A Massage to Die For

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Where have you, in the last few years, had a great massage overseas (outside of North America and the Caribbean)? In a first-class hotel? A spa? An airport lounge? Tell us where it was (include contact info, if possible), when you were there and approximately how much it cost (discuss the gratuity too). What made it great? Have any tips for others interested in a relaxing or invigorating massage?

Shown below are responses we received. If you want to share a recent experience of your own, write to A Massage To Die For, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com (please include the address at which you receive ITN). Photographs, with captions, are welcome.

I walked into Nora’s Homestay (Nora’s Homestay & Restaurant, Jln. Besar, Bukit Lawang, North Sumatera 20774, INDONESIA; phone +628136 2070656 or e-mail nora_in2003@yahoo.com) after a successful orangutan trek and a raft trip in the jungles of North Sumatra near Bukit Lawang in April ’06.

Nora looked at me and said, “You need a massage.”

“Yes!” I answered.

So Nora called a friend and I had my best-ever massage — powerful, perceptive, incredible. I did a repeat the next day after another orangutan trek. Each cost $4 an hour (plus $2 tip)!

Nora’s was a real find at $2.75 a night and six very good meals for $9.20 total.

• I finished my month wandering around Indonesia with a week in Ubud, Bali. On my last day I walked into Denita’s Salon (with same owner and services, now called La Diva Hair Design & Asthetic, 59 Jl. Hanoman, Ubud; phone  081-2364-2914 or e-mail denitasalon@yahoo.com), just down the street from Kunang Kunang Guest House (43 Jl. Hanoman; fax 62 361 970565) at $8.75 a night.

Denita’s was another gem. I had a 2-hour full-body massage, which included a Java scrub (rubbing my skin with some sort of delightfully abrasive material) and a hot soak in a full-sized bathtub with flower petals floating on the surface. Wonderful decadence! It cost $7 for two hours (plus $2 tip).

I’d include a photo, but me sitting in that tub with a sappy grin on my face is a bit much!

Neil Van Steenbergen

Eugene, OR

Taman Harum Cottages

During a stay at Taman Harum Cottages (JI. Raya Mas-Ubud, Bali, INDONESIA; phone [62-361] 975567, fax 975149 or e-mail info@ tamanharumcottages.com) in December ’05, a variety of spa treatments was offered, but the one I partook of every day was a massage for one hour and 15 minutes.

Bali Sukartika was a very accomplished masseuse and asked a lot of questions as to what I wanted her to work on and what degree of pressure I liked, where I was tender, etc. The price was $10, and I tipped her $5. The average wage in Bali is $40 a month, so she was very appreciative.

One afternoon it was pouring rain, the spa room was not glassed in (only bamboo walls and a metal roof) and the sound of the rain on the roof, the smell of the aromatherapy she was using, the gentle Balinese music in the background. . . . I’m sure this is what heaven is like.

• While visiting northern THAILAND in April ’02, we stayed at Anantara Resort & Spa Golden Triangle (229 Moo 1, Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai 57150, Thailand; phone 66 [0] 5378-4084, fax 4090 or visit www.anantara.com). This beautiful resort is in the Golden Triangle, where Laos, Thailand and Myanmar meet.

I could have had a 2-hour massage in our room or down the road at the gym. I opted for a Thai massage at the gym in the afternoon. It was a lovely stroll through the grounds of the hotel, but they suggested not going for a walk off the property after dark because of an occasional “bandit.”

A little, tiny Thai girl came to lead me into “our room,” and I thought that surely this little wisp of a thing could not perform any kind of pressure to my big body. Whoa! Was I wrong! She got on the table with me and used her knees, elbows, feet and hands, twisting and pulling my limbs in directions they never had gone before or since. It was painful, but she was so sweet, I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was killing me.

After two hours of torture at $36, I gave her a $5 tip, thanked her and started walking back to my room. It was dark, but at that point I didn’t care what bandits got me. I could hardly trudge up the hill of the compound.

I told my husband he would have loved this massage, as he says no one ever does it strong enough for him. His reply was, “Not if I’m going to look and feel like you do.”

I promptly got into bed, without dinner, and fell asleep. When I awoke the next morning I felt like a million dollars, like I could climb Mt. Everest, but I did have bruises on my body.

I’ve since had a Thai foot massage, thinking, ‘How hard can that be?’ I now know anything with the word “Thai” in front of it, having to do with massage, is probably like a medieval torture chamber.

