There is nothing like a great massage to ease the body when you’ve been on the road travelling for weeks. And what an opportunity not to be missed when you are visiting new countries. Let’s see who comes out on top of this Massage Trifecta!
As I landed in Auckland, NZ I yearned for a good old massage from a good less-old friend. Like any good race – there is always a favourite so Barbs was to get a head start…
Barbs and I go way back to the late 1990’s when we both learnt massage at the NZ College of Massage. So to be in the familiar hands of a good friend was magic. My body sank into her table and knew how to respond and relax. The massage was mix of long flowing strokes and kneading, with her hands working intuitively around my body. And it wasn’t long before her elbows made an appearance to deal with some deep seated tension!
Perhaps it has been this familiarity that I miss in the UK, as nobody massages like Barbs!
The cost of a massage in Auckland costs around $85-100 (£45-60) for 60 minutes.
I was really excited to travel to Tokyo, Japan after being back in NZ/Australia. There’s a real old meets new vibe in the city. After lots of walking (we seem to do sightseeing in one-day!) I decided I should check out a Japanese massage. Hard to beat a favourite in the massage trifecta, I went in with no expectations….
I turned up at the fitness centre and was handed a pair of long shorts and a t-shirt……and slippers (as I had turned up barefoot!). Perplexed, I did what I was asked and changed. Quite a stunning look I am sure you will agree (oh and masks were still mandatory EVERYWHERE). I was guided to the clinic room where I was warmly greeted. I was then instructed to lie on the table and I asked if I should remove my stylish clothes? Despite the language barrier it was agreed that I could remove and she would cover me with towels. I had really given it no thought about the ‘type’ of massage I had booked. I don’t speak Japanese so I had just asked for one hour massage. It then dawned on me – I was to receive a shiatsu treatment – hence no need to remove clothes.
Back to the 90’s
So I digress for a moment to share my very first experience of ‘shiatsu’ massage. I was employed by the Sheraton Hotel in Auckland as an on-call massage therapist. One day I received a call from reception asking if I could do a ‘shiatsu’ massage as a guest wanted one. Now, the Sheraton used to pay quite well as I recall – I would walk away with $80-90NZD – and being a student at the time – well, what would you do? “Yes, of course I can” was my response.
Then the mad panic to hunt through my collection of massage books. Voila, a small one on shiatsu that I had picked up at some stage. A quick read to gain the principles and I was off!
I arrived at the hotel with massage table in hand, made my way up to the clients room and set up ready. The gen
tleman lay on the table fully clothed. His partner sat in the corner slurping noodles. I still can recall the noise and the smell.
To Tokyo again
My shiatsu massage was a wonderful experience, different but up there in the stakes. Based on that experience I had to book myself in for a foot treatment. In chatting with the therapist the basis of the foot massage was around acupressure points and meridians. The foot treatment included the lower leg also and was very similar to ones I had received inVietnam at the start of 2020. And is it any surprise that they are good at giving them, the traditional shoes cause everyone’s feet to ache!
Each treatment was around £45-50 for an hour at the hotel in Shinjuku.
Ending with Egypt
My next stop was Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt. Massages were advertised as €70 (£60) for 50 minutes, but if you booked three they would be €50 (£43) each! I did the maths and decided that for research sake I would do the three, after all the third would only be costing me €10 (£8) – bargain! So an Egyptian trifecta…
The first treatment I had was called ‘Foot acupressure’, the last was an ‘Indian Head Massage’ and the middle treatment was a challenge for them!
Let me start with the one in the middle as this posed the most challenges for the team at the spa. I just wanted my back, neck, shoulders and arms massaged, for an hour. However, that request did not fit in to any of their offerings (and language was a slight barrier). I know that is the norm for any spa you go to, you choose from their range of offers on the ‘menu’. They were able to cater for my needs after some explaining and negotiating. It’s a bit like ordering a dish at a restaurant – hold the olives and anchovies, in my case hold the legs and feet! I believe spas should have the flexibility for clients to ask for what they want.
I was also a little surprised when asked to sit on the side of the table at the end of the session. The therapist climbed on behind me and proceeded to give my neck a twist-like manipulation. Not what I would expect a spa therapist to be trained in.
Bottom to top
My foot treatment was great, again including the lower leg. Not quite the ‘acupressure’ experience I was expecting, it was more just massage! Having arrived barefoot, before I jumped off the table I was given slippers to wear so as not to slip-slide my way out of the spa!
To conclude my research I gave my head over to hot oil and what I thought was a massage based on the traditional head massage from India. Sadly, I was a little disappointed. Granted that the menu did say ‘Indian style head massage’ I should have lowered my expectations…….the session started with my entire back then a general head rub. My hairdresser does a better job to be honest! Am I being too harsh? I think not. The rubbing continued for quite some time to the point that it did get a little irritating (a good reminder for me!) and you know the jerks one makes when they are really tired and nodding off? The session was concluded with a lovely face massage and hot towels. I left looking like a guy out of the 60’s with a slick-backed hair style.
I have learnt so much from these experiences. From the comfort of the familiar, to learning about my own expectations, cultural differences and interpretations. I do worry about some of the conditions that therapists have to work in. In Egypt, my therapist said she worked for 3 months with no days off, then has a 2 week break. I asked the managers about this and they said “things are different here in Egypt.” No wonder she was nodding off.
- ALL therapists had a great touch, checked in about pressure, massage/treatment flowed
- ALL draped using towels and did not massage any unexpected areas!
- Hot towels were a bonus in Egypt
- NZ/Egypt checked health history – this is a bare minimum and should be done everywhere that offers massage
- NZ easily customised session to meet my needs (but then Barbs doesn’t work in a spa!)
So who won the massage trifecta for me? Anywhere that does a great foot treatment! And you still can’t beat the old favourite!
I look forward to my next massages – wherever they may be.