The Escapist’s Atlas

I’m having a gloriously bad week. It’s like the universe chased me to the last known corners of the world and collectively took a dump on me. But because I don’t want to wallow (completely untrue) and also because I know I should do something useful to improve things (like pretending I’m not actually here), I’ve decided to wake up early and plot a grand escape (I’m terribly task-oriented like that). And these are the five best hideouts I’ve found.

Sometimes, you have to roll up your sleeves and prep for battle, and other times, you just need to dream up a fortress and garrison it well. Because if you inhabit a beautiful fortress in an imaginary world, you become impenetrable in the real world, right?

TREEHOUSE in Kamishihoro, Japan

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If griffins were alive (or X-men griffins, for that matter), they’d live here. This bird’s nest treehouse realises all my childhood fantasies of running away from the world, building my own fortress and living amongst the birds. Interestingly enough, it was created by the Nestlé people for a Néscafe commercial and is now off-limited. Incidentally, it also has a lovely spiral stairway, in case you just don’t feel like flying today.

GLASS HOME in Milan, Italy

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All the white witches of the fantasy world must inhabit a space like this – pure, crystallised and charged with elemental magic. This blue-tinged glasshouse is the vision of architect and glass designer Carlo Santambrogio and sits in the middle of a wooden clearing. Everything, including the floor, stairs and furniture are made of glass. Acrophobes (those who fear heights) and scopophobes (those who abhor being stared at) are advised to stay away.

DESERT HOME between Vegas and LA, US

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As this design blog astutely puts it, this 360-degree home on a dormant volcano looks like the lair of some super-villain – good to note if you have any world dominion or elaborate revenge fantasies. If you’re particularly morbid, turn your thoughts to how some apparently ‘dormant’ volcanoes have erupted again.  The surrounding landscape is an apocalyptical wasteland and conducive to all matters of deep, dark melancholy.

IGLOO VILLAGE in Lapland, Finland

From www.myinterestingfiles.com
Pix from http://www.myinterestingfiles.com
Pix from www.hotelchatter.com
Pix from http://www.hotelchatter.com

In case fantasising is not enough, and you really want to go somewhere, this igloo village is actually part of a hotel open from December/January to end-April. They’ve got traditional snow igloos and futuristic glass igloos, where you’ll enjoy first class seats to nature’s most spectacular dance – the northern lights.

ENTIRE ISLAND in Iceland

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If you really need time out from the world, you may want an entire island to yourself. Interesting story: After Björk put Iceland on the world map, Iceland reciprocated by (literally) putting her on the map as well – they gave her an entire island. Elliðaey, off the southern coast of Iceland, now belongs to the eclectic singer-songwriter, and is only accessible via helicopter, boat or rope. According to a blog post by Maryam Shamlou, the house on it doesn’t belong to Björk though. It is a hunting lodge for puffin hunters.

The question is: if you had an island to yourself, what would your fortress look like?

My other grand escape plans include: Bucket List Spas and My Ashram Experiment.

Bucket List Therapies

Therapy. Possibly my favourite overused word.

First used to describe the medical treatment of disease, today, you can literally tag the word to any of your favourite obsessive, compulsive indulgence  and elevate it to a form of pseudo-psychological healing. Retail therapy, massage therapy, apartment therapy, chocolate therapy, you name it.

The thing is, despite all the pseudo-science, I love the hedonistic and imaginative misuse of the word.

I also adore all the little spas that have taken our self-gratifying, self-justifying rhetoric to heart and created spectacular visual wonderlands. Why? Because I truly believe in the healing benefits of a little imagination. And on that note,  here are my ‘bucket list’ therapies and spas – worth more than a visit to the doctor’s.

