The elevator door opened to the third floor of the InterContinental Saigon (www.icsaigon.com) and I stepped out. Entering the spa, as the wall closes behind, the atmosphere immediately transforms to one of tranquility. The lighting is soft and dim, the scent of flowers and lemongrass subtle, but distinct in the air. A woman from behind a counter stands and smiles to greet me before directing me to a seat where I’m served a five-spice cold tea with a fruity tang along with a small bowl of lotus seed nibbles. I had a few sips of the refreshing tea as I eagerly awaited my spa treatments.
The masseuse approached and led me to a private room. The lighting was low and the fragrance in the air nectarous and calming. There is soothing, meditative music on softly, an atmospheric melody of lute and strings. A large massage table centers the room with a long counter filled with bottles and containers of various emollients at the head of the table. On one side of the room is a closet and bathroom while on the other a shower stall and a chair with a wooden basin at the feet. The masseuse handed me a sealed bag with a pair of underwear of a soft, thin fabric that is loose fitting, and points to the closet, directing me to take off my clothes and put on the robe hanging there along with the underwear. She indicates a button near the door and tells me to press it once I’m ready. She then gives me the room.
Once the masseuse returns we begin the Relaxing Aroma Indulgence Body Massage (VND1,472,625). She starts by asking if I have any areas of the body I want to focus on and how much pressure I like applied. She then leads me over to the chair where I have a seat and put my feet into the oak half barrel, submerging them into warm water with orchid petals, fresh lemon and lemongrass stalks. She washes my feet and legs with a cotton washcloth before putting a handful of sea salt and cinnamon in her hands and rubbing my feet and lower legs with the mixture. The grains are coarse, yet refreshing, and restorative to the skin as they scrub away the toxins.
After drying my feet the masseuse leads me over to the massage table. I disrobe and lie face down on it. She covers me with a thin blanket and starts by warming up my muscles with light, long and flowing movements up and down the length of the body. Next she begins applying massage oil infused with Malabar grass, sweet orange and vetiver. Vetiver is a perennial bunchgrass from India used in aromatherapy as a calming agent that promotes circulation and also has anti-inflammatory properties. The masseuse starts with my neck, shoulders and upper back, applying the right amount of pressure and maintaining sinuous movements. She works her way down to the lower back and bottom with the same fluidity.
The masseuse makes her way around the rest of the body as I lie with my face in the breathing hole, eyes closed, reaching a deeper meditative state the longer the massage goes on. The one thing that brought me back briefly was about halfway through when she asked me to flip over, but I was quickly back to raking my mental Zen garden as she worked on my shoulders and neck. While on my back she covered my eyes with a silk eye poultice cover with lavender and kaffir lime.
Once the hour of massage was complete the masseuse transitioned seamlessly into the hour-long Tropical Fresh Facial (VND1,559,250). She warms up the scalp and face with massage before a series of facial wipes, oils, creams and more were applied. It starts with what felt like a soft wet-wipe with a lemon scent and then followed with one containing a watermelon scent. After this the face is cleansed with yogurt before a black sesame and honey exfoliation. Next a cucumber toner is applied before she gives a facial massage with olive oil.
Following this, the masseuse uses another lemon scented wet-wipe before applying a face mask of milk and oat milk. It felt creamy and cool on the now supple skin of my face. Once applied she works her fingers through my hair and massages my scalp for some time. Afterward she removes the face mask and applies a cucumber toner once more. She ends the facial by cleaning my face and neck thoroughly before a final coat with a nourishing vitamin E lotion.
As I showered, which was hot and with excellent pressure, I thought about how the environment was impeccably soothing while the massage and facial were incredible. Additionally, all of the products used are natural, incorporating fresh local herbs and other products used for traditional Asian healing methods. Or as the spa manager, Phung Thi Mai Hoang, puts it, “This therapeutic treatment seamlessly blends the freshest ingredients to enhance the qualities of natural bounty, so come experience firsthand the unique character of the Vietnamese tradition for relaxing mind, body and soul.”
Images provided by InterContinental Saigon