The best spa if you want to mix with the stars
Shambhala Spa, Parrot Cay, Turks and Caicos
A swanky spa is no longer enough for chakra-conscious celebrities. The cognoscenti seek power spas, where the crème de la crème of therapists, healers, yoga gurus and chefs are plucked from far-flung corners of the globe to convene for retreats par excellence. And the ultimate destination is Christina Ong's Shambhala Spa, at Parrot Cay, in the Turks and Caicos.
Parrot Cay, her private island and name of the resort, hosts the best talcum-powder-soft white beach in the Caribbean, not to mention sea the colour of baby-blue pashmina.
I joined an elite group at Shambhala - utopia in Sanskrit - for a four-day retreat. The enigmatic Mrs Ong herself, her best friend Donna Karan and various Park Avenue princesses gathered for five hours of yoga a day with Cyndi Lee, who runs the trendy Om Yoga in New York, a favourite of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke. Evening yoga was candle-lit, while the morning views of the sun rising over the lush green vegetation and sparkling sea had you sun-salutationing in style.
While the food - specially prepared by a chef imported from Nobu - was cleansing, the "no wheat, dairy, alcohol or caffeine" philosophy nearly had me hyperventilating with food rage. Suffering from jet lag after a whole day's travelling, it was too much, too soon. For the first two days on the retreat's regime, I felt weepy and weird. Fortunately, an illicit trip to the Infinity poolside bar on day three for chips cheered me up.
Alla Svirinskaya, a London-based, fifth-generation Russian healer to the A list, including Elizabeth Hurley, was on hand for bio-energy healing. A fully qualified medical doctor who possesses an almost clairvoyant touch when it comes to medical diagnosis, she had the guests at Parrot Cay fighting for appointments. She spotted that my blood-sugar levels were up the spout, but also that my pancreas was playing up. As she treated me, little sparks of electricity seemed to shoot from my head - energy shifting, apparently. I felt spaced out at first, but, after sleeping like the dead on the sun loungers from heaven, I felt clearer and more grounded, as if she had released clouds of stale energy.
Standard treatments include a Royal Mundi Lulur-lulur bath - a healing beauty ritual traditionally enjoyed by brides in the royal palaces of central Java, where spices exfoliate the skin, then yoghurt cools it - followed by a cup of Shambhala's signature ginger tea. all the Balinese therapists are hand-picked.
But for those who just want a healthy, hedonistic break, Parrot Cay is the epitome of luxury. You are ferried to the island from the airport on nearby Providenciales in a private speedboat, and once ensconced in your cool, pared-down Frette-linen-stocked room , you want for nothing. While the vibe is low-key, the atmosphere is charged, as honeymoon couples, Wall Street traders and Hollywood heavy hitters stroll around with the nonchalance peculiar to the megarich. Aficionados include Bruce Willis, Donatella Versace, Paul Mccartney, Britney Spears, Reese Whitherspoon and Barbra Streisand, so expect to wince when you see the bill.
Anna Pasternak, Sunday Times