Let's face it, sometimes the world seems pretty bizarre. This week we have guest blogger, Evans Lily from SkyWeFly, walking us through the 8 weirdest hotels in the world.

If you are planning on visiting some of the most amazing places in the world, then it is high time you take a look at the strangest hotels on this planet. An experience at a hotel can be more than just a bed and breakfast: unique accommodation can make the experience out of this world. Check out my comprehensive review of the 8 strangest hotels around the world below.

1. Utter Inn (Sweden)

This is a hotel that turns your bedroom into an underwater aquarium. A project by a local artist, Utter Inn is located in the middle of Sweden’s Lake Malaren and consists of a deck and a cabin on a floating platform. The most important part, however, is the aquarium-like bedroom, which is found three meters below the surface, and is only accessible through a steep ladder. Guests who visit the resort often get taken out by boat, and provided with an inflatable canoe, where they are left alone to explore the natural area. 

It was 1996 when I first visited Bali, and more than two decades later, I am re-visiting the same hotel which I had stayed at as a kid all those years earlier. The Grand Hyatt Bali in Nusa Dua is not the newest or flashiest kid on the block; the phrase "an oldie but a goodie" comes to mind. 

grand hyatt bali hotel resort review

The reception is open-air, with traditional architecture framed with lush green gardens, mature trees and tiered water features, setting the backdrop for a relaxed family holiday.

The second leg of our South African safari saw us reluctantly saying goodbye to the Tswalu Kalahari (if you missed my first post, read it here) and heading north-east to Singita Sweni

Singita Sweni South Africa hotel resort Kruger National Park bedroom

The Singita brand is perhaps the most well-known and highly regarded in African luxury safari accommodation, so we had high expectations. The Lebombo concession is a 33,000 acre private reserve within the Kruger National Park, close to the Mozambique border, and we were immediately struck by the stark contrast in colour of the landscape - the rains marking the end of the dry season and start of the wet season have not come, and browns and purplish grey hues dominate the terrain. 
With Valentine's Day fast approaching, we wanted to share some of our favourite gift ideas for the women in your life (guys, you can thank us later!).

Sudio Earphones and Rimowa Cabin Classic Flight Suitcase make for perfect Valentine's Day gifts

1. For the Business Traveller (aka that annoying person who always seems to be flying everywhere on business class and taking pictures of their champagne at airport lounges)

Top 5 Rooftop Bars in Hong Kong

The weather in Hong Kong couldn't be more perfect for rooftop drinking than right now - during the day, it's sunny but with a gorgeous breeze, and at night, it's balmy enough to crack out the ugly Christmas sweaters.

The crew from The Rooftop Guide have been to more than 500 rooftop bars in the last two years. When they visited Hong Kong, they came across some of the best spots they ever seen in the world. Here are their top five favourite rooftop bars in Hong Kong (and for a full list, check out their website here).

An African safari has been on my wish list for the longest time, but we finally made it! In our two week sojourn in South Africa, our first stop was at Tswalu Kalahari. It is a more unconventional choice for the first time safari goer - most people recommend the Kruger for the big five before appreciating the varied desert-adapted species that call Tswalu home - but I have absolutely no regrets about the way our itinerary unfolded.  

Review of the Ambi Climate, a device that allows you to control your aircon remotely

We've been hitting really high temperatures here in Hong Kong this Summer, and I won't lie: I am definitely suffering.

Enter the Ambi Climate: a slick new device that allows me to monitor and adjust the temperature in my home remotely via an app that is available on both iPhones and Androids (well, technically it's my boyfriend's home, because my apartment sadly uses the old school, window type aircons that don't even have remote controls!).

The device's app learns what temperature you prefer in your apartment through your feedback, and by measuring the temperature, humidity and sunlight in your home, it is able to control the aircon to adjust the temperature to your comfort level. It allows you to turn your aircon on and off remotely, change the settings, and set timers - all remotely from your smartphone.

Review of the Ambi Climate, a device that allows you to control your aircon remotely

The Ambi Climate just requires you to simply install the app on your smart phone and sync the device to your aircon, place the device within sight of your aircon unit (because it works using an infrared signal), plug it into the power socket, and connect it to your home wifi - and you're ready to roll! On top of this, the design of the device itself is clean and minimalist, so it will fit in nicely with every apartment.

In terms of compatibility, the Ambi Climate generally works with any aircon that has a remote control. We discovered that our aircon model was not listed as an option on the app when we attempted to sync it - but the Ambi Climate support team were outstanding, responding to us within 24 hours and giving us three other aircon model types to test (one of which worked). We were pretty blown away with their customer service, so if you're having any difficulty, then don't hesitate to reach out to them!