But the grounds, setting and hospitality of this resort were worth the distance to travel. It is the most gorgeous hotel we’ve ever stayed in. (Room rates run $55-$120 plus tax.)

Claudia Reed

Las Vegas, NV

Our favorite country for massages is THAILAND. Every city and small town there has multiple massage establishments. We get at least one massage a day and sometimes as many as three. Whether it is a foot, hand, cranial, whole-body or traditional Thai massage, the experience is so relaxing that no matter what we have done during the day we always drift off to an easy sleep.

We really enjoy Chiang Mai, and our favorite place there is Friendly Massage on Thanon Chang Khlan, just two blocks south of the famous night market. The girls are indeed friendly; it really feels like a homey and casual atmosphere. Our 8-year-old son enjoyed his daily massages there as well. An hour costs about $5 and the tip is about 50 cents.

We have also been to the upper-end spas in Thailand that charge between $25 and $50 an hour and have found them no better than the walk-up, storefront-style places. You pay for atmosphere.

We were in Thailand in August ’05 and February ’06 and will return in December ’06 and July ’07.

Daphna Woolfe & Byron Lee

San Jose, CA

What a great topic! Without hesitation, I knew precisely which of my overseas massages I wanted to write about. It had to be the massage at the Çemberlitas¸ Hamami (www.cemberlitashamami.com.tr) in Istanbul, TURKEY, in June ’03.

Another traveler and I on a Bosporus boat ride asked to be dropped off at the famous Turkish bath, located in the historical area and near major hotels. It was constructed in 1584 by the master architect Sinan.

I do not remember exactly what I paid, but I usually am on a budget and I believe it was $40. A large sign specifically stated, “Absolutely No Tipping.”

There were separate sections for men and women. I placed my clothing in a locker and was given a large cup to pour water over and cleanse myself. I lay on a warm, circular marble surface heated by fire from below. Through the warm steam, sunlight streamed in from the sky above (remember, this was built hundreds of years ago).

Having a Turkish bath is in no way sexual. The Turkish woman massaging my tired, touring-weary body was elderly and overweight and chatted nonstop to the other employees. She scrubbed me with a camel-hair glove. There was much lathering, and soap bubbles flew all over. The uniform for her job seemed to be white cotton underpants. She was still chattering to her coworkers as she expertly scrubbed and rinsed.

Tour guides say this is the most memorable fun thing you will do in Turkey, and it really is. Try it.

Winnie Schall Baffa

Leland, NC

My husband, Doug, and I elected to have one-hour, dual (simultaneous treatment for two people) full-body massages in Kuressaare, on Saaremaa Island in ESTONIA, in August ’06. They were provided by two very professional massage therapists at the Georg Ots Spa Hotel (Tori 2, Kuressaare 93815, Estonia; phone +372 45 50 000, fax 50 001 or visit www.gospa.ee). We were not staying at the hotel but walked there easily from our own Stadioni Hotel.

Not only did they work for the full hour, providing us with needed relaxation, we also were entitled to the full use of other spa facilities at the hotel afterward. We elected to pool hop between the swimming pool (outdoor and indoor), hot tub and various pools with specific functions. The facility is brand new and luxurious, along with two others in the vicinity.

The entire cost (including robe and slippers) was EEK660 (about $54). The tip suggested by the hotel was 10%; we gave 15%.

Strongly recommended!

Miriam Worthing

Rockville, MD

I received an excellent massage from Todd Pequeen, better known as “Massage Todd,” in December ’05. He can be found in Quepos or Manuel Antonio, COSTA RICA, by calling 847-2010 or simply by asking around.

Todd’s pressure was excellent, and it was truly the best massage I’ve ever had. He charged $110 for 1½ hours. I tipped him $20.

My advice would be to have the massage in a relaxing environment and just let yourself go.

Sally Dehler

Purcellville, VA

Okay, so I have “died” twice!

• While on a work trip to GUATEMALA in November ’02, our group had a weekend “holiday” in Santiago Atitlán at Posada de Santiago (Apto. 1, Santiago Atitlán 07019, Depto. Sololá, Guatemala, C.A.; phone 011 [502] 7721 7366, fax 7365 or visit www.posadasantiago.com). (See June ’99, page 65.)

