For a new wave of wellness-seeking pleasure, lay back and enjoy

The new Explore Spa at Le Méridien Saigon (9th Floor, 3C Ton Duc Thang, D1) is an oceanic delight for the senses. When the elevator doors opened, I found myself in a large room of iridescent tiles. Wooden arches floating in midair beckoned me forward, over a small bridge, and to a seat at a curved boat-like desk. On the desk were mysterious bottles, salts and oils for different spa treatments. I was offered a perfumed cup of iced tea, and asked to choose between several samples of massage oils. I chose the one called Breathe, for its light herbal scent. This would be used during the second half of my treatment, after the sea salt scrub. Then my masseuse appeared and I was whisked away to my own private massage chamber. The lights were dim, ethereal music played and a small diffuser gave the room an enchanting smell. I was given a bathrobe and slippers to change into in private.

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Having stepped out of my dirty Saigon street shoes, I was thrilled to start the treatment with a rejuvenating foot soak. Warm water filled with slices of citrus and lemongrass welcomed my weary soles. As I breathed in these spicy Vietnamese herbs, my whole body began to relax. Next my feet were scrubbed with cinnamon-scented sea salt and pumice stone. Newly clean and sweet-smelling, my feet were toweled dry and placed back in their slippers.

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I lay down on the massage table, and a deliciously warm mixture of oil and sea salt was smoothed onto my back. I had heard that this unique Le Méridien scrub contained not just sea salt, but extracts of pearl and algae as well, imbuing it with all sorts of powerful oceanic health benefits. The circular strokes of scrubbing moved in waves along my back, not painful, like small flashes of light going off. I was reminded of bioluminescent tides on the beach, when every wave flickers blue lights as it breaks on the shore. When I walked into the Explore Spa, my skin had been peeling from sunburn during a trip to Vung Tau, but soon that dead skin was a distant memory. Once I had been scrubbed all over, legs and arms, a rain shower in the adjoining bathroom was turned on, and I leisurely washed the salty mixture from my body.

The massages at Explore Spa are a unique blend of Swedish and Eastern traditions. They use natural essential oils to heal and remove toxins from the skin. At the start of my massage, I was asked what level of pressure I preferred. You can opt for a very deep tissue massage, but I chose something less intense. My massage began with strong pressure on targeted points along the spine, causing my back to crack and relax. Then it changed into longer strokes that slowly wore away my tight muscles. A lavender eye pillow relaxed my face while my legs and arms were kneaded and stretched. Finally, my favorite part, the head and face massage, stimulating my scalp and softening the muscles along my jaw.

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After being salted, scrubbed, perfumed and stretched, I awakened from this dream-like realm, amazed to find that only 90 minutes had passed. I felt like I had journeyed to a kingdom beneath the sea, and returned younger than when I left. My body was utterly relaxed and awake, shining and fresh. I was offered a reviving cup of ginger tea. As I sipped, I listened to the happy sounds of children playing in the pool next door. The calming, shimmering spa offers facials, massages and a range of sea-inspired spa treatments. With a Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room to help you unwind, this is truly the place to escape.

The Explore Spa is a great space to socialize, in addition to pampering yourself. Beside the indoor pool is the Explore Bistro that serves up health conscious fare like wraps and smoothies. They also offer sparkling cocktails, perfect for a spa day with friends. Group bookings at the spa are encouraged, and there is a double massage room if you would like to share the experience with someone. Whatever your needs, there is a treatment for you: detox, anti-cellulite and anti-aging therapies are all offered. I’m especially eager to try the Four Hand Choreography, a 75-minute massage with two therapists working in sync.

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To celebrate their new opening, Explore Spa is currently offering 30 percent off on the Underwater Spa Package (90 minutes of a blissful foot soak, salt scrub and massage) that I experienced, making it VND1,176,000++. If you hurry to Le Méridien Saigon (www.lemeridiensaigon.com), they’ll help you forget about hurrying for the rest of the day.

IMAGES BY NGOC TRAN