It began, as so many nice things do, with a limo ride ... just across town though, because this was about having a holiday without really going anywhere. No airport waits, no traffic queues, no swine flu alarmists, no ailing Kiwi dollar, just a retreat from everyday life.

Retreat. It's a nice word conjuring up images of tranquillity and isolation. What it does not adequately describe is the otherworldly state of bliss to be found at the new Chuan Spa in Auckland's Langham Hotel, which is where the hotel's luxury hybrid Lexus LS600hL limo is whisking me.

Since 2005, the Langham in Symonds St has done a fine job as one of the city's most elegant and opulent hotels but the Chuan Spa, which opened last month, has added a little icing to the cake.

Almost all the Langham hotels around the world feature the signature Chuan Spas but, with the Auckland spa the newest in the group, we can feel quietly smug that it's probably the best.

It seemed the perfect spot to try out the idea of getting away without actually leaving Auckland.

To accommodate spa guests, the hotel has refurbished two of its suites into Chuan Havens - the icing on the icing on the cake. Haven is another good word, this is your home away from home.

A Chuan Haven has all the things you'd expect in a five-star hotel suite - two huge plasma televisions so you can watch from either bed or couch - and large infinity tub in the luxury bathroom.

The havens are for the exclusive use of hotel guests who have booked treatment packages at the spa, which, crucially, lies right outside your door.

If there's a better way of feeling blissfully shut off from the outside world than meandering between your luxury suite and spa treatments, I haven't found it.

The existing heated outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi are now part of the hotel's wellness area, which includes both the spa and gym, and available for casual spa clients booking treatments, rather than just hotel guests. But that's just the beginning.

Chuan spas are based on traditional Chinese medicine, itself based on the principle of two opposing yet co-dependent halves - yin and yang - and five elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth. This underpins everything within the spa, from the scents and oils to the herbal teas, juices and snacks available to guests.

The element ruling the spa on any given day is dictated by the Chinese calendar but your personal element will likely be different, and is determined by a simple questionnaire filled in on arrival.

If you're like me, with apparently every element wanting a rebalance, then you're given an aroma test. The oil which most appeals to you will indicate which element is most in need of attention. And then you're away, into the luxurious world of the spa.

The best advice I can give anyone from this point is to be early. If you're not, you're going to miss out on one of the highlights of Chuan, and one of the things that make it a step ahead of most other spas.

Welcome to the tri-bathing ritual - a sauna, herbal steam room and ice experience, all found within the changing areas.

First unwind a little in the gently pummelling, spiral-shaped "snail" shower, where water shoots at you from all directions, then slather yourself with crushed ice before relaxing in the heat of either the herbal steam room or the sauna.

The ice bit seems to be off-putting for a lot of people. Don't be a chicken! It makes your skin practically sing, and the warmth of the sauna and steam room all the more inviting.

I could play here for hours, but my signature five elements rebalance treatment beckons. So I bid the changing room, bathing ritual area goodbye and head to meet my therapist in the waiting area.

She leads me into the inviting sanctuary of the VIP treatment room where I soak for 30 minutes in the beautifully toasty waters of the mosaic-tile bathtub for an "Ocean Sensation" bath before my 90-minute hot and cold stone therapy massage and foot therapy massage. In keeping with Chuan's philosophy, the treatment is choreographed around the elements and the principles of yin and yang - it's supposed to balance, calm, nurture, revitalise and harmonise.

It works. If I was any more calm and harmonised they'd have to check for a pulse.

As it is, by the time it's over and I'm off to the beautifully named Dream Room for my post-treatment spa-cuisine snack and juice (dictated by element - and both delicious) to "recover", I just about need to be moved with a spatula.

Luckily I need only float down the stairs to my beautiful haven. The perfect retreat.

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Chuan Spa is offering a Radiant Revival opening special of a 30-minute signature Chuan mint and ginger herbal salt scrub with any 60-minute massage, for $130.

The three-hour five element rebalance treatment costs $395 for one person or $710 for two.

Chuan Haven can only be booked in conjunction with spa packages.
Guests also have Langham Club privileges including use of the beautiful Club Lounge.

Situated on Symonds St, the Langham is within easy distance of dining in the centre of Auckland, or city shows. The hotel also has four inhouse bars and restaurants including fine dining at Partingtons, The Winery lobby bar, the SPF Brasserie and the SPE bar and restaurant.