The app is very user friendly: after initially setting up an account, I was able to get started straight away, browsing the different modes on offer. Comfort mode gives the Ambi Climate free reign to control my aircon and adjust it to my personalised comfort level. This mode requires one week of you giving it feedback (i.e. too hot/too cold) before it gets a full picture of what you like and dislike, which is a very short time in the bigger scheme of things (I mean, usually it takes a person years to figure out what their boyfriend/girlfriend likes and dislikes!).

Review of the Ambi Climate, a device that allows you to control your aircon remotely app
The red line shows the temperature level and the white line shows humidity level in our living room.
Other modes include temperature mode, which chooses the best aircon setting to maintain the target temperature that you have selected (very useful for saving on energy consumption so the aircon isn't constantly blasting away even after the apartment has cooled down); and away mode, which only turns your aircon on when it is needed to maintain the climate thresholds that you have inputted (very useful for when you are on vacation but want to reduce the humidity levels in your apartment on occasion). Finally, manual mode is essentially the same as your aircon remote control, allowing you to adjust the temperature manually.

On top of all this, the app tracks your aircon usage, giving you a useful graph on how long you have been running the aircon over the last week (so you can have an idea of what your next electricity bill is going to look like!) and what the temperature and humidity has been, both inside the apartment and outside.

Review of the Ambi Climate, a device that allows you to control your aircon remotely app
Review of the Ambi Climate, a device that allows you to control your aircon remotely app
Review of the Ambi Climate, a device that allows you to control your aircon remotely app

One of the best things, in my opinion, about the Ambi Climate is that it gives you serious control over your aircon. My boyfriend and I love being able to turn the aircon on about 5 minutes before we arrive home, so that we come back to a cool and comfortable apartment. On top of this, you can always monitor the temperature and humidity in the apartment remotely, so if my dog is sitting at home and I notice it is 38 degrees (yes, it happened once or twice!), I can turn on the aircon for her from my office desk.

Review of the Ambi Climate, a device that allows you to control your aircon remotely app

Just remember that you must ensure that the device is within sight (and within 2-4 metres) of your aircon. One time, something fell down in front of the device and this blocked the signal - so be sure you put it somewhere where there will be no chance of interference. 

One other tip: we discovered was that our aircon (a Hitachi) is designed to beep whenever a setting is changed. This means that if the Ambi Climate decides to adjust the settings (as it would in comfort and temperature mode), then your aircon has a chance of beeping every time it does this (including throughout the night). In this case, make sure you switch to manual mode - the aircon will remain at whatever temperature you set it at, without the beeping. Note that this is simply an issue with our aircon: if your aircon doesn't beep when settings are changed, you won't have any problems with this.

Review of the Ambi Climate, a device that allows you to control your aircon remotely app

In summary, I highly recommend the Ambi Climate for its ability to allow you to remotely control your aircon when you're out of the apartment. The comfort setting is exciting - having a device that actually learns what your preferences are is BIG news, in my books. While the device does take time to get to know you (we found that for the first week, it would not drop the temperature down to our desired level as quickly as we liked), it gets better very quickly as it learns how cold we want our apartment (in our case, like a freezer!). While there may be some brand-new, high tech aircons that offer long-distance remote control, these are often expensive and also require extra costs to install in Hong Kong (as the installers insist on having bamboo platforms set up outside your apartment - which cost a fortune!). As a result, the Ambi Climate is an excellent, cost-effective alternative.

The Ambi Climate can be purchased for US$179 online and is also available at 20 retail locations in Hong Kong, including Dream Team, DG Lifestyle Store, Life Digital and AV Life. Ambi Labs will also be exhibiting at the Hong Kong Computer & Communications Festival from 19 – 22 August 2016. A preview of the second edition Ambi Climate, a premium redesign due out later this year, is currently on display at Lane Crawford IFC as part of their showcase "Tech brands that improve the way we live."

Review of the Ambi Climate, a device that allows you to control your aircon remotely app

xx Carmen

PS. This review was sponsored - but that has no impact on our journalistic integrity. To find out more, read our Disclaimer Alert policy here.
We had the pleasure of being invited to stay for one night at the newly opened Attitude on Granville in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, a boutique hotel inspired by Hong Kong's lively atmosphere in the 1970s and 1980s.

Attitude on Granville Tsim Sha Tsui Hong Kong boutique hotel review

I got off a plane on Monday evening, having spent around 16 hours travelling from Colorado to Los Angeles, and back over to Hong Kong (with an additional six hours waiting around in airports). So it was an incredible pleasure to find a gorgeous bouquet of white roses waiting for me when I returned to the office yesterday, courtesy of Gift Flowers Hong Kong.

