a visit to the old town with its UNESCO World Heritage Sites or to Macau’s newest attractions.
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In the old town you’ll marvel at the ruins of St. Paul, the Na Cha Temple, the Macau Museum and the Senado Square, while the newest attractions in Macau include the Science Museum, the Macau Tower (where you can do the world’s highest bungee jump) and the Michael Jackson’s Gallery, where you can spot the famous Jackson glove.

And after you leave? That will no doubt leave you with a feeling you can’t quite describe. It’s something beyond longing, beyond nostalgia and can only be described as a niggling feeling that you can’t quite place.

In fact, what you’ll be experiencing is actually known as “saudade.” Macau tourism representative, Joao Rodrigues explains it thus: “Saudade has no direct English translation; no other language in the world has a word with such a meaning, making saudade a distinct mark of Portuguese culture.”

Simply put, Saudade is a feeling of wanting to go back. Macau and the Mandarin Oriental spa will both have that effect on you.

And the answer? That would be to book your return trip to Macau as soon as you can.

There really no other answer for it!

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