Tag: Spa

Ex Prisoner Massage Center

As I shared previously, I didn’t originally plan to review spas individually, but we had two such stark contrasts in experience (and price) that I felt compelled to post separately and call out the good (and the bad/ugly). The great experiences we had were at all of the massage centers in Chiang Mai. Specifically, I’d like to elaborate on our time at the Women’s Massage Center.

This chain of massage studios is actually a concept developed to provide vocational opportunity for ex-prisoners (yes, you read that right!). Given that spas are so prominent in Asia, the skill and trade of providing great spa therapies is something that is highly-coveted. Once you get past the momentary pause that you are (gasp!) about to receive a foot massage or spa treatment from an ex-prisoner – this place is absolutely magical.

One of the most intriguing parts of this chain is the price. It’s simply unbeatable. At one point, I believe we paid 200 Baht (roughly $6 US) for a one hour foot massage. Given that these are in fact ex-prisoners, they intentionally keep the cost low because it is really a win-win. #1 – you, the consumer, win because who doesn’t like the idea of a $6 hour-long foot massage? #2 – they, the therapists, receive education, training, and a vocational opportunity to make some good (by Chiang Mai standards) money while learning an extremely valuable trade that can keep them gainfully employed for a long time.

And, I would be remiss if I did not mention how professional and incredible these women were. Whatever stigma one may have about “prisoners”, I can truly say these women were energetic, kind, and extremely proficient in their trade. Seeing how they interacted and chatted with each other really showed how much they enjoy the opportunity and the “new lease on life” they have when they get to work with such strong and positive peer influences.

Such a stark contrast from Naka Island. Maybe it’s partially the fact that I could get 50 hours of foot massage for what I paid for the Naka Spa treatment. Maybe it’s because the energy and vibe were so positive. Maybe it’s because it was less stuffy, a bit more rickety, but way more charming. Maybe it’s all the above.

Either way – I cannot recommend this place highly enough!

Til Next Time,

Michael

Spa Naka

I didn’t originally plan to review spas individually, but we had two such stark contrasts in experience (and price) that I felt compelled to post separately and call out the good (and the bad/ugly). The great experience we had were at all of the massage centers in Chiang Mai. Our awful experience was at Naka Island, and I’ll elaborate here.

The following are excerpts from a review I offered the property and the staff following our traditional 90 Minute Indigenous Naka treatment on our first full day at the island.

(BEGIN EXCERPT)

I wanted to write you a note to explain my dissatisfaction with the Spa Naka which we visited during our stay on Naka Island. As an SPG Platinum member who was enjoying a Reward stay, I was very excited to have some additional disposable funds to enjoy these types of amenities. Unfortunately, the service and experience left a poor taste for such a high price. I left comments in the Spa Folio itself, and trust that their management will be in touch with some kind of apology – but I felt it necessary to contact Starwood and the local management team itself…

Here is a brief list of the things I found (unsettling) with our experience at Naka Spa:
-The “EZ Bake Oven” timer that buzzed annoyingly twice during the treatment. The team can surely figure out a way to get the proper level of heat for the towel portions in some other less dramatic fashion.
-The lack of music, which made for a less serene environment and caused added distraction when you could hear nearby banging from ongoing facility maintenance and construction.
-The price. It was simply too expensive, even after a “special” that grants SPG members 30% off. The retail price for the treatment we selected was nearly 10x what we had paid for any other treatment in Thailand (6 in total). I have been to much nicer spas in shopping centers back home that are less than 1/4 the price.
-The menu description (for tracking purposes, my wife and I did the 90 Minute Indigenous Naka package). When I hear “Start with facial drainage soothing with our Signature Indigenous Aroma scent”, I (perhaps irrationally) expected actual drainage and a real scent… not just to be laid face down on a table with a small bucket of tap water, a leaf and two orchids in it. Let me be clear, there was no “facial drainage” and the lack of any focus on the face during this treatment was appalling.
-The blatant lies within the description. Additionally, “A heated compress invites back muscles to relax and ease before your choice of distinct essential oil blends is massaged into the body” would imply to me at least that I should get a chance to choose my essential oil. Was that a lie? We had no choice.
-Small details within the facility. While the grounds were well kept and some of the added amenities made for a great experience, there we many little things that made for an unpleasant experience. For instance, the scrapes, scratches, and discoloration of the wooden floors was a bit of an eyesore, especially when half of your treatment is spent face down with nothing to look at besides the aforementioned “facial drainage” station and said floors.
-The wrap up tea and relaxation. Please let me enjoy the kind and delicious post-treatment tea for at least one minute before you shove a black folio in my face expecting me to sign the tab. This in unprofessional and not something you should have your staff doing as part of the routine.

On the bright side, the staff was very friendly and delivered on what they were trained to do. I feel as though their management team set them up to fail though with so many flaws alongside the (what should have been a wonderful) experience.

For a spa that likes to claim itself as one of the top spas in the region, I expected far more. The affiliation with the Luxury Collection (and Starwood) makes people have higher standards. It is your duty to deliver on that. For such a premium price, consumers need a premium product…

(END EXCERPT)

Within a matter of hours upon receiving this feedback, the resort staff found us near the pool and began to apologize. They offered us a free treatment of our choice the following day, which we did take (and selected a Facial). That treatment, although far from our best ever, was significantly better. Still, though, it wasn’t anything to write home about (so I wrote it here instead).

All in all, MAJOR disappointment and I think the property should be ashamed. A true low point on an otherwise magical journey for us.

Til Next Time,

Michael

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