Traditional Chinese medicine spa treatment at Hong Kong’s Landmark Mandarin Oriental review: no pain, no gain

The Sense of Balance treatment at The Oriental Spa is not for those who want to bliss out on the massage table. But if you think you need to improve your health and are willing to withstand some pain, it could be for you

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 1:05pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 6:06pm

The Oriental Spa at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong is offering a treatment that gives people a taste of TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) within a super luxurious setting.

Sense of Balance (HK$2,550 weekdays, HK$2,950 weekends) is a two-hour treatment that isn’t completely relaxing, but you know what they say: no pain, no gain.

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If you have time to arrive early, do so to enjoy the facilities; if not, you can take advantage of them after the session, too. The amethyst crystal steam room is very relaxing, as is, unsurprisingly, the Zen relaxation room.

Just before the treatment, the therapist will ask where your tight areas are. If you’re like me, it’s the shoulders and lower back from sitting too long in front of a computer.

To start, the therapist gives a ginseng body scrub – using ginseng powder and sea salt mixed with grapeseed oil – and performs a vigorous scrub over almost every body part from the neck down. Ginseng is a strong antioxidant when ingested; for this scrub, it promises to brighten dull skin. My skin felt so soft after rinsing it off, and my body was prepared for the next step.

I was given the option of a dry massage or one using oil, with the therapist recommending the latter. She used Quintessence body massage oil and expertly targeted all the tight areas that needed loosening up, particularly in the shoulders and lower back.

Next came the final part of the treatment: cupping. This procedure stimulates blood circulation and is believed to get rid of toxins and help with health issues such as chronic pain, insomnia and migraines.

Ten light-bulb-shaped jars were placed on my back and buttocks, but instead of the traditional method of heating them with a flame to create a vacuum, here air is pumped out of the cup. I could feel my skin sucked up into each cup as each one was placed on my body.

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The therapist worked her way down my back and then tried to apply cups to my hips, but when she did I experienced a sharp pain. She said this has not happened with other clients, so she avoided this area.

Next she covered my back (with the cups on top) with a towel and then proceeded to give me a neck massage in an attempt to distract me from the pain, but my neck muscles had tightened up further thanks to the suction on my back for the last 15 minutes.

Eventually she removed the cups one by one and I could feel the usual circular indentations in my back. She examined the circular marks and said the colour wasn’t too dark (relative to other clients). This is a good thing as they will fade faster, and is a sign that perhaps my blood circulation isn’t too bad or that there aren’t too many toxins in my body.

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Within a day, several of the purple marks had faded significantly. Within two – perhaps also because I went running and swimming, which increased my circulation – the marks had decreased much more.


Sense of Balance isn’t for those who want to bliss out on the massage table. It’s for those who believe their body needs work and are willing to withstand some pain to improve their health.

The Oriental Spa, 5/F, Landmark Mandarin Oriental, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central, tel: 2132 0011.