Before I came to Asia I count count the number of massages and times to a spa on one hand. Now I am enjoying exponential growth rates in my spa experiences.
While living in Hanoi my weekly routine consists of a 2 hour massage at a price that isn't completely outlandish and is actually less than it would cost me to eat out at a restaurant in Hanoi. I now have 'my spa' which I frequent and I think I'm just about a regular.
Massages in Asia are cheap enough, more than good enough and can even be socially responsible enough in the case of one outfit in Cambodia. When passing through the Cambodian capitol city my friend, Miriam, and I wandered over to the "Seeing Hands" massage shop. Our muscles were streched and pounded by legally blind masseuses. A win-win bargain for all.
Beyond massage, I have discovered new ways to relax.
In Singapore there was the FISH SPA. I was attracted to the spa when I passed by what I presumed to be a pet store or at least an exotic fish breeder. They I spoted the young couple around the corner, their feet dunked in a large long fish tank. Little minnows swarmed around their feet at lower calves. Fully intrigued, I made a note to stop by on my walk back and check out this strange spa treatment. I signed myself up for 20 minutes in the fish tank. After my feet were rinsed with water, the fish mistress lead me over to a bench in front of the tank. She explained the technique of fish spa which is to start on the smaller fish and once you get used to the little nibbles, you can move to the tanks with the bigger suckers ready to eat every single dead skin cell on your lower limbs. I eventually took the plunge with the bigger fish and watched the 200 or so fish swarm even between my toes.
Afterwards I learned the maneating minnows are called "Doctor fish" and hail from Turkey where they orginally cure a skin disease called psoriasis.
After, as the fish spa weren't enough, I took on a 20 minute feet reflexology massage. I had heard about these massages since my high school health class, and was anxious to finally try it out. It was rather comfortable to lie back and let someone erase miles of walking around the concrete jungles of Singapore. The science of reflexology is the concept that different pressure points in your feet are directly linked to other parts of the whole body. And the beauty of it is that it seemed to work.
The most recent item on the spa menu du jour is acupuncture. Mind you, I don't have arthitis and suffer from no chronic pain in my pain or any of my joints. Yet acupuncture remained an exotic treatment that I wished to experience. And experience I did in Luang Prabang, Laos. I stepped into reputatbly the most authentic spa in town and there it was the first item on the short list of services. I hadn't planned on receiving acupuncture on this particular day or even at this particular time after I had sweat out my body mass of water. I inquired and before I could change my mind I was swept into the chamber by the physiologist. "Yes, I do acupuncture, where you hurt?"
"Um...I don't...um...actually hurt.."
"Ok, I do acupunture. Ok, your shoulders, upper back. Ok, I do acupunture."
It's not until I can feel the slight electric pulse touching the nerve points of the pins that I begin to question my descision and desire for acupuncture. Suddenly I feel trapped in a science experiment that is about to go wrong. I worry that me, Dr. Jekyll, is undergoing a dangerous transformation into Miss Hyde. The title physiologist seems to be a euphamism for "Pins and Needles Witch". Next, I worry that since I didn't have pain to begin with, maybe I'll walk out with a stiff neck for life. While rubbing my feet together in nervousness all I could think of was, "Am I really paying for this?"
Thankfully she came back into the room before the 20 minutes were up and I pulled together enough courage to glance over at the shiny silver pin sticking out of my left hand. I'm a damn human voodoo doll. "I think I'm ready to be done".
"Oh, but it only been 5 minutes!"
"Well, in one more minute I want my time to be up"
My dance with this devil is over.