Nepali Times
Country air and singing bowls

Nestled amongst the green woods of Gokarna Forest is the Le Meridien Golf Resort and Spa. Although just ten minutes down the road from Chabahil, the peaceful surroundings feel many miles away from the dust, noise and chaos of the Ring Road.

Le Meridien has been conceived as a holistic centre, with a luxury hotel with 65 rooms, meeting and conference facilities for large groups, and recreation and leisure with an 18-hole golf course and spa.

The key to the resort's tranquility is the 470 acres of grounds surrounding the resort, which include both the golf course, and an even larger area of untouched forest, full of birds and animals including monkeys and deer.

The clean and secluded environment provides the perfect atmosphere for real relaxation at the spa. Recreation and spa manager Danijela Milanovic says, "Of course a spa is about pampering and rejuvenating, but it's not just treatment that's important, the environment matters too."

The Harmony Spa offers a range of relaxing and invigorating treatments, including massages, reflexology, aromatherapy, body wraps, scrubs and rubs, and mud packs, as well as beauty treatments for both ladies and gents, including hair and facial treatments, manicures and pedicures.

It has four massage rooms, a swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, boutique, and gym, and is beautifully lit, and decorated with thick fabrics and fresh flowers.

Various different massages are available, including both Asian and Swedish styles, as well as the 'Golfer's Massage' which blends both. The 'Golfer's Massage' involves first a dry massage, then application of heated herbal pillows, and finally a full-body oil massage. Through the three different stages I could feel the muscles and knots in my body gradually relax as they were pressed and pulled out.

But Danijela has more plans for the spa. An 'Art of Living' teacher who has trained in Dubai and India, she intends to make it a fully holistic centre, saying "People come to the Himalayas for nature and fresh air, to relax and rejuvenate, and to get a glimpse of spirituality. We aim to fulfil all these wishes here."

There are already yoga and meditation classes every day (which many of the staff attend), and plans are afoot to increase the range of services to include more traditional ayurvedic treatments, and new alternative and new age treatments.

Danijela didn't wish to reveal the full range yet, but one of the newest treats on the menu is singing bowl therapy, in which singing bowls are placed at the various chakras of the body. One guest who had just taken this treatment said, "I feel like I've just come back from a faraway place."

It is easy to forget what's going on outside as the sun shines, the trees whisper in the wind, and birds sing in the woods. A day – even just a morning – at Le Meridien settles the mind and heart, preparing them for the return to the grinding hub of Kathmandu.

Tom Owen-Smith

Tranquility amidst the chaos

Tranquility Spa at Lazimpat is located in the bustling heart of the city, but as you step in inside, the brightly-painted walls, soothing music, dimmed lights and the sweet fragrance of incense create an air of peace. Then you can leave it up to the professionally trained masseur or masseuse to pummel out the tensions from your body.

Tranquility is the latest addition to the chain of spas that was begun as a family business by the Phaiju brothers in 2005. After working at and managing spas for renowned hotels such as the Le Meridien, Hyatt Regency and Hotel Radisson, Bhuwan Phaiju, Tranquility's chairman, wanted to do something on his own.

After facing a dearth of massage therapists during his tenure at Le Meridien, Phaiju started training interested individuals on his own, and eventually opened his own massage training centre in Boudha.

When asked why he chose to venture out on his own, Phaiju explains, "Then, spas in the big hotels only catered to rich and high-society clients. People in general did not really know about spas and massage centres, and were even suspicious of them as they had heard about what goes on in Thamel and Bangkok. I wanted to erase this negative conception and make massage services available to middle-class Nepalis and foreigners."

Getting the centre going wasn't easy. At first it failed to attract any students, and it was only after they promised a 100 percent job guarantee (an offer that is still applicable), that pupils started pouring in. Two months into the new business, Phaiju decided to branch out and began providing services to clients as well.

While foreigners make up a good part of Tranquility's regular customers, the primary focus has always been on Nepali clientele. The spa offers a variety of massage therapies, a sauna and steam bath, and also beauty treatments, using almost exclusively organic materials.

There is a wide range of massages to choose from. Shirodhara, the ayurvedic body massage and aromatherapy massage are the current favourites. Shirodhara involves pouring medicated oils into the third eye in a regular flow and requires exquisite care and concentration on the part of the therapist. Although shirodhara is one of the more expensive treatments available, at Rs 4,000, it is worth every penny. An hour and a half of shirodhara will leave you feeling like a different person.

As you sip herbal tea after your treatment session, you can feel the rush of energy and vigour in your mind and body. Says Phaiju: "People opt for the spa and massages to relieve anxiety, stress and pain. At the Tranquility Spa we rejuvenate the body by pleasing the senses."

Srishti Adhikari

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)