CHOCOLATE. Coffee. The two words jump devilishly off the spa menu. “This one! The Moccoca Borneo Chocolate and Coffee scrub,” I exclaim delightedly to the therapist. The bemused-looking Sabahan had been patiently waiting for me to make my selection for the first part of my spa experience — a pampering body scrub — at Jari Jari spa.
The award-winning spa, which offers a myriad of services derived from the deepest parts of Sabah is located in the dimly-lit folds of the recently-opened Future of Wellness (FoW), a one-stop wellness hub in bustling Kota Damansara, Selangor.
Casting another cursory look at the rest of the menu, I note with interest the selections: A Kayu Manis scrub, Bunga Raya and Rose scrub, Rose Sea Salt scrub and Coconut and Vanilla scrub. But no. For once, this indecisive Libran has made up her mind. More used to ingesting these two items (my vices in life), my curiosity is piqued to see how chocolate and coffee would fare smeared all over my weary body!
“Have a drink of this ginger tea first, ma’am and I’ll come for you shortly,” says the visibly-relieved looking therapist, gingerly offering me a tray with the drink before briskly making her way to the massage room to prepare for our session.
Downing the soothing, hot liquid, I furtively reach for my phone to see if I can Google the healing benefits of coffee and chocolate. Ah, there it is: “Coffee with its antioxidants is a great detoxifier, and can also reduce varicose veins and cellulite.”
Meanwhile, chocolate, I duly learn, is moisturising and softens the skin leaving a luminous glow. Cocoa contains glycerides which deliver moisturising lipids and fats which plumps out wrinkles and also detoxify the pores of the skin.
Okay, this should be good then, I mutter to myself whilst scrambling to gather my things to join the therapist who’s by now patiently waiting by the billowy folds of the drapes leading to my treatment room. “After the scrub, we’ll proceed with the Dusun Inan Lotud massage, which you chose, ma’am,” she says, her words slow, as if explaining to a bewildered child. “This is good for easing back and shoulder pains.”
Turning to a table on the side, she points to what appear to be a large brass bowl and a couple of wooden mallets. Noting my confusion, the diminutive Sabahan proceeds to explain: “That’s a singing bowl and we’ll be using it for the Himalayan Sound Healing part of the treatment.”
Ah, that’s something I’ve undergone before. If memory serves me right, the singing bowl or Himalayan (Tibetan) bowl, a type of bell that vibrates and produces a deep, rich tone when struck, is believed to promote relaxation — of mind and body — in addition to possessing other impressive healing properties.
Excited at the prospect of a most interesting two hours-plus of pampering, I swiftly prepare myself for the session the moment the therapist takes her brief leave, casting aside my day clothes for the sarong and shower cap neatly laid out on the inviting-looking massage bed.
OF BALANCE AND DOWNSHIFTING
“Did you enjoy your treatment?” The enthusiastic question coming from a youthful-looking chap, clad in a dark blazer over a pair of jeans brings me back from my haze of post-massage bliss. Seated opposite me in the deserted FoW cafe is 46-year-old Wee Kok Han or better known as Patrick Wee, founder of this integrated wellness hub, his eyes scanning my face expectantly.
“It was good!” I exclaim and he leans back into his seat contentedly. The soft-spoken Wee is also the man behind those HealthLand chains (there are 38 branches to date) you might have spotted around Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, and possibly other parts of the country too.
Where HealthLand’s treatments are primarily focused on physical wellness, Wee’s latest “baby”, FoW’s variety of wellness service providers, all assembled in one place and offered by Wee’s business partners, is aimed at fostering self-care, mental and physical health, and emotional wellbeing.
In addition to the traditional selection of ethnic Borneo massages, FoW also offers yoga and meditation, sound healing, traditional Chinese medicine, regenerative medicine, as well as hair and beauty treatments.
“It’s good to take the time to slow down and recharge from the daily bustle of life. Somehow city folks don’t emphasise on this enough,” he adds before going on to explain that FoW was inspired by the Blue Zone Project, which is based on the lifestyle principles of those residing in the rare Blue Zones of the world who enjoy remarkably long lives.
His eyes earnest, Wee elaborates: “It’s about finding your own way to downshift, to move naturally and actively, and being present and truly connecting with family and friends when you’re with them.”
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The affable Batu Pahat-born Wee confides that his background lies in branding and marketing, something he’d been doing for more than 25 years. “My first career was with Limkokwing University as its Director of Marketing and then I joined the entertainment industry. I was handling movie distributions and production for the longest time.”
About 15 years ago, he decided to start his own consultancy. Sheepishly, Wee admits to being what’s known as the “A-type” personality — always driving himself, oftentimes a little too hard. A faraway look in his eyes, he recalls: “When I was young, I was a very anxious youngster; always wanting to do more and wanting everything done fast.”
