Explore Spa by Le Méridien Saigon harnesses the healing powers of the sea

While Saigon has a million things going for it, including world-class street food, a vibrant nightlife scene and parks and rivers galore, life here can hardly be considered relaxing. With Western New Year and Vietnamese Tet right around the corner, my mind is already on renewal, a cathartic stripping off of the old. With that in mind, I find myself in the Explore Spa by Le Méridien Saigon (3C Ton Duc Thang, D1), taking advantage of the “Detox for Tet” package.

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Located on the 9th floor of the hotel, the Explore Spa by Le Méridien Saigon feels like walking into an underwater kingdom. Giant wooden slats are artfully suspended from the ceiling, recalling a bed of coral, while smooth white ovals hang overhead like so many graceful jellyfish. Even the walls are curved and decorated with iridescent mosaics, and a walkway carries guests over a tranquil water feature. I catch myself humming Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid as I’m served a cool lemongrass tea with sugarcane and a slice of lime and wipe off the Saigon sweat with a scented chilled towel.

With that, I’m whisked into a treatment room where a foot scrub awaits, the first of many therapies in this three hour-long afternoon of pampering. The therapist scrubs my feet with sea salt and rinses them in a warm bath infused with lemon, lemongrass and rose petals. Feet squared away, it’s on to a 30-minute body exfoliation. The therapist gently rinses my skin with warm water before using lavender-scented sea salt to remove dead cells. Her circular movements work the fine salt into my skin, a surprisingly pleasant sensation. With each scrub, a part of the old me is literally fading away, and with it I let go of some of my disquieting thoughts. It’s funny, but in the quiet, dimly lit room, with just the light scratching of the salt against my skin, my mind wanders to thoughts from the past year that I want to slough off like so many dead skin cells. There are unkind words I’ve said and that have been said to me, memories of miserable Saigon downpours and ever-present shark-induced internet issues. Like fine grains of sand, they all disappear into the ether.

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After a quick jump under the rainwater shower and my second pair of barelythere spa undergarments, we begin the 60-minute aromatic therapy massage. A sachet of lavender is gently placed over my eyes as my therapist works her magic on each quadrant of my body, discreetly draping and re-draping the towel to expose just the area she’s working on. Long deep strokes lubricated by sunflower oil banish built-up tensions from my muscles. Even though I’ve silenced it, my phone angrily buzzes in the cabinet where I’ve sequestered it. But for once, I don’t care. I mentally banish the missed calls and email notifications from my temporary underwater kingdom.

Keeping with the ocean theme, a second therapist brings in a tray of Phytomer products to be used in the 60-minute seawater pearl hydrating facial therapy. Made in France, Phytomer is renowned for incorporating marine biotechnologies into their line of spa products which use active ingredients from the sea. I start by inhaling a relaxing serum which is supposed to ‘relax points of tensions, calm and increase synthesis of ß-endorphins’. I don’t know what ß-endorphins are or whether I need more of them, but it smells heavenly, like a stroll on the beach. With cucumber slices over my eyes, I try to keep track of exactly how many different serums, lotions, creams, milks, masks and solutions are applied to my face, but after the fifth application, I begin to lose track. I drift in and out of a delicious sleep, awakening to one machine opening my pores with warm steam and another to suction them out. A final scalp massage is the height of bliss. As I wash my face, I find myself thinking that even though I’ve never actually touched a baby’s bottom, my face and skin are now so incredibly smooth, they’ve likely achieved a level of softness typically reserved for very small, very well taken care of infants.

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Back in the spacious spa reception area, I sip a cup of warm cinnamon tea before heading to the adjacent bistro overlooking the indoor/outdoor lap pool bordered by a clear balcony to take in expansive views across the Saigon River. As the final part of the package, I sit down to a bowl of seaweed miso soup and a refreshing wakame salad, made crunchy with sprouts, sea grapes and edamame beans, creamy with avocado, and sweetly tart with orange segments, all tossed with a tasty Asian sesame dressing. I wash it all down with a mango smoothie and a glass of water infused with orange, cucumber and mint for a wonderfully light meal.

I’ve been pampered to three hours of soul-stripping rejuvenation, a new body and face just in time to face the new year.

The Detox for Tet package at Explore Spa by Le Méridien Saigon is available from December 2017 to March 31, 2018 for just VND2,018,000++ per person and includes a 30-minute body exfoliation, 60-minute relaxing aromatic therapy massage, 60-minute seawater pearl hydrating facial therapy and healthy refreshments at Explore Bistro including an organic vegetable salad, seaweed soup and a choice of fresh fruit juice.

Images by Ngoc Tran and Le Méridien Saigon