The owner, Dave, said that he had just sent one of his employees to a neighboring city to be trained in “Hawaiian” massage, and he asked if anyone in our group would like to try one. As I recall, I paid about $15 for an “interactive” massage that was both thorough and relaxing.

• While on a work trip to Phnom Penh, CAMBODIA, in February ’05, I took advantage of a free afternoon to check out a massage parlor located around the corner from our hotel, the Golden Gate. (I don’t remember the name of it, but a local resident assured me it was “respectable.”)

For about $12, I had a full hour’s massage. I was asked how vigorous I wanted it, so I requested a medium-strong massage. I was amazed at how strong the tiny masseuse was. She even walked on my back — and it was wonderful!

Dee Poujade

Portland, OR

In Hanoi, VIET-NAM, near the cathedral there is a wonderful foot-massage establishment called Eleven (11 Au Trieu Street). It’s open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. 

My husband and I had hour-long foot massages there for $5 each in November ’05. Each massage included hot pads on our backs and an added bonus of arm, back and leg massages.

Nili Olay

New York, NY

Massages are something I do enjoy so. Therefore, in my world travels, I have tried them in many different places: aboard a boat on the Yangtze River, in a hotel room in Bangkok and even in a spa in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia. Those were exotic places to have a massage, but there are two in particular that stand out.

• While at Ha Long Bay, VIET-NAM, in February ’02, a group of us went to a beauty shop/massage parlor behind our hotel. I do not remember its name, only that it was a 5-minute walk away and located directly behind the Halong Bay Hotel (Ha Long Road, Bai Chay, Ha Long City).

It was a small place and could take only three of us at a time. The price was under $8.

My young woman did an excellent massage. After 45 minutes she asked me to sit up. I thought the massage was done, but instead she climbed on the table behind me, put her arms around me, put her head on my shoulder and held me for five to six minutes. It was truly a spiritual moment, and even now I can get good feelings just thinking of the experience.

• Near Arenal Volcano in COSTA RICA in December ’99, at Tabacon Hot Springs & Spa (e-mail tabacon-hot-springs@arenal.net or, in Costa Rica, phone [506] 519 1900 or fax 1940 or, in the U.S., phone 877/277-8291 or fax 8292), I was the only person in our group who was able to sign up for the massage. The price was around $25.

When I went to the area, there were many women and one man who were giving the massages. Would you believe I got the man! I almost backed out but then thought, ‘Oh, what the heck!’

After the massage, my friends asked about my experience and my response was, “5 foot 11, tall, dark, good-looking. . . .” Did I have to say any more?

Both of these massages were inexpensive, but, oh, the memories I have.

Lorna Tjaden

New Hope, MN

At the end of a month-long trip to GREECE in May ’06, I had the good fortune to encounter holistic therapist Jo Church (aka Deva Nidhi) on the island of Mykonos.

Jo arrived at my hotel room fully equipped to provide an excellent massage, complete with table and all the necessities. She began the session by examining my entire body through holistic touch. Her assessment was amazing, zeroing in on everything that had occurred with me during the past few weeks and finding areas that needed healing. After the initial examination, she began the massage, using a form of Reiki and traditional massage.

I was very impressed with her knowledge, her quiet manner and her willingness to share information. She gave me excellent information, talking to me in depth about some problems I had and referring me to some written material I could get from home.

The cost for an hour of holistic massage, including holistic touch and diagnosis and healing Reiki massage, was €90 (near $115), and I gave a €10 tip. I did not at all feel as though anything had been left out, even though I did not have to move from my room to have this wonderful treatment.

This was one of the best experiences of my entire trip. Following the massage, I was totally rejuvenated and ready to carry on for the last few days in Athens.

Jo can be reached by phone in Mykonos at 2289023426, or visit www.tachyon-partners.com/nidhi.

Patricia Arcaro

Glen Mills, PA

If you are in the PHILIPPINES, don’t forget to get a massage and pamper yourself for a minimal fee. The most that I paid for an hour of deep-tissue massage (you can choose what kind of massage you like) was $14. This included the use of a locker room, Jacuzzi, sauna (hot and cold), shower, a clean, fresh bathrobe and complimentary assorted hot tea while waiting in a very comfortable lounge with matching soothing music in the background.

At a place called The Spa (80 E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave.), located in Libis, Quezon City, near Eastwood, all of the attendants were very well trained and courteous.

