While they’re not as pushy as their counterparts in Bangkok, it’s still almost impossible to walk through central Siem Reap without hearing the siren call of “you want massaaage?” as pitchers nervously exhort you to enter their particular spa space. And there are now so many of them with the same glass front, same menu and unknowable service that it’s impossible to separate the wheat from those that will chafe, leave you bruised or just frustrated. But there are some to be found that offer really excellent massages and other treatments across all of the price ranges.
At the budget end, Master Feet (opposite Blue Pumpkin on Hospital Street) has one of the best foot massages in town in a simple, unadorned but clean and air-conditioned set up that perfectly meets the purpose for which it was established. A 30-minute foot massage with reflexology is an undeniable $3, while an hour, including head, shoulder and arms, will set you back a whole $6. They also offer Khmer and oil massages, with a Khmer massage in a large, communal room with curtained off mattresses at $5. For the same money, you could also go for a pedicure with polish.
As with all of the places cited here, the staff are well trained, meaning that the service is usually very consistent, and they are often experienced and confident enough to be responsive to any special requirements that you may have as well.
Also keeping an eye on the money, but not stinting on experience, down a little lane just off Street 7 Seeing Hands Professional by Blind is a small, old-school venue that offers Anma- and Shiatsu-style massages as well as typical Khmer-style massages in a communal air-conditioned room with four beds, at $5 for one hour. You are given a set of clean and ironed pyjamas, and there is a private space at the back for changing. An oil massage will set you back $7. The massages are professionally carried out, and we found the masseuse to be very responsive to specific needs or sensitivities.
Not quite as venerable or fashionable as other venues in town, Lemongrass Garden nonetheless continues to command a loyal following thanks to the quality of its services and reasonable prices. Thanks to their enduring popularity, Lemongrass has recently opened up a new venue, opposite the Park Hyatt on Sivatha Boulevard. Aside from the full range of body and facial treatments they provide, parents will be thrilled to find out that they are family-friendly too, offering a kids massage for $7, which means that you can relax and indulge yourselves entirely guilt-free. The decor and setting are pretty, without being overdone, but the service level here is high and a one-hour back, neck and shoulder massage will cost $18.
Also down a little lane, on the road just south of Old Market, you’ll find Khmer Relief which, despite its rather unfortunate name, is not the place for happy endings, unless a good, intense massage is what makes you smile. The owner tells us this is not the place to go if you’re in a hurry as they will take their time over looking after you, and the only complaint that could possibly be filed is that the massages always feel really short even though our watches tell us that the scheduled amount of time actually has passed. In addition to massages, they also offer facials and body treatments, and the practitioners here are male and female, which is rather unusual. A one-hour head, neck and shoulder massage here will cost $20.
Sokkhak Spa on Sok San Road is a haven of tranquility and escape from the dust and bustle outside. Created to provide employment to young people from Pouk District, where the owner originally comes from, a keen eye for style, design and detail can be discerned everywhere you go here. It is a lovely spot for a treat, and a back, neck and shoulder massage here will cost $24.
In Kandal Village, Frangipani Spa is one of the longest-running spas in Siem Reap, and continues to turn the frazzled into happy, smooth-skinned, calm and relaxed souls. It’s slightly pricier than other places in town, but the consensus among those who go is that it’s worth it, for the attention to details and standard of care. As with all of the venues below, Frangipani offers the full range of spa treatments, including waxing, and a 30-minute back, neck and shoulder massage here will cost $20.
Another newish addition is Kaya Spa, a contemporary and elegant addition to the burgeoning spa scene that feels completely different from anywhere else in town. The standards and attention to detail are high here, and a back, neck and shoulder massage will cost $26, which is not substantially more than other venues considering. Kaya was created by the people behind Senteurs d’Angkor, and they also have their own range of delicious-smelling oils and lotions, all of which are completely natural and made in Cambodia.
Of course, if you really want to indulge yourself then you can’t get much better than the Amansara Resort. This extraordinary location was originally designed in the 1960s as a guest house for King Sihanouk. Aman acquired it in 2002 and the property has since become a byword for the ultimate in style and luxury. A friend who did the right thing and splurged on himself (and we’ll forgive him for not taking us with him because he’s adorable and does magic things with hair), says the combination of the environment, highly professional service and the use of holistic healing as well as massage left him feeling totally balanced afterwards and made it all completely worthwhile. His one-hour aromatherapy massage cost $80; the hotel will accept outside guests with reservations.
2 Thnou St, Siem Reap
T: (012) 315 885
Seeing Hands Professional By Blind
Off Street 7, Siem Reap
Lemongrass Garden (two sites)
202, Sivatha Blvd, Siem Reap
105B, Sivatha Blvd, Siem Reap
T: (012) 387 385
Off Street 11, Siem Reap
T: (063) 765 596
Sok San Rd, Siem Reap
T: (063) 763 797
No. 24 Hup Guan St, Siem Reap
T: (012) 982 062
Thou St, Siem Reap
T: (063) 966 736
Vithei Charles de Gaulle, Siem Reap
T: (063) 760 333
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.