Oct 02 2012
I remember reading somewhere that the reason many older women go to the hairdresser so often is that, widowed and often neglected by family, it is their way of obtaining the physical human contact we all crave, no matter what our situation. This rather devastating insight is a sharp reflection of the fact that throughout our whole lives we are dependant upon others for so many vital aspects of our wellbeing; that we exist in a complex web in which our own agency is but one small element. It shows that even beyond the charge of a lover’s embrace or the comfort of a parent’s, there is no denying that physical contact from another human being, even a stranger, can be incredibly soothing. And this is especially the case when they’re pounding seven shades of Bejesus out of those bloody knots in your shoulder muscles.
Massages and Asia, Asia and massages — as synonymous with one another as are my life and widespread chaos, and Siem Reap is no exception to the rule. There are dozens of massage parlours dotted around the Old Market area — you know that because while they lack the piercing lyricism (“Thai Massaaaaaaaaaaage!!”) of their neighbours, you still get collared every 30 yards by someone beckoning with a menu list and a slightly less clarion “Massaaaaaaaage?!” In no particular order, I’ve tried a number of the spas and salons in town with various results. I recall especially fondly the urge to kill — I think I was having a bad day — engendered by one in which a girl who weighed about 12 kilos sat on my back and kind of poked aimlessly at my shoulders for a while until I decided I had better things to do.
However, we should probably get the minor matter of my addiction out of the way before moving on. It’s a little bit embarrassing, but I’m completely hooked on foot massages. This was originally borne out of foolishly wearing the same type of shoes day-in, day-out for three years running — don’t do that, it hurts. But even with that issue finally solved, I’m still Master Feet’s number one fan. And how could anyone not be? It’s $3 for a half-hour foot massage in which you just flop in, switch off and recharge while one of the women purposefully kneads the aches (real or imaginary) out of your feet and legs. It’s air-con and it’s magical. An hour-long session, including a divine head and arm massage, is a criminally cheap $6. And they’re really good. The women have all been trained so you get the same treatment each time, adjusted to suit your preferences, and they’re great fun if you want a chat and quiet if you don’t. Do not imagine that you will visit this place only once.
They also do back/shoulder and full body massages that are excellent and cost around about $10. If value and quality are important, but you prefer somewhere that will put you in your own room, then I suggest either the Lemongrass Spa (which has private rooms as well as large shared rooms with curtained off sections), or Devatara Spa, which has two locations — one in between Pub Street and Street 7, and the other beside Laundry Bar, off Old Market.
Both of these offer excellent, consistent service in nicely decorated, spotless and air-con rooms. A back and shoulder massage at Devatara is $12, while at the slightly nicer Lemongrass it is $18. I find the service at Lemongrass to be a little more conscientious and there is a special form you can fill out too, indicating clearly where you would like the masseuse to concentrate or treat lightly which is a good idea. Lemongrass, I think uniquely, also offers special treatments for kids so parents in need of a pummelling can bring them along too.
If you’re looking for something a little more ‘luxe’, then Frangipani Spa is arguably the best non-hotel spa in town. On Hup Guan Street, this is spa as cocoon against all the grot and grumbles of the world. A typical massage costs $25.
Back in town, Body Tune is an excellent option as well. While the rooms are less private, and you can feel a little like you’re stepping into some sort of jasmined labyrinth, the service levels are very high and extremely popular with Siem Reapers who feel they deserve a treat from time to time (which we do!). An oil massage is $18.
While appointments are always helpful, most of the time (possibly with the exception of Frangipani) these establishments do not need to be booked in advance. And when you’re all done and feeling all light and easy, go hug somebody. But don’t blame me if they charge you with assault.
2 Thnou Street (Opposite Blue Pumpkin), Siem Reap
7 Sivatha Blvd, Siem Reap
T: (012) 387 385, (077) 369 025
#16 Street 11 (between Cambodia Asia Bank and The Red Piano)
Old Market Area, Siem Reap
T: (063) 967 496, (077) 707 137
Hup Guan Street, Mondul 1, Siem Reap
T: (012) 982 062
293–296 Pokambor Avenue, Mondul 1
Old Market Area, Siem Reap
T: (063) 764 141
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