La Vie en Rose, Shanghai-Style

Spa Rosa realigns chakras with a combination of east meets west therapies

By: By Deanna Ting


Each room at the spa is themed after a different chakra color. // (c) Spa Rosa
Each room at the spa is themed after a different chakra color.

"Pick any two bottles and I can tell you what’s ailing you."

That’s the first thing resident aromatherapy expert Maggie Liu says to you when you’re ready to begin your treatment.

In a long, narrow room flooded with natural light, elaborate silk pillows and delicate mahogany furniture, you sit across from Liu as she opens up a wooden box filled with small glass bottles, each containing a natural essential oil. Whatever two bottles you pick, she says, will tell her exactly what you and your massage therapist will need to work on, from problems with indigestion to back pain.

Liu’s accuracy is almost eerie. With the help of a translator, she immediately identifies why you chose a particular bottle as she observes your reaction to each scent. Liu, who’s been trained in the U.K., Paris and Hawaii, was so good that my fellow spa goers were simply awestruck.

Following her analysis, Liu instructs the massage therapist to mix equal parts of both oils. That mixture is then placed in your treatment room, where, when heated, it fills the room with a unique and heady scent individually tailored to your needs.

This is just one of many personal touches your clients will find at Spa Rosa, located in the French Concession neighborhood of Shanghai. The boutique spa is a tranquil retreat for weary travelers seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.

While massage parlors are popular throughout Shanghai, most don’t conjure up the same type of atmosphere or experience as Spa Rosa does. Manager Shirley Lai pays as much attention to the look and feel of the spa as she does to its wide range of treatments and amenities.

There are a total of seven different treatment rooms, two of which are for couples. Each is named after the seven chakra colors (one for every color of the rainbow) and comes with a shower and/or tub. One VIP room even houses a Jacuzzi tub. While some rooms are larger than others, each gives off the same tranquil feeling using different color schemes. My room, which was originally meant for couples, was quite large and even featured a full-length couch, a wooden bathtub and a corner shower with an armoire/closet and sink.

Most massage treatments begin with an analysis by Liu. Afterward, guests are led to their respective rooms and asked to shower before beginning their treatments.

While I may have felt a little awkward at first, I soon warmed up to my room and its amenities. The shower was stocked with every type of item I needed, from rich lathering shampoo and conditioner to moisturizing body wash and a soft loofah. Drying my hair afterward, I even noticed I had my very own bamboo wood comb and hair accessories to use (and presumably take home). It was almost like being in my own hotel room.

The spa specializes in sports massages and unique Seven Chakra remedies meant to target specific regions of the body, from the lower limbs to the head. Treatment costs vary, but a 90-minute Paris Massage (similar to a Swedish massage), for example, will set clients back about $88.

My Paris Massage was relaxing and definitely worked out a few of my muscle kinks, without making me feel bruised beyond recognition. The only part that was slightly disconcerting was the inclusion of massage techniques focused on the intestinal area, but only because I happen to be extremely ticklish.

Following treatment, I was invited to stay in my room and relax for as long as needed while I snacked on rich butter cookies and, of course, freshly brewed rosebud tea. For me, the entire process left me feeling, well, just rosy — ready and relaxed to embark on the rest of my travels in Shanghai.