With the ancient art of massage increasing in both importance and popularity, the only question that remains is: Which one is right for me? We had the chance to sit down with Desak Made Sri Ambarwati, the Spa Manager at The Nam Hai’s award-winning spa and wellness facility, to find out more about the bliss that is the Vietnamese massage.
A clear mind and a healthy body are paramount for travellers trying to make the most of their time abroad, and perhaps the easiest way of reaching this traveller’s nirvana is through massage. But with massage parlours on every block, and techniques ranging from standard full-body to hot-stone massage, how does one figure out which door leads to awakening? Luckily for us, Desak Made Sri Ambarwati, head of The Nam Hai’s serene spa facility, lets us in on a treatment that is sure to leave travellers feeling refreshed, relaxed and ready to soak it all in—the Vietnamese massage.
How would you describe the Vietnamese Massage?
The Vietnamese massage is a stimulating deep tissue massage that focuses on the muscles and tendons. By applying an ancient style of targeting pressure points, muscles and tendons the masseuse is able to release tension, rejuvenate, and also relax.
And how is the Vietnamese Massage different than other types of massage?
Though it does share similarities with several massage techniques in neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, it is historically Vietnamese, which means you’ll only find it here for one [laughs]. But what makes the Vietnamese massage different is ultimately the combination of different approaches. Usually when someone receives a treatment, the therapist might focus only on relaxation, or reflexology—but with the Vietnamese massage there is a holistic approach, and the treatment is effective as a medical, therapeutic and mindfully stimulating experience.
That must keep the therapist busy, learning and knowing all these different approaches?
[Laughs] It definitely keeps the therapist busy. Usually, they must have a versed background in massage therapy, and even after that they must undergo a several-week training course to understand the intricacies of the massage. It’s also an added benefit if the therapist is Vietnamese, as there is typically a greater historical and cultural appreciation for the art.
“This diverse approach allows guests to feel not only relaxed, but limber, clear-headed, light-footed and energized.”
What are some of the methods used in the Vietnamese massage, and what are the benefits?
Like I said before, the Vietnamese massage focuses on tension release, rejuvenation and relaxation, and the best way to achieve these is through the use of pressure points, thumb pressure, knuckle pressure, both pulling and pushing, and a focus on the spinal cord. By using a mix of styles, the Vietnamese massage seeks to balance the chi of the spine, help with blood circulation, and relieve blood clotting. This diverse approach allows guests to feel not only relaxed, but limber, clear-headed, light-footed and energised.
Some people get massages and say that they are painful, especially since the Vietnamese massage employs pressure points, is this something to worry about?
Absolutely not. First of all, therapists can always be told to increase or decrease the pressure. But aside from that, we have to remember that again, the Vietnamese massage doesn’t just focus on pressure points and deep tissue stimulation—but an array of techniques. So when someone gets a Vietnamese massage, one of the best things about it is that it should never be painful, nor should it ever be too light. It hits a perfect equilibrium.
So if someone were to get a Vietnamese massage at The Nam Hai Hoi An, how would the process unfold?
One of the things that is unique to Vietnamese massage compared to other types of Southeast Asian massage is that we start with the back instead of the feet and legs. The reasoning behind this is to immediately immerse the guest in total relaxation. After working on the back and guiding the guest into relaxation, the therapist would then move down to the legs and feet before proceeding to the arms, hands and chest. Another important facet in Vietnamese massage is the head. Towards the end of the massage, the therapist focuses on the head and the numerous pressure points that rest there, and in doing so, is able to release the pressure and relieve headaches that might be persisting—it’s also very, very relaxing and one of the best ways to end a massage, at least to me [laughs].
So if we’re sitting down for a Vietnamese massage do you have any last-minute recommendations?
Always go for 90! 90 minutes I mean. There have been so many times when guests tell me they want a 60-minute massage and I say, “Really? Are you sure you don’t want 90 minutes?” It isn’t until after that they come back saying, “Ambar, can we add another 30 minutes? You were right!” So don’t settle for the 60 minute, I think. Of course the 60-minute massage is still fantastic, but it’s so fantastic that when you finish, you’ll definitely want at least another 30 minutes.
(Featured image: Architect Reda Amalou’s ingenious use of windows and French doors for eight treatments pavilions keep each retreat entirely private – all appear to float atop the serene, koi fish filled lagoon.)