Gift Flowers Hong Kong white roses review round flower box

Top Travel Items This Summer IPSA Cleansing Foam & IPSA Metabolizer Sensitive Emulsion review

I'm about to head off on a work and wine trip (yes, that's totally a thing), hitting up London, France and Spain - and I thought I'd share the four things that I'll be travelling with this Summer.

PS. It's giveaway time - check out our free giveaway at the bottom of this post!

1. IPSA Cleansing Foam & IPSA Metabolizer Sensitive Emulsion

I only recently discovered the skincare brand, IPSA, which produces a range of products specifically formulated for sensitive skin. The IPSA Cleansing Foam (HK$240) is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, with wormwood extract to sooth easily irritated skin. It is initially applied almost like a clay mask (so expect to look like you smothered white clay on your skin), but the product dries clear after less than a minute. Much like the Dead Sea clay mask I adore, this cleansing foam leaves your skin feeling like you've peeled back an old layer of skin, leaving behind a fresh, new and vibrant glow. Surprisingly, unlike the clay mask I usually use, the IPSA Cleansing Foam never makes my skin feel tight or stings afterwards - probably due to the hyaluronic acid and acetyl barrier protection that stops moisture from being lost.

The IPSA Metabolizer Sensitive (HK$520) is surprisingly lightweight, and is perfect for the Summer heat that leaves most of us with our moisturiser and makeup melting down our faces. With white nettle extract, the skin elasticity is strengthened without requiring a thick or heavy product, and acts as the perfect barrier to Hong Kong's crazy indoor aircon temperatures and outdoor pollution.

IPSA Cleansing Foam & IPSA Metabolizer Sensitive Emulsion review

2. INRRSTYL's SVELTE Pants (in new Summer colours!)

We're not going to lie. We are a huge fan of INNRSTYL. We've raved before about their SVELTE work pants here, and their sneakers and trainers here, but they continued to blow us away with their grey SVELTE work pants - the perfect colour for a busy office professional to wear during the Summer! At only HK$442 each (and for those who are adventurous, they are also available in blue, burgandy, khaki, and orange - as well as the black we reviewed earlier), these are the perfect pants to wear onto the plane (so comfortable!!) when you know you need to head straight to the office or a meeting after you land.

INNRSTYL Svelte Grey Dress Work Pants review

3. Brainwavz Audio HM2 Foldable Headphones

I've always been crazy jealous of people with cool looking headphones, especially on airplanes. They look like they don't have a care in the world - and with those headphones drowning out a lot of the external sound, they probably don't!

For those who are looking for an affordable option, Brainwavz offers the HM2 Foldable Headphones for only US$49.50. The headphones are foldable (as the name suggests), and fits snuggly into an accompanying carry case. With adjustable cup lengths (I use the shortest possible one) and a lightweight frame, this is easy to carry around - and indeed, I like to go for a run with them on, and I'm able to use the volume slider control to easily adjust the volume of my music as I run.

Brainwavz HM2 Foldable Headphones review earphones
Brainwavz HM2 Foldable Headphones review earphones
Brainwavz HM2 Foldable Headphones review earphones

4. Beverly Hills Formula Toothpaste

I was really distressed lately when I discovered that my teeth haven't been in the best shape, so I'm going to be taking good care of them this holiday (I mean, when I'm not busy drinking enamel-staining red wine in the vineyards of Bordeaux). I then came across Beverly Hills toothpaste: a brand that has roots in the oh-so-glamorous Beverly Hills (hello, 90210 anyone?), but manufactured in Ireland.

The toothpaste uses premium ingredients and spring water to produce toothpaste that offers customers safe and affordable teeth-whitening, all from the comfort of their own home. They have a HUGE range of different types of toothpaste to suit different people: ranging from Perfect White Gold (which has actual anti-bacterial gold particles in it!), Perfect White Black (with activated charcoal in it, which traps chemicals and prevents their absorption, resulting in fewer stains, eliminating bacteria that causes bad breath), Perfect White Black Sensitive (for those with sensitive teeth), and Perfect White (with a dissolving Pentasodium Triphosphate agent that prevents food particles from settling on the teeth).

