Jul 06 2012
It’s been well over a year since I wrote about getting a cheap and decent massage in Hanoi, and that’s proven to be a popular post, so: time for another massage-related post. In the name of research, I headed to Huong Sen Healthcare Centre.
I mentioned Huong Sen II in my last post, but this time went to Huong Sen on An Duong Street. It’s not too far from Duong Thanh Nien and the Sofitel Plaza Hotel, on the road towards Bridegroom Field, and is a large building with a bold sign, so difficult to miss.
Now, I’m writing a step by step guide here because this is not a simple walk-in-have-massage-pay-walk-out place, and may be a little intimidating to the uninitiated (or is that just me?). Knowing what to expect should make the whole experience as enjoyable as can be. Of course, I can only comment from the female perspective, but I assume the male experience is similar.
When you arrive, don’t be discouraged by the walk through the car park — you may wonder if you’re going the right way, but yes, you are. Before entering the reception area you have to leave your shoes in the racks to the left and take some plastic sandals. Some enterprising shoe cleaners have set up shop there, so you could get polished flip flops while you’re having your massage. Now that’s efficiency, Hanoi-style.
Once inside you will be presented with a menu. Packages start at 200,000 VND for the 75-minute option and increase in time and price. I went for Option 2: 105 minutes and 250,000 VND. Pay up and you’ll be given a ticket and shown through to the spa area.
In the small changing area you will be given a basket for your clothes and a towel. Strip off — yes, right off — wrap up with the towel and put your basket into one of the lockers.
The area for the jacuzzi and sauna is large, bright, clean (as much as the eye can see) and surprisingly pleasant — in a beige way. Note though, it doesn’t look like the photos on the website.
Shower caps are available though not obligatory, but a shower is compulsory. After your shower, get into one of the large wooden barrels for a warm soak. The clock in the room didn’t seem to be working, so it’s hard to tell how long you soak for, but one of the assistants indicated that I should get into a jacuzzi bath, so I did as I was told. The jacuzzi is very pleasant, and contains a herbal / floral concoction, which smells like it must be doing something good for your skin.
Next it’s into the sauna and then the steam room; the tubs of rose-petal filled water on the floor of the steam room are to put your feet in.
So after 30 or 40 minutes of soaking and heat, shower off, get a drink (you may have to ask as they weren’t forthcoming), put on some paper knickers and follow the assistant to the massage area — take your clothes basket with you. In the massage room, drop the wet towel, lay on your back and cover up with the fresh one.
From there on it’s plain sailing — apart from wondering whether your body is going to make it out in one piece. I don’t know if it was just my masseuse who particularly enthusiastic, or whether they all are, but I really did think she was trying to pull my head off at one point. Do not expect any airs and graces; think slab of meat being tenderised by a butcher.
Despite that, it certainly feels like it’s doing a job, and there are some nice touches like the cucumber slices placed on your face, a rub down with hot cloths and a lavender-scented hot pillow under your neck.
The final stage, once you’re up and dressed, is to enjoy a bowl of chao (rice porridge), a glass of iced tea and some fruit down in reception. And don’t forget your shoes.
I may have not made the massage sound like the most relaxing or enjoyable experience, but remember, this is about healthcare, not decadence. A visit here is a rejuvenating Vietnamese experience, which deserves a couple of hours of your schedule if you’ve time.
Huong Sen Healthcare Centre
68 An Duong, Hanoi
T: (04) 3717 1999
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