spa - Santal Spa, Hanoi
Written by Connla Stokes
Santal Spa is a blissful haven in Hanoi’s West Lake district where travellers and residents come to revive their flagging senses after navigating the hectic streets of this captivating but bustling capital city.
While much of Hanoi’s ancient beauty and French colonial-period elegance prevails in the 21st century, negotiating the ungovernable traffic can still leave you feeling a little frazzled after a day of sightseeing. As a precautionary measure, consider ending your day’s itinerary with an appointment at Santal Spa, a soul-soothing sanctuary with more than one antidote for a flustered visitor.
Located in the city’s West Lake district, a gentrified neighbourhood filled with a host of international restaurants, Santal Spa blends contemporary fittings with traditional Vietnamese décor. The signature treatment is the Santal Massage (90 minutes for US$65) and involves two therapists blending Shiatsu, Thai, Swedish, Balinese, and Lomi-lomi techniques. For something more local, the traditional Vietnamese massage (60 minutes for US$45) incorporates age-old acupressure practices to balance your body’s chi.
For the ultimate indulgence, the Santal Beautiful Bliss (180 minutes for US$180) spa package includes a foot polish, the aforementioned Santal Massage, a reflexology session, some facial care, and exfoliation treatment. Individual massage, reflexology, and various beautification treatments are all available à la carte.
After realigning your mind, body, and spirit, further unwind over dinner and drinks on the rooftop of Don’s Tay Ho Bistro, which overlooks the vast expanse of West Lake, a becalming centrepiece in this rapidly developing metropolis.
Santal Spa is named after the French word for sandalwood, but the spa’s most prized essential oils and massage balms are made from two flowers called kinh gioi nui (elsholtzia blanda) and chua du (elsholtzia penduliflora), which are both sourced from the environs of Sapa, a former French hill station, which now serves as a gateway for intrepid tourists looking to explore Vietnam’s awe-inspiring mountainous north. Chua du is used by many of the mountain-dwelling hill tribes to soothe insect bites while kinh gioi nui is applied to relieve muscular aches and pains. Both can be added to a bath for a relaxing soak. The oils are produced by Sapa Essentials (sapaessentials.com), which develops natural products derived from the sustainable cultivation of medicinal plants native to Sapa.