What has impressed me most about Beverly Hills Formula Toothpaste is that the brand has done its homework and actually tested its products against other brands. You can see from the chart below (provided by the company) that its products have been ranked over 60% effective in stain removal - which for at-home dental care is very high (usually you'd expect to see these figures for professional stain removal clinics) - and above their competitors.
These products are available at Watsons in Hong Kong - but we are also giving away one box of Perfect White Black Sensitive and one box of Total Protection Whitening to one of our readers for free. All you need to do is like our page on Facebook - we'll pick a winner on 31 August and ship it to you internationally for free!

xx Carmen
Summer is heating up, but we've got you covered with Part 3 of our Bikini Body 2016 series (if you missed them, here is Part 1 and Part 2). This time, we reviewed the Ultrasound Cavitation treatment and Presor Therapy treatment at the well-reputed Glow Spa in Hong Kong.

acroyoga acro acrobatics circus doubles duo acro beach summer body
Me and the boyfriend working off our breakfast in Bali.
What is Ultrasound Cavitation and Presor Therapy?

Ultrasound Cavitation therapy involves applying a machine that sends low level ultrasound waves into specific parts of your body, which creates micro bubbles that disrupt the walls of fat cells. The fat cells then implode, turning into liquid, which is then drained out naturally through your lymphatic system and through your urine. The treatment does not require any anaesthetics or surgery, and you are able to go back to your daily routine immediately with no down time required.

Presor Therapy is similar to a deep body massage, designed to increase circulation and lymphatic drainage and reduce cellulite by compressing certain parts of the body when wrapped in a sleeve that is fitted with airpumps. The compression applied to your body is supposed to encourage oxygen to flow into your tissues, improving blood circulation and releasing lactic acid build up, which is great for athletes and airline crew.

What do I need to do beforehand?

There aren't too many stipulations about what to do before the Ultrasound Cavitation treatment, aside from not eating two hours before (or after) the treatment, and consuming a significant amount of water in the day or two before you visit the spa. Glow recommends consuming a low-carb meal after the treatment; and naturally, a lower calorie eating regime will probably help if your goal is to slim down / look more toned.

What does the session involve?

I tried the Ultrasound Cavitation treatment first. My lovely therapist Lily guided me to a room where I explained that I mainly wanted to focus on toning the stomach and back of my thighs. She quickly came up with a plan of attack: she would use the machine for around 15 minutes on my stomach, and then 15 minutes on each leg, finally rounding off with a manual hand massage on the back of my thighs to stimulate the removal of the toxins through my lymph nodes.

Ultrasound Cavitation fat loss burn treatment glow spa hong kong review

After stripping down to my underwear, Lily applied a cooling gel to the head of the applicator, and began spreading the gel over my abdomen. Given that I apparently don't have an excessive amount of fat around my stomach (her words, not mine), she asked me to turn onto my side so that she could gently pull my belly rolls (my words, not hers) so that the machine could have access to my fat deposits more effectively. For clients who carry a bit more weight around their midsections, they are able to simply lie down on their backs without having to lie on their side.

Lily told me that I might hear occasional noises while the treatment was underway, and that this was normal. She was right: it wasn't long after she turned on the machine and began massaging my stomach with the machine's applicator that I heard what sounded like a shrill cicada calling out in my head. It was an odd sensation, because it was clear that the sound was coming from within me, rather than outside, so I was "hearing" it in my mind rather than my ears. The sound was intermittent and random - there would be times where 20 seconds would pass and I wouldn't hear anything, and then times where there would be constant chirping. The noise might be unnerving to those who are sensitive, but I found it completely acceptable. What was slightly uncomfortable was that the applicator became quite warm (or perhaps it was my skin), so I was grateful for the initial cooling gel that Lily applied.

She then got me to roll over onto my front so she could work on the back of my thighs, where the chirping noises in my mind became louder and more persistent. I had become accustomed to the heating up of the applicator though, so this part went by quite quickly and without discomfort. Better yet, the lymphatic drainage massage that Lily gave me with firm downward strokes along the back of my legs afterwards was bliss (and much better than the painful ones I've had at some Chinese massage parlours!).

I was then lead to another room for the Presor treatment, which involved being strapped into what felt like a human-shaped tent from the hips down. The suit was then pumped with air from the machine at different rates, tightening slightly around me so that I felt warm and secure, before releasing slightly. So warm and secure, in fact, that I fell asleep! After around 45 minutes, I stepped out of the suit feeling completely relaxed and reinvigorated.

Presor Therapy fat loss burn treatment glow spa hong kong review

How much does it cost?

As is always the case in Hong Kong, packages are offered that will lower the cost per session. A cavitation slimming treatment (which includes both ultrasound cavitation and 30 minutes of presor therapy) at Glow costs HK$980 for a single session of 60-75 minutes, although the first trial is only HK$680. A course of 10 treatments will cost HK$6,800 for one area (for example, upper arms) and HK$9,800 for two areas (for example, thighs and upper arms, which will be 75-90 minutes).