Hailing from a humble background, Wee and his two older siblings were raised by their mother throughout their formative years. “Mum had three different marriages,” he confides, matter-of-factly, before adding: “I had a pretty rough childhood. I think that’s how I developed my sense of resoluteness.”
A wry smile crosses his face when he shares: “Since young, I’ve always been very determined. That wasn’t always a good thing. For example, when I was around 18/19, I started doing commercial dancing to pay for my bills. One day, I saw myself on Juara Lagu on TV (I think I was dancing for Ning Baizura) and I realised with dismay that my posture was slightly protruded. It’s probably because I’m always anxious to move forward, I forget to relax.”
As a child, he was plain awkward, admits Wee; something he attributes to the absence of a father figure, growing up. “I had very low self-esteem. I struggled through my primary school period. Secondary school was better. I excelled in school and had an affinity for languages. But socially? I was a non-starter.”
Elaborating, he shares: “I always had this fear of trying something new because I felt I’d be judged or laughed at. I didn’t overcome this until I got to secondary school. By the time I reached Form 3 or 4, I realised that maybe it was all just in the mind and I just needed to do it.”
By then, a sense of purpose began to dwell within and Wee found that his need to prove himself started to drive his existence. “I wanted to prove to people that despite not having a father that I could still do it,” he confides. “Initially, it came more from a sense of anger but as I grew older, I realised that I had a bigger purpose. It wasn’t so much about Patrick Wee anymore; I started asking myself what I could do to contribute to the world.”
ON A MISSION
When Wee left Batu Pahat, Johor at 17 to seek greener pastures, first as a bellboy in a hotel in Singapore, and much later in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, he eventually found himself ensnared in the harried existence of a big city. “Just like a lot of people in the city, I too got stuck in the whole idea of wanting to be better in my career, life, and of course, making more money. But it took a toll on me.”
By the time he was in his late 30s, Wee found himself racked with an excruciating back pain, his businesses not performing well, and grappling with issues in his relationship. Life, as he puts it, was simply spiralling out of control. “The alarm bells went off for me by that point,” he adds, softly.
Fortunately, he found Ivengar Yoga. He explains: “It’s a form of yoga that focuses on alignments, precision, but also does a lot of other things in terms of changing a person’s way of being. For example, it emphasises on really slowing and calming yourself down. Physiologically, it helped re-align a lot of the wrong postures and problems that I had.”
The real big turn-around, confides the doting father-of-three, was when he discovered tai-chi. It was through tai-chi that he finally understood the whole idea of finding a balance and being in a natural rhythm.
Says Wee: “Human beings are part of nature and we’re supposed to be in harmony with it. In life, there’s a time to be slow, a time to be fast, and a time to not do anything. But in the city, it’s hard to find that balance. We’re constantly chasing one thing or another and forget to slow down or be still.”
And this, in a nutshell, is what led him to Future of Wellness. Smiling, the Business Comms graduate from Limkokwing University shares: “What I’m really passionate about is to help more city dwellers to understand and grasp this concept of slowing down in order to regain that natural balance that we’re all supposed to have. By doing so, we’ll all be able to find the natural rhythm of life and things will start to flow naturally again.”
When things flow, it’s easier to attract the things we desire, adds Wee. “And naturally, we become happier. You live longer and have better lives because you’re in balance. In the city, most of us have gone out of whack, out of balance. And that’s essentially the gist of Future of Wellness.”
Wee, whose preferred literary fodder are non-fictions and autobiographical works, confides that he’s currently working on a book about the art of timing — of slowing down to do more. “If I can create a community or movement and spread this message, I’d be very happy. I want to create more hubs like this that does a lot of community-related activities. For now, the hardware is there but there are still not enough community-related activities.”
A slight bustle is beginning to build in FoW’s spacious lobby area as more customers begin to file in. The earlier morning drizzle has been replaced by a cheerful sunny day. Throwing the affable Wee a final question, I ask him to define “balance”.
Brows furrowing, he ponders the question momentarily before replying: “It’s when I’m feeling the flow and am in harmony. At peace, essentially. It’s finding that point where you’re not at either ends of any extreme. Once you’re in flow with nature, that’s when you can optimise your potential. Human beings are still evolving.”
And if there’s one thing that can throw him off balance, I pose, mischievously. The deep-thinking Pieces grins. “Fear of failure, definitely,” he exclaims. “It’s still there. Maybe because I have high expectations of myself. I have to tell myself that I just need to be a better version of myself every day. If I find myself failing (or what I deem as failure), I get very down. I have to reset myself. It’s a process that I’m still working on.”
Future of Wellness (FoW) Hub
WHERE: 22A, 26 & 28, Jalan PJU 5/4, Dataran Sunway, Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya.
Check www.futureofwellness.asia for details.