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9 Spa: Where Wellness Meets Sustainable Design

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9 Spa: Where Wellness Meets Sustainable Design

Just a short ride away from the downtown area of Nha Trang, Vietnam, are natural mud baths overlooking the valley. I made a reservation at I-Resort, having read about the sustainably designed (and visually interesting) 9-Spa. Upon making a reservation, you can request a shuttle pickup (a golf cart), which makes the rounds almost every hour for guests from a wide list of hotels in the town center.

Arriving at the spa after a winding dirt road uphill was a breath of fresh air. I was starting to question my decision to visit Nha Trang but here in this oasis of mud and mineral baths known for their healing and therapeutic powers, I felt immediately at ease.

Reception area

Reception area

Rocking chairs just outside the suite

Rocking chairs just outside the suite

Each hut is built with locally quarried stone

Each hut is built with locally quarried stone

Private Spa treatments can be booked at 9 Spa but the I-Resort is open for general use of the mud baths and mineral pools. After registration, I was taken by another golf cart to the top of the resort, where the namesake 9 huts sit, joined by a single thatched roof. Designed and built by Vietnamese architecture firm A21 Studio with sustainable techniques and natural materials, (the walls are from locally quarried stone and the roof is made of timber and coconut leaves), the houses are placed at a specific distance from each other to allow the flow of rain. It rained sporadically on the day of my visit but I was lucky to squeeze in some swim time in between showers.  

Fresh coconut post-massage.

Fresh coconut post-massage.

Clouds slowly rolling in

Clouds slowly rolling in

Reserving the Luxury Service package at I-resort comes with use of the private suite for a few hours which includes multiple soaks in herbal mineral water as well as a mud bath, a massage, swimming in the private pools, and a meal of choice from the restaurant. It was the ideal balance between feeling pampered and being left alone to soak in the incredibly sensory experience, from the warm feeling of the mud on my skin, to the visual beauty of the natural space, to the silence of the mountains (I requested the radio music to be turned off). 

Lounging in my robe, I took a few moments to scribble in my journal, a requisite item on my travels. Being able to jot down observations in the moment and allowing headway for new ideas to flow through is what drives many of my travel experiences. I often find myself selecting destinations to arrive at a mental space often elicited by being in an inspired environment, with thoughtful intentions behind it's creation. 

Private mud bath

Private mud bath

Sweeping views

Sweeping views

A few spa day essentials:

  • Swimsuit
  • Journal/pen
  • Shampoo/body wash (included in most places but nice if you have your own preference)
  • Skincare (face wash, moisturizer, etc)
  • Face mask (Sometimes I end up skipping it but it's there if you decide to indulge further; spa day is the perfect time to let the ingredients soak in sans the interruptions of daily life)
  • Change of clothes
  • Hairbrush/hair products/hair ties 

Nha Trang is accessible by bus or plane. Because I had limited time on my short visit, I flew into Cam Ranh International Airport on one of my new favorite domestic airlines, Vietnam Airlines. Domestic flights, when booked about a week in advance, are very reasonably priced and include a bag check. Because I waited until a few days prior to book mine, it came to about $63 USD but if I booked it earlier it would have been just over half that amount. The nice differentiating factor is that it is not more than a budget carrier and includes a bag check, fresh towel on board, and optional beverage (if you're in the air long enough for the drink service). I probably took at least 5 domestic flights during my week in Vietnam and each one of them was perfectly on time, affordable, and a pleasant experience. 

Airline digression aside, I left the spa feeling nourished and relaxed. Another nice touch is that I took care of payment on arrival, so I was able to stay in that dreamy head space, meandering the grounds and lingering for awhile before catching the next shuttle back to my hotel. 

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An Urban Oasis In The Arts District

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An Urban Oasis In The Arts District

Entrance and main dining area with fresh-pressed juice bar that doubles as an organic wine bar.

Entrance and main dining area with fresh-pressed juice bar that doubles as an organic wine bar.

If there’s a place in Los Angeles that embodies my [holistic] dreams, The Springs is it. A multifaceted “urban oasis”, everything good for you, physically and mentally, rolled into a perfectly casual space - industrial cool without sacrificing warmth and accessibility.

The Springs opens its doors bright and early at 7am and I stopped by for breakfast with my yoga mat in hand for a Power Yoga class scheduled for 10am. Not wanting to overeat before sun salutes, I ordered the coconut yogurt parfait, which at the super-friendly cashier raved about. It is made in-house with fresh coconut meat, homemade granola and sliced strawberries. (I'm not much of a dairy eater normally, much less a yogurt fan). Despite being skeptical, I was sold by his passionate description and give it a shot.

It’s my newest obsession. I dream about this yogurt, a dairy-free cloud of rich coconut flavor that makes you feel healthier just having taken a bite of it. Together with the layers of crunchy granola and sliced strawberries, I was in breakfast heaven. I ate it slowly, reading The Best American Travels 2004 edition edited by Pico Iyer for inspiration and preparation for my upcoming trip to Vietnam, while watching people trickle in. 

Coconut yogurt parfait with alkaline water.

Coconut yogurt parfait with alkaline water.

