Ice Park has several mushroom-infused pools. ALL PHOTOS BY CLAIRE BYRNE
So I’m sitting in a pool of murky water, surrounded by naked women. But like the typical Irish prude that I am, I’m in a one-piece swimsuit, feeling terribly out of place.
I haven’t fallen off my bike and into the floodwater. I haven’t decided to brave the depths of some nudist section of West Baray. Instead, I’m sitting amongst these bare dames in a tub of steaming, somewhat smelly, mushroom-infused water at Ice Park on the Airport Road in Siem Reap.
You see, I’ll do just about anything in the name of vanity. Whether it’s lasers aimed at my chin, tweezers aimed at my eye, or a paint-gun full of St Tropez aimed at my, well, everywhere, if it’s going to leave me primped or prettied, I’m all over it. So I wasn’t going to shy away from submerging myself in a fungal bath to test out its beautifying qualities. Except for the naked part.
When people think of mushrooms, two things generally spring to mind: risotto, or a trip so extreme you lose days, gain friends and discover colours you never knew existed.
You certainly don’t think age-defying, or skin-soothing, but that’s just what Ice Spa has on offer.
The process is simple enough. All the signage is in what I think is Japanese, so it’s mostly guesswork and copying the other nude figures in the hot, tiled room.
First you enter the “sauna”, a dark, muggy room with a dozen showers and three small pools.
I entered and was acutely aware that I was over-dressed compared to the predominantly Japanese and Korean unclad clientele. But when no one screamed and only a couple of people stared, I figured I was safe to proceed in my swimsuit.
For the rest of the visitors, it seemed more like a Roman bath experience. They came in pairs, and the room resembled a girly meet-up over coffee or cocktails – simply an excuse to hang-out and have a chat, without the need to dress up. I felt rather left out for not having a nudey pal to share the experience.
Under the direction of the increasingly giggly staff, I dipped my toe into a cold bath first, before building up the courage to step right in. Once I was thoroughly thawed, I went for the less appealing brown pool.
Despite the mild whiff of damp bog, it was oddly relaxing. I found myself entirely forgetting the bare naked ladies around me, and completely switching off. Though I made sure not to slip under – a mouthful of muddy pond water is not something I look for in a pamper session.
The trip between the hot and cold baths was repeated until I felt I’d completely exhausted the cosmetic benefits the toadstools had to offer, so I explored the rest of Ice Park’s huge building.
Beside the mushroom bath was another grubby tank lined with what looked like teabags, apparently containing the Steam of Hinoki, a Japanese cypress tree that’s known to relieve stress, clear your chest, and kill fungus. Fairly pointless after I’d just bathed in the stuff, eh? In I climbed, and to my surprise it had a eucalyptus-like effect on my breathing.
Next up was the ice room, but for a place named Ice Park, it was rather pathetic. The room resembled an oversized freezer box – the kind you haven’t cleared out for a few months. You’ll be glad to know that clothing was required and provided for this one. A bright orange jumpsuit. I looked more like a US convict than a girl in need of some indulgence – what’s wrong with a fluffy white robe?
Despite the blanketing attire, the ice room was only about as cold as your average July day in Ireland, so I failed to experience any dramatic effects.
And to finish, a spa day in Siem Reap would not be complete without the ubiquitous fish pedicure. But whether it was the ’shrooms or the cypress, the fish were thankfully not hungry that afternoon. All this for just a tenner – Ice Spa has a restaurant and massage service too.
Despite the concept reeking of the novelty factor, and leaving me more amused than relaxed, I’d thoroughly recommend Ice Park. Not as a tranquil haven, (though I could have sworn my skin was softer when I got home) but more as just another fun thing to do with your friends in Siem Reap. I’ll definitely go again, and this time I’ll bring a plus one, I will however leave my modesty, and my swimsuit, at home.