Monday, May 6, 2013

Rexaling Lao Spa Style

It is 97F (36C) in Champassak and I am hot and sweaty. I just biked for 2 hours along the Mekong River and I need to be pampered. I was riding down the road and noticed an organic spa. Hello! That has my name written all over it!

I was hoping for a traditional Lao sauna and a massage. But, the Champassak Spa did not offer the sauna. I studied the menu carefully. I decided to go with a tourist special. It included an hour facial, body scrub, hair treatment and scalp massage and an 1.5 hour oil massage. I asked if they had availability.  The woman smiled and said "Yes ma'am. We can begin immediately, if you wish." Yippeee! 

I was shown to a bathroom where I was instructed to take a warm shower and put on the phasin (Lao sarong) and sandals. I placed my clothes and backpack in a locker. Then, the woman took me to a small room where she scrubbed my feet. In Lao, the feet are considered very dirty. They should never be used to point, touch or placed on a seat. As you enter a home, business or temple you are asked to leave your shoes outside. At the spa, they wanted to make sure my feet were very clean before the services began. I was then given pair of clean sandals and a lemongrass herbal tea. It was delicious. I sipped on my tea as a soft breeze blew into the hut. I could smell the plumeria flowers from outside. Ahhhh! I was relaxing and could feel my body releasing any tension.

Next, I was taken to a small bungalow with a table and ceiling fan. I laid down and the therapist began with my facial and continued with the hair treatment, scalp massage and then the body scrub. She was very professional and spoke very good English. The scalp massage and facial were fantastic. I love having someone massage my face and scalp. It feels so good and very indulgent. After these services, I was escorted to a wooden veranda overlooking the river. I was given a tray with teas and fresh fruit while I relaxed and waited for my massage.
Finally, I was escorted to the hut beside the river for my oil massage. The massage bed overlooked the Mekong River. I was so close to the river, I felt like I could reach out and touch it. The massage was very professional, therapeutic and utterly relaxing.  It got my blood pumping into every muscle though, leaving me relaxed, yet more invigorated, like every good massage should. The Champassak Spa is really something different, as the sounds of the river and the garden are as central to the experience as the massage itself. Once you have been rubbed and massaged from your feet right up to your head, hot tea is served on the open veranda looking out over the river. I sat and enjoyed the calm. When I changed back into my clothes, I realized I had spent 5 hours being pampered for the bargain price of $45 (USD).

Life in Champassak is laidback. This is the kind of leisure activity that is slowly being replaced by cheap tourist spas with none of the charm. Champassak Spa is a French sustainable development project. It creates jobs for the local people to allow them to stay in Champassak rather than migrating into the cities. The staff are given lessons in massage, wellness, English and a few will be trained in management to provide sustainable business for the locals. The Lao hospitality is wonderful and provided a relaxing experience.  I highly recommend the Champassak Spa and would enjoy returning for another afternoon of pampering.

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