Freshness in a cup.

Freshness in a cup.

View from the parking lot.

View from the parking lot.

Front desk.

Front desk.

Popup shop by Atomic Garden from Oakland, CA.

Popup shop by Atomic Garden from Oakland, CA.

Ceramics and other handmade goods.

Ceramics and other handmade goods.

After eating and snapping some pictures, I strolled to the store behind me, a setup by Atomic Garden from Oakland carefully curated with healing oils, handmade ceramics, stationery, dreamcatchers, and other miscellany. Everything is casually perfect in the space, from the painted tile design on the concrete floors, to the colorful Acapulco chairs artfully placed in various gathering areas. 

Group seating area towards the back.

Group seating area towards the back.

Love the bright colors with raw wood.

Love the bright colors with raw wood.

Cool rope detailing "separates" the store space from the communal table.

Cool rope detailing "separates" the store space from the communal table.

Painted tile design on the concrete floor.

Painted tile design on the concrete floor.

Love how much light floods into the open space. The greens definitely add to the "urban oasis" feel.

Love how much light floods into the open space. The greens definitely add to the "urban oasis" feel.

More details from the popup shop.

More details from the popup shop.

Cushiony seating right outside the yoga studio.

Cushiony seating right outside the yoga studio.

It was almost time for my class and  I headed towards the back to sign up and pay the $12 drop-in rate. There was another store next to the yoga studio, a display of organic cotton yoga gear, and other yoga items- blocks, crystals, etc. David the power yoga instructor introduced himself to me and asked what I’d like to work on. (I'm still trying to get into a flying pigeon aka Eka Pada Galavasana). It was a small class - a handful of people - it being a (relatively) new space and on a Thursday morning. We were led through a powerful flow that included some inversions and arm balances.

Yoga studio with mural by LA artist Angelina Christina.

Yoga studio with mural by LA artist Angelina Christina.

Dining area just past the bar.

Dining area just past the bar.

Ample parking in the lot with another mural.

Ample parking in the lot with another mural.

Outdoor seating complete with cozy blankets.

Outdoor seating complete with cozy blankets.

I left on a positive high, having indulged my body, mind, and soul in nourishing ingredients, a powerful practice, and a restorative shavasana.  

Next time, I look forward to giving the infrared sauna a shot. Maybe a massage or reiki therapy as well ending with lunch or dinner with their organic wine selection.

Destination Tips:

- Yoga classes can be reserved/booked ahead of time online.

- Bring a book or journal, its a space you'll want to lingeR in for awhile.

- Be open to conversation - its a burgeoning community and everyone I met that day was warm and friendly.

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Escape to Miracle Manor

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Escape to Miracle Manor

For Angelenos, the familiar sight of spinning turbines on the 10 East are a visual indicator that city life is behind us (for a time at least) and a promising desert sojourn is right around the corner. Driving to Miracle Manor Retreat for the 3rd year in a row this October, I felt a lightness wash over me as I watched the turbines whisk from my passenger window and into the rearview.

While there are many reasons to for a desert getaway, this particular trip was for rest and relaxation in Desert Hot Springs after a few whirlwind months of shooting and editing. A few miles north of the mid-century splendor of it’s glitzy sibling, Palm Springs, DHS is a gem for those looking to relax and rejuvenate in its healing mineral waters and wide expanse of mountainscapes. 

Arriving at Miracle Manor is a low-key affair, much like a stay there. We checked in on Thursday afternoon and had our pick of parking spaces. After getting our room key, we were left to unpack and unwind. 

Sustainable & recycled construction materials in use.

Sustainable & recycled construction materials in use.

Desert plant landscaping conserve water. 

Desert plant landscaping conserve water. 

Life revolves around the mineral pool.

Life revolves around the mineral pool.

Nooks to relax, write, and read.

Nooks to relax, write, and read.

The hot mineral water in the designated “Spa Zone” of Desert Hot Springs is coveted for its many healing properties. As my favorite yoga instructor Sara Ivanhoe says, “Yoga is not something you do, it’s something you are.” So is Miracle Manor. It’s not a fancy place to go and plan excursions around - it’s a place to simply be. A place to feel stillness, absorb the dry desert air, a place soak away any tensions from life in LA (or anywhere else). Surround yourself in the healing elements of nature - the effervescent mineral water, the open landscape, the mountain peaks in the near distance. Rise and rest to the rhythm of the sun. 

First things first - diving into the warm mineral pool.  Basta Surf  bikini top.  Brazilian cut bottoms . 

First things first - diving into the warm mineral pool. Basta Surf bikini top. Brazilian cut bottoms

In the welcome packet in each room, there is a mineral analysis of the hot water, which I find both fascinating and comforting. 

Silica 021.50; Iron oxide trace; Calcium 045.10; Aluminum oxide trace; Magnesium 005.10; Sodium 268.60; Sulfate 493.60; Chloride 120.50; Biocarbonate 129.00; Fluoride 005.30; Hydrogen ion activity 008.30.

For a deeper dive into a relaxed state, a selected array of massage, ayurvedic treatments, cupping, and acupressure are offered. 

Each room has a mini outdoor seating area.

