Each country has its unique massage methods, and so does Vietnam. The art of massage in Vietnam has extended outside the country, and now spas all over the world offer their own massage inspired by and drawing from Vietnamese techniques, and vise versa.
No matter what type you pick, going in for your first massage can be nerve-racking. When somebody’s touching your body, it naturally wants to know what to expect. We’ve got the rundown on six types of massages in Vietnam to help you prepare for your relaxing vacation.
Notes: all the massages mentioned in this guide are legitimate massages and legal services provided by professional spas and massages in Vietnam.
Massage Techniques in Vietnam
Vietnamese Massage Technique
The traditional Vietnamese massage technique, or “Tam quat”, is a technique focusing on stimulating blood circulation by punching and clapping on the treatment areas. It relieves pain by putting pressure directly on the afflicted muscle to help you relaxed. It may sound rough to people who are unfamiliar, but the technique is very soothing and relaxing.
However, nowadays, in most spas in Vietnam, they do not have “Tam quat” in their service menus; they usually combine it with other massage therapy advice like those of Chinese, Swedish, Japanese, and Thai to create different types of body massages.
The whole body massage will usually start with a facial massage; the masseur massages your forehead and cheek with their fingers, and then gently rubs against your eyes and the back of your neck. After that, your back, legs, and arms are massaged. And the acupressure points are pressed to increase the circulation you need to remove toxins and stress from your body. Finally, they will perform Tam quat, punching, and percussion on your whole body from the back to the legs.
You can also ask for additional services like 4-handed massages and cupping therapy.
4-Handed Massage. This technique is an elevated version of Tam quat, using the synchronization of clapping and punching of two masseurs. The purpose is to increase the speed and give you a simultaneous massage on the back and legs.
Cupping Therapy. Cupping therapy is a unique form of massage that originated in China. Some people are frightened of this version after seeing photographs of people’s backs littered with bruised, red marks from the cups. However, the practice isn’t as painful as it looks.
At first, the masseurs will move the heated cup across your back to loosen up the muscle. After that, the warm cups will be placed on the waist to shoulders for about 5 – 10 minutes. The technique is supposed to create a vacuum to draw in the cup a part of the flesh that needs treatment to relieve pain, tension, and prevent cramps by working through the muscles, which is why it is usually used by many athletes.
Because of the side effects like red marks on the body, cupping therapy is not popular as it used to be and can be hard to find in modern spas. Only some traditional places practicing Eastern medicine may perform this technique. It should be performed by professionals as it requires applying correct heat to your body. And it is not recommended for people with heart disease, skin injuries, and women in menstruation or pregnancy. Make sure to explain to the therapists about your health conditions before the therapy to receive a consultation.
See also: Fish Massage in Vietnam
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Other Massage Techniques in Vietnamese Spas
Hot Stones. The stones’ surface is smooth, and they are heated to place on treatment areas like the neck, shoulder, back, or waist. The heat and the slight pressure of the stones will slowly make the muscle loosen up. Because heat is applied, the masseurs need to be skillful to handle it.
Swedish Massage. This technique applies pressure to your body using circular motions to relieve muscle tension and is combined with oil to moisturize your skin. It is a gentle massage technique that is suitable for first-time customers.
Shiatsu. It is a Japanese method of pressing on acupressure points. Even though the process may sound painful as the masseur will apply their body weight to add extra pressure, this technique is really relaxing as it improves your blood circulation. And you will not need to take off your clothes to receive this kind of massage if there is no oil treatment accompanied.
Thai Massage. This technique requires a lot of compressing and stretching to improve your body flexibility. It is sometimes considered passive yoga because the masseur will put your body in some yoga positions. And like Shiatsu, you can wear clothes during the treatment process.
A Beginner’s Guide to Vietnamese Massages
What to Expect When Coming to Vietnamese Massage Spas
- Make a reservation in advance.
- Wear the spa’s slippers before coming in, if any.
- Change your clothes to the clothes or robs provided by the spa.
- If the treatment involves applying oil or hot stone to your body, you will be asked to remove the robes or clothes and be half-naked during the process. The other part of your body will be covered with large towels.
- Use the towels the spa provides when using the sauna because the room might be shared with other people.
Making a Reservation
Before coming to the spa, you need to make a reservation through phone calls or on their websites. Usually, you will be asked for your name, the number of people in your group, and of course the time for your appointment. The order can be made later at the spa. If you have any concerns about your health conditions that can affect the massage experience like skin injuries, menstruation, or pregnancy, you may also want to confirm with them at this point.
Spa Menu and Ordering
You can sit on their lounge couch and choose the kind of massage you want from a menu, and there should be staff at the reception to take your order. Names of all the massages provided with correspondence price and sometimes technique explanation are included in the menu. But the staff at the reception can also help with consulting the massage of your need.
Payment and Tips
Some spas will ask you to pay upfront, but there are also other places where you can make the payment after the treatment. The tipping terms should be printed on the menu like whether the prices have tips already included or will accept tips or not. If they are not printed, you may want to clarify this when making the order.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the price for a whole-body massage in 60 minutes usually varies between VND 300,000 – VND 600,000, and in 90 minutes at about VND 600,000 – VND 900,000. 4-handed massage, however, is charged a little bit more, about VND 800,000 – VND 1,000,000, because you have to pay for two masseurs.
Spa’s Amenities and Facilities
Amenities. Before entering the spa, you will usually be asked to leave your shoes outside or in a locker and wear their slippers. Before the treatment starts, you may receive different amenities such as a warm towel, sweet treats, hot herbal tea or any warm drinks made from natural ingredients, and some magazines to read while you wait for your turn. After the treatment, some things you may find useful in their changing rooms are extra towels, cotton Q tips, tissues, and combs. You may also be served with another treat like ice cream, hot ginger tea, or yogurt.
Warm towels and drink
Herbal drinks and snacks
Q tips, tissues, and combs
Changing clothes. You should be provided with clean robes and sometimes disposable underwear, or t-shirts and boxers/pants.
Inside the changing room
The waiting room and lockers
Lockers. Your belongings are left at their lockers. Make sure to check if they are properly locked, and keep the key with you the entire time. You can also bring small valuable items like your cell phone and wallet with you to the massage room.
Massage room. You could often recognize the sense of herbs and some slow music or nature sounds playing softly in the background. Many spas have their massage rooms air-conditioned; if you find it cold, you can ask them to switch them off. There are also private rooms and public rooms in case you want to enjoy the service alone.
Sauna. Some spas have a sauna room where you can enjoy the steam and the process of sweating out after the treatment. But some may not include this facility in their service charge so you will need to ask before using it.
In Vietnam, there are spas with both male and female masseurs, or all female, or male. In the first kind of spa, you can ask to change masseur if you feel uncomfortable when a masseur of the opposite sex doing the massage for you.
As mentioned at the beginning of this guide, there are many techniques you can find in a Vietnamese massage spa. You may be blindfolded to enjoy the experience fully. You can ask for customization like the special concentration on some parts like neck and shoulder, avoiding bruises or scars areas, the amount of pressure they apply (gentle or hard), or whether you want to leave the moisture oil on you after the treatment.
Read our guide to Useful Vietnamese Phrases.
Conclusion on What to Expect in Your Vietnamese Massage
Massages are supposed to be relaxing and dreamy. A Vietnamese massage is guaranteed to make you relax while removing any tension from your muscles. They’ll also help with circulation, allowing each process in your body to work to its fullest potential.
Questions about Vietnamese massage and techniques? Comments regarding your own personal experiences? Feel free to drop us a line! We’d love to hear from you!
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