There are so many spas in the Philippines, and prices range from at least 400 pesos (about $8) to 2,000 pesos ($40). The $40 normally includes a facial, an hour and a half of massage and a manicure and pedicure.

The latest massage I had was in April ’06, and I paid $32 for four people. What a deal!

Sylvia Pangalangan

Springfield, VA

I have been getting massages around the world for decades. My best was while in the Gobi Desert of MONGOLIA, at the Three Camel Lodge (www.threecamellodge.com), in July ’05. (My stay was arranged through MIR Corporation [Seattle, WA; 800/424-7289, www.mircorp.com].)

Two days in a row I had a double massage (two hours), and with tip of 30% it came to $30 a day.

I had a translator ask the young Mongolian girl where she learned her craft. She said she learned from a Chinese instructor in Ulaanbaatar.

Bill Altaffer

Mammoth Lakes, CA

Here are some good places that I know to get a massage:

• In Ulaanbaatar, MONGOLIA, on the third floor of tower A at the Bayangol Hotel (Chinggis Khan Avenue-05, Ulaanbaatar-210628, P.O.B-43, Mongolia; phone 976-1-312255, fax 326880 or visit www.bayangolhotel.mn), there is a beauty salon where you can get a one-hour oil massage for 25,000 tukrig (about $18-$20). This is a little expensive for Mongolia, but all of the cheaper ones that I’ve found are very hit-and-miss. I usually tip 5,000 tukrig here. My last visit was in August ’06.

• In Seoul, KOREA, there are two very good and very expensive massage salons in the departures area at Incheon Airport. They are located at either end of the terminal on the upper deck and are clearly signposted.

The massage here is a “stretching” one (similar to Thai but a bit more intense). The last time I went, in August ’06, I paid around $75 for one hour. No tip is required here (or anywhere else in Seoul).

• Yes, I know ITN will get many recommendations for massages in THAILAND, but I’ve tried loads of the massage centers in Bangkok, and Miss Puke at 410/5 Siam Square (phone [66] 02-251-6591, www.misspuke.net) is definitely the best.

The decor is great, the masseuses are very good and the prices are very cheap. I recommend a 2-hour Thai massage followed by a one-hour foot massage — all this for 700 baht (about $15). I usually tip about 100 to 150 baht. I last visited in September ’06.

Douglas Cope, Tamworth,

Staffordshire, England

My “massage to die for” took place in Phuket, THAILAND, in April ’05. I was traveling with my brother and we thought it would be nice to get a massage before dinner. We called the resort next to ours, Mom Tri’s Villa Royale (12 Kata Noi Road, Phuket, 83100, Thailand; phone +66 76 333 569, fax 333 001 or visit www.villaroyalephuket.com), and made reservations for 90-minute aromatherapy massages, followed with dinner on the cliff patio overlooking magnificent Kata Noi Beach.

Upon checking in, we were warmly greeted and urged to drink our cold glasses of lemon-water. We then were escorted up a secluded, lush garden trail. The air was thick and sweet with the fragrance of dozens of varieties of tropical flowers.

A little farther up the path, we came to a small, bamboo bungalow. After leaving our shoes outside the door, we were shown to dressing rooms, where we put on loose, cotton, pajama-like outfits. We were graciously greeted by our two male massage therapists and asked to lie down on side-by-side floor mats. We had heard about traditional Thai massage and were a bit nervous about what to expect.

The air was filled with the scent of soothing aromatic oils. Relaxing Thai music intermingled with the sounds of tropical birds outside the hut. The massages started out to be very soothing but soon turned into serious stretching sessions. I laughed so hard when I turned my head and saw my brother’s face as his ankles were being forced down to his ears. My brother is a big guy, and the masseuse was a small man, but, oh, could he get him to bend!

After being loosened up in places we didn’t even know could be loosened, we had deep-tissue rubs from the tops of our heads to our toes. I have never felt so blissfully relaxed and limber. Afterward, it was difficult to stand up, and it took a few moments to convince our legs to work again.

The cost of the massages was 3,100 baht (roughly $70) each, and we tipped them each 500 baht. 

After getting dressed, we were escorted down another beautiful path that led to our dinner table. We had an exquisite seafood meal and a bottle of delicious South African wine, then took a walk along the fragrant, balmy beach under the stars. It was truly the most relaxed that I have ever been.

