Ho Chi Minh City has a way of swallowing you whole.
At first everything seems too wonderful to be true — a fairyland populated by beautiful women and smiling men on motorcycles.
Then you begin to go crazy. Your strange Teutonic blood begins to sizzle and boil at the lack of things to worry about. So you begin to worry about nothing at all.
One day, you find yourself cursing old women in traffic and complaining about a lack of places to wash your hands.
Soon enough, you find yourself too far gone to be able to plan a trip out of town. You cannot make it to the city limits. And the thought of hopping aboard a decrepit hydrofoil or a crowded bus only drives you further towards the edge of psychosis.
You are trapped.
But there is hope; there are people here who can help you.
Saigon’s legitimate masseurs have studied the art of kneading the anxiety out of weirdoes like us for their entire lives. They know things that are unknowable. Indeed, they feel things that you and I cannot feel.
It is the end of a long week.
You cannot leave town because your boss needs you on Saturday. You may have to kill yourself. Or maybe not.
Take a trip uptown to Kim’s salon and get a haircut.
The minute you sit down in the barber’s chair, you will be handed a cups of warm green tea and given plenty to read.
You can chat with the barber. Or just chill out.
Following your haircut, you will be whisked away for a hair wash and face wash.
Lay down, put your head in sink and go to sleep while one of the salon’s spectacular hair washing technicians rubs your temples, scratches your scalp and separates your soul from your body.
God knows where all their moves come from: the forehead press, the eye socket orbit, the double-palmed nose rub. Whatever its origin, this divine art has the power to drop you into a rare deep sleep.
The best of the bunch is Ms. Phuong — a sorceress of sorts — tip her well.
Winner: Kim Salon’s haircut and face wash
Address: 2B Chu Manh Trinh Street, District 1, HCMC
Tel: (08) 3 825 8643
Price: VND290,000 for the works (not including tip; you better tip!)
Masters of Massage
The fact that everything about this transcendent experience takes place from the neck up only confirms the notion that we will, one day, live as brains in a vat.
The deep steam solution
If you find yourself driving through heavy rain and filth, cursing the town and its traffic, don’t lose it. Get a massage.
The folks at Ngoc Anh Spa welcome you with a cup of tea and a plate of candied ginger. Select a service. Don’t bother with anything fancy — somehow it all ends up being a 60-minute body massage.
Leave your shoes out for a shine and sweat out all your anxiety in the herbal steam room. Pop into the sauna for some dry heat, rinse and then throw on a robe and trot off to be put back together.
Ngoc Anh’s squadron of squat female masseurs is strong and sweet. They will carefully stretch, crack and rub every sore joint on your tired old body. Then, they will rub you down with hot stones, press all your head’s energy buttons and conclude by lifting you up on their knees and giving a final traction-like yank to your lower back.
This place is totally legitimate and amazing, so don’t bring any badness into it — only a tip and a smile.