A Hammam or Turkish bath is, in my opinion an experience you must try before you die.


So what exactly is a Hammam? I won’t pretend to be an expert because I’ve only tried it twice in my life. The first time was in Istanbul, I was already there and couldn’t let the opportunity pass, and the next time was recently, right here in Manila at Chi, The Spa at Edsa Shangri-La.

A Turkish Hammam is the Roman equivalent of a steam bath. Except a Turkish Hammam uses more water than steam. So back to Istanbul, when I found out that the hotel we were staying in, The Serceki Mansion had a Hammam, I booked a session immediately. I may not have been ready for a public Hammam, but there was no excuse for not trying the experience in the privacy of the hotel’s basement.

Hammam at Serceki Mansion, Istanbul

My 60-minute session started in the steam room where my female masseuse asked me to relax for a few minutes. It goes without saying that you are without clothes. It may feel weird at first, but then you get used to it and it’s actually quite liberating. After the steam room, you transfer to a spacious Hammam made of pink marble. I am asked to lie face down on a heated slab of marble which is covered with a towel. Then I am sluiced with what feels like gallons and gallons of hot water scooped with two copper bowls from big ornate basins. The sound of water is continuous because the faucets are turned on during the entire session.

Ornate faucet and painted tile detail

Then the scrubbing begins. You will be scrubbed in every part of your body, and I mean every part, even the parts where the sun doesn’t shine. It’s a good thing I’m not a particularly ticklish person! You will be alternately scrubbed then sluiced with water again and again. Be prepared, it’s not a gentle kind of scrub, it’s a rough kind, meant to take off the layers of dead skin.

Turkish cotton towel and lavender soap

Then, just when you’re feeling raw after all that vigorous scrubbing, your body will be covered in the lightest foam. Like giant cotton candy without the heaviness or stickiness. It will feel like a gentle caress. With a thick layer of foam covering your body, you will be massaged with long even strokes. This part is pure heaven. You may even fall asleep and will hardly feel it when she turns you over.

The session ends with a thorough shampoo, then milk and honey is generously slathered on your body. Ahhh, what a feeling!

How often does one find herself in Istanbul. I knew this would probably be my first and last Hammam experience.

I’m glad I was wrong. The good news is, you can have an authentic Hammam experience right here in Manila. Chi, The Spa at Edsa Shangri-la now offers 3 Hammam packages. I say authentic because Shangri-la has a property in Istanbul and Emel, an experienced Hammam masseuse was flown in to train the therapists. I tried the Royal Hammam treatment with Emel as my therapist. Lucky me! It is a one hour Hammam treatment followed by a one hour Aroma Wellness signature massage.

Hammam room at Chi, The Spa
Copper pitcher

It was exactly the same as the experience I had in Istanbul, except for the Aroma Wellness massage that followed. In fact, it was even better because I was able to talk to Emel and ask her questions about the treatment.

The scrub used is a rough mitt, like a loofah called a kese. I made it a point to actually look at all the dead skin that was being scrubbed off, oh boy where did all that dirt come from?? And, remember the giant foam? It’s actually soap suds made from lavender soap (from Istanbul) using nothing but a pillowcase to create all that foam. At Chi, The Spa, local honey and milk is used as the finishing touch after the treatment.

Milk and Philippine Honey

The results? Aside from feeling rejuvenated, I took a good look at my skin. I must admit it looked and felt like the skin of a newborn baby. Supple, smooth yet firm.

Oh no, this could be habit forming!!

Traditional Hammam, 45 mins. for P3800. Luxury Hammam, 60 mins. for P4500 and Royal Hammam, 2 hours for P6500.

Cover photo courtesy of Chi, The Spa at Edsa Shangri-la

Book your Hamman experience here.

A sweet treat after the Hamman treatment Turkish Delights, all the way from Istanbul

Get to know more about Istanbul from a previous post on this blog.

A city that awakens the senses