Phnom Penh’s newest spa, Hattawet, is at the Sofitel on Sothearos Boulevard.
The two-storey, 21-room centre opened last week, offering a wide array of traditional and relaxation treatments that combine massage and oils.
The Thai name means “magic hands” in English. All 13 of the masseuses have been trained in traditional Khmer massage, Thai massage, Indian head massage and relaxation massages. Spa manager Sakuntala Karanon said that the latter were aimed primarily at Westerners.
“European people like the relaxation massage with oil. Asians prefer deep, stronger massages with more pressure. Europeans don’t like that as much,” he said.
He was, of course, speaking of general tastes, and when I asked for a more rigourous massage he recommended the Asian Blend, which is like traditional Thai massage with oil. Sakuntala Karanon also referred to it as the “European” massage. It costs US$30 for one hour.
Unlike traditional Thai massage it begins with you lying face down, covered only by a white towel. The masseuse started with my right foot, and then slowly moved up my calf to my thigh and right buttock, her fingers finding muscles and tendons that I had not previously known existed.
Soothing music from flutes, harps and pianos added to the tranquility of the experience. After finishing with both legs, the masseuse removed the towel and began massaging my back. This part went too fast, perhaps because it felt far too good. An hour more on my back would not have been enough.
After flipping over, the masseuse began again from my feet, working her way slowly up my legs, then shifting to my arms, neck and shoulders. At the end she began massaging my head, but here she ran into a bit of trouble.
I had arrived with scores of strategically placed bobby pins in my hair. She had to remove each one, which was time consuming. Lesson learned: don’t pin your hair in place before a massage.
The 60-minute massage took more than one-and-a-half hours, including the shower. The Asian Blend was deep and relaxing left me feeling pampered, sleepy and surprisingly quite hungry. My muscles felt momentarily relieved of the tension that had been building over the past few months.
The only drawback was that the pressure of the Asian Blend could have been stronger for this Australian.
Hattawet offers a range of massages and treatments, including 30-minute reflexology foot massages, a two hour Khmer herbal compress massage, which uses heated aromatic poultices of herbs, and a post-workout sport relaxation massage. Its 21 rooms comprise four oil massage rooms with single and twin beds, and 17 single and group rooms for other massages