The unexpected treatment

by Judith Fein

This story is part of our 'Funny Spa Stories' series, featuring tales from luxury hotel guests which were sent in for our travel writing competition.

Photo by Eustaquio Santimano.


When I told my Hanoi guide that my tootsies were tired from trekking, he drove me on the back of his motorcycle to his favorite foot massage parlour, where an attendant handed me a striped shirt and multi-hued shorts. "For a foot massage?" I wondered.

A tiny young therapist, who weighed less than my thumb, escorted me to a huge leather chair. I plopped down and extended my dead dogs onto a matching hassock. First, he soaked and softened my footsies in an electric foot bath. Then he dried them on his Blackberry-sized lap, and rubbed them with lemon grass and cinnamon-infused oil. Next, he covered my face with an ice-cold towel and I think what he gave me to sip was ginger tea.

With tender authority, he kneaded and massaged each of my toes separately, then rubbed the bottoms of my feet, before soaping and washing my entire legs with hot washcloths. To my surprise, he began to massage my thighs.

"No, no," I protested. "I only wanted a foot massage."

He smiled as he slipped hot stones under my back. Then he gestured for me to flip over, and walked back and forth across my buttocks. Next, he massaged my scalp and shoulders, then lifted me up, arched my back, and placed me across his knees.

Finally, the massage magician did another hot towel trick, and released me, startled, soothed and energized. The cost? Ten dollars for 100 minutes.

In Hoi An, I opted for a facial massage in a hair salon. I figured it would be above the neck. I was partially correct.

First, the little therapist shampooed me, and massaged my scalp at the same time, as though she had at least three hands. Then she rinsed my hair, and did a deft scalp and face massage. She used only cold water, but the temperature outside was roughly as hot as a working wok, so I didn’t mind. Next, she applied a hair conditioner as she massaged my neck and scalp again. "She definitely has four hands," I thought, as she performed another facial massage, which extended to my neck, chin, sinuses, forehead and shoulders. Just as I gave up counting how many different ministrations I had received, she spread a gauze mask over my face. I dozed while it dried, but I’m pretty sure other upper body parts received a thorough massaging.

As the mask was removed, the therapist offered me an ear cleaning with a thin, pointed metal object. If that was a surprise, what came next was a total shock. As I sat in the chair with my eyes closed, I felt an odd sensation. Before I could say, "No way," I was shaved with a straight-edged razor - on my face, forehead and chin. And I have no facial hair.

Total cost? Three dollars. I broke out from the shaving, but figured I had never had pimples before, and this was my chance to learn compassion for my friends’ teenage daughters.

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