Sunday, March 13, 2016

Massage, massage and more massage

Massage in Bangkok.  Best way to start the trip.  Our first thought was to return to the Urban retreat and receive a coconut scrub, hair treatment and oil massage.  We were determined to have a more decadent massage before heading to Vietnam.
The business opened at ten.  I had tried to arrange a massage on their website but had difficulty.  Then there was the language barrier.  We thought we would arrive at ten when they opened, receive our treatment and head to the airport.  Little did we know that you could go in earlier to make an appointment.  We entered the parlor to see six women finishing up their orders for massage.  Crap!  We would have to rethink our quest.
We returned to this other shopping center that we had drank coffee at.  Shari thought she saw a sign for massage on one of the upper levels of the mall.  Hurriedly, we returned to said location and made our way to their counter.  After checking out available options, we settled on a facial/massage combination.  The service was lovely and worth every penny of the cost.  I was relaxed, refreshed, rejuvenated.  Ready to continue with the adventure. 
They served us hot tea and short bread cookies after the massage.  Lovely and delicious!  I loved the additional touch of orchard.  Classy and gorgeous.

Post massage in Hanoi.  Again another higher end establishment with tea to finish.  Our clothing was silk pants and a halter top.  I did enjoy the massage and it kicked off a great start to Vietnam massage.  We looked so relaxed.  And we needed it.  Walking around Hanoi was full of anxiety until we figured it out.  As a traveler, it is always nice to feel like you can fit in wherever you are or at least I feel that way.  It was obvious due to height and hair color that I did not fit in to Vietnam.  I could not disguise the fact that I was western.  And I was confused as to where we were for the majority of the day.  Midway through the day we stopped to sit on a terrace and watch life below us.  Nonstop scooters, people selling their wares--fruit, flowers, goods, pedestrians.  It was chaotic and magical.  We missed a massage due to our travel day to Halong Bay and overnight cruise.  Gorgeous in another way.

The final night in Hanoi was one the worst massages I have received in my life. Shari left the massage in disgust.  I have no photos to display the establishment.  I can still see the neon lights advertising the massage parlor.  It would not have been that bad had the ladies not talked the entire time or forced us into a situation where we felt exposed and a captive audience.  It was nonstop chatter and laughter. Not at all what I think about when I consider massage experiences.
Here is Shari showing us how they do it.  Soak feet, wash them, hand you flip flops and sometimes tea to begin. 
The owner of this spa, Ylang Ylang, was super gracious and inviting.  I adored her as did Shari.  Following this massage, Shari started arranging another session with them while we were in Hoi An.  I think that the prior massage in Hanoi was so shockingly bad that this was the ideal way to bounce back.  Clean space, therapists had definite training and they were so happy to accommodate us.

On the 28th of February (my personal holiday of sorts and the reason for our travel in Vietnam) we did not want to rush the day by adding a pre-arranged massage.  Otherwise we would have returned to Ylang Ylang for another treatment.  Instead, we found a place closer to where we were and were treated to a professional massage.  Thai style, this time, and obviously a very established place in Hoi An. The tea following the massage was excellent.  Ginger tea that was soothing.

Back to Ylang Ylang for a massage/pedicure treatment.  This is the owner, Victoria.  Super lovely lady and great therapist. Probably the best treatment I received while on vacation.  We ran into while walking around Hoi An on our last night and she offered to have us come back in for a facial or just a foot treatment.  I was seriously considering.  The morning we toured My Son with Bao and I was a little tired and dreading the flight to Laos tomorrow.  New city.  New country.  Was the traffic like that in Hanoi?  How quickly would we adjust?  So, yes, another treatment would be nice.  We wrote post cards and had another incredible meal at Morning Glory café instead.

Checking into the hotel we chose to venture out. Vientiane was the capital and busy yet not as crazy as Hanoi.  We saw more pick up trucks and higher end vehicles than scooters.  We felt confident that we would be able to figure it out.  This massage was nearby the hotel and offered a lovely thai massage.  We walked past a hotel displaying massage where the woman was working alone and looked like she was sleeping where she would be performing the massage.  Seemed odd and similar to the massage that Shari had walked out of. 

Location of another massage in Vientiane.  A guidebook suggestion where we became super frustrated with the guidebook.  Supposedly three km from the city center we headed out.  I knew what road we were looking for and as we continued to walk in the unbearable heat, I remembered living in Phoenix and stubbornly attempting to walk around Laveen instead of drive.  Silly!
We stopped at a Japanese Tempenyaki place for lunch to cool off and look at the map again.  We thought we knew where we were.  However, there were no street signs to guide us to this steam sauna that I was so looking forward to.  Aimlessly we walked around again before inquiring with two different tuk tuk drivers.  I showed them where we wanted to go on the map and they had no clue what we were talking about.  Picking a different direction we headed up a street where I spied a computer repair store.  I figured someone would speak English and be able to assist us.  He did and we headed out to find an embassy near the massage place. 
Still no signs.  No indication of the embassy. I was two seconds away from hailing a tuk tuk and heading back to the city center and finding a new place.  I spotted an American who did help us.  She walked us to the desired location and explained that she had been living in Laos for two years and loved it.  We entered the location only to note that there was no signage showing where the massage was.  This was the most frustrating day.  We decided to leave and head back towards the city center when we saw the small sign saying steam sauna and massage.  Finally!  The fun doesn't end here though.
Yes, they did have a sauna and they asked us to change into their uniform before entering the sauna.  No other indication of how to proceed.  We sat in the sauna for 8 minutes before exiting.  Drank some tea and waited to be told when we could go upstairs to have the massage.  After 25 minutes, I was irritated.  There were six other people sitting around the tea table and one therapist still working on one client.
The massage, itself, was mediocre.  My lady kept pushing on my blisters on my feet.  Too much attention to those and then she kept trying to pop my back, my sacrum.  She yanked on my arms.  I was not impressed. 
The following day we consulted the guidebook again only to be disappointed.  Suggestion wasn't even open for business.  I was ready to throw the book away.  We found a place, Daou, which offered a great thai massage. Shari's lady kept leaving and she had another therapist in her place.  Kinda funny.
Luang Prabang was interesting.  Our hotel was 3 km from the city center which required a shuttle to bus us around.  We saw a place after our waterfall tour that would work for us.  They donated part of their proceeds to benefit the community and it was a great massage.
Next stop, Siem Reap.  Since we arrived late and were crazy hot, we chose reflexology as our bodywork.  My lady never really smiled but I did receive a great calf massage.  The next morning we toured Angkor Wat before returning to the hotel.  Cambodia was increasingly hot.  I was limited on my clothes since I kept sweating through them.
We relied on the guidebook to find a place in Siem Reap.  It was open, clean and easy to find.  A thai massage the first night followed by an oil massage the last night.  We felt great about this place and it did not disappoint.
Flying back to Bangkok, I wanted to return to the place we had received facials and massages.  I liked it and knew I would receive a good treatment.  Unfortunately, they were booked up and so we scrambled to arrange another massage.  We had our hotel call Urban Retreat.  They had an opening for a thai massage and we jumped on it.  Great way to start and finish our massage adventure. 
The massages varied in price from $8-$15.  Of course there were nicer massages available and cheaper options, too.  We only had the two crappy experiences and avoided any happy ending type of place. I am glad that we went this course while traveling through Southeast Asia.  It was awesome and a one of a kind type of trip.  Cheers to that!

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