In July, the spa complex at Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor was voted one of the ten best hotel spas in Asia by Travel + Leisure magazine. Reporter Thik Kaliyann accepted the tough assignment to check out the spa and see how good it really is.
It might hurt at first, but after that the muscle will work
After being warmly greeted at the front desk by a man in traditional Khmer dress, I was guided to the Raffles Amrita Spa, where a woman with a lovely smile presented me with a glass of lemongrass tea, infused with the Khmer aromatic herb Sleuk Teuy.
My masseuse was Mong Phally, who has been working at the spa for almost five years. She showed me around the room, pointing out the kinds of oils used to expel toxins from the body.
“We have four kinds of oil: Tranquility, Invigoration, Muscle Ache, and Toxic Clean. The oil we choose depends on whether you're tanned or not,” she explained.
After inspecting my skin and asking if I have any allergies, Phally chose the Tranquility oil, which she said will help keep my skin smooth.
When clients have muscle pain, she said that applying pressure to the affected area can be enough to relieve it.
“If I know that someone’s muscle is aching, I put pressure on it. It might hurt at first, but after that the muscle will work well again.”
Phally, who used to work for the Ministry of Cult and Religious Affairs in Phnom Penh, said that she has never tired of her job, and loves advising people about the best kind of massage for them.
“Some customers ask me to recommend the type of massage they should have if they’re staying at the hotel for their honeymoon, and I have to find the right kind of massage to make them feel happy on their special day. We have to learn about what the customer wants, so I like to ask questions before I start.”
Aroma massages are very popular in the Raffles Amrita Spa, according to Phally, as they allow customers to relax with only light hand pressure, while being rubbed down in oil imported from the US.
“The first time I did it I felt very nervous; I thought that I would not be able to do it well. However, finally I succeeded because I always encourage myself to endure and be patient. If other masseuses can do it then so can I.”
One of the obstacles to being a professional masseuse is receiving negative comments from men, said Phally.
“Normally they call me 'massage girl.' They always think women who do massages are not good women, but that’s because they don’t understand what we do. I try to persuade myself that no matter what they say, I don’t care because they are not my husband.”
Language barriers can also be a problem. Phally said that when she massages Japanese customers with limited English, misunderstandings are rife.
Phally explained that many of the massage techniques employed at Raffles Amrita Spa are based on the Khmer Chab Sor Sai method in which vigorous and firm pressure is applied to the body’s joints through rubbing and kneading of the skin to relieve pain and tension. After the massage, clients are given a heated herbal pack to soothe any aching muscles.
Another option is to select a more tranquil Warm Oil and Lemongrass Massage, which encourages full body relaxation through gentle touching and stroking of the body to improve circulation and transport clients into a “state of serenity.”
Despite coming into the spa feeling tired and worn out, after 55 minutes of Phally’s aromatic massage I felt like all my stress had evaporated and I could breathe more easily.
After we finished, Phally cleaned my body with a hot scrub and then handed me a glass of aromatic tea with lemongrass tea and ginger, to help me keep the heat from the massage room inside my body and expel my toxins through perspiration.
As well as its massage rooms and spa, the services available at Raffles include a gymnasium, sauna, steam rooms and a jacuzzi, which Phally proudly showed me before I changed back into my clothes, perfectly relaxed and ready to resume my day.
A 55 minute massage, plus use of the spa and sauna, is priced at between $65 and $110.