27 May W Taipei and its Away Spa
Away Spa in W Taipei: Going for a massage on the moon
by Soothed in the City Staff writer
This is what a spa on a space station would be like, I thought. But with gravity added.
The base of the massage bed was glowing blue, the walls were white and curved and just before the treatment began, my masseur, a petite Taiwanese lady called Candy, pressed a button and the blinds descended with a motorized swish leaving us lit only by the blue glow beneath my body. What looked like dry ice or the mist from an incense stick wafted past the gaze of my down-turned head.
This is Away Spa in W Taipei, a five-star boutique designer hotel in the Taiwanese capital. This is where Jay Chou, a top Taiwanese singer and actor, and a bit of heart-throb, had a knees up wedding banquet last year. And this is where I’m getting an AWAY Signature Massage, 90 minutes of pushing, kneading, chopping, pulling, tensing, teasing and pressure points.
Candy used a number of lotions and aromatic oils that warmed the skin and slowed the heart. I was almost drifting off to sleep. I would open my eyes a crack, see the blue glow and wreathing smoke, and close them again. At times, I felt I smelt pine, lavender, mandarin oranges and then sandalwood. The spa menu describes the masseurs as spa mixologists, so it’s possible Candy concocted them to fit my poor tired body. Whatever they were, I emerged feeling like I was on a different planet! Which I thought was a good match for the space station spa concept.
Taiwan is a densely populated island, pushing 24 million, and Taipei has a good few of those. It can be quite bewildering for the new tourist, Chinese is predominantly spoken, and architecturally it’s a city of unremarkable tower blocks so there are few landmarks. There is of course the odd shiny new skyscraper. Just down the road from W Taipei is Taipei 101, one of the world’s tallest buildings at 509.2m. The architect was inspired by a shoot of bamboo, but this bamboo has neon lights, designer stores, waves of mainland Chinese tourists in caps and not a panda in sight.
W Taipei is part of the W brand under Starwood. They’re noted for their emphasis on design and appeal to a younger crowd. The hotel is certainly funky – a giant steel chain sculpture twists down the façade. It’s actually a water drain – it rains a lot here. As I write this a typhoon is pushing in.
Inside it’s all mood lighting, ambient chill out music pumping from hidden speakers, glowing lights, bold solid colours – the Chinese restaurant is emperor purple, the main dining room is butter yellow, and the hotel has panels of shiny scarlet. The main lobby has “water drops” on the floor – circular floor lights the size of car wheels – their colours morph slowly. The effect is really quite relaxing.
W is also a party destination. DJ’s play in the Wu Bar (Wu is Chinese for five, and also happily begins with a W, something which W hotels like, as you will find out if you stay at one). The bar looks out on the outside pool, whose perimeter is ringed by glowing sculpted chairs: yet more space imagery. It’s a party pool, and where crooner Chou held his wedding banquet. But in my room, all that is left far behind. Soft deep-pile carpets muffle even the harshest footfalls and the only thing I can hear here is the hum of the air conditioning. In fact it’s so quiet that the hotel feels deserted, which in some curious way is a continuation of this space station theme.
It’s a five star hotel and the room is five star luxurious and five star spacious. A wall panel of windows gives sweeping views of the city against a backdrop of forested hills. The bed is sinkable, the toilet is Japanese and automatic – it’s unsettling for a first time user when the toilet seat rises in greeting when you approach it – and a lounger by the window allows me to imagine I’m floating somewhere above it all.
The Yen bar on the 31st floor, I’m told, does out of this world cocktails infused with tea. An oolong fizz (gin, oolong tea and lemon at least) sounds like a relaxing elixir. A coveted table just off from the bar looks out at Taipei 101 and at night with the twinkling lights and the black of the forested hills on the horizon, you could imagine you’re drifting off in space. I’ve just had a massage on the moon, I think.
Disclaimer: The author was kindly hosted by W Taipei and AWAY spa.
W Tapei is a 5-star designer hotel in Taipei’s financial district and located next to the Taipei City Government. It has 405 rooms (eight types), three bars, two restaurants, an outdoor swimming pool, gym, spa and conference services.
Address: 10 Zhongxiao East Road Section 5, Xinyi District, Taipei, Taiwan
Phone: +886 2 7703 8888