ast time I landed in Hong Kong my skin resembled a water biscuit: dry with unattractive blotches. It didn't do much to recommend air travel. While this wasn't the main reason I went to Hong Kong by train this time, I was hoping that the 11-day ground journey from the UK my sister and I were taking would be kinder to my complexion.
Alas, the constantly burning coal furnace, swirling sand from the Gobi Desert and limited washing facilities meant I arrived with a grubby face that would embarrass a miner. My back wasn't in a much better state, thanks to the relentless battering from the hard bunks. A treatment at the Elemis Day Spa seemed the perfect solution.
Recognized by the Ultimate Spa Guide 2006 as one of the top spas in Asia, the Elemis spa is situated on Hong Kong Island in the Central district. The area is stuffed with high-rise buildings as companies jostle to get an office in this prime business location. Among the regiments of suited people striding along the pavement I spotted the entrance and ducked into the businesslike lobby.
At the ninth floor the lift opened straight into the reception area. Smiling women ushered my sister and me to the functional changing room to get ready for our treatments. Having eaten many, many chocolate bars on the trip to Hong Kong there was an anxious moment when putting on the bottom-skimming dressing gown, but this was more than compensated for by a huge pair of paper panties.
The waiting room had a beautiful curved dark wood bar, with tempting platters of food on top. Various teas were on offer and even a bottle of Shiraz Cabernet was available.
Before we gave in to the lure of the tiny chocolate brownies, our therapists - Camilla Ng and Jodie Chow - arrived. We were having the Temple Ritual for two (HK$2,100), an hour and a half treatment. Beneath the neighboring beds rose petals were scattered, which elicited an “ooh” from both of us when we looked through the headrest holes.
I had been worried that I'd be tempted to gossip with my sister during the treatment; however, this was far from the case. As soon as we started the foot ritual, a cleansing massage that features in all Elemis treatments, talking became the last thing on my mind.
As I drifted happily off, Ng started using a body brush to slough away the dead skin cells. This was the first part of the Dream Journey Massage which, together with a purifying mini facial, forms the Temple Ritual.
Aromatherapy oils were chosen by Ng for their relaxing effect, although I quickly came back to reality when, using Swedish techniques, she started massaging my neck. Hard. Which was perfect as there is nothing more irritating than a therapist who ineffectively wafts at the muscles.
She then moved on to my back, paying particular attention to my spine, which I was convinced had been bent by the jolting train. My therapist concentrated on one side of my body was right down to the feet then back up the other side to my neck.
Impressively, the therapists' movements must have been exactly in sync as my sister and I were both asked to turn over at the same moment. I have a theory that they were keeping in time with the music, although in likelihood they were probably just very talented.
The body brushing and massage were repeated on the front of my body, with an amazing hand and arm massage that made my arms float.
Next was the mini-purifying facial. Cotton pads were placed on my eyes as the cleansing began. The facial is designed to heal and balance congested skin, and as a rehydrating mask soaked into my pores, Ng and Chow massaged our head and shoulders. Ng paused thoughtfully to concentrate on my sinuses and help clear my head of a cold; her work miraculously reduced the pressure in that area.
The tinkling of the Tingsha Bells heralded the end of the treatment, but not the end of the experience. We were led back to the original waiting room and offered champagne or fresh orange juice. The healthy option won out. While relaxing in the comfy purple chairs I was brought a plate of fresh dragon fruit, pineapple, strawberries and kiwi, although this didn’t stop me finally managing to grab a few of those chocolate brownies. I would have had some of the carrots, tomatoes and cheese also arranged on the bar, honest, but it was time to wave goodbye to the giant panties and emerge, straight backed and shiny skinned, onto the humid pavements of Hong Kong.
Among the other seductive treatments are the hour-long Resurgence Renewal Facial (HK$1200), a dual-mask facial aimed at those with rough, dry skin, loss of elasticity and hormonal breakouts; Collagen Facial (HK$1680 for 75 mins) which helps to rehydrate the skin while stimulating natural collagen production; and Exotic Lime and Ginger Salt Glow (HK$640 for 45mins) where body brushing and warm oil is followed by Exotic Lime and Ginger Salt Glow to polish the skin, finishing off with Exotic Island Flower Body lotion.