Escape to an onsen

14 Oct 2019 / 11:22 H.

NESTLED within the bustling cityscape of Kuala Lumpur hides a place offering centuries-old Japanese bath tradition that is perfect for the modern-day urbanite.

In need for peace of mind and to escape the stresses of a hectic lifestyle, I headed for Urban Retreat Onsen Spa at 163 Retail Park in Mont Kiara to indulge in the first Japanese onsen facility in Malaysia.

A Japanese onsen refers to a natural hot spring bath, generally looked upon as something of a treat. A sento, meanwhile, refers to the communal indoor bathhouse.

Both share similar rules of etiquette that make up a very interesting experience.

Perhaps the most daunting bath etiquette is stripping down naked in front of strangers. Yes, you read that right: birthday suits only.

But we are not in Japan, are we? That is why Urban Retreat Onsen Spa has created a private onsen experience with individual rooms furnished with an onsen tub imported from Japan, complete with shower facilities and other amenities one would find at a typical bathhouse in Japan.

There is nothing more relaxing or therapeutic than to just soak yourself in a hot bath after a long day.

Authentic Japanese onsen utilises the healing properties of natural hot springs to ease muscle stiffness and joint pains, and improve blood circulation.

At Urban Retreat Onsen Spa, it uses mineral-rich crystalline powders as a substitute.

The experience began with selecting a bath salt and water temperature of my choice. I chose Kirei bath salt for its moisturising properties and a steamy 40°C bath.

The guided steps were shower for five minutes, soak in the onsen bath for 10 minutes and repeat.

In truth, I never bothered to repeat the steps as the bath was way too blissful to step out for a quick rinse. In fact, I thought it was a hassle. After all, I only had 45 minutes of bath time.

Although I liked the pleasant scent of the bath salt, whether it also moisturised my skin and boosted its suppleness I couldn’t really tell after the bath.

Next up was a full-body scrub and a body massage. I was ushered from the onsen stall into the lounge area for a brief wait before entering the treatment room for a deep exfoliation experience with the spa’s ingenious rice-based scrubs.

With an exfoliating towel in hand, the therapist gently scrubbed away dead skin cells, opening clogged pores and removing the skin of its impurities.

Incorporating soothing massage techniques, she not only helped relax tense muscles but also stimulated blood circulation throughout the body.

The light texture of the scrub granules did not feel abrasive on the skin at all.

Combined that with the delicate scent of warm vanilla citrus fragrance, and my mind was truly put at ease.

An hour later, I rinsed down thoroughly in the en suite shower, revealing soft and silky smooth skin as if it had been renewed.

Just as I thought the day couldn’t get any better, it was time for my personalised massage.

The therapist combined a rhythmic and relaxing touch with different massage techniques to untangle muscle knots and release the tension in my shoulder and lower back, while I was in a dream-like state, drifting between wakefulness and sleep.

An hour flew past, and thus ended my onsen spa experience.

I could feel a sense of serene lightness throughout my mind and body, and for a moment, I didn’t have a single care in the world.

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