Saigon’s not exactly a calming place to live, and it’s been particularly crazy for the past week or so due to a build up of pre-Tết traffic. Tết is the most important holiday in Vietnamese culture, when the entire country takes a week-long break to celebrate the Lunar New Year; the prior madness might be likened to the week before Christmas in western countries (read: a bit of a nightmare). So what is one to do in order to de-stress from all of the traffic jams, lengthy ATM queues and pre-holiday errands? Hit the spa, of course.
The Golden Lotus Healing Spa Land is a Korean spa with two branches in districts 3 and 7 of Ho Chi Minh City; we opted for the former, which is located down a charming alleyway on Pham Ngoc Thach street. On weekdays, it offers a 50% discount on spa entry from 8am-noon, which fits perfectly with an antisocial ESL teacher schedule. It’s 240k dong ($10.50/£7) to access all of the rooms, baths and foot spas and you can stay until close at 11pm. Food, drink and treatments cost extra. Massages here are more expensive than walk-in walk-out parlours at 425k ($19/£14) for a 90-minute massage, compared to the 320k ($14/£11) that I usually pay, but they’re still not exactly bank-breaking.
After you pay your entrance fee, you’re given an electronic tag and locker key bracelet, which you can use to pay for treatments and refreshments once in the spa, rather than taking cash; an incredibly flattering spa uniform, consisting of an oversized orange t-shirt and shorts (sexy); and three very tiny towels. Through from the locker room are some spa baths, which look appealing but we declined to use due to the enforced nudity rule. Yup, you’re not even allowed to wear bikini bottoms. I understand giving people the option to be naked, but I don’t see why it has to be a requirement. Worse, you’re not even allowed to wear clothes anywhere near the baths; you have to enter the room completely naked, so you can’t do a quick strip-and-dive. Sure you’ve got the towels, but as Jackie pointed out ‘they’re barely big enough to cover one boob.’ What with the orange uniform, the electronic tag and the forced communal nudity, I was starting to feel a little bit like I was in prison…
Fortunately, missing out on the baths doesn’t matter too much because there are plenty of rooms upstairs to explore. We try out the cold room first, which is a bit like sitting in a freezer, or at a UK bus stop in the middle of winter. Same same. There’s also a hot Himalayan salt room, a sauna and our favourite: a hot room with thousands of little warm stone balls on the floor. Upstairs, there’s an Oxygen room, which as far as we could tell was just a well-air-conditioned room with space to lie down and some Chakra themed ‘colour-therapy’ rooms. We chilled out in the blue room for a while. Jackie said it reminded her of the blue light system in big city public bathrooms, designed to prevent people from shooting up heroin.
There is also a very pretty, open-air contrast foot bath spa. One side is painfully cold, the other pleasantly warm; your feet go numb in the cold pool, then sting and tingle when you enter the hot one. We did a couple of circuits and it was certainly an experience, although I hope I never get an injury that requires me to do it on the reg.
On the top floor, there was a cafe where we bought some iced-tea. The only choices were plain green tea or sickeningly sweet apricot flavour, and the selection of food was limited to crisps, chocopies (a popular teacake-esque Asian snack), hot dogs and boiled eggs, which seemed bizarrely unhealthy for a spa. I’d definitely recommend eating before you go.
In addition to this, there’s a reading room and a games room with all sorts of board games, so you really could entertain yourself all day there if you wanted. There was even a kindergarten and kids’ movie room, so parents can pay 70k ($3/£2.20) to have their kids taken off of their hands for four hours at a time. The spa also has screens playing movies in the main room, although on mute and with Vietnamese subtitles, so they weren’t much use to us.
The decor of the spa isn’t the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, but it’s pleasant, spotlessly clean and well-maintained; there’s nothing to complain about, especially not for the price. It’s good value for money and a really nice way to spend a day in the city. I definitely plan on returning at some point in the future!