The presor therapy by itself costs HK$600 per 60 minute session, or you can buy a course of 10 sessions for HK$4,000.

The verdict

The Presor treatment is quite similar to the Dermology treatment offered by Hypoxi that I reviewed here, except that Glow clients usually only use the suit from the waist down (whereas the Dermology suit was a full body one). I felt that the Presor treatment was more relaxing (and great for those who want to have a nap and wake up feeling re-energised); but again, given that it is not designed to assist with fat burning, I'm less inclined to buy a full package course of treatments.

The Ultrasound Cavitation, on the other hand, is something that I think has potential. From anecdotal evidence, it appears that this treatment is more effective for those who have stubborn fat deposits in certain areas (hello, lovehandles!), but is not appropriate for those who are obese and looking to miraculously drop dress sizes in a short period of time (surgery is probably the only realistic option for that). Glow recommends that you do eight to ten treatments, going in at least once per week. Having only done a one-off trial treatment, it is, frankly speaking, hard to tell how much direct impact it had on my body, but I did notice that a few days after my treatment, I was looking leaner and more toned. Be advised though, that you probably won't see results until you have done at least four treatments. 

bikini beach summer body asian girl weightloss toning slimming
Trying to nurture my baby abs (which is hard in a food-obsessed city like Hong Kong!)
Finally, remember that you are encouraged to drink as much water as possible after your Ultrasound Cavitation treatment in order to flush out the liquified fat, and not to consume food two hours after your treatment. No alcohol is allowed for two days after your treatment either, as your liver is supposed to be working overtime to help remove any toxins from your body.

xx Carmen

PS. Special thanks to the lovely Sioban and Lily at Glow for allowing us to trial both treatments on a complimentary basis.
For my birthday last month, The Boy took me to Twenty Six by Liberty (the old Private Liberty Works). Although the superbly creative chef, Vicky Cheng, has since left to run VEA, Twenty Six by Liberty did not disappoint, having brought on board Michelin star-chef Bjoern Alexander to take the lead.

Take a look at the delectable 10 course menu (HK$900 per person plus service) we were served - food that was not only delicious, but also totally Instagrammable. 

(Note that the menu changes every season.)

Twenty Six By Liberty Restaurant Hong Kong fine dining food
Twenty Six by Liberty.
Twenty Six By Liberty Restaurant Hong Kong fine dining food caramel candy
Caramel candy with edible wrapper.
Twenty Six By Liberty Restaurant Hong Kong fine dining food smoked potato iberico ham
Smoked potato wrapped in iberico ham.
Twenty Six By Liberty Restaurant Hong Kong fine dining food uni truffle sweetcorn
Uni with truffle and sweet corn.
Twenty Six By Liberty Restaurant Hong Kong fine dining food oyster caviar
Oyster with lychee, lime and caviar.
Twenty Six By Liberty Restaurant Hong Kong fine dining food king crab egg yolk ginger jelly
King crab with egg yolk and ginger jelly.
Twenty Six By Liberty Restaurant Hong Kong fine dining food langoustine black garlic
Langoustine with black garlic and chilli.
Twenty Six By Liberty Restaurant Hong Kong fine dining food scallops white asparagus
Scallops (dried, raw and liquid) with scallop chips and white asparagus.
Twenty Six By Liberty Restaurant Hong Kong fine dining food smoked duck
Smoked duck.
Twenty Six By Liberty Restaurant Hong Kong fine dining food smoked pigeon strawberries
Smoked pigeon with strawberries.

Twenty Six By Liberty Restaurant Hong Kong fine dining food kobe beef cheek kimchi
Kobe beef cheek with kimchi, plum and smoked oil.
Twenty Six By Liberty Restaurant Hong Kong fine dining food blood orange puff pastry
Blood orange pastry puff.
Twenty Six By Liberty Restaurant Hong Kong fine dining food cantaloupe melon raspberries
Cantaloupe melon with raspberries and ginger ice-cream.
Twenty Six By Liberty Restaurant Hong Kong fine dining food cantaloupe melon raspberries
Cantaloupe melon with raspberries and ginger ice-cream.
xx Carmen
Recently we kicked off Part I of our Bikini Body 2016 series, and last week we decided to stop by HYPOXI in Central, Hong Kong to trial their HYPOXI Dermology and targeted fat loss machines.

To my great surprise, I was still sore a week later from the EMS workout that I reviewed here, although admittedly that could have been from the bootcamp and acrobatics training I did over the weekend. So I was looking forward to HYPOXI's one hour free trial treatment that claims to allow targeted fat and cellulite reduction, because I had read reviews that said the treatment only required low to moderate exercise efforts.

