Spas are not a place I’ve frequented much over the years, but I do have to say that living in Southeast Asia has given me more opportunities to indulge that I would ever have had in Idaho, or anywhere in the US for that matter. Usually, my SE Asia spa-excursions have been mostly aimed at making my feet sandal-presentable as we tend to do a lot of walking on our trips around the region. A few days in sandals and even the best at-home pedicure gets pretty beat up. Not only are my heels in need of some serious attention, but whatever polish job I did before heading out is usually chipped and needing a bit of its own TLC. But really, my favorite part of a visit to the foot spa is the chance for some cute nail art on my toes, because let’s be honest, I can do a pretty fine job of painting at my own house, with a rainbow of polish choices arranged by color and shade just waiting for use in my upstairs medicine cabinet, but anything more creative is beyond my capabilities. (I would say less than 100 bottles, but over 50 when it comes to at-home color options. There will be some major sorting done on that collection when July rolls around and I am faced a much smaller, and therefore storage-poor, living situation.)
But, with a weekend on my own in Ho Chi Minh City and my planned outings to the War Remnants Museum waylaid by the fact that it is closed on Sundays, I figured my best bet for the afternoon was a visit to a Vietnamese spa. The ladies at the consulate here were raving about the great service and prices, so if I were ever to give new services a shot, this was the time and place to do it. (I’m not deeply upset about my lack of WRM visit, as we spent several hours there the last time we were in HCMC. It is fascinating and painful and horrifying all at once. Definitely not kid-friendly, it is quite graphic and definitely leans towards the Vietnamese viewpoint on the “American War.” I would say all first-time visitors need to make a trek there, but repeat trips are not necessary.)
With my past spa experiences confined mostly to my many pedicures and my one adventure into the awfully intimate world of body wraps (that was in the Maldives and is a whole story of its own- talk about an invasion of personal space!), I thought I would give the facial a shot. Who doesn’t want smoother skin with smaller pores? (Actually, as I write that, I must admit to finding it strange. Do we really care about things like the size of someone’s pores? Maybe the fact that it even gets an ounce of notice says something about the world which we all live in, but I can’t deride it too much, as I am obviously aware of this as a desirable trait.)
Sign me up for one facial.
Overall, I think the treatment went as it would anywhere, but being new to this phenomenon, I must admit to a couple (okay, three) of things that stood out to me:
- How many different pastes can one person have slathered across their face in a matter of forty-five minutes? I count six, but may have lost track in the middle somewhere. They seemed to get progressively thicker and pastier as the session went on, with penultimate layer being a mask that dried into a lovely plaster on my face, cracking whenever a muscle twitched.
- The head/shoulder massage was a nice addition to the afternoon. About twenty minutes in, I started to wonder how many times my face could be rubbed and patted in a variety of patterns. A face just isn’t that big and my facial was supposed to last three-quarters of an hour. But, it appears they actually do know what are doing! (Imagine that.) While the second to last layer of goo hardened on my face, I was treated to a lovely head/shoulder massage that did wonders for the muscles of my shoulder and back, which have taken a beating over the last week of sitting in a closet (I’m like an TDY EFM Harry Potter!) doing biometrics for 250+ non-immigrant visa applicants each morning. (HCMC is a lovely section, but could definitely benefit from some ergonomic office supplies next time end-of-the-year funds roll around!)
- Is Pledge somehow a part of all facials? This strange, yet not terrible, afternoon ended with a final layer of liquid being rubbed around my face, this last one smelling exactly like the lemon-scented Pledge my mom made us use each Saturday morning to dust the plethora of wooden furniture around our house. (When your father is a high school woodworking teacher who spends each summer traveling to art shows to sell his beautiful creations, you are bound to have a whole lot of custom-made wooden pieces around the house. At our place, everything from the lamps to the coffee table to the entertainment center were lovingly crafted in the backyard shop. We should have bought stock in Pledge!)
After nearly an hour laid out on a table in a backroom of a spa that can be found at the end of an alleyway (that’s were all the good things are, right?), I walked out of the building smelling like newly polished furniture with a face that must be as close to a baby’s skin as it has been in thirty-eight years.
Overall assessment: Not bad. I am not sure I’d go in for it again anytime in the near future. I think I’d rather opt for just a straight head/shoulder massage and get my full forty-five minutes devoted to those and have less of the weird oozing concoctions smeared across my face. Luckily, at just under $15, it was an experiment well-worth its price and one that I am sure I will be wishing were affordable when we are hanging out in DC next winter. (It snowed there yesterday. It is April! How will I survive that ridiculous weather?)
(I have no spa pictures, but here are a few photos from my first week in Ho Chi Minh City.)