Lori Gauthier

Grants Pass, OR

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Where have you, in the last few years, had a great massage overseas (outside of North America and the Caribbean)? In a first-class hotel? A spa? An airport lounge? Tell us where it was (include contact info, if possible), when you were there and approximately how much it cost (discuss the gratuity too). What made it great? Have any tips for others interested in a relaxing or invigorating massage?

Shown below are responses we received. If you want to share a recent experience of your own, write to A Massage To Die For, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com (please include the address at which you receive ITN). Photographs, with captions, are welcome.

I walked into Nora’s Homestay (Nora’s Homestay & Restaurant, Jln. Besar, Bukit Lawang, North Sumatera 20774, INDONESIA; phone +628136 2070656 or e-mail nora_in2003@yahoo.com) after a successful orangutan trek and a raft trip in the jungles of North Sumatra near Bukit Lawang in April ’06.

Nora looked at me and said, “You need a massage.”

“Yes!” I answered.

So Nora called a friend and I had my best-ever massage — powerful, perceptive, incredible. I did a repeat the next day after another orangutan trek. Each cost $4 an hour (plus $2 tip)!

Nora’s was a real find at $2.75 a night and six very good meals for $9.20 total.

• I finished my month wandering around Indonesia with a week in Ubud, Bali. On my last day I walked into Denita’s Salon (with same owner and services, now called La Diva Hair Design & Asthetic, 59 Jl. Hanoman, Ubud; phone  081-2364-2914 or e-mail denitasalon@yahoo.com), just down the street from Kunang Kunang Guest House (43 Jl. Hanoman; fax 62 361 970565) at $8.75 a night.

Denita’s was another gem. I had a 2-hour full-body massage, which included a Java scrub (rubbing my skin with some sort of delightfully abrasive material) and a hot soak in a full-sized bathtub with flower petals floating on the surface. Wonderful decadence! It cost $7 for two hours (plus $2 tip).

I’d include a photo, but me sitting in that tub with a sappy grin on my face is a bit much!

Neil Van Steenbergen

Eugene, OR

Taman Harum Cottages

During a stay at Taman Harum Cottages (JI. Raya Mas-Ubud, Bali, INDONESIA; phone [62-361] 975567, fax 975149 or e-mail info@ tamanharumcottages.com) in December ’05, a variety of spa treatments was offered, but the one I partook of every day was a massage for one hour and 15 minutes.

Bali Sukartika was a very accomplished masseuse and asked a lot of questions as to what I wanted her to work on and what degree of pressure I liked, where I was tender, etc. The price was $10, and I tipped her $5. The average wage in Bali is $40 a month, so she was very appreciative.

One afternoon it was pouring rain, the spa room was not glassed in (only bamboo walls and a metal roof) and the sound of the rain on the roof, the smell of the aromatherapy she was using, the gentle Balinese music in the background. . . . I’m sure this is what heaven is like.

• While visiting northern THAILAND in April ’02, we stayed at Anantara Resort & Spa Golden Triangle (229 Moo 1, Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai 57150, Thailand; phone 66 [0] 5378-4084, fax 4090 or visit www.anantara.com). This beautiful resort is in the Golden Triangle, where Laos, Thailand and Myanmar meet.

I could have had a 2-hour massage in our room or down the road at the gym. I opted for a Thai massage at the gym in the afternoon. It was a lovely stroll through the grounds of the hotel, but they suggested not going for a walk off the property after dark because of an occasional “bandit.”

A little, tiny Thai girl came to lead me into “our room,” and I thought that surely this little wisp of a thing could not perform any kind of pressure to my big body. Whoa! Was I wrong! She got on the table with me and used her knees, elbows, feet and hands, twisting and pulling my limbs in directions they never had gone before or since. It was painful, but she was so sweet, I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was killing me.

After two hours of torture at $36, I gave her a $5 tip, thanked her and started walking back to my room. It was dark, but at that point I didn’t care what bandits got me. I could hardly trudge up the hill of the compound.

I told my husband he would have loved this massage, as he says no one ever does it strong enough for him. His reply was, “Not if I’m going to look and feel like you do.”

I promptly got into bed, without dinner, and fell asleep. When I awoke the next morning I felt like a million dollars, like I could climb Mt. Everest, but I did have bruises on my body.

I’ve since had a Thai foot massage, thinking, ‘How hard can that be?’ I now know anything with the word “Thai” in front of it, having to do with massage, is probably like a medieval torture chamber.

