Once upon a time I worked as a receptionist at a gorgeous Scottish hotel complete with spa. On slow days, staff would get to partake in spa treatments for a 50% discount. And so the luxury addiction began.
Southeast Asia was going to be another such opportunity to enjoy spa time. I just knew it. The experiences ranged from the sublime to the bizarre. Here goes:
A Group Lip Wax in Hoi An
I’m a dark-haired lady. Lip hair happens. Men – deal with it. Walking down the street in Hoi An I came upon a beauty salon offering waxing services for a steal of a deal. Yes! A lip wax for 50 cents. GOLD! They had availability and in I went. As I sat on a stool waiting for them to heat the wax, the three beauticians huddled around me, gazing at me with tilted heads as though I were a foreign specimen. Which, I suppose, I was.
In I went to the treatment ‘room’, a bed separated by the others with curtains which were not dropped, not that there were any other customers to speak of at nine in the morning. The young esthetician applied the wax. I could feel it hardening on my lip and then she did the weirdest thing. She poked it. And squeezed it. It was like she was pinching each side of my lip wax and separating the wax from my lip hair. Weird.
She pulled the strip of wax off my face and… no hair came with it. She was puzzled as to why this hairy Canadian beast would not release follicles. Calling over her fellow beauticians they all peered over the bed at me like I was a patient in the hospital. The girl reapplied the wax, re-squeezed it, and once again no hair.
Then she came at me with the 20 cent yellow razor. No, no, no, no, no! Tweezers? I asked in desperation. The concept was unheard of to her. She plucked away, sighing at the effort and time it was taking. I left 50 cents poorer with a swollen upper lip.
The Pale Boy Massage in Chiang Mai
I so very nearly convinced David that we should get massages from ex-prisoners in Chiang Mai, but he convinced me that the story had been done and the extra price wasn’t worth it. Instead, we found a decent looking place next to the Wawee Coffee on Ratchamank Road. The price was right at 150 Baht per person ($5 USD) and we quickly signed up. I was appropriately dressed in leggings and a t-shirt so the ladies didn’t make me change, but David was wearing shorts and had been sweating heavily with his backpack on, so he had the pleasure of donning fisherman’s pants and a scrub top.
We laid down on the floor mattresses side by side as we were assigned masseuses. David’s was a lady in her forties while mine was the granny of the bunch, but she had muscles. I had an inkling of what Thai massage would be like. David did not. It’s a deep pressure massage where your body is constantly manipulated. Every touch, every movement, every pressure serves a purpose. At one point, laying on our backs, I heard David’s masseuse talk to mine to grab her attention. Grabbing David’s inner arm she pointed at it, laughing. Yes, we were pale. It was the start of trip. Apparently there has been no white-man so pale that has crossed her body-manipulating path. Poor David.
Then I felt the telltale pressure of feet on my back. I’ve often said that I need a small child to walk on my spine to get the cracks out. Apparently I just needed a little old Thai granny. Well worth my $5.
A Silent Manicure in Nha Trang
It rained while we were in Nha Trang, the city that is geared towards outdoor pursuits. Making the most out of the downpour, I decided to get a manicure instead. $2.50 couldn’t be bad. We passed a shop that seemed decent and had a pair of clients waiting for their pedicures. Other customers – good sign, or so I thought. The woman had told me it would be a ten minute wait. Ten minutes turning into twenty. Twenty into thirty. During this time the Aussie girls were getting pedicures. Correction, one of them was getting a pedicure as the beautician was going to work on first one, then the other. The only sounds heard in the full hour that I was in the shop was that of nail files grinding against nails and the clipping of cuticles.
I’ve never had a square shape to my nails before and found I actually really liked it. She looked at me oddly when I selected a clear polish, but I wasn’t quite up for the fluorescent green or puke-worthy pink. I think the Aussie chicks bagged the only other decent colours, so clear it was!
I then had the fortune of the receptionist pitching in, once she’d finished making lunch and washing the dishes, of course. In reality, she did a great job, albeit she was silent the entire twenty minutes. I mean dead silent. Instead of chit-chat I got to listen to the joys of Vietnamese karaoke Christmas songs.
Have you ever visited a spa or a salon in a foreign country? What was your experience like?