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A minimalist urban sanctuary on the Bund

I had read about the Evian Spa several times over the last couple of years, but somehow never found the time to visit. I often go to Shanghai for work, but it is all rushing around to meetings and work dinners…so while I have often had the opportunity to dine luxuriously, it was always harder to find time to relax. But one of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to create balance in my life. Yes, I work hard…a lot of us do…but I made a commitment to carve out time for self care in 2010 and so on my most recent trip to Shanghai I made a point to visit the Evian Spa in Shanghai.

I have frequented the address of Three on the Bund in the past, dining at Jean Georges, Nougatine, New Heights and Laris, but I had never gotten off at the 2nd floor at the Evian Spa. Immediately upon exiting the elevator, I felt a sense of calm. An oasis of calming white minimalist design greeted me and interestingly, I noticed both the presence and absence of some things. For one the often heavy smell of lemongrass and lavender was missing…instead there was a very slight scent which was a cross between crisp linen and a spring waterfall – gentle and fresh but not overwhelming. And then present were flowing white curtains and strategically placed rocks which brought an element of nature into the otherwise urban setting. The overall effect was that of a minimalist urban sanctuary.

My therapist, Elaine, was already waiting. I had pre-booked a 1 hour massage, but I still had to choose which kind. When faced with the endless spa menu, I wished I had planned some extra time….because beyond the 1 hour massage, there were so many things I wanted to do. Not only does Evian Spa have lots of traditional spa treatments like massage, scrubs and manicures, but they also have a whole Clarins range of treatments for face and body. Beyond that they were also offering Endermologie Lipomassage…this impressed me simply because I work in skin care product development and Endermologie is the only proven treatment for cellulite (I could write a whole story on what works and what doesn’t in skin care, but that would get rather off topic in this context.) So when I saw that they were offering this rather than the typical overpromising “slimming treatments,” I was assured that the Evian Spa was serious minded about their treatments.

I opted for the Traditional Chinese Massage for 1 hour (680 RMB / S$141 / $100 USD). I have become addicted to Tui na as it is called in Traditional Chinese Medicine because of its ability to melt the knots that seem to plague me in my shoulders and neck. It’s firm, but not as firm as Thai massage (read: occasionally painful) and a bit more focused on releasing muscles versus the relaxing but not so deep Swedish massage popular in the West. OK – I realize I probably sound a bit like Goldilocks….not too hard, not too soft…but perfect pressure is a fine art.

My massage at Evian started with a foot bath strewn with rose petals and a brief oil massage for my calves and feet. My therapist Elaine noticed puffy ankles (most likely from flying overnight from Singapore) and inquired if I often had trouble with circulation. This attentiveness extended to the massage treatment where Elaine noticed my shoulders were tight and that my neck had a few knots. She expertly focused on these areas and also was generous enough to provide some stretching tips to help release these on a regular basis. Also, I think the heated massage table helped – as many spas as I have been to in my day, the heated table was a first! And an absolutely pleasant one. It may not be a polite comparison, but it was like the first time I used a heated toilet in Japan and I wondered why everyone wasn’t doing this. A heated table tremendously enhances the entire experience.

At the end of the massage, I really struggled to peel myself off the heated table. I was so blissful and so comfortable….a puddle of relaxation. And then I remembered, this was a New Year’s resolution! Wow, this beats giving up chocolate or quitting smoking, or whatever it is that most people vow on January 1.

When in Shanghai, I will make a point to visit the Evian Spa. While there are no doubt cheaper options, I think it is worth the splurge. And if you really want to go all out, go to the Evian Spa and then treat yourself to a glass of wine and truffle fontina pizza at Nougatine – it doesn’t get any better than this.

Evian Spa
2/F, 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu,
Huangpu near Guangdong Lu
Shanghai 200002 China
Telephone: +86 (21) 6321 6622

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