But the grounds, setting and hospitality of this resort were worth the distance to travel. It is the most gorgeous hotel we’ve ever stayed in. (Room rates run $55-$120 plus tax.)

Claudia Reed

Las Vegas, NV

Our favorite country for massages is THAILAND. Every city and small town there has multiple massage establishments. We get at least one massage a day and sometimes as many as three. Whether it is a foot, hand, cranial, whole-body or traditional Thai massage, the experience is so relaxing that no matter what we have done during the day we always drift off to an easy sleep.

We really enjoy Chiang Mai, and our favorite place there is Friendly Massage on Thanon Chang Khlan, just two blocks south of the famous night market. The girls are indeed friendly; it really feels like a homey and casual atmosphere. Our 8-year-old son enjoyed his daily massages there as well. An hour costs about $5 and the tip is about 50 cents.

We have also been to the upper-end spas in Thailand that charge between $25 and $50 an hour and have found them no better than the walk-up, storefront-style places. You pay for atmosphere.

We were in Thailand in August ’05 and February ’06 and will return in December ’06 and July ’07.

Daphna Woolfe & Byron Lee

San Jose, CA

What a great topic! Without hesitation, I knew precisely which of my overseas massages I wanted to write about. It had to be the massage at the Çemberlitas¸ Hamami (www.cemberlitashamami.com.tr) in Istanbul, TURKEY, in June ’03.

Another traveler and I on a Bosporus boat ride asked to be dropped off at the famous Turkish bath, located in the historical area and near major hotels. It was constructed in 1584 by the master architect Sinan.

I do not remember exactly what I paid, but I usually am on a budget and I believe it was $40. A large sign specifically stated, “Absolutely No Tipping.”

There were separate sections for men and women. I placed my clothing in a locker and was given a large cup to pour water over and cleanse myself. I lay on a warm, circular marble surface heated by fire from below. Through the warm steam, sunlight streamed in from the sky above (remember, this was built hundreds of years ago).

Having a Turkish bath is in no way sexual. The Turkish woman massaging my tired, touring-weary body was elderly and overweight and chatted nonstop to the other employees. She scrubbed me with a camel-hair glove. There was much lathering, and soap bubbles flew all over. The uniform for her job seemed to be white cotton underpants. She was still chattering to her coworkers as she expertly scrubbed and rinsed.

Tour guides say this is the most memorable fun thing you will do in Turkey, and it really is. Try it.

Winnie Schall Baffa

Leland, NC

My husband, Doug, and I elected to have one-hour, dual (simultaneous treatment for two people) full-body massages in Kuressaare, on Saaremaa Island in ESTONIA, in August ’06. They were provided by two very professional massage therapists at the Georg Ots Spa Hotel (Tori 2, Kuressaare 93815, Estonia; phone +372 45 50 000, fax 50 001 or visit www.gospa.ee). We were not staying at the hotel but walked there easily from our own Stadioni Hotel.

Not only did they work for the full hour, providing us with needed relaxation, we also were entitled to the full use of other spa facilities at the hotel afterward. We elected to pool hop between the swimming pool (outdoor and indoor), hot tub and various pools with specific functions. The facility is brand new and luxurious, along with two others in the vicinity.

The entire cost (including robe and slippers) was EEK660 (about $54). The tip suggested by the hotel was 10%; we gave 15%.

Strongly recommended!

Miriam Worthing

Rockville, MD

I received an excellent massage from Todd Pequeen, better known as “Massage Todd,” in December ’05. He can be found in Quepos or Manuel Antonio, COSTA RICA, by calling 847-2010 or simply by asking around.

Todd’s pressure was excellent, and it was truly the best massage I’ve ever had. He charged $110 for 1½ hours. I tipped him $20.

My advice would be to have the massage in a relaxing environment and just let yourself go.

Sally Dehler

Purcellville, VA

Okay, so I have “died” twice!

• While on a work trip to GUATEMALA in November ’02, our group had a weekend “holiday” in Santiago Atitlán at Posada de Santiago (Apto. 1, Santiago Atitlán 07019, Depto. Sololá, Guatemala, C.A.; phone 011 [502] 7721 7366, fax 7365 or visit www.posadasantiago.com). (See June ’99, page 65.)

