Alone at last: Mom spa-time bliss at Four Seasons Shanghai at Puxi

Alone at last: Mom spa-time bliss at Four Seasons Shanghai at Puxi

By on January 12th, 2012

Almost 100 days. Together. 24/7. With my kids. Think about it: When I wake up. When I go to sleep. When I’m eating. When I’m writing. When I want to be—and when I would rather not. Every waking (and sleeping) moment. Most of it, I’ve treasured. It’s a luxury that was a big part of why I wanted to do an around the world trip in the first place. But there are also times when a moment alone would be nice. (In the calm, after-the-harried-holiday-season storm, you may be feeling the same way.)

Now, when I close my eyes and imagine where that moment might be, I have a spot in mind: Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai at Puxi’s’s Qin spa.

At first, I thought I knew what was coming. The hotel’s airy feel—with light-coloured wood, open-concept atrium and flashes of colour—is soothing and invigorating. It is also the exact opposite of what you’ll find in the spa. There, dark wood and walls are immediate mood changers: out there, I’m mom-on-the-go; in here, the sultry and sophisticated woman.

Feng shui was a big part of the spa design, so the authentic feel makes perfect sense. I’m invited to sit, and served hot tea in a small handle-less cup while I fill out the requisite health form. And then I’m asked to follow my masseuse. I assume I’ll now be shown to my locker and instructed on where to appear next. Instead, I’m taken straight to the treatment room.

It’s like the drawing room in one of the palaces I’ve seen in Beijing. There is a table in the middle of the room draped in dark sheets, but it doesn’t steal your attention. Instead, it’s the low settee and copper bowl filled with flowers that seduce you. And there’s more.

You don’t have a locker, you have a wardrobe—built into the wall; inside, along with my robe and slippers, a small dish for my jewelry, optional disposable undies and kimono pajamas. A washroom, shower, sink and mirror are also there giving me a full en-suite bathroom all to myself. It’s a luxury I haven’t had since I left home.

I know all this because I inspected the room thoroughly as soon as my masseuse stepped out to let me change. I inspected with full comfort because (and this was my favourite thing of all) she won’t come back into this room until I call the front desk and let them know I’m ready. Seriously. The ultimate gift for a mom: time and control of it.

I put on the kimono and sit on the chair as instructed, take one last moment to remember the moment and place the call. Within moments, there’s a knock at the door and the session begins.

My “Qi Balancing Massage” is different, too. It starts with exercise: a mix of yoga, mild aerobics and tai chi. My masseuse makes it look easy, but it only takes a few motions for you to realize how badly you need this and how difficult it would be to do on your own. By the time the 20-minute interactive portion of the session is complete, you are so limber, you may lose your bearings. When she tells me to lie on the bed, I flop there and then the stretching continues.

But now you’re not involved, and in all likelihood the room will start to blur. And you may fall asleep listening to the ancient Chinese music, succumbing to the pressures that produce groans of pleasure you’d never admit to in public. And that’s when she starts the massage. Suffice it to say that when it was over, it took me another 20 minutes to get off the bed. And that was OK, too!

In situations where the spa is busy and your room is needed, you can simply move over into the relaxation lounge where you can draw a privacy curtain, sip tea and relax some more.

More than 100 days of travel, dozens of flights and wrangling two children can put a lot of stress into a body. Ninety minutes in Qin worked it all out.

Read more about Shanghai in Four Seasons Magazine.

Post Author
Heather Greenwood Davis

Based near Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Heather Greenwood Davis is a freelance writer whose articles appear in publications such as The Toronto Star, Canadian Family, and more. She recently returned from a one-year, round-the-world adventure with her husband and two sons, eight and 10. You can read about their journey and the adventures before and since at

View all posts from Heather
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3 Response(s) to "Alone at last: Mom spa-time bliss at Four Seasons Shanghai at Puxi"
Mary Fabiano says:
January 18, 2012 at 11:13 am

This looks and sounds like absolute heaven. Thanks for sharing, Heather.

Randall Shirley says:
January 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Spa time is always such a great “fixer” when the road is getting the best of you. I really enjoyed reading this piece–different spa writing than I often see. It actually made me want to go have this experience…

Maija @ Maija's Mommy Moments says:
January 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Oh my – HEAVEN. Heather, you totally deserved this. Glad you enjoyed EVERY moment.

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