One of the best things about living in (or travelling in) Asia is the abundance and affordability of massages and spa treatments (and really, who doesn’t love this about Asia?!) On a mission to find a favourite foot massage place in Saigon I recently tried one at L’Apothiquaire – the District 1 branch that is (their other branch in District 3 looks and sounds amazing – set in a French villa complete with a swimming pool – I aim to go there sometime as well).
Inside the shop at L’Apothiquaire, where they sell their range of spa products. Such a beautiful fitout.
Describing itself as a traditional French day spa, it is indeed tres chic and a very glamourous (note: girly) place for some pampering. It’s set in a restored colonial building in the heart of Saigon, with old patterned floor tiles that remind me of those in the French colonial buildings in Phnom Penh.
After the obligatory cup of tea (chamomile rather than green – being French-style and all) I was led to the foot massage room, complete with piped classical music and hot pink suede armchairs. The massage to follow was fantastically soothing with a medium amount of pressure applied – not too soft, not too hard. A lavender-scented oil was used, and I also wore a fragrant, herb and flower filled eye mask that was presented.
I loved the massage and the spa itself, but the experience got me thinking about spas that reflect a certain nationality or culture. In Thailand and Cambodia I particularly love spas that have a real Southeast Asian/Buddhist vibe, with the scents of jasmine and lemongrass in the air, green tea, Buddha statues, calming music, gongs, the sounds of monks chanting – that kind of thing (ok maybe I’m getting a little carried away with the monks chanting bit). If truth be told I think I prefer this slightly more than a European-style experience. I still haven’t figured out if there’s a real spa culture in Vietnam aside from the more Chinese-style acupressure massage places (plus the other kind of ill-repute!). I’ve had foot massages at the more local-style places and while some are good, they can also be quite hard and I really hate those sticks they sometimes use on your pressure points – ouch!
Hmm…looks like I’ll need to do some more, ahem, ‘research’ into spas with a more Vietnamese flavour, or failing that, seek out a beloved Thai-style place. If you have any spas in Saigon (or Hanoi) that you recommend, be sure to let me know!