When visiting Siem Reap, Cambodia, travellers usually make a visit to the Angkor Wat UNESCO World Heritage Site their first priority. Its hundreds of ancient temples comprise the largest religious monument ever built. There is, however, a lot of ground to cover – far more than just one temple – so one-day, three-day and even seven-day passes are available.
With so much on offer, planning a way to revitalise weary limbs and revive aching muscles after a long exciting day exploring the Angkor temples is essential. Many travellers therefore also find rest, relaxation and rejuvenation to be key qualities of a complete Angkor experience. Fortunately, the worn-out and weary-footed can choose from a wide range of Siem Reap hotels and resorts with excellent local massage and spa facilities.
Marks of the Khmer Massage
Traditional massage in Siem Reap isn’t just for tourists. On the contrary, Khmer massage and ancient healing practices play an important role in the daily life of the Cambodian people as well. It should therefore come as no surprise if a local guide or driver shows up with some distinct circular marks on his or her face and body, or if you see professional businesspeople in their smartest business attire with similar strange-looking marks. Chances are the marks are signs of traditional treatment methods still widely in use all over the country.
Khmer massage has its own unique history and tradition. Masseurs often use hot cups and coins in their practice, which is what leaves the unusual marks. The belief is that suction and increased blood flow caused by these objects ease obstructions, and the treatments are said to relieve a variety of illnesses from common colds to more severe aches and pains. No oil is used and shiatsu-style work is done with the body’s ‘meridians.’ Unlike Thai massage, Khmer is gentler; there is no stretching or twisting involved.
In Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap has a great selection of spas and massage lounges in which to rest, relax and indulge. From as little as US$5 per hour, visitors can find themselves quickly revived with a soulful foot massage after a long day trekking. Or they can laze all day at a spa and be receive head-to-toe pampering with special services such as body scrubs, hot-stone massage, heat treatment and aromatherapy, to name but a few.
Hang Sokvanna, Resort Manager at Siem Reap’s five-star Borei Angkor Resort and Spa, describes their most popular traditional treatment option, the J’Pong, available at their in-house Mutita Spa:
“J’Pong is an ancient, steam-filled Khmer heat and herbal treatment that allows visitors to relax in a cloud of herbal steam. This helps to clear the lungs, relieve stress, promote blood circulation and regenerate energy. The herbs used in this herbal healing are all natural and include dried turmeric, cinnamon, sweet basil, mint, prai, lemon grass, cloves, galangal, ginger, tamarind, thanakha and kaffir lime leaves.”
Scattered around Siem Reap are also numerous ‘Seeing Hand Massage’ establishments, in which blind people receive occupational training and then offer traditional massage treatments. As the name suggests, the qualified therapists more than make up for their lack of eyesight; they are said to see through their hands when performing their skillful massage treatments.
With plunge baths, invigorating body scrubs and soothing massages increasingly appearing on the radar for visitors to Siem Reap, a touch of authentic Khmer hospitality adds to the sense of true indulgence and total well-being. Many carefully composed spa packages are available, and skilled massage and spa therapists are happy to prepare a customised programme for you.