It’s hard to go anywhere in Siem Reap without tripping over a massage shop, but now relaxation-seeking Reapers can learn to do it themselves at the town’s first massage school which has just opened.
Running half-day courses initially, the Body and Soul Massage School Spa will teach the art of traditional Khmer massage, Thai massage, reflexology and facials.
Owners Patrick Vincent, a Reiki master, and his wife Anne-Sophie decided to come to Siem Reap and open a school after undergoing a career change in their native France.
“Three years ago we decided to turn our lives to natural medicine,” says Patrick. “So my wife studied occidental reflexology and I did naturopathic medicine, with plants, herbs and also holistic medicine. I did it in Paris and my wife in Normandy and afterwards we sold our business and came here to do something else.”
Patrick had noticed a growing interest in massage and reflexology in Europe, Australia and Thailand, and on various visits to Siem Reap it struck him as the perfect place to start a school.
“I saw cooking classes – why not open a massage class,” he says. “And to have it here because Angkor Wat is the place for that, it’s a very spiritual place.”
Anne-Sophie adds, “Personally I like to do nice things for other people, so I felt sure people would like to discover a little of the massage.”
Body and Soul reflects the couple’s philosophy, which is that both are intrinsically linked.
“It means for us that if you take care of your body it’s good for your soul, and vice versa,” Anne-Sophie says. “That’s the concept.”
Initially the duo will run half-day courses at the school, with a view to introducing longer ones in due course.
“It will be for tourists mostly, to let them discover what massage is and what they can do at home with their husband, wife, children or friends,” says Anne-Sophie. “After work coming home it’s just nice to relax, so with these courses you can learn what to do.
“We will start with back massage because that’s usually where all the stress is, and head and shoulders. Not too difficult. We will also be teaching how to open your mind to a way of thinking differently because, as I said, body and soul are linked.”
The half-day courses are $15 with class sizes kept to a maximum of six or seven students.
“We will show the technique, the pressure points,” says Patrick. “And we will explain why we do that, how we do that, if it’s strong, if it’s not strong and so on. It’s important to understand why we do things in this order and not that order.
“With the feet for instance, if you do something in one order it’s totally wrong. The problem we have here with foot reflexology is that sometimes they do something on the front of your foot and you can’t sleep for the whole night.”
In time, the couple will introduce full-day courses as well as three and five-day courses. Anne-Sophie says these courses will be aimed more at people wanting to develop massage skills they already have.
“Perhaps somebody who has already done massage in their own country and wants to learn how to do the Khmer massage, so they can study that here,” she says.
“Later on we are thinking about maybe doing a week for tourists who want to discover Angkor Wat and the energy of Angkor. Also perhaps feng shui – in five days you can learn a lot. Reiki also. Learning to have a more spiritual view of Angkor Wat, of massage, everything.”
The other part of the business is the Body and Soul spa which opened on July 22 on The Alley behind Pub Street.
Customers can choose from various massages as well as organic scrubs, wraps and facials plus manicures and pedicures. The body treatments and facials are carried out using products made from a range of natural ingredients, from ground sesame powder to rice, honey and tamarind. Customers might also be tempted by the cucumber and honey wrap – good for rehydration – or an avocado facial.
“We only want to use organic products,” says Patrick. “We don’t want to add chemicals – there are no minerals in our massage oil, it’s all natural.”
The spa also has packages – for $49 the ‘Apsara Queen’ can have a foot salt bath, a body scrub, a facial and a mani-pedi while her ‘Apsara Princess’ – ages 2-12 years – can enjoy a foot salt bath, facial, mani-pedi and a “surprise” for $15.
Plus, there are some more unusual treatments such as litho-therapy which is a homeopathic remedy involving gemstones and crystals.
“We want to have different massages because for us it’s more than just doing something for the body,” says Anne-Sophie “We also have litho-therapy which is done with gemstones because they have energy and are so good for the health.”
Body and Soul Spa is currently giving customers a 30 per cent discount off all treatments.