The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, New York

Eastern Atmosphere Melds with an East Coast Location

Amyethyst Crystal Steam Room at the
Mandarin Oriental Hotel

Down a corridor off the 35th floor lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which occupies the top floors of the Time Warner Center at New York"s Columbus Circle, is a tidy glass-fronted space, the spa"s reception area. Decorated with little more than a wall of shelves holding the line of beautifully-packaged exclusive English beauty treatment products, Espa, the room yields only a faint clue to the splendor lying on the other side of the back door.

Guests sign in at a long counter, exchange their shoes for plastic sandals and slip on an energy bracelet. In some mysterious way the thin band is designed to add ch"i or life force to the spa activities. Even the dressing room is a cut above in providing a personal amenities kit with toothbrush and paste, comb and so forth in lockers that are controlled by combination codes.

After changing into the "all together” and donning a robe, men and women proceed to separate private areas, the crystal rooms, for a recommended 40-minute combination of steam and water prior to their treatments. Eucalyptus and amethyst fragrances in the steam and shower perfume the air and add another sensual dimension to the therapy. A circular enclosure with a built-in bench that hugs the wall is designed like a Turkish hammam. Before using the vitality pool, guests cool down in a special shower. The pool is filled with hot bubbly mineral water created by hydrotherapy jets. You lie on a bed or sit on a bench made of bars so that you can be massaged on the underside of your body as well as the front.

While waiting for your masseuse or aesthetician you rest in the Relaxation Room or in the Tea Lounge. Here you become aware of the magnitude of the views and the delicateness and subtlety of the design. The Hudson River, New Jersey and the towers of the West Side can be seen from the broad windows that span each room. I waited in the Relaxation Lounge for Angie, the therapist who would administer my treatments during a "personal journey” in a two-hour block, TIME RITUALS, a concept unique to Mandarin Oriental"s Spas. The design in that room is a paean to the Asian philosophy that less is more and that simplicity is at the heart of the most beautiful décor. Arranged beside the window in this space is an orchid garden from which water drips into a tiny pool and onto a bed of stones.

My TIME RITUAL was personalized just as it is for the other clients. Angie opened several jars of products and offered me a smell test. I chose spearmint and algae. Then she disappeared for a few moments while she blended oils and creams that she would apply during the session. It began with a dry brush scrub for exfoliation, followed by a warm heat wrap and a full body massage with attention to the areas most in need of relief from tension.

After the treatment I was offered the best tea I have ever tasted, a blend of berries sweetened with honey, brewed by the hotel"s Asiate restaurant and served with nuts and dried fruits like cranberries and papaya. Chef Nori of Asiate prepares bento box lunches that are included in the day packages. Exquisite to look at, the six small selections are as much a work of art as they are a delectable repast.

A further treat was a stroll through the entire spa to view all the facilities. The manicure/pedicure room is unusual in that one does not often find an area devoted solely to hands and feet. The hallways follow through on the minimalist concept with simple floral arrangements that are created by the flower shop in the building, botanical prints and a niche displaying red vases with a single blossom in each one.

The building elements throughout the spa are very tactical. Mostly light colors are used, including a considerable amount of beige. Elements of Asian style are introduced through Chinese furniture, Japanese rice paper window treatments, gold leaf mill work and bamboo and slate flooring. The ne plus ultra highlight of the entire floor is a 650-square-foot VIP suite, designed to be booked by couples. Featuring a special oversized kang bed from Thailand, which is used for shiatsu, the suite also has a sunken bathtub for two, steam shower, a modernistic glass-enclosed fireplace and dual massage tables. The view from the suite is of the river and a great expanse of the sky. Hence, light blue is introduced into the palette.

The 36th floor is given over to a state-of-the-art gym. Tim, the gym director, showed me around and proudly pointed out the unique
features—the soft quartzite floors, the silver painted ceilings, a 75-foot long Junior Olympic-sized pool and top of the line equipment manufactured by Life Fitness, such as a seated leg curl machine and treadmills. He said that the treadmills with built-in TVs and earphones feel much like shock absorbing diving boards on which you are gliding.

Hotel guests, residents of the Mandarin Oriental condominiums located in the tower and spa visitors signing up for half- or full-day programs may use the gym.

The Time Warner Center houses a branch of Equinox Fitness Clubs. Hotel guests looking for variety may purchase a day pass for Equinox, which has some pieces of equipment that can not be found on the 36th floor. The real advantage of a gym pass is that it allows one to take a variety of classes from eight to eight, seven days a week.

The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental, 80 Columbus Circle at West 60th Street, New York, NY 10023. Tel. 866-801-8880, 212-805-8800.