Blind massage in Saigon

When a visiting friend whipped out her guidebook, together we stumbled upon what sounded like a magical way to spend an afternoon in Saigon: getting a blind massage. This was something a bit different from other things to do in the city; billed as a budget friendly ‘no nonsense’ spa, it sounded great and I agreed with the notion that blind masseuses would have an increased sense of touch.

Designer pillow

Designer pillow

Located on Cong Quynh, in district 1, a sign posted on a tree in a courtyard leads you to a staircase where a person waiting at the top takes your 60,000 VND and gives you a yellow card to indicate you’ve bought a one-hour massage. The building didn’t look great, but I didn’t expect much considering the ridiculously low price.

I got on the massage table, not sure what to expect. It started with a light kneading of my back. It was going okay, though the room was freezing, and my masseuse seemed to be enjoying herself as she chatted with her co-worker through the curtain partition. But that is where the fun stopped.

The kneading turned into what I could only describe as hard karate chops all over my back. Don’t get me wrong, I like a firm massage as much as the next guy, but this was beyond firm – it was painful. I felt a sinking in my heart. How could I politely critique a blind masseuse’s technique if they didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak enough Vietnamese? Thankfully the chops stopped, but they morphed into a rough kneading that travelled up my legs, to my arms, and lastly to my head, where my hair was rubbed into a terrible bird’s nest.

I couldn’t take it any more and luckily, for an unknown reason, my masseuse left the stall, giving me enough time to quickly redress and escape to the lobby to wait for my friend. It turned out that she had had the opposite experience: her massage was way too light. I guess it’s just the luck of the draw with your masseuse. In the end you get what you pay for and, while this may not have been the greatest massage of my life, for 60,000 VND it was certainly one of the most memorable and also for a good cause.

Angela Schonberg