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Spa Bar

An Urban Oasis Awaits You

On an unassuming Tuesday afternoon, I find myself in the waiting lounge of Spa Bar, tucked away on a busy vestibule of 2nd Street. The atmosphere certainly seems to spell out “deluxe digs for the urban primadonna” but something about the ambience is casual enough to make me want to take a deep breath (perhaps with the help of their signature oxygen bar) and leisurely stretch my limbs out to the loft ceilings or, perhaps, curl up on the sprawling couch with the latest issue of Vogue and do some shameless people-watching as women filter in for lunch-break pampering fixes. It’s airy without being sterile, hip without being cooler-than-thou, and busy enough to catch your interest, but not enough to exude day-spa pretentiousness. And accordingly, after two hours here, Spa Bar becomes my idea of the urban oasis, to a tee.

Spa Bar was conceived by spa resort experts Galen Yuen and Ken Go, who did their research and came up with the perfect idea for the downtown retreat. Certainly, über-modern digs with just a dash of space-age glamour (again, there’s that oxygen bar) help their cause quite a bit. It’s the quintessential, sprawling one-stop place for all your needs. Want a haircut? Try the roomy six-station salon, which hacks and fashions coifs with the help of stylish lines like Kerastase and Bumble & Bumble. You can also get all your waxing essentials taken care of or try a mani/pedi combo over a glass of champagne. And of course, the aromatherapy oxygen bar is there to save you from the afternoon ickies -- it neutralizes bacteria and gives you a natural defense against illness.

Since the place is also teeming with dozens of comparatively inexpensive massage, facial, and body treatments, it’s ideal for people who want to savor a few hours or just 30 minutes. Spa Bar even turns into a “nightspa” after 6 pm and has been known to host more than its share of chi-chi events, from fashion shows to corporate parties. All the same, it’s remarkably tasteful and down to earth, and not so flagrantly modern as to forget touches of the sensual. The polished bamboo floors of the waiting area/salon/manicure space are splashed by a cascade of early afternoon sunlight, while a down-tempo beat purrs over the speakers. The place is earthy yet oceanic -- shades of steel gray, terracotta, and butter are interspersed with monumental glossy paintings of shadowy lagoons.

After enjoying a cup of mango tea, I am ushered by my massage therapist Paula into the back area, through a softly lit hallway that leads to six treatment rooms, a couple’s suite, and a wet room. Unlike the multi-purpose outside area, this space is insular and cozy. Soft music and modest decorations (mainly a patchwork of succulent plants, candles, and lamps that cast a velvet glow) permeate my treatment room. While the spa is home to at least a dozen different massage therapies, from hot stone to reflexology to sports massage, I’m here for the spa’s famous Thai Therapy, which uses traditional yoga stretches and deep tissue kneading to relieve overworked muscles. It’s a fairly intense treatment, certainly not for the faint of heart, but it leaves me feeling like a flexible pile of mush right after (especially with the addition of an extended scalp massage and warm towels on my feet, chest, and arms), so I have no complaints. Lovers of Thai massage should note, however, that some of the facets of the more traditional therapy (e.g., acupressure, reflexology, a mattress futon, and loose Thai garb) are toned down quite a bit. While the work-out your body receives is still rigorous and deeply relaxing, it’s blended with traditional deep-tissue and Swedish massage.

Since the massage options are many and varied, it’s no surprise that facials include plenty of customized treatments for all your skincare problems, from anti-aging serums to décolleté refreshers to calming green tea masks for the ailing urbanite. A selection of M.D.-grade lines, from Murad to Sothys, graces the aesthetician’s shelves. I’m here for the aptly titled Rescue Facial, an alpha hydroxy acid peel that eats away at my congested visage. I’m a little wary of the idea of the chemical peel, but my aesthetician Marisa assures me not to worry -- I’m in good hands.

And of course, the peel stings like hell for the first few seconds, but with the help of a high frequency machine, another leisurely neck massage, and a calming, milky rose mask (poured over my face so that it even covers my eyes), I emerge from my facial feeling detoxed and recharged. Given my luck with facials, I’m half-expecting to look like an inflamed pincushion and be treated to a brand-new breakout in a few days, but I’m pleasantly surprised at the magic Marisa has worked -- over eight days later, my pores are still looking small and squeaky-clean.

If you’re ever in the mood, I’ve heard tell the combo packages here are divine. With names like Purification, Rejuvenation, and Celebration, they’re absolute pick-me-ups for the overworked metropolitan princess. Most of the packages also include an organic spa lunch and that ubiquitous oxygen boost, which I’m sure I’ll come back to sample at some point down the line.