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Perfect pampering pleasure places pepper city

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Much like the gourmet coffee shops that have sprung up in Suva over the past 10 years, the steady increase in beauty spas in the capital city signals a shift in urban living.

Locals, who have travelled, studied and lived abroad, have returned with a taste for what's available in more developed cities like Auckland and Sydney. Couple that with Suva's large expatriate population who are used to the creature comforts of their home countries, and you have a ready market for urban luxuries such as beauty spas.

Since the pioneer of Suva spas, Head to Toe, opened in 1995, the number of fully-fledged spas in Suva offering the range of beauty treatments from facials to pedicures has grown to five while a number of smaller beauty salons offering spa treatments have sprung up.

The four Suva spas featured here Head to Toe, Beauty Mantra, Pure Fiji Spa and Jade Spa are each run by women and are, by and large, for women.

Men account for a small percentage of the spa market but that's growing steadily, with changing attitudes towards grooming.

Head to Toe

Why do people go to spas? Is it to beautify? Or to unwind and release stress? Or is it to be pampered?

The answer is all of the above, says Eta Yuen, of Head to Toe, the pioneer of Suva spas.

When Head to Toe first opened its doors in March 1995, it was housed in a single old wooden colonial cottage on Gordon Street.

Back then, spas were literally a "cottage industry".

Today, business is thriving and Head to Toe has extended to two charming side by side cottages.

In the 13 years that the spa has been open, Head to Toe has not only all paved the way for other spas in Suva but set benchmarks in service and quality of treatments.

It uses the Australian naturals brand Natalie as well as Fiji's own organic skincare line, Niu Living in its top to toe treatments.

Of its two cottages, one is used for petit treatments such as mini-facials ($40) and express manicures ($25) while the other is reserved for more leisurely package treatments such as the "Perfect Retreat", which includes a back massage, specialised facial, deluxe pedicure, mini manicure, brow tidy and a light snack. It costs $130.

For busy male executives, the "Male Time Out Package" offers a back exfoliation or massage, male specialised facial, followed by a foot and scalp massage for $99. The majority of the clientele are women, says Yuen although more men are beginning to come in for treatments, she says.

Men in Fiji have traditionally regarded grooming as feminine, however, this attitude is slowly changing, she adds.

While the treatments are all world class, what truly stands out about Head to Toe is the island hospitality and service.

With ample parking on Gordon Street, its location just outside the city's CBD means it's a popular escape for busy executives.

The former Australian High Commissioner to Fiji and a Head to Toe regular, Susan Boyd, summed it up perfectly when she wrote in the guestbook that the spa was "an oasis in a hectic life".

Beauty Mantra

With two outlets, one in the Suva Central complex in the city centre and the other in Sports City complex, at Laucala Bay, Beauty Mantra was the second spa to open in Suva and has built up a steady clientele over the years.

"In Hinduism, the word 'mantra' can have multiple meanings: From the chanting of holy scripts to secrets, devotion and dedication," says Pratibha Singh, the Indian-born founder of Beauty Mantra, whose family relocated to Fiji when she was in her teens.

It's the latter meaning that Beauty Mantra takes its cue from, says Singh. She says her spa is devoted to delivering world-class beauty rituals right here in Fiji.

The Indian theme, however, ends at the name. No ayurvedic (the ancient Indian system of health care) treatments or Indian-inspired interior is to be found here.

Instead, Beauty Mantra uses some of the world's best Western spa products brands like Decleor from France, Joyce Blok from New Zealand, and Pevonia Botanica and OPI from the United States.

The spa's interior is modern and minimalist, featuring all-white treatment rooms and state-of-the-art equipment.

When it comes to treatments, Beauty Mantra's tandem facial, manicure and pedicure where three therapists work in sync is pure indulgence while time-saving. It costs $200 and is a hit among busy executives.

Equally enticing is the award-winning spa's Sabai hot stone massage, a must-try. It costs $75 for one hour.

Pure Fiji Spa

Homegrown beauty brand, Pure Fiji, added a signature spa to its Vatuwaqa factory in 2006, where its popular body products are used in the beauty treatments.

A dazzling array of native orchid blooms line the entryway into the Pure Fiji Spa.

From there, steps over running water lead you inside an urban oasis where a complimentary foot soak in coconut milk bath is administered on arrival.

Of all the Suva spas, Pure Fiji's is the closest to a destination spa, where the surroundings and interior are as carefully thought out as the treatments on offer.

The Balinese interior, along with soft music and softer lighting, go a long way in creating the sanctuary-like feel that transports one from the outside world to a place of deep relaxation.

Guests choose from a selection of natural treatments made with uniquely Fijian plant extracts massages and wraps, facials, and luxurious spa pedicures and manicures.

Not one to rest on their laurels, the Austin family continues to add innovative treatments to the roster.

The latest offering is the warm seashell massage, an indulgent therapy that employs polished natural seashells for deep-tissue massages. It costs $60 for 30 minutes.

On offer is a new royal milk and honey ritual ($150 for 80 minutes) that combines Fijian honey and coconut milk to hydrate, nourish, tighten and strengthen the skin.

Post-treatment, a Pure Fiji gift awaits each guest.

Jade Spa

The newest addition to capital's spa scene is Jade Spa, located in the Mid-City Plaza, on Cumming Street. Opened in August 2007, the spa's first 100 customers received jade necklaces to commemorate the occasion.

"The Chinese have long revered jade as both a healing crystal and a lucky charm," says its founder, Fang Fang Wu-Jamnadas, originally from northern China.

Her new spa fully explores the benefits of the ancient crystal with a sauna that's covered in green jade from floor to ceiling. It seats up to four people at a time.

Saunas are said to increase metabolism and pulse rates, make blood vessels more flexible, while the improved circulation is believed to benefit joints. It is said to bring about the same metabolic results as physical exercise.

Jade Spa's sauna costs $20 per person or $35 per couple for 35 minutes.

Post-sweat, an authentic Chinese pressure point massage is recommended to rid serious kinks. ($40 for 30 mins). The treatments end with a healing green tea.

Jade Spa's staff is a mix of locals and three beauticians brought in especially from China.

An in-house Chinese nail artist specialises in acrylics and nail art designs while the resident facialist delivers luxury facials using French and German beauty products.

Next up, Wu-Jamnadas, is opening a hair and beauty salon in the new Morris Hedstrom City Centre (MHCC), which itself is part of the changing face of Suva.

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