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The gift of wellness: A day at the spa

A guest is received with ginger tea and a foot bath at So Spa. PHOTO SUPPLIED
A guest is received with ginger tea and a foot bath at So Spa. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The gift of wellness: A day at the spa

The holiday season is a time of letting go and indulging. Decadent meals and celebratory drinks can be good for the soul, but our bodies are not getting any younger.

During the holidays what we really should be giving each other – and ourselves – is the gift of wellness.

An afternoon or evening in a spa is one of the better ways to satiate our indulgent desires while also doing something good for both our minds and bodies. With this in mind, we visited So Spa at the Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra, in search of some much-needed balance.

Upon our arrival we were greeted with ginger tea, fruit, a pistachio macaroon and a cold towel with a hint of lemongrass. So Spa manager Mariano Pefanco Jr presented us with a ‘menu’ of baths, treatments and massages categorized as ‘starters’, ‘mains’ and ‘desserts’. We went straight for a local main course, a 90-minute Traditional Khmer Massage.

Khmer massage is inevitably compared to the better-known Thai style of massage. Both are performed on a floor mattress that allows the massage therapist to use hands, forearms, elbows, knees and feet to knead, push, pull and stretch, often in semi-contorted positions. But there are differences. Khmer massage is less intense than Thai massage – there is no quick twisting or spine-popping – and pressure tends to be lighter with simpler movements.

After changing into loose-fitting pyjamas in our private massage room with en suite bath and toilet, we lied on our back as our massage therapist Ratana washed our feet with warm, wet towels. She then massaged shins, soles, calves and quads, paying just as much attention to our blood flow as to where she applied pressure. Each time her attention shifted to a new area, a higher level of relaxation followed.

Spa treatments and oil massages are done in So Spa’s massage suite. PHOTO SUPPLIED
Spa treatments and oil massages are done in So Spa’s massage suite. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Arms were given their proper attention and then it was time for the denouement – at least for those of us with office jobs that require hours at a desk hunched over a computer every day. Ratana had been massaging at ‘medium’ level until now, when we decided it was time to try out ‘strong’. Our temples, crown, ears and neck were given a thorough working, followed by our upper back. Ratana’s expert fingers found a hidden ball of tightness next to our right shoulder blade and gave it extra attention.

At the end of it all, we were simultaneously feeling more relaxed and revitalised than we had been in what felt like ages. After a hot shower we were back in the lobby, sipping ginger tea again.

The Traditional Khmer massage is one of So Spa’s most popular, along with the Ethnic Fusion massage which combines both Asian and French elements, Pefanco told us. From now through December 31, So Spa has a special holiday offer of a 90 minute ‘spa journey’ consisting of one 30-minute treatment and one 60-minute massage for $85 plus tax and service charge.

So Spa’s numerous spa treatment options all use products by Clarins and Ytsara and include an organic facial using bamboo and green tea extracts to detoxify and moisturise skin or a Mandarin crumble scrub featuring harmonising salts and mandarin oil followed by a refreshing aloe vera body gel, both of which are among the ‘starters’ on the menu.

One of the more unexpected treatments is on the ‘dessert’ menu. The pineapple body soufflé uses pineapple and silk tree paper to encourage gentle perspiration, leading into a gentle detoxifying massage. There are also special treatments designed specifically with men or children in mind.

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In addition to the Khmer massage we sampled, So Spa also offers oil massage, hot stone massage and also the French-inspired signature massages found in Sofitels around the world.

A spa visit is an ideal holiday gift for several reasons, Pefanco said.

“A spa experience is a different kind of gift. It’s the gift of relaxation and wellness, but it’s also a way to be pampered and enjoy a taste of luxury.”

The Post thanks So Spa at Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra for providing us with a complimentary massage. So Spa is located on the second floor of the hotel, which is at 26 Old August Site, Sothearos Boulevard. The spa can be reached at 023 999 200, extension 6522.

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