The owner, Dave, said that he had just sent one of his employees to a neighboring city to be trained in “Hawaiian” massage, and he asked if anyone in our group would like to try one. As I recall, I paid about $15 for an “interactive” massage that was both thorough and relaxing.

• While on a work trip to Phnom Penh, CAMBODIA, in February ’05, I took advantage of a free afternoon to check out a massage parlor located around the corner from our hotel, the Golden Gate. (I don’t remember the name of it, but a local resident assured me it was “respectable.”)

For about $12, I had a full hour’s massage. I was asked how vigorous I wanted it, so I requested a medium-strong massage. I was amazed at how strong the tiny masseuse was. She even walked on my back — and it was wonderful!

Dee Poujade

Portland, OR

In Hanoi, VIET-NAM, near the cathedral there is a wonderful foot-massage establishment called Eleven (11 Au Trieu Street). It’s open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. 

My husband and I had hour-long foot massages there for $5 each in November ’05. Each massage included hot pads on our backs and an added bonus of arm, back and leg massages.

Nili Olay

New York, NY

Massages are something I do enjoy so. Therefore, in my world travels, I have tried them in many different places: aboard a boat on the Yangtze River, in a hotel room in Bangkok and even in a spa in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia. Those were exotic places to have a massage, but there are two in particular that stand out.

• While at Ha Long Bay, VIET-NAM, in February ’02, a group of us went to a beauty shop/massage parlor behind our hotel. I do not remember its name, only that it was a 5-minute walk away and located directly behind the Halong Bay Hotel (Ha Long Road, Bai Chay, Ha Long City).

It was a small place and could take only three of us at a time. The price was under $8.

My young woman did an excellent massage. After 45 minutes she asked me to sit up. I thought the massage was done, but instead she climbed on the table behind me, put her arms around me, put her head on my shoulder and held me for five to six minutes. It was truly a spiritual moment, and even now I can get good feelings just thinking of the experience.

• Near Arenal Volcano in COSTA RICA in December ’99, at Tabacon Hot Springs & Spa (e-mail tabacon-hot-springs@arenal.net or, in Costa Rica, phone [506] 519 1900 or fax 1940 or, in the U.S., phone 877/277-8291 or fax 8292), I was the only person in our group who was able to sign up for the massage. The price was around $25.

When I went to the area, there were many women and one man who were giving the massages. Would you believe I got the man! I almost backed out but then thought, ‘Oh, what the heck!’

After the massage, my friends asked about my experience and my response was, “5 foot 11, tall, dark, good-looking. . . .” Did I have to say any more?

Both of these massages were inexpensive, but, oh, the memories I have.

Lorna Tjaden

New Hope, MN

At the end of a month-long trip to GREECE in May ’06, I had the good fortune to encounter holistic therapist Jo Church (aka Deva Nidhi) on the island of Mykonos.

Jo arrived at my hotel room fully equipped to provide an excellent massage, complete with table and all the necessities. She began the session by examining my entire body through holistic touch. Her assessment was amazing, zeroing in on everything that had occurred with me during the past few weeks and finding areas that needed healing. After the initial examination, she began the massage, using a form of Reiki and traditional massage.

I was very impressed with her knowledge, her quiet manner and her willingness to share information. She gave me excellent information, talking to me in depth about some problems I had and referring me to some written material I could get from home.

The cost for an hour of holistic massage, including holistic touch and diagnosis and healing Reiki massage, was €90 (near $115), and I gave a €10 tip. I did not at all feel as though anything had been left out, even though I did not have to move from my room to have this wonderful treatment.

This was one of the best experiences of my entire trip. Following the massage, I was totally rejuvenated and ready to carry on for the last few days in Athens.

Jo can be reached by phone in Mykonos at 2289023426, or visit www.tachyon-partners.com/nidhi.

Patricia Arcaro

Glen Mills, PA

If you are in the PHILIPPINES, don’t forget to get a massage and pamper yourself for a minimal fee. The most that I paid for an hour of deep-tissue massage (you can choose what kind of massage you like) was $14. This included the use of a locker room, Jacuzzi, sauna (hot and cold), shower, a clean, fresh bathrobe and complimentary assorted hot tea while waiting in a very comfortable lounge with matching soothing music in the background.

At a place called The Spa (80 E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave.), located in Libis, Quezon City, near Eastwood, all of the attendants were very well trained and courteous.