What is HYPOXI?

HYPOXI was designed by an Austrian sports scientist in the late 1990s. The treatment uses vacuum and compression therapy (similar to Chinese cupping) applied inside a training pod, which is supposed to increase temperature (and accordingly, blood flow) to the areas where you want targeted fat loss. Usually for women, this includes the waist/stomach/hips and thighs/buttocks, and most women choose the 20 minute Dermology session that is supposed to reduce water retention, bloating and cellulite, as well as assist with skin elasticity; followed by the 30 minute training session, which is supposed to help fat (not muscle) reduction by stimulating blood flow to the fat cells in your lower body. HYPOXI's mantra is that its training machines help you target specific areas for fat loss through moderate exercise and their vacuum and compression technology, which isn't achievable through conventional work outs.

What do I need to do beforehand?

HYPOXI recommends that you eat a meal with some carbohydrates one to two hours beforehand. On the morning I went, I was feeling pretty exhausted from a weekend full of work and working out, so I ditched my intermittent fasting regime and had a cappuccino and a slice of toast.

You need to pack sports gear to HYPOXI - they recommend loose, long pants (does anyone wear loose work out pants anymore?), a long sleeve top, socks and sneakers.

What does the session involve?

The first part of my session involved getting changed into my sports gear (minus the shoes) and then climbing into a large black astronaut-like suit, putting my head into the top opening so that I could be fully sealed up. I was then asked to lie on a pod bed while various cables were connected to my suit.

Julia, the Managing Director, then helped tighten the suit as the machine was turned on, and explained that I would feel sensations like a "kissing octopus" while the nodes massaged me. Essentially the machine had two phases to it: for about eight seconds, it felt like someone was pressing against my chest and forcing me to take a deep inhale. This was then followed by the release of the pressure on my chest, accompanied by the odd sensation that there were tiny baby eels in my suit wriggling against my abdomen, legs and buttocks.
Given that Summer is rolling around faster than you can say "don't make me get out of these fat pants", we are launching a series of posts on how to get bikini body ready in the shortest amount of time possible. While we're not advocating quick fixes, sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do...and by that, I mean call in the experts.

Here is Part I of our Bikini Body 2016 series: a review of the EMS workout offered by BodyExpress in Hong Kong.

When I first found out about Electro Magnetic Stimulation (EMS) workouts in Hong Kong, I was a bit skeptical. They claimed that one 20 minute EMS session was the equivalent of five hours of working out at the gym - but I had always been taught that there is no short cut when it comes to fitness, building muscle and burning fat.

If there was though...then I was totally down to try! Cue signing up for a free EMS workout trial at BodyExpress, conveniently located on Wellington Street in Central, Hong Kong.

bodyexpress hong kong ems electro magnetic stimulation work out beach body summer lose weight fast

What is EMS?

Without delving too deeply into the science behind the concept, EMS is about hooking your body up to a muscle stimulating device (the one at BodyExpress is designed in Germany), which applies a low frequency electrical current to your muscles, causing them to contract without straining your joints and tendons. BodyExpress claims that it can activate up to 90% of your muscles simultaneously through EMS, and that the contractions that occur are more intense than those you would normally get just by working out at the gym, as they reach deeper muscles. During your workout, your trainer is able to adjust the intensity of the electric current sent to different parts of your body individually (like your glutes, hamstrings/thighs, abs, lower and upper back, chest, and arms) by using the individual control knobs.

Interestingly, BodyExpress recommends that you only use EMS once per week, given the extended recovery time required because of the intensity of the workout. The fact that they're not pushing you to go overly frequently is a plus in my books - not because I don't love working out (I do!) but because it adds a degree of credibility to what they're selling, unlike most infomercial ads for fat-blasting devices.

bodyexpress hong kong ems electro magnetic stimulation work out beach body summer lose weight fast

What do I need to do beforehand?

BodyExpress advises you to eat a substantial meal two to three hours beforehand. Given that I'm on a new intermittent fasting regime, I opted instead to have a packet of oatmeal an hour and half before my session.

The great thing is that if you go for a trial EMS workout, you don't need to bring anything (not even a sports bra!). BodyExpress will provide you with the shirt and tights; but if you like, you can bring sneakers (or you can opt to train barefoot).

bodyexpress hong kong ems electro magnetic stimulation work out beach body summer lose weight fast

What does the session involve?

BodyExpress only offers personal training with its equipment, which is capped at two people (so yes, you can bring a friend!) given that there are only two machines in their Central branch. The beauty of this one-on-one attention is that you can work with your trainer to formulate a programme designed to achieve your personal goals and target specific parts of your body, so they will know which parts of your muscles to crank up the intensity for.

