vietnam

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Massage in Hanoi

A couple of weeks ago I went to Hanoi for the weekend, the main reason being that my computer broke and couldn’t be fixed in Yen Bai, and the other reason being that after a month in Yen Bai, I start going a bit crazy and need a weekend away! It’s five and a half very painful hours to Hanoi, but worth it once a month as it is an amazing city. My usual itinerary is to have lunch with the VSO staff (as I arrive at lunchtime) and then do some shopping, stocking up on all the things I can’t get in Yen Bai. There are quite a few volunteers who work in Hanoi, so I spent the rest of my time meeting up with them and eating all the food that I miss. The last two times I’ve been in Hanoi, I’ve also had a massage, as all the hand-washing over my bathroom tap kills my back!
The first time I went with a friend who’d been recommended a place by another friend. It was, quite literally painfully naked! We were in a small room separated by a partition, and we both opted for the hot stones massage which is good for muscle ache. I should have ran the moment I heard my friend scream in pain, but no, glutton for punishment, I gritted my teeth and wriggled around as boiling hot stones were put on the soles of my feet – I kid you not! The massage lasted a painful hour and a half, during which time, boiling hot stones were put on various places on my back - ouch!
As I said, it was also a very naked experience for me, something I feel quite uncomfortable with being from prudish England. I find it strange that Vietnamese women, who are so conservative in dress and behaviour, seem fine with nakedness, particularly in a very confined space. I am used to non-naked massages in the UK, where I get down to my underwear and put a towel round myself before the masseuse enters, and the towel covering me at all times. Therefore, when I strip down to my underwear here, and she tells me to take everything off, and put a small pair of men’s boxer’s on, imagine my horror!
However, I felt it unfair to be put off by one bad experience, and my back was aching a bit, so I decided to have another go but at a different place. I regular go to a café near my hotel, and I’ve seen Thai massage advertised in the hotel next door, so I thought I’d give it a go. Thai massage is the closest thing to what I have back in the UK (how I miss Mr. Hersey!) as it involves massage and then cracking of the joints in my back. It sounds painful but it’s actually a big relief.
It seemed quite professional as it was in a big hotel, and I paid beforehand and was then led into a room with a friendly Vietnamese girl. I have accepted the fact that nakedness is obviously something I have to expect from a Vietnamese massage and just try to jump face down onto the bed as fast as I can (I can’t help it, I’m conditioned this way!). She gave an excellent massage although I was slightly perturbed when she started using her feet and knees! She cracked all my joints and I felt a lot better. We chatted a bit in a mix of Vietnamese and English, and I was planning to come back here again. Getting dressed was a bit of a nightmare as she attempted to help me put my underwear on – this way exceeded my comfort zone. I intended to leave a tip and I felt that she expected it as well, which is fair enough. I paid 100,000 dong for the massage. This is quite a lot of money for a massage but the going rate in hotels. I planned to leave 10-15% tip and I was given a piece of paper to give my opinion of the massage and a place where I can write the tip I want to leave. In my purse I only had a 10,000 dong note some very small change and some 100,000 dong notes, so I looked in my purse and took out the 10,000. When I gave it to her and said thanks, she peered in my purse and asked if I had anything bigger! She told me that apparently most people leave 50,000 dong as a tip. I replied that most people must earn more money than me! At which point, she left the room, never to be seen again – a shame because I really wanted to go back there again, but a 50% tip seems quite excessive. Oh well, the massage saga continues, I’ll keep you informed!

10 Comments:

  • At June 20, 2005 at 3:14 AM, Blogger @lex said…

    Haha ! I enjoyed reading your massage experience in Hanoi !
    You forgot to say that apart from being almost naked, the friend with whom you were that day (which happen to be me) had the surprise to be massaged by a vietnamese man which she didn't quite expect !!!
    See you soon in Hanoi

     
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  • At August 6, 2008 at 5:38 PM, Blogger Lê Phương said…

    It's funny to read your post. My two cents form the perspective of a Vietnamese expatriate, if there is such a thing, about the tip. Most of the massage palors in Vietnam exploited their masseuses by giving them meals in lieu of wages; therefore those masseuses earn their living solely on tips from clients. The 10%-15% tip is not applicable here if you understand and know the background. Next time expect to leave a better tip, half of the fee you pay in advance is th minimum.

     
  • At August 6, 2008 at 5:38 PM, Blogger Lê Phương said…

    It's funny to read your post. My two cents form the perspective of a Vietnamese expatriate, if there is such a thing, about the tip. Most of the massage palors in Vietnam exploited their masseuses by giving them meals in lieu of wages; therefore those masseuses earn their living solely on tips from clients. The 10%-15% tip is not applicable here if you understand and know the background. Next time expect to leave a better tip, half of the fee you pay in advance is th minimum.

     
  • At June 11, 2010 at 1:55 AM, Blogger Heath said…

    10/15%? Veitnam is not England with the tip added on the bill. From what I was told alot of the staff are on minimum wage and they live off the tips, so 15% is still not enough. I always tip 100,000 dong ($5). Nothing compared to the UK where a massage is 50 quid alone.

     
  • At November 24, 2010 at 4:13 PM, Blogger Tony said…

    Just got back from Vietnam and travelled from South to North and all points in between. I had several massages as I was also doing large miles on a motorbike. I can understand about the hot rocks and nakeness, butI loved evryone massage I had, including the one in Can Tho where I could have swore she did wrestling partime. As for tipping, but I have to disagree with you Sarah. By applying US style 10-15% rates in Nam your way off.Convert the total costs into your own currency and savings and then relate it to the service you got, and I think you'll find an element of guilt to what you offered. I tipped nothing under 50%.

     
  • At February 26, 2011 at 5:09 AM, Blogger lizzy said…

    Hi
    I am going to Hanoi in about a week and I would love to have some great time like that... could you please give me the address.. anyway, I am a woman (Vietnamese) but I would preferred a man giving me massage than woman ( don't even thing about other thing). Do you know some place where are men giving massage to woman

     
  • At August 26, 2011 at 9:42 AM, Blogger Bob said…

    Howdy folks, the workers in these places make money purely from tips. In actual fact the have to pay to work in these places for such things as uniform; they're also have to pay if they want to take days off and are also fined if they fail to close a door properly. Personally I wouldn't tip anything less than 100,000, what's a total of $10 for a 1.5h massage? I'd be looking to pay $20 for a 15 minute head massage in Australia.

     
  • At May 20, 2012 at 1:38 PM, Blogger sal said…

    confused
    if minimum wage is 830,000 and tip
    is 50% of 100,000 then these employees have to do 9 massages a day to break even before employer paids rent, etc. westerners want to pay cheap labor otherwise usa jobs would have remained there and not go to asia. asians think the west carzy to pay so much but are happy their so soft hearted about money. slowly they have come to expect the same as the west and there will be no cheap labor to take jobs from local markets. best way to keep high wages is limit labor availible.

     

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