For years, I’d drive past the Shangri-La Hotel in downtown Vancouver, always looking up past its gleaming sharp edges and wondering what it looked like inside. I’d eventually get the odd chance here and there with Happy Hour or a dinner event at MARKET by Jean Georges. I was even in one of the residences for a photo shoot one year. But out of all my experiences, I had yet to visit their spa, aptly named ‘Chi’ to reflect its Asian roots.
In fact, I hadn’t heard much about Chi from any of my family or friends, so I really didn’t know what to expect. I finally did visit, when I went in for a hot stone massage on a fairly rainy day in the Spring.
The spa is located on the fifth floor of the hotel, in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Elevator doors open to a water wall, which begins a journey of calm. Although it’s a little short-lived as you walk down the hall, however, as the path splits into two - one into the spa and the other on the right, into the gym and outdoor pool area. Although you have access to both, the two spaces seem a bit disjointed. The outdoor patio and gym area don’t seem to be connected to the Chi spa but rather to the rest of the gym as part of the hotel amenities.
The reception area at Chi is very small. Larger groups would struggle to get everyone in to check into their appointments. The lounge however, was fairly spacious with ample seating area. The décor, with its Asian wood paneling, dim lighting, and quiet music envelop you with a warm, calm and inviting environment complete with tea service. You definitely forget that you’re in the middle of a city.
The therapist was a little late in fetching me from the lounge area for my treatment and while I was quietly trying to brush it off, I couldn’t help but be concerned. You’re paying good money for a massage, after all, and you don’t want your time on the table to be short-changed. `
As soon as she led me into the massage suite (yes, a suite), all my concerns went out the window. The suite was large but very cozy and contained a fireplace, sitting area, a massage table, a full-size tub, a bathroom, and a private change room with heated floors that also included a steam room and shower! You literally didn’t have to step foot outside of the suite. The change room came with more amenities than I could use, a beautiful jewelry box for valuables and a closet to hang all your personal items.
The treatment started with a relaxing foot wash and complimentary tea service of their special ginger tea while seated next to the fireplace. The therapist massaged my feet with oil and scrubbed with bath salts before soaking and drying them. It felt so decadent and a perfect way to start relaxing.
The next step was the Eucalyptus Steam - in my own private steam room, no less! The lights are lowered and you sit in bliss for 10 minutes. The bell rings and you shower and dry off.
The treatment is then followed by the Hot Stone Massage itself. We started with hot stones placed on top of a towel above my lower back just to warm up the muscles. The massage begins with the legs, and is done using the rocks. As I had requested, she kept the pressure fairly deep. The heat from the rocks felt amazing, especially since my body was already warming up from the steam earlier.
When she got to my back, the rocks felt hotter likely because the skin is more sensitive there. So at first it might be a bit of a shock with how hot the rocks are, so anticipate that before you go in! But your skin will soon adjust to the temperature and the rocks will begin to cool down as your body absorbs its heat.
The pressure was very deep, again, at my request. It almost felt like a deep tissue massage except she was varying the use of rocks and elbow. The combination of the heat and deep pressure was exactly what I needed for my ongoing shoulder tightness. She spent most of her time on my back which was greatly appreciated, which meant she listened. I often find that a rarity.
I turned on my back and the massage continued on my legs and arms. It continued up my décolletage - warning that the rocks can again feel very hot in that sensitive area, so take note. She ended with a neck and scalp massage and I was in heaven.
I will be back again.
Your own massage suite. Privacy is premium.
COULD BE BETTER
Because I wanted to check out the facilities (hot tub, pool and steam), I wasn’t able to spend the time in my private massage suite. Would have rather gotten changed and showered there than the fitness centre gym, which is fairly minimal in comparison, with little amenities other than hairdryer, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner.
4.8 out of 5
90-Min Spa Rating: 5H Spa (AHHHHH - AMAZING) Learn more about the spa ratings.