I met my trainer, Shinder, who gave me an introduction on how the machines worked (you are supposed to move into or hold a position when the red lights come up, and rest and relax for about four seconds when the blue lights come up); the basic default position that I would need to take up during parts of the workout (which was basically a squat with my hands clasped together); and what I would get out of this (the stimulation of deep muscles, which can't really be reached by conventional training methods).

I was then asked to step on the InBody scale, which measures not only your weight (in my case, 56.3 kg), but also things like your mineral and water intake, your muscle mass and your fat mass etc. All my results were pretty positive: I had 16.7% body fat (apparently considered athletic) and significant muscle mass...particularly in my arms. This is hardly surprising given that the acrobatics and pole dance I do require a lot of upper body strength - but what did bother me was that my arms are actually proportionally stronger than my legs - which isn't exactly normal! He also explained useful things like how many calories I could burn and eat a day doing absolutely nothing - and he told me that I have the body type that "does not gain weight easily" - although I would absolutely beg to differ on that point!

For me, my goal was to tighten and tone the core area (okay, fine - that's code for "flatten my stomach") as well as strengthen my inner thigh muscles (essential for dancers/acrobats). Schinder immediately identified the imbalance in my muscle mass - too much muscle in my arms compared to my legs, and far too much muscle in my right arm compared to my left (oops - that's also typical of pole dancers!). He assured me that he would focus on increasing the electrical stimulation in my legs and glutes to try to balance me out.

My ridiculously lovely boyfriend decided to book me in for a half day spa package at The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong on Monday, just "because it's a public holiday." 

So, thanks Labor Day (oh...and the boyfriend of course)!

The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong HK spa massage facial private suite view hong kong harbour

Naturally Peninsula Lunch (included)

I started off with lunch at the iconic Peninsula Hotel lobby (Amanda previously reviewed their famous Peninsula High Tea here) although this is normally offered by the poolside above the spa (we opted to eat in the lobby so my boyfriend, who wasn't a spa guest, could eat with me). The lobby had a beautiful tropical colonial style decor with high ceilings, gold finishings, and a live string quartet playing. 

the peninsula hong kong lobby afternoon tea lunch restaurant

The spa's signature lunch set, known as the Naturally Peninsula menu, was included in the half day spa package, which meant I had a variety of very healthy options to choose from.

Let me stress two words: Very. Healthy.

The menu offered light, nutritious cuisine that uses sustainably sourced ingredients...at the expense of flavour. 

the peninsula hong kong lobby afternoon tea lunch restaurant naturally peninsula set menu
the peninsula hong kong lobby afternoon tea lunch restaurant naturally peninsula set menu

For my starter, I selected the poached scallops with arugula pesto and carrot ginger salsa. The scallops were slightly smaller than expected, and missed the deliciously creamy texture I prefer in my seafood. The "salsa" turned out to be tiny diced carrots, which were rather bland, and the pesto was heavy on the garlic, overwhelming the rest of the dish.

the peninsula hong kong lobby afternoon tea lunch restaurant naturally peninsula set menu

My main was also lacking in real flavour, being the pan fried Kurobatu pork escalopes with celeriac and apple sauce. The pork was cooked well without being too dry, but relied too heavily on the sauce (which was similar in consistency to baby food) for flavour. The small portion of tomato and quinoa under two sprouts of broccoli were well balanced, but the boiled potato slices were unappetizing.

the peninsula hong kong lobby afternoon tea lunch restaurant naturally peninsula set menu

Fortunately, this was somewhat redeemed by the caramelised pineapple with citrus sauce and sherbet, which was sweet but nicely matched by what appeared to be vanilla bean icecream and crunchy caramelised pineapple toffee on top. This was also perfectly complemented by my hot mint tea (included in the set lunch).

the peninsula hong kong lobby afternoon tea lunch restaurant naturally peninsula set menu

Spa Lobby

We had lunch for around an hour before wandering up to the spa, where a welcome drink of ginger, honey, lemongrass and cinnamon (all my favourite ingredients!) was served to us, accompanied by hot towels. The spa interior was an interesting mix of wood and marble touches with large candles flickering along the back wall.

The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong HK spa massage facial private suite view hong kong harbour
The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong HK spa massage facial private suite view hong kong harbour

Private Suite

After filling out a brief consultation form, I was taken upstairs to my private suite. Inside, I was shown the fresh fruit platter next to a reclining chair, and Chinese wooden cabinet with a safe (to lock away my valuables), robe and slippers, and a small fridge with fresh fruit juice and coconut water.

