Spas in my eyes in Thailand
That’s how I looked after every spa treatment I had in Thailand, give or take an oil sheen and some smudged mascara. I tried three radically different spas; one city, one island and one beachside. Here’s the verdict:
The entryway is a clean, open space with a long white counter and a smiling line-up of immaculately groomed therapists.They are all dressed in white. It’s like walking into heaven, but without the unfortunate precursor.
The most notable thing about this spa is its lack of traditional Thai carvings, woven fabrics or colourful kitsch; this place is 100 per cent sleek and modern.
I am directed to a vast white bathroom and locker room where I change into my robe and slippers. I reluctantly leave my iPhone behind and follow the therapist into the darkened room for my signature COMO Shambhala massage.
Today has been a long day. I’ve only had two hours of angsty pre-trip sleep in the past 20 hours. The massage therapist is really up against it when it comes to my neck and shoulder muscles; they are made of Sarah Connor-like steel after spending the past twelve days hunched over a keyboard.
For the first ten minutes, I hyperventilate about being away from my phone.
For the next twenty minutes, I compose a ‘to do’ list.
For the next twenty minutes, I reluctantly start drooling on the flower under the massage table.
For the final ten minutes, I can’t tell you what happened because I think I fell asleep.
When I am ushered out to the foyer, I am handed a bizarre concoction of ginger and honey.
The downside of all this is that I am now late for dinner (my fault – I was late for my appointment) so I have to gulp down the tea and make a run for it, thus undoing all the hard work of my lovely therapist.
There are brass monkeys everywhere. There’s one next to the sign out the front, there are five of them in the foyer and I am pretty sure there is one peeking in the window of the treatment room.
Fortunately it never gets cold in Krabi because that would be bad for the boy monkeys.
I am here to try out a Royal Signature treatment that sounds like it has a bit of everything; aromatherapy, shiatsu and Thai massage. What most appeals to me is the use of herbal compresses that are heated up and placed on your back.
First things first, I have my feet scrubbed and washed by a therapist with a cheery smile and a chatty nature. We talk about husbands and kids and work until it’s time for me to lie down and shut up (a rare thing indeed).
I have very particular likes and dislikes when it comes to massage pressure. Basically, I used to go and see a guy named Hung (nickname: Hung the Torturer) who would crush away my aches and pains. Sure, it hurt like hell while he was doing it but I would be an inch taller by the time I left his treatment rooms. Subsequently anything less than ‘excruciating’ feels a little bit wussy.
Sadly, this massage is too soft. I am not in agony at all. I ask for her to press a little harder but still no agonising pain. I think Hung has ruined me for normal human pain thresholds. I am invincible and yet, I am now incapable of enjoying a perfectly lovely massage.
When this gentle assault is over, I drink my ginger tea and wonder how I became so tough.
You know how in most spas they play CDs with the sound of waves and birds squawking inoffensively in the background?
Now, imagine that you are actually BY THE SEA. The breeze and the smell of the ocean and the gently rustling leaves ARE ALL REAL.
That is what Pathways Spa is like. The real deal. You walk in and a kind looking woman greets you and takes your shoes. You then shuffle to a lounge area, fill out the obligatory paperwork and select your oil from a choice of six scents. I go for something saucy sounding (even though I am going to be spending a thoroughly unromantic night alone in my huge, glamourous suite).
I am then lead to a treatment room that is open-ended, with an outlook towards the She-Oaks that fringe the shore of the white sand beach.
Another excellent feature of this room is the fact that behind the partition at the end, there is a toilet. I always get slightly nervy before a massage because I am afraid I’m going to need to wee half way through. The presence of an easily accessible loo makes me feel much better (call me neurotic).
Here’s the bit where I confess that I can’t remember what kind of massage I had. All I know is that it was really good. So good, in fact, that by the end of the treatment I can’t remember my own name. I feel like Jason Bourne (the bit where he washes up on a beach with amnesia; not the bit where he kicks a bunch of bad dudes’ asses). Sadly, I will never be played by Matt Damon but I am OK with that. I have just had one of the best massages of my life.