Traditions are slowly losing their place in our modern world. If we’re not careful, one day these age-old practices might disappear from our world – culture, food, language, and even the little things, like traditional healing methods. Luckily, we have places like UR SPA in The RuMa Hotel & Residences that helps keep some of these things alive.
But make no mistake. UR SPA is not a traditional healing spa. It has many modern influences in its treatments, but the spa also takes pride in showcasing some ancient Malaysian healing techniques that most aren’t even aware of. Sure, we’re familiar with Balinese and Thai-style massages. Even the hammam was a trending spa treatment for a while. As for the Malaysian ones? Little to unheard of, especially in a luxury hotel spa.
Here at the spa, it prides itself on incorporating luxurious handcrafted experiences with locally-inspired cultural authenticity. These include the Malay art of Urut and the ancient healing therapies of the Northern Borneo tribes. We had the chance to try it out for ourselves, and we’re here to let you know if it’s worth it at the end of this review.
When stepping inside the spa, you’ll immediately notice that it’s not the same as your regular hotel spa. Local elements are very much prevalent in the common area of the spa. From the rattan chairs to the walls lined with intricately weaved dried leaves, handwoven by women in Terengganu, UR SPA is very proud of its local heritage. Aside from the Malaysian elements in the spa settings, it’s very much like your typical spa – relaxed, quiet, calm, and smelling of essential oils.
Men in need of a beard trim or haircut will appreciate the Truefitt & Hill barbershop, taking up a little corner in UR SPA for their grooming needs. In keeping true to the gentleman’s touch, there’s also a drinks trolley with rare single malt Scotch if you need a stiff drink before your shave.
There are five treatment rooms in total, including a couple’s suite. Each treatment room has an outdoor terrace enveloped by tall, leafy plants, which are more for function although aesthetically calming to the eye. The plants act as a blockade to the concrete jungle outside, enveloping you in serenity while you sip on tea after your treatment.
But the best part of the room, in our opinion, is that you’re allowed to pick your own music to play during your treatments. Sure, regular spa music has been designed to calm your senses, but what if you feel calmed by Beyonce or the soothing music of Metallica? Then, simply hook up your phone via Bluetooth to the designated Bang & Olufsen speakers in your treatment room, and turn on that Spotify playlist.
UR SPA has five core therapy treatments embodying the Urban Resorts Concepts ethos: UR Ageless, a rejuvenating advanced natural facial for an effortless radiant beauty; UR Active, an invigorating treatment for those seeking vitality and revival; UR Vital, a full-body scrub and massage with Italian Grotta mud masking for overstressed individuals; UR A Warrior, a treatment to strengthen the body and mind; and finally, UR A Goddess, a nourishing and restorative balm for those wanting to seek respite from the fast pace of city life.
Aside from the core therapy treatments, what really caught our attention were the Touch Therapies using traditional Malaysian techniques. The Silat Stretch, for example, uses stretching techniques from the Malay Silat martial arts, perfect for active individuals to help open and lengthen their bodies.
The Urut Scalp Massage, on the other hand, aids in releasing tension in tight muscles and relieves pressure on the nerve endings in the head. If you constantly have migraines or headaches, this will be helpful to restore blood flow and equanimity. There’s also an Urut Abdominal Massage made with a specially concocted herbal oil blend to ease internal wind, digestive issues, abdominal bloating, and fluid retention.
Other therapies include Urutan Malaysia, Pro-Sleep Massage, a Pre-Natal Treatment, and several others. As for us? We chose the Dusun Inan Body Therapy, an award-winning treatment taken from an age-old traditional therapy practised by the Lotud Dusuns, an indigenous tribe from Northern Borneo.
As this indigenous tribe comes from the rice-growing region of Tuaran just north of Kota Kinabalu, the therapy was born out of necessity. Women in the district learned the skills and techniques of massage to help ease the aching, literal back-breaking work of being in the paddy fields. These techniques have been passed down through generations and somehow found its way into UR SPA, so we had to give it a go for ourselves.
Working in the city is hardly the same as slaving out in the paddy fields, but we have modern kinds of back problems now – from sitting at our desk-bound jobs for too long to being stuck in traffic and getting home to face the same sedentary kind of lifestyle. Our lower backs suffer the consequence, and that was precisely what we wanted to remedy.
The Dusun Inan Body Therapy is a 60 or 90-minute session that focuses purely on massages. Green tea essential oil is used to soothe the senses, while an experienced therapist slowly works out the kinks in your back. Long, sweeping movements are mostly used during the massage, not unlike kneading the dough that is our muscles.
By the end of the treatment, our entire being felt literally lighter. You never knew how much your muscle knots have been weighing you down until the kinks have been loosened and you feel more limber – younger, in fact. Although the therapy was traditionally designed to ease back pains of the paddy field workers, the Dusun Inan Body Therapy at UR SPA works through the entire body, including your arms, legs, and abdomen.
Can a city dweller benefit from a traditional treatment designed by the indigenous people? Most definitely. We carry so much of the weight of stress in our shoulders and our backs. Indulging in this spa treatment will certain lighten that load and allow you to briefly pause in the frenetic pace of our modern life.
(All images: The RuMa Hotel and Residences)