On the amenity table next to this were various haircare products, a dryer and a hairbrush.

The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong HK spa massage facial private suite view hong kong harbour
The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong HK spa massage facial private suite view hong kong harbour

At the front of the room was a large glass window with the spa's signature view of Victoria Harbour, including the Wan Chai Exhibition Centre directly opposite. Tucked against the stunning view was a hot tub with a jacuzzi function, which the spa therapist turned on for me as soon as we entered the room. The tub was perfect for my size, meaning I could stretch out fully and just touch the end. Within reach of the tub was a bottle of Evian water and a bowl of pink sea salt (to be used in the tub, not your drink), along with flowers known as the Hong Kong Orchid (or Bauhinia) floating in a decorative metal basin nearby.

The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong HK spa massage facial private suite view hong kong harbour

Next to the tub is a steam room and shower in one, which the therapist had already turned on for me before my arrival. It was easy to switch between the two functions, although it did take a minute for the steam to evaporate from the shower. The steam room/shower came with a block of marble that you could sit on inside while enjoying the steam function - but keep in mind that the steam all comes out from one pipe vent and directly onto the floor, so you want to keep your feet away from that unless you're a fan of scorching heat!

The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong HK spa massage facial private suite view hong kong harbour

I was left in peace to enjoy the private suite facilities for about an hour - you can see from the quick video tour below what the room looked like.

Massage Treatment

My therapist came back an hour later and guided me through what would happen during the treatment; that is, we would begin with a one hour full body oil massage (both back and front of the body), and finish with a one hour customised facial with an optional leave-in hair mask. I was asked about where I was feeling most tension in my body (erm, everywhere!) and if I had any skin concerns (nope, I'm pretty unconcerned when it comes to my skincare routine, haha).

She then asked whether I had problems sleeping (absolutely!) and what I planned on doing after the treatment (dance and acrobatics *sheepish look*), she picked two body and two facial oils for me to smell and choose from.

The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong HK spa massage facial private suite view hong kong harbour

Then the bliss began. 

The full body massage was relaxing, although I had told her that I would prefer firm pressure (which she complied with on the shoulders, where I had pretty obvious knots). She also frequently checked whether the temperature, lighting, music and pressure was to my liking, but otherwise left me alone in silence to drift into a peaceful state.

The only thing I would say is that having been used to traditional Thai and Chinese massages, I felt that the one hour went by far too quickly without all my knots being fully ironed out. This is, in all fairness, the style of the spas at the top five star hotels: they would prefer the massage be relaxing and reinvigorating rather than a battering of your body into submission (which is what mine often needs).

Facial Treatment

What really impressed me was the time and care my therapist took to examine my face. She pulled out a UV light and explained to me where she felt my skin needed some help: my slightly oily T-zone and my dark under eye circles were her top priority. She felt that the skin texture and tone of the remainder of my face was generally good, but that my cheeks probably could use some exfoliation to help stimulate the growth of new skin. 

I was also pleasantly surprised that she asked me whether I wanted any extractions, after assuring me that they would not be painful and leave me looking red and blotchy. This was a surprise because other hotels such as the Ritz Carlton have a policy of refusing to do extractions, much to my annoyance (see my review of the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong ESPA and my review of the Ritz Carlton Macau ESPA). She also double checked that I was happy for her to use the steam machine on me, which I was.

After the usual cleansing, steam, and exfoliation, she began the extractions. As promised, they were not particularly painful: probably because she only did one or two. Knowing that my skin wasn't really needing extractions, I was grateful that she didn't go overboard and try to squeeze my skin where it wasn't necessary.

The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong HK spa massage facial private suite view hong kong harbour espa

The usual toning and moisturising, as well as shoulder and neck massage was given, along with a hairmask that was surprisingly not as heavy and oily as the one used at the Ritz Carlton (having said that, I still preferred to wash it off that evening before I went to bed, as my fine hair had turned rather limp looking). With a facial mist spritz, I was finished and left feeling relaxed...and wanting more.

Finally, I was then given 15 minutes to freshen up before being escorted from the suite back to the spa lobby.

The half day de-stress spa package cost HK$2,400 / US$310 (excluding 10% service charge) for the 120 minute treatment of massage plus facial. The private spa suite is an extra HK$700. Given that the overall cost included a three course lunch at The Peninsula Hotel and one hour use of the private spa suite, I thought this could be considered value for money. 

While you should manage expectations when it comes to the spa food menu, the view of Hong Kong Harbour will be sure to impress any hardened spa-addict.

The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong HK spa massage facial private suite view hong kong harbour

xx Carmen