Victoria Harbour and the skyscrapers of Kowloon gleaming in the distance fill the windows of my suite at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong. This staggering view, along with a jar of petite chocolate-chip cookies and a deep, massive tub I can’t wait to fill with too-hot water buoyed by June Jacobs bath salts, are the first signs of luxury I stumble upon in a hushed room that is fresh off a multi-million dollar revamp. Throughout my stay, such symbols are subtle yet plentiful: the array of chile sauces I douse my a.m. noodles with at Grand Café; the enthusiastic smiles I receive from staff encountered in the soaring, regal lobby with its columns and duo of curvaceous staircases; and the seamless aura of serenity conjured in the 11th-floor Plateau Spa.
Business travelers revel in the Grand Hyatt’s location, adjacent to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in bustling Wan Chai, where despite the presence of fashionable restaurants like Jason Atherton’s Ham & Sherry, soulful grit comes courtesy of still intact red-light district roots. Considering the Grand Hyatt’s primary base of suit-clad guests, I assume Plateau will be a mere pit stop for shoulder rubs between meetings. Imagine my surprised delight, then, when I walk into a breezy courtyard lined with rose-apple trees erected in elegant planters and a heated pool surrounded by lounge chairs. Post-treatment, I learn, is the time to sip a green apple-celery-ginger-cucumber-honey anti-stress elixir or order gazpacho from the Grill and Waterfall Bar. No, Plateau is not the place for a quick, relaxing fix immediately tarnished by the urban chaos below. “The entire floor is a self-contained resort,” points out spa director, Jessica Maher.
Celebrating the marine life is key to Plateau’s narrative. Local artist Emma Chan fashioned fairytale-like fish, frog, and turtle sculptures out of ceramic, while German photographer Vera Mercer’s black-and-white images of French forests, gardens, and lakes further create a dreamy vibe.
Inside, I become captivated by the display of products Maher curates, for there is the familiar packaging of my beloved Omorovicza, the mineral-rich Hungarian skincare line that since moving to Budapest is now part of my daily regimen. French anti-aging powerhouse Carita also gets the spotlight, as does the United Kingdom’s Thalgo, which incorporates mud and algae into its concoctions. Celebrating the marine life is key to Plateau’s narrative. Local artist Emma Chan fashioned fairytale-like fish, frog, and turtle sculptures out of ceramic, while German photographer Vera Mercer’s black-and-white images of French forests, gardens, and lakes further create a dreamy vibe. They are integral, says Maher, to “emphasizing the abundance of water within the complex, so that guests experience a sense of aquatic submersion at every turn.” Therapies that luckily unfold in the Water Garden room are amplified by floor-to-ceiling window glimpses of tranquility-inducing boughs.
My therapist, Sabina, leads me to my own retreat, which is covered in blonde wood. Instead of instructing me to lie face down for my signature Plateau massage, the session is inaugurated with a foot soak and scrub melding rose, chamomile, rosewood, and raw sea salt. Sabina then asks me to choose between three heady scents: a calming mix of lavender, sandalwood, and bergamot; a reviving lemongrass-peppermint-ginger root combo; and the balancing blend of bitter orange neroli, pine, cypress, and floral ylang- ylang. Typically, my overly anxious mind has me seeking the most soothing option, but this time around, an unusually oppressive feeling of sluggishness has me intrigued by the restorative version.
Once Sabina gets started with the warm oil and volcanic stones, the latter of which I usually shun since they never quite rival the preferred strength of human manipulation, I know this hour will indeed culminate in rejuvenation. Sabina then removes the stones and her firm hands begin gliding over my flesh—particularly my upper back as requested—and targeting my muscles in long, flowing, precise strokes. The heating pad adds yet another layer of coziness, and I can feel my stubborn bout of jet lag finally dissipate. When it ends, there is no rush to take off the robe. Sabina departs and I sit, earth-scented oil clinging to skin, with herbal tea and a few choice moments of quiet contemplation.
“By adapting each experience to suit the individual guest, our aim is that they will leave Plateau feeling as good on the inside as they do on the outside, and like we’ve really taken care of them,” explains Maher. Thanks to Sabina and the sounds of cascading water, this is exactly what happens.
60-minute Plateau Massage, $125; 90-minute Plateau Massage, $185
Contributing Food Editor Alia Akkam is a native New Yorker living in Budapest, where she writes about food, wine, and spirits, as well as travel, design, and wellness. Her work has appeared in ArchitecturalDigest.com, Dwell.com, Vogue.com, Playboy, the Wall Street Journal, and Four Seasons Magazine. She frequently craves avocado smoothies, Hatha yoga stretches, and peaceful sound baths.