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CHI, The Spa at the Shangri-La: Sydney, Australia

Joanna Hall

Relaxation redefined in Sydney's CBD

It takes something a bit special for a hotel with spa to win an award these days in a busy market, even more so when that award is the Best Spa in Australasia and the South Pacific by 81,000 readers of the prestigious Condé Nast Traveller magazine. CHI, the glamorous hotel spa at Sydney's Shangri-La Hotel did just that in February 2012. At a glittering ceremony in London, winners were revealed across 11 categories, rating the readers' favourite spas across the globe, confirming this is the perfect place for a spa break.

CHI, Shangri-La's signature spa brand, made its debut in Australia back in 2010, drawing inspiration from the origins of the Shangri-La legend, and is designed to be a place of inner peace, enchantment and wellbeing. This large spa is indeed that; an incredibly spacious facility, it has six private spa suites and a menu of over 24 indulgent treatments based on authentic natural healing methods from Asia.

(We have a luxury hotels review on the Shangri-La, Sydney)

The Decor:

Drawing on Asian principles and style, the spa interior aims to offer guests a unique combination of uncluttered space and privacy, shutting them off from the stresses and strains of modern life. The decor teems with Asian artefacts, and the colour scheme fuses warm woods, and ambient lighting; it's hard not to feel tension slip away and a feeling of relaxation as soon as you enter its doors. Each spa suite features its own changing area, steam shower, toilet exclusively for guests' use before their treatments, three of them featuring infinity edge spa tubs for a soak. Beyond the reception area, the relaxation room has booths where you can sit quietly before and after your treatment, getting into the right frame of mind for indulgence.

The Treatments:

A wide range of traditional therapies are on offer in a well balanced menu, from massage and body treatments to facials and entire spa journeys. These can be done as day spa packages, as an all encompassing luxury spa break or as a couples' spa break. Choosing can be difficult; do I want to relax and revitalise my body, or rejuvenate and treat my complexion?

In the end, the treatment I picked is an old favourite; a 1-hour hot healing stone massage. First, however, I completed a form in the relaxation room which would reveal my Chi element, which turned out to be Water, and from which the basis of my massage would evolve. Next I was taken to my spa suite, and invited to change, take a seat and await my therapist. Before the massage began, she performed another common Asian ritual, the cleansing of my feet, then explained the oils that would be used on my skin to complement my Chi element.

The focus of this treatment is the back, and while the stones were heating up silently in the background, the massage began with hands and oils, gliding strokes to relax following meridian lines. My therapist was intuitive, with prior knowledge that I tended to store tension in my lower back, and would undoubtedly have knots around my shoulder blades and through my shoulders. Her work initially was to release the tension and smooth out the knots.

Eventually the stones were introduced in pairs, the first two being placed in the palms of my hands. Continuing, pairs of stones were gradually introduced, still following meridian lines and eventually coming to rest in strategic places along the spine. The heat is not only deeply relaxing, but also assists in the deeper absorption of the oils into the skin.

The Verdict:

This is a treatment which can take up to two hours, and for a deeper and more relaxing experience I'd thoroughly recommend it as part of any spa break. At the end of the hour, I was not only physically and mentally very relaxed, but my back also felt looser. This is a spa which fuses the serene with plenty of glamour, one which is not only centrally located for the CBD, but also provides guests with a truly holistic experience. It was a shame to have to go back to work afterwards, but I have to admit it was without any stress either in mind or body, and that's great for a Tuesday afternoon.

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CHI, The Spa at the Shangri-La is located at 176 Cumberland Street, The Rocks, Sydney, NSW 2000. Bookings for spa vacations and day spa packages can be made by calling 02 9250 6000. For more information, visit

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