Forget the booked-3-weeks-in-advance spa reservation spent all day at a private vicinity larger than a two-story home. In a culture where employees willingly work unpaid overtime and the occasional weekend out of respect for their superiors, such a luxury is nonexistent. But that doesn’t mean that the Taiwanese never take time out of their busy days to relax and pamper themselves. In fact, even with a diligent work culture, Taiwanese still put a focus on health and the body. Here, spas are abundant and open for extended hours. And the overpopulated city of Taipei brings luxury to even the smallest of spaces, providing a quick and hassle-free experience for visitors and the local nine-to-fivers (or nine-to-niners.)
(Read also:Five Taipei Spas Worth Visiting)
Everything from massages, facials, detox, and collagen treatments can be found in the smallest yet most luxurious of spas. Treatments can be booked from anywhere between thirty minutes to two hours, and the convenience of instantly booking on apps like FunNow, Line, or Facebook make an escape from work readily available. With the belief that massages aren’t just meant to relax you, but heal you, the smallest of Taiwanese women can have the strongest of hands that release your tension (with a bit of pain) so that you leave feeling brand new. Here I explore some of the best spas around Taipei, each with their own unique offerings.
Interactive map of all massage places listed below:
Complete privacy and deep relaxation: Renewal Spa
A quaint little spot, Renewal Spa is a secret oasis within walking distance to the MRT, quietly tucked away and guarded by a private gate. I was running late and clearly a bit flustered when I arrived, but the front desk attendant gently reassured me that there was enough time, and invited me to throw my shoes off and slip into a pair of white squishy slippers while she gave me an introduction of the spa. The minimalist, neutral color scheme and meticulous cleanliness quickly calmed my nerves.
I was then invited into my own dressing room to slip into a plush, ivory robe and store my belongings in a secure locker while I showered. While I was changing, the staff had started the shower for me to warm up the room and ensure that I would have hot water the minute I undressed. After a nice, warm shower, I was directed into a dimly-lit massage room where a warm glass of tea and low-humming music awaited me. The masseuse let me choose an organic, aromatic oil to diffuse directly under my face while I received the massage. Even though I was there to receive a 30-minute back massage, the masseuse immediately noticed tension in my neck and shoulders and said she would spend extra time there to address my problem. I felt my body relax as I lay atop a heated bed, sheltered by a heated sheet and heating pad that covered my lower body. The temperature and music choice were mine to adjust at any time during the treatment, the staff member reminded me.
After the massage, I flipped over for my custom facial. The same staff member accurately assessed my skin’s condition with just one look and got to work. Blackheads were removed from my problem areas, and top quality Swiss, German, and French topical products were applied to my dry skin to restore moisture, including hot and cold eye packs and a lavender sheet mask. During the final step, my pores absorbed a creamy, strawberry-infused mask from France while I received a massage on my upper chest, neck, and shoulders.
After the treatments were over, I sleepily got up from my bed and entered the relaxation room where a warm, red bean dessert and cup of tea were awaiting. I still had 30 minutes left within my two hour booking, so after relaxing for a bit, I hit the sauna and ended my visit with another shower. This quiet escape from Taipei’s hustle and bustle left me feeling truly renewed.
Where technology meets the ancient art of Chinese reflexology: Jabali
Taipei has been described as a city where the “old meets new,” and the intersection of technology and ancient Chinese traditions at this spa is a testament to just that.
If you have ever received a foot massage that involved applying pressure to select pressure points, then you have already experienced the ancient belief of “chi,” or energy in Chinese. For centuries, Chinese doctors have applied the meridian system, or the belief that twelve energy channels run from internal organs to pressure points on the body, from everything to what one eats to daily lifestyle habits. And massage is no exception. Jabali incorporates technology and utilizes an app that first uses the meridian system to assess one’s health before designing a custom massage to relieve your aches and pains.
I began my treatment by placing a wireless device around my wrist that was synced to an iPad. The staff member used a scanner to scan select pressure points on my hands and feet, and the app then generated a diagnostic of my overall health. The screen showed that my spleen and liver were below optimal levels, which the staff member attributed to my frequent lack of sleep. The staff member explained to me how each organ was related to various lifestyle habits, and then relayed my information to the trained masseuse. Together, they picked a custom treatment for me, which focused on pressure points on my back and my head.
After a shower in their heated bathroom, I fully undressed and let the masseuse know I was ready. She had over eleven years of experience studying the meridian massage technique, and carefully explained each step as she began to massage my back and head area. She explained that the pain I experienced in certain areas was due to a “blockage” in that energy channel and massaged the areas to release it. She also carefully massaged my stomach area, which revealed clues about my digestion and eating habits. Finally, she massaged pressure points on my legs that were allegedly linked directly to my spleen and liver. As it turned out, those areas proved to be the most painful.