#1 Tea Therapy

Fast-forwarding through the anti-ageing, antioxidant spew of skincare brochures, what I really love about tea therapy is that this ritualised art instantly evokes a sense of clarity and tranquillity. Chanoyu 茶の湯 (in Japanese culture) and cha dao 茶道 (in Chinese culture) reflect the profound appreciation of nature, self-awareness and hosting etiquette. They also symbolise the act of leaving the mundane world behind and immersing in something truly pure and beautiful.

Bucket List Spa: GREEN T. HOUSE Bath House Residence, CHINA

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This stunning spa is born of artist, musician and tea connoisseur’s JinR’s quest for the quintessential neoclassic Chinese experience. Sitting on the outskirts of Beijing, it is inspired by a Tang dynasty emperor’s bathhouse and voted by the Best Spa Design by Wallpaper magazine. Everything about it (even the website –  http://green-t-house.com/greenteahouse1/bathhouse.html and its musical accompaniment) seems like something out of a Zhang Yimou film. Soak in the rooftop onsen, luxuriate in purifying green tea treatments, sample artistically plated tea-inspired cuisine, and declare time out from the heave of humanity.

#2 Hydrotherapy

Imagine the weightlessness and warmth of being submerged and suspended in lukewarm water. Proponents claim that this weightlessness relieves the body of the pull of gravity, gently massages, and stimulates the touch receptors of the skin. Adjustments to water temperature and pressure are used to improve blood circulation, encourage relaxation, enhance the immune system and hydrate the skin.

Bucket List Spa: Blue Lagoon, ICELAND

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Four reasons I’m sold on this spa: geothermal seawater, in-water massages, the midnight sun and the otherworldly dreamscape of Iceland. Of course, the midnight package is only available from July to August when Iceland enjoys almost 24 hours of sunlight. (www.bluelagoon.com)

#3 Beer Therapy

Step aside, red wine. If you’ve heard enough of polyphenols and resveratrol, you’ll welcome this newer alcohol-skincare fad. This form of booze therapy is gaining popularity in Germany, Austria and Czech Republic, where the folks simply love their beer. Soak in a barrel and instead of a nasty hangover, expect better circulation, detoxification and relaxation from beer’s natural healing cocktail of vitamins, proteins and folic acid.

Bucket List Spa: První Pivní Lázně Karlovy Var, CZECH REPUBLIC

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This beer bath takes place in 1000-litre whirlpool tubs infused with brewing yeast, selected varieties of hop, and malt grist – natural extracts from which Krušovice beer is brewed. Heated to 37°C, it purges toxins, rejuvenates the skin and melts away stress. This is followed by 20 minutes of resting on a bed made of wheat straw, and endless pints of beer in case you still have any residual tension. (http://pivnilazne-kv.cz)

#4 Multi-sensorial Therapy

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Combining colour, shape, light, sound, vibration and warmth to induce deep relaxation, this newfangled type of therapy feels like something out of a futuristic sci-fi world. AlphaSphere, for example (the brainchild of artist Sha) is a monochromatic blue rocking relaxation couch offered at Berlin’s Mandala Hotel ONO Spa and Bulgaria’s Kempinski Hotel’s Zalez.

Bucket List Spa: Wellness at Backstage Hotel, SWITZERLAND

1. Cube 2 at Wellness, inspired by the 2nd day of Creation

7f3f80de16448fdcb5469ce5e54fb0ccInspired by the seven days of Genesis, this spa invites you to experience the miracle of creation in seven splendid rooms. Begin in a steam room flickering with an art projection of light and shadow, lay down in a field of infrared heated glass pearls as clouds drift by, travel through a cosmic world seen through a Hubble telescope, and drift away in a floating basin to the sound of whale song… Through sound, aromatherapy, art, video installations, temperature and state-of-the-art technology, this spa recreates a rich world of magic and imagination. (www.backstagehotel.ch/wellness_80.html)

For more aspiration travel destinations, read: The Escapist Atlas

And p.s., here’s my budget attempt at Self-healing at a Yoga Ashram in India

*Most pictures were taken from the websites of the respective spas.