The Fellowship Converges in the East

Day 2 – Jet lag means into bed at 2am and back awake at 6am. Quite the opposite from yesterday’s late day of haze and laze. Hunger might’ve had something to do with the crack of dawn wake up, since my sole meal yesterday was that yummy bowl of faux pho soup. Rumbly belly and wide awake, I headed down for my first Vietnamese breakfast.Turns out it was nothing to write home (or in this blog?) about. A straightforward hotel buffet, featuring a variety of grub, including more typical western fare as well as miso soup, spring rolls, curries, and rice. While I love these flavors, I can’t bring myself to have them for breakfast for whatever reason, so I filled myself up on fruit (dragonfruit is a new favorite), some toast (passionfruit jam for the win), and Vietnamese coffee (still not sure exactly what this means, but I shall investigate!)

Post-breakfast I lay about for a teeny bit, did some reading, and then decided on the day’s schedule. There were two considerations for my planning: 1. making sure I’d be checking out from my hotel by noon and 2.) meeting up with Karen and Manny (YAY!) in the afternoon. Taking these into account, I decided it was the perfect time to go get me a massage. The prices are jaw-droppingly cheap here, I ran a marathon a little over a week ago, and, well, no further reasons really necessary.

After much scouring of Trip Advisor to make sure I didn’t end up in some seedy, not-exactly-massage-parlor establishment, I headed out to Saigon Heritage Spa in the heart of Ho Chi Minh city. I arrived early (website says they open at 9am, they say they open at 10am. *Shrug*) so to kill time I walked around the area, soaking in the soul of the city, and also pumping adrenaline into my system with those death-defying street crossings.

For whatever reason, when I returned to the spa I started to get nervous. Being in my birthday suit, in a room alone with a stranger, in a foreign country where I don’t speak a lick of the language, started to seem like maybe not the smartest idea. Before I had time to dwell on these thoughts, the woman at the reception had me fill out a form on my massage pressure preferences, and as soon as pen left paper, we were off down a dark hallway lit only by lanterns set along the floor. We wound up an equally dark stairwell, and down another long, dimly lit hall. My Hollywood-addled mind conjured opium dens and less-than-reputable establishments, but I shrugged off that silliness and followed my guide into a room with five to six massage tables. There was a little offshoot in the room, a small nook of sorts with a single table and hardly enough room to walk, plus a curtain for “privacy.” The woman I’d been following turned on the air conditioner, told me to undress and put my clothes in a black wicker basket, then closed the curtains and left. I did as I was bid and settled in to wait.

After about five minutes, which, of course felt like twenty-five, my masseuse arrived, asked me to turn onto my back, and I’m happy to report that the massage started off like a regular, Swedish-style experience. On a scale of 1 to 10 pressure, this woman is at an 11. She is strong like wolf. Also, whatever oil she used smelled a bit like a vaporub, but the massage was heavenly and honestly I kinda like vaporub so it was all good. When she asked me to turn onto my stomach, that’s when things got weird. Not like bad weird, just weird weird. I’ve never had anything other than a pretty standard, westernized massage. I think what followed for the second half of my massage experience was more of an eastern, perhaps Thai-style version? All I know is that as soon as I flipped over, she was suddenly on the table with me, using her whole body, and digging elbows, shoulders, even feet into my muscles. As it was happening I had this image of a crawly, spindly spiderwoman raking her limbs across me. While this description is borderline horrifying, it actually felt great. After this arachnid massage, came yet another type—hot stones. Those were on the verge of scalding, but I enjoyed even these after the initial “OMG MY SKIN IS MELTING OFF MY BODY” feeling (seriously tho, it was just a quick hot second, then twas delightful). How she managed to handle them with her bare hands, I have no clue.

All-in-all, it was a totally bizarre, but totally fantastic massage. Hoping to have a few more before I leave, especially since the grand total was $15 for a sixty-minutes!!! FIFTEEN DOLLARS! I left a five dollar tip, because paying anything less than $20 seemed unthinkable. As I closed my tab, I was given some fragrant hot tea to drink while I waited for the cab they’d called for me. Vietnam massage mission successfully accomplished. Two thumbs (elbows? feet?) way, way up.

I returned to the hotel, checked out a bit later than I was supposed to (whoops), and hung around until about 2pm when I met up with my dear sweet sis and her hubs. Poor guys were coming from a red-eye flight from Taipei, and were bleary-eyed and exhausted when they stumbled to our meeting point. Our little fellowship united, we went to get some lunch at another vegetarian place (food was gnoms), then coffee, then booked it to the airport to catch our plane to our first real stop.

The flight to Dong Hoi was one filled with a chorus of screaming children. Directly in front of us, to the right of us, behind us, and kitty-corner from us were children between six months and two years old, screaming up a storm 60% of the flight (I assure you that this is not at all an exaggeration). I don’t say chorus without meaning chorus either. One child’s wail would kick off the other, they would scream bloody murder together, if not quite in harmony, and sometimes they’d start a relay with their screaming song, passing the baton from one to the other. Needless to say, the sleep we tried to get was not the best, and we were beyond grateful when we found ourselves, at long last, in a cab and on our way to our hotel, soon to be snuggled in some soft, clean sheets and drifting off to sleep.

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