Whether you believe in Chinese medicine, this experience truly gives visitors a deeper understanding of how Taiwanese view health and the body. And it is a great massage, regardless!
Fully present in the middle of Taipei: A.T. Spa
Located in a residential area on the second floor of a high rise next to restaurants and shops, A.T. Spa is an example of how the overcrowded city of Taipei maximizes space while still providing comfortable and professional services. The name of this venue, “A.T. Spa” is inspired by the English preposition “at,” as the environment aims to bring all customers to the present moment, “at” the spa only.
The relaxing atmosphere at A.T. Spa made me forget that it was lunch time in Taipei and that I had just passed by bustling restaurants with lines wrapped around the door.
A.T. Spa offers an extensive menu of massage services that fill several pages of a detailed brochure. I went with the ultimate relaxation body massage, which aimed to release the muscles in a similar manner to that of a sports massage.
After showering and slipping into a soft, comfortable robe, I was directed to take a seat on the massage bed in the dimly lit treatment room. The masseuse asked me to participate in a chakra ritual whereby I instinctively chose oils that represented my body’s strongest “energy channels.” With this information, she began a very custom massage, targeted at releasing the lactic acid in my sore muscles and relaxing my mind and spirit.
This quiet, yet efficient spa is the perfect escape for anyone wishing to escape from the lively city of Taipei to experience the present moment with a massage. (Read also:Hot Springs, Spas and Spa Hotels Around Taiwan)
A spiritual getaway with fine products from around the world:
I walked out of an industrial elevator on the second floor of an unseeming building and stepped into a beautifully decorated apothecary with bottles of all-natural, organic oils lining the shelves and dressers against the walls. DivaBeauty believes in the power of botanicals, and incorporates these fine oils into all parts of their treatments. The owner carefully hand-selects these products from around the world to ensure they are of the highest quality and without any harmful parabens, sulfates, or artificial colors.
I was invited to sit with a cup of tea while my masseuse evaluated my body’s needs and recommended the best oil for my treatment. I ultimately went with a jasmine-scented oil, which is known for its function as an antidepressant, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, antispasmodic, and sedative. My massueuse then selected a tarot card for me, revealing a strong goddess known for her strength and resilience. Very accurate, I thought.
My spiritual journey continued in the massage room where the masseuse let me smell the oil one more time before applying it on my body. She gave a slow, soothing massage that eased my mind, body, and spirit. Relaxing music created an environment When I awoke, I was still in a trance from the experience.
High technology and the latest beauty trends: Liao Mei Xue spa
In the age of technology, it is hard to keep up with the now faster than ever, always evolving beauty trends. Luckily, Taipei is a modern city that not only keeps up with, but sometimes surpasses the West, with its offering of new and improved technological beauty treatments.
Before I entered Liao Mei Xue, I had no idea that LED light therapy was all the rage in America, with celebrity endorsements from the Kardashians and Jessica Alba. It is believed that pink light that is emitted from machines can stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, leading to visible improvement of the skin. Select rooms at Liao Mei Xue are equipped with anti-aging collagen light beds similar in appearance to that of a tanning bed. My treatment began with a thirty minute session inside one of these beds. I sweat quite a bit during my session, but the masseuse told me that warming the body up in this manner was optimal to prepare for the massage.
My masseuse spoke English and had nearly twenty years of experience in her field, resulting in both a relaxing and effective body oil massage. I was invited to use the in-room shower afterwards, and I left with my skin looking noticeably different. If you want to keep up with the latest beauty trends, the staff at Liao Mei Xue spa are well-trained to educate you and leave you looking your best!
East meets West: SWISSpa
With four locations in Taipei, SWISSpa has gained popularity among both celebrities and local Taiwanese with its international approach that combines Eastern herbs, European aromatherapy and Western science. Customized facials and body treatments are offered for men, women, and even pregnant women.
The cross-cultural influence is readily apparent from the European-style corridor, wallpaper and accents that are coupled with Asian-carved doors and artifacts. I received their “Oriental Reborn” treatment which was a mix of a Swedish deep tissue massage and traditional Chinese massage.
The masseuse applied Swiss oil and years of experience to release my tight and tired muscles (I had just come from jiu jitsu practice). Then, she used Chinese scalp massagers to release the tension in my head. It was an intense treatment, but I left feeling great!
This article originally appeared in Taiwan Scene.