Each room has a mini outdoor seating area.

Side table perfect for books, wine, or tea, depending on the time of day.

Side table perfect for books, wine, or tea, depending on the time of day.

Breakfast is included in the main room between 7am and 10am. On a weekend morning, it's a fun opportunity to chat with some of the other guests. The vibe at Miracle Manor is one of serenity - everyone staying is respectful and considerate of each other and the space we're all occupying.  Personally, I relish mornings of silence and reflection so I like to take my tea to the green patio chairs just outside each room and curl up with robes provided, reading, journaling, or just observing.

Flower detail next to the check-in table in the main room.

Flower detail next to the check-in table in the main room.

Breakfast area - toast, bagels, tea, and coffee available in the morning.

Breakfast area - toast, bagels, tea, and coffee available in the morning.

Spend your days alternating between reading, writing, swimming, napping. Backpack:  Everlane

Spend your days alternating between reading, writing, swimming, napping. Backpack: Everlane

Entrance detail.

Entrance detail.

Bedside decor.

Bedside decor.

Besides a few bikinis (or one pieces), not much is needed here. I brought a pair of slip ons, a straw hat, and a breezy white dress purchased in Bali that can easily double as a cover-up. Being in the desert, the temperature does drop at night, which is where an all-purpose chambray shirt comes in handy. 

Sustainability is a major priority at Miracle Manor. We can't get enough of the soft and cozy organic cotton bed linens. The amenities include Rosemary Mint shampoo and lotion and a divine smelling sage soap. Landscaping with desert plants conserve water use and the gardens are watered with pool overflow. It feels incredibly restorative to be in a place that is so loving and considerate of Mother Earth.

Organic cotton sheets on the bed.

Organic cotton sheets on the bed.

Slip ons are perfect for going in and out. Shoes:  DV

Slip ons are perfect for going in and out. Shoes: DV

Straw hat ,  chambray shirt , white dress.

Straw hat, chambray shirt, white dress.

Heading to the sun loungers. 

Heading to the sun loungers. 

Travel reads - NYT Magazine.

Travel reads - NYT Magazine.

Unobstructed mountain views from the pool area.

Unobstructed mountain views from the pool area.

Watch a magnificent sunset wash over the mountain.

Watch a magnificent sunset wash over the mountain.

The pool is open 24/7 - there's nothing like a night time swim under the stars.

The pool is open 24/7 - there's nothing like a night time swim under the stars.

Destination tips:

- We love it there on weekdays - almost like one's own private retreat.

- Pack enough food, snacks, and liquids in case you decide not to venture into town. All the rooms have a refrigerator and selected rooms have a kitchen. 

- A yoga mat is a nice addition if you want to do sun salutes on the elevated patio facing the mountain as the sun rises over it. 

 

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an eco-village in Bali

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an eco-village in Bali

Upon entering Desa Seni, the steps are lined with hibiscus blossoms. Center stage is the saltwater lap pool glimmering in the morning light.

Upon entering Desa Seni, the steps are lined with hibiscus blossoms. Center stage is the saltwater lap pool glimmering in the morning light.

Bali is already pretty synonymous with paradise, but if there's a paradise within paradise to be found, Desa Seni is the place. A short cab ride from Seminyak, Desa Seni calls itself an "eco-village resort". While staying at one of their beautiful antique wood homes is definitely an option, I opted to spend the day there after looking up the yoga schedule and booking a massage. Every detail about Desa Seni is unexplainably perfect and I am excited to share this gem.

I arrived early, at about 8am, and the grounds were still being prepared for the day. Upon entering, I signed in for the yoga class and grabbed a seat in one of the open cabanas.  Promptly greeted by a friendly water, we exchanged a brief conversation before I ordered a breakfast of traditional Indonesian fruit medley and their house ginger lemongrass tea.  I journaled away in this blissful setting.

At 10, yoga started and I walked along the concrete steps over to the open air yoga studio. While they offer more meditative forms of yoga at Desa Seni as well, I partook in the Vinyasa Bhakti Flow Yoga, which was very close to how I practice at home. It's a truly special experience to be holding asana while gazing at the lush grass as the island breeze wafts onto your skin. 

After yoga, I found another empty cabana and camped out there until my massage. I ordered what ended up being the most memorable meal I had in Bali - the Caprese Kampung, an Indonesian twist on the Italian caprese dish. Everything on their menu is lovingly prepared from the fresh produce that's cultivated all over the grounds, marked with wood carved signs. 

Meals, teas, cabanas, and more details that make Desa Seni such an experience for all the senses.

Meals, teas, cabanas, and more details that make Desa Seni such an experience for all the senses.

Gardens, gardens everywhere

Gardens, gardens everywhere

Soon, I headed over for my Desa Seni Signature body massage, and it truly was "relaxing and revitalizing", as described.. I was offered tea and water after the massage and encouraged to linger until I found my way back to reality. Needless to say, that took awhile and I am counting the days until my return.

Tips for spending the day there:

- Book ahead for a therapy

- Pack a change of clothes

- Carry cash for tipping (good karma)

- Try to minimize evening plans so you can soak up the entire experience

 

 

 

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