It’s all about the Yin. Massage in Saigon – Part 1
Editors Note: This is the first, but hopefully not the last, guest post on this website. It’s part 1 of a two part series on our expeience of a massage in Saigon. I wanted to get different perspectives on the subject and this post, by Leonard Allen, addresses the wider experience. The next one will explain my own massage in more detail.
There are thousands of spas offering massage around town. I’m sure many of them are excellent but with such a wide variety of prices and “services” on offer, choosing can be quite overwhelming and a little bit intimidating. Until now I have tended to avoid the experience, but as Massage Han Cung came recommended by the Leonard, who is an acquaintance of mine, I thought I’d venture into the mysterious world of massage in Saigon. I’m so glad I did.[dropcap]I[/dropcap] NEED A MASSAGE. And, I have a place in mind. Prelude and full disclosure is that the owner of the establishment I’m thinking of is a good friend of mine. I made her a proposition – “I will write an article about your spa, if and ONLY IF you are comfortable with me giving an honest account of my experience.” My closest friends know how honest I can be. You have been forewarned, Tina.
Being truly honest with a close friend on all levels isn’t always easy. It’s your friend, after all. It means something. We never set out to hurt ours friend, intentionally. This is the modus operandi, for rational, sympathetic individuals at least.
From a business owner’s standpoint, it makes sense to not only believe that you have something special, but to stand behind it and defend it at all costs. When you rely on selling a product or service, which on the surface, can be found at 100 plus other businesses within a 1 mile radius, you have to offer something unique. That “something” must differentiate you from the rest, and is part and parcel to keeping your doors open. I’ve seen the doors of many businesses close in my short time in Vietnam because they didn’t grasp this concept.
Businesses fail for a variety of reasons. My friend agreed to give me carte blanche to write the truth about the services and experience her space provides, no holds barred. And this is the yin perspective to the yang of Sharyn’s opinion which follows in part 2. Same place, different time, distinct experience. I hope I can maintain my friendship with the proprietress once the electronic ink has dried, and the truth has been laid bare upon the table…
Everyone in this part of town is on the hustle. No customers equal no money equal “close up” shop and hope to try again someday. It makes perfect sense. As mentioned, this is my friend’s shop and I often pop-in to visit. This usually includes, drinking a cup of aromatic jasmine tea brought out by a lovely girl dressed in the traditional long Vietnamese ao dai (pronounced oww zay). Quite often, the wonderful staff present me with snacks. The hospitality has been always omnipresent and familial. It is welcoming in ways I wish we Americans could adopt. and is shown in spite of the fact that the staff member knows I’ve come to chat and not to spend money. This recipe for hospitality has kept Massage Han Cung in business for 4 years already while other businesses are closing all around the city.
When sitting in front of the spa watching passersby, it is obvious that the team is well aware that customers are crucial. Yet they approach them in a way that borders on the sublime. Tourists who are on a mission from A to B aren’t tackled and unsuccessfully restrained, the way that I’ve been on previous walkabouts in this city.
When you walk by Han Cung, you are casually approached by the beautiful staff. There is none of the usual hustle. People are instantly made to feel welcome by the staff’s innate knowledge of cultural differences. This is truly commendable, considering the language barrier. It really blows my mind, because people-watching is a past-time of mine. I often see people, who had absolutely no intention of getting a massage, have their defenses melted within one minute of chatting with the girl or boy at the entrance. Somehow, the connection between the tourist on his or her journey and the person standing before them, prove enough to throw caution to the wind and slip inside for an hour or longer of sheer indulgence.
I have always been a big fan of both giving and receiving massage, and have some experience and knowledge in the field. I’ve had a number of good and bad massage experiences in Saigon, ranging from,
“wow, I feel fantastic now, I’ve splurged at your hi-end spa, definitely out of my budget for what I would regularly spend for a massage but thank you nevertheless,”
to the experience of
“wow, that’s a little close to my… Umm, no thank you, the muscles in that area are just fine. Aha! So THAT’S why this massage was so cheap!”
Live and learn. The massage you get at Han Cung thankfully falls into the former category, but without the strain on your budget. You are pampered in the same way as in the higher end spas, yet for a fraction of the price. In additions there is no exclusion of amenities, cleanliness, reputability, or skills on the part of the masseuse. I would rank Han Cung as one of my better overall experiences in Saigon if not, in fact, one of the best.
Perhaps some people are only interested in the massage part of the deal. To each their own. I, however, look for something more than that and consider a number of factors when I rate a place and decide whether or not I will return as a customer. Straight up… you will get a fantastic massage here. But at Han Cung, the whole package is presented – great massage, excellent facilities and magnificent hospitality. This magnifies the difference you feel from entry to exit. Enter with sore muscles because you walked the city for hours, exit feeling like a million bucks. Hopefully, you have had an experience which you will not just mention only in passing to your friends. It may be enough to launch into a monologue and explain it in such detail that your friends will eventually say, “OK, enough already, I’ll go there and get a massage tomorrow.”
I’ve intentionally left out the details of the massage. I am more taken by the overall experience that lead up to it. If you are concerned about the details, then please read on to Sharyn’s account of her experience at Han Cung. Mine was quite similarly extraordinary. Or, you can forgo the reading altogether and simply walk over to 271 Lý Tự Trọng in District 1, just up the street and around the corner from Bếnh Thành Market and Mariamman Hindu Temple, and see for yourself.
About the Author
Leonard Allen is your typical self-replicating Gemini prototype – eyes of a chameleon, stripes of a leopard, the temperament of a snowflake with amnesia reveling consciously within the physics of gravity and purpose. He promises to deliver self-actualized accounts of everything you never wanted to know about everything, utilizing a multitude of media. You can find him currently putting his lens, his face and at times his guitar before you in Saigon, Vietnam, where he has been officiating the effervescent Bacchus-Apollo affair for a year and change. Currently his photography is available for viewing here on Flickr.com.
Note: I do not receive any payment for this post (or any others on the site for that matter!). I do receive a small amount of money by allowing advertisements on the site and any purchases made through those links.