There are so many spas in the Philippines, and prices range from at least 400 pesos (about $8) to 2,000 pesos ($40). The $40 normally includes a facial, an hour and a half of massage and a manicure and pedicure.

The latest massage I had was in April ’06, and I paid $32 for four people. What a deal!

Sylvia Pangalangan

Springfield, VA

I have been getting massages around the world for decades. My best was while in the Gobi Desert of MONGOLIA, at the Three Camel Lodge (www.threecamellodge.com), in July ’05. (My stay was arranged through MIR Corporation [Seattle, WA; 800/424-7289, www.mircorp.com].)

Two days in a row I had a double massage (two hours), and with tip of 30% it came to $30 a day.

I had a translator ask the young Mongolian girl where she learned her craft. She said she learned from a Chinese instructor in Ulaanbaatar.

Bill Altaffer

Mammoth Lakes, CA

Here are some good places that I know to get a massage:

• In Ulaanbaatar, MONGOLIA, on the third floor of tower A at the Bayangol Hotel (Chinggis Khan Avenue-05, Ulaanbaatar-210628, P.O.B-43, Mongolia; phone 976-1-312255, fax 326880 or visit www.bayangolhotel.mn), there is a beauty salon where you can get a one-hour oil massage for 25,000 tukrig (about $18-$20). This is a little expensive for Mongolia, but all of the cheaper ones that I’ve found are very hit-and-miss. I usually tip 5,000 tukrig here. My last visit was in August ’06.

• In Seoul, KOREA, there are two very good and very expensive massage salons in the departures area at Incheon Airport. They are located at either end of the terminal on the upper deck and are clearly signposted.

The massage here is a “stretching” one (similar to Thai but a bit more intense). The last time I went, in August ’06, I paid around $75 for one hour. No tip is required here (or anywhere else in Seoul).

• Yes, I know ITN will get many recommendations for massages in THAILAND, but I’ve tried loads of the massage centers in Bangkok, and Miss Puke at 410/5 Siam Square (phone [66] 02-251-6591, www.misspuke.net) is definitely the best.

The decor is great, the masseuses are very good and the prices are very cheap. I recommend a 2-hour Thai massage followed by a one-hour foot massage — all this for 700 baht (about $15). I usually tip about 100 to 150 baht. I last visited in September ’06.

Douglas Cope, Tamworth,

Staffordshire, England

My “massage to die for” took place in Phuket, THAILAND, in April ’05. I was traveling with my brother and we thought it would be nice to get a massage before dinner. We called the resort next to ours, Mom Tri’s Villa Royale (12 Kata Noi Road, Phuket, 83100, Thailand; phone +66 76 333 569, fax 333 001 or visit www.villaroyalephuket.com), and made reservations for 90-minute aromatherapy massages, followed with dinner on the cliff patio overlooking magnificent Kata Noi Beach.

Upon checking in, we were warmly greeted and urged to drink our cold glasses of lemon-water. We then were escorted up a secluded, lush garden trail. The air was thick and sweet with the fragrance of dozens of varieties of tropical flowers.

A little farther up the path, we came to a small, bamboo bungalow. After leaving our shoes outside the door, we were shown to dressing rooms, where we put on loose, cotton, pajama-like outfits. We were graciously greeted by our two male massage therapists and asked to lie down on side-by-side floor mats. We had heard about traditional Thai massage and were a bit nervous about what to expect.

The air was filled with the scent of soothing aromatic oils. Relaxing Thai music intermingled with the sounds of tropical birds outside the hut. The massages started out to be very soothing but soon turned into serious stretching sessions. I laughed so hard when I turned my head and saw my brother’s face as his ankles were being forced down to his ears. My brother is a big guy, and the masseuse was a small man, but, oh, could he get him to bend!

After being loosened up in places we didn’t even know could be loosened, we had deep-tissue rubs from the tops of our heads to our toes. I have never felt so blissfully relaxed and limber. Afterward, it was difficult to stand up, and it took a few moments to convince our legs to work again.

The cost of the massages was 3,100 baht (roughly $70) each, and we tipped them each 500 baht. 

After getting dressed, we were escorted down another beautiful path that led to our dinner table. We had an exquisite seafood meal and a bottle of delicious South African wine, then took a walk along the fragrant, balmy beach under the stars. It was truly the most relaxed that I have ever been.

Lori Gauthier

Grants Pass, OR