Photo of the Day (7.8.10)

Delays happen. Sometimes there are mechanical issues. Other times, weather plays a role in the form of ash clouds or blizzards. And other times, your flight crew just needs to sample every flavor of Jelly Babies, the UK equivalent of Gummy Bears.

This Flickr shot from OurManWhere captures a moment in Bangkok in the Golden Age of Air Travel (at least for the crew) when travel is still an exciting and sweet time. So what if you are stuck in the airport when you could be enjoying a “Bigheart” treat? Add some local tabloid reading and a quick airport massage, and you could have a rather pleasant layover.

Catch any flight attendants on a sugar high or find a way to make the most of your flight delay? Submit your images to Gadling’s Flickr group right now and we might use it for a future Photo of the Day.

Daily Pampering: Miami’s ‘Rhythm Massage’

When Dayalis Gonzalez was looking for a way to spice up her daily spa routines, she turned on the music in her car and let the beat guide her. The result? A unique massage that incorporates the rhythm of Latin and Spanish music into massage movements meant to connect your mind and body with sound.

“Massage therapy is a form of healing, and so is music, and I wanted to combine them both,” said Gonzalez, a massage therapist at The Ritz-Carlton South Beach, Miami. And so it was discovered – Miami’s Rhythm Massage, available to guests starting July 1 at the hotel.

If a massage were adorned in a red halter dress, stilettos and with Antonio Banderas on its arm, this would be that massage.

Guests choose from two variations – the relaxing or energizing version; or you can request a combination. The relaxing massage uses long strokes to the sounds of sensuous salsa harmonies. It’s the perfect way to wind down after a long day on the beach and before lounging under the stars on a steamy Miami night. The energizing rhythm massage blends cross-friction techniques to upbeat Latin music – you leave feeling completely energized and ready to get your groove on, Miami-style. The massage is unlike anything you’ve experienced — the strokes ‘dance’ over your muscles to the various beats of the music, and within minutes you’re transported to a dance club, salsa and samba-ing your way into a new mindset.

The Rhythm massage is one of 19 new treatments The Ritz-Carlton South Beach spa is introducing starting July 1.

Want more? Get your dose of Daily Pampering right here.


Relaxing in China part 1: Massage

Picture a quiet room that smells of essential oils, maybe tea tree or lavender. The lights are dim, and there’s a candle or two flickering in the corner. The background noise is either a small burbling fountain or a CD of monks chanting. A masseuse expertly spreads warm, fragrant oil across your bare back while you accidentally fall asleep….

Cue needle-ripping-off-of-record sound — this is China, baby. Pretty much everything here (dinner, strolling in the park, a visit to the acupuncturist) is accompanied by noise, groups, and fluorescent lights, making what North Americans normally consider “relaxing” experiences worlds away. Massage is no different.

First, toss away that quiet, private room. Oh, and keep your clothes on for goodness sake — there are other people in the room with you. True, your masseuse is likely to be blind, (blind folks are considered disabled and therefore unable to work in very many occupations), but still. They’ll cover your body with a sheet and massage you through that. Next, bring a couple of friends — getting a massage is an excuse to be social, after all. Enjoy your cup of green tea during a foot massage, or maybe watch the big-screen TV while the masseuses gossip with each other.

%Gallery-92547%A massage in China ranges from full-body (they even rub your face down), to my favorite, a foot massage. Generally you can choose what kind you want, though some places are geared towards one or the other. You’ll find a massage joint on every street; because it so cheap (anywhere from $3-10 US) it’s possible for people to enjoy a regular rub-down.

So what can you expect with a massage in China?

First, anticipate the usual bright lights and crowds. I did some spa research for hot springs outside Kunming and saw rooms with 100 chairs for foot massage. Expect noise — whoever is pressing their hands into you will likely be chatting with their friend across the way, or occasionally answering their cell phone. A full-body massage will require the same kind of table you’re used to, with a hole for your face. However, no oils or lotions are used; instead a sheet will be placed over you and the masseuse will work through that.

If you go with friends, you can expect the masseuses to work in unison. It’s odd at first; the massage is a well-timed routine, and you’ll hear rubbing, popping and slapping at the same time across the room. There’s no real individual treatment, unless you ask for it. Everyone is treated the same – you know, kind of like in communism.

A foot massage is a fun, social activity since you can sit next to and chat with your buddies, rather than have a muffled conversation while face-down on a massage bed. My favorite type of foot massage is a medicinal one: you choose a scent from a menu, and a wooden bucket lined with a plastic trash bag is filled with almost-too-hot water. Then a packet of fragrant … stuff … is added, which turns the water into a jelly-like substance (it feels great between the toes). After a few minutes of soaking, a “magic” powder is added that turns the jelly back to liquid (see gallery). After a few more minutes of soaking, your bare feet will get a thorough rubbing. Often your back and neck will get some attention as well.

High-end spa treatment it ain’t, but a thrice-weekly after-dinner activity with your friends it is. Once you adjust your cultural expectations, it becomes a Chinese experience worth repeating.

Read more about my life in China here.

Free spa experience at the Ritz-Carlton Naples

Any spa-lover needs to visit the Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Naples, because the Elements treatment at the beach property is nothing short of incredible. Now, the chance to visit the spa free makes this an absolute no-brainer. This is one of my favorite spas, and the deal might be enough to get me to book a flight.

Stay at either the Ritz-Carlton beach or golf resort, with the Spa Escape Package, and you’ll get a $200 spa credit, basically making your treatment free. You may want to have a little extra work done, but to have $200 knocked off the price from the start makes that a lot easier to handle. Rates start at $349 a night for the beach resort and $259 for the golf resort.

Need more incentive? From June 1, 2010, through the end of October, you can take advantage of the spa’s “Me Time” deal. When you book a 50-minute massage or facial, you can have your choice of two complimentary enhancements (a $50 value). On the list are hair masks, back scrubs, collagen masks and lip treatments. This is available every Sunday through Friday from 9 AM to 1 PM (but it can’t be combined with other promotions or discounts).

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Daily Pampering: Welcome massages in Puerto Vallarta

Cabana joy.
Villa Premiere Hotel & Spa
, a luxury boutique hotel in the paradise that is Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is offering a few extra free perks to make their property stand out from the crowd. Our favorite? Complimentary welcome massages.

“Getting to paradise for a vacation can often be long and frustrating,” says a rep for the hotel. That’s why when you arrive, they hand you a welcome cocktail and give you a a relaxing anti-stress hand and neck massage. Then, you choose what kind of pillows you’d like in your room and decide whether or not you’d like butler service. The butlers will do everything from unpacking and ironing your clothes to making your dinner reservations and bringing you your morning coffee — just be sure to tip them well.

SuiteComplimentary yoga and meditation classes take place all year on the beach, so if you find yourself having a difficult time unwinding (it’s hard to let go of the stress of the work you did to get to your vacation), there’s help.

The AAA Four Diamond, Bahia de Banderas beachfront Villa Premiere Hotel & Spa has 83 elegantly appointed rooms and suites with Mexican art and furnishings, private terraces, generously sized whirlpool tubs and superb ocean views. Rates start at $270 (based on double occupancy). Click here to book.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.