“Gua sha” is one of the Traditional Chinese Medicine healing techniques which has recently become quite popular as part of massage sessions. It promotes blood circulation and detoxification by scraping lubricated skin with a small board with smooth edges. Skin will be streaked red as if bruised but the signs will slowly fade over 2 to 4 days. I have experienced “gua sha” before many moons ago on non-lubricated skin. Painful? You betcha! It was not an experience I wished to ever repeat again in this lifetime.
Nevertheless, the opportunity presented itself again when I purchased the Groupon offer for a Full Body Wellness Package at Oriental Spa. The package came with a choice between full body aromatherapy massage or shoulder and back massage with “gua sha” treatment. When I walked through the doors of Oriental Spa on the 5th Floor of Fahrenheit 88, I hadn’t yet made up my mind which option to take.
I didn’t even realise there was a spa on the 5th Floor of Fahrenheit 88 until I came upon the Groupon offer. The 5th Floor is also where you can find the Fahrenheit Suites gym and swimming pool. It is a good location for a spa since their clientele would mostly be from the guests of Fahrenheit Suites.
Although I was punctual for my appointment, it appeared my therapist wasn’t as I had to wait around in the stuffy waiting area for 10 minutes. I was a bit wary about going to a spa where male customers walked about freely (there is no men’s or ladies’ section as such, even the loo is shared). This is a 100% unisex spa.
The first part of the package was the foot bath and reflexology and for this, I was ushered into the cinema room where they have comfy armchairs but it was so dim in there with 3 tiny lights on the wall. I was left alone for a few minutes while the therapist went to prepare my foot bath. It was a bit unnerving to be waiting on my own in the semi-darkness. I was quite prepared to flee, my imagination was running wild by this stage. The therapist had better hurry back or……
Phew! She came back with a low bucket filled with warm water and lined with blue plastic. Again, I was left alone for 10 minutes. I should have twisted someone’s arm into joining me. Once 10 minutes was up, another therapist came in for the reflexology session. Strictly Chinese as she was from Shenyang, North-east China, 6 hours drive or 1 hour flight from Beijing.
Good opportunity to practise my spastic command of Chinese so I asked her a few questions in horribly broken Chinese which she seemed to understand since replies were forthcoming, not all of which I understood as she spoke so quickly and a little gutturally.
Half-way through the reflexology, two ladies stepped into the room and I believe they had also come in with the Groupon voucher. Such a relief to see them especially when one of the ladies started talking to me. Always nice to share the experience with friendly strangers.
After the reflexology which was quite mild, I was ushered into one of the treatment rooms which is ultra-spartan. There’s no shower cap or underwear to change into. The therapist brought in a bottle of oil and the “gua sa” board which is a rectangular piece of plastic.
It was half an hour of back and shoulder massage which was okay, nothing memorable or fantastic. The next half-hour was the “gua sa” session which was a little painful in some parts like when she started scraping my lower back. It was less painful on my shoulders and neck. It’s not “to-the-verge-of-tears” painful. It was tolerable pain for me but I think it could be uncomfortably painful for those with a low pain threshold. I did ask the therapist whether she had encountered men who couldn’t endure the pain and she said that there are.
Apparently, most of their customers are foreign tourists so I guess they are trying to attract more locals with the Groupon offer. I wondered how the therapists could communicate effectively with the foreign tourists (unless most of them are from China) when all they can speak is Chinese.
After the session, I had to use their loo. The cubicle I was in was smelly and it was worse than using a public loo. There were male customers walking around so I don’t think I would have been that comfortable using their jacuzzi or sauna (not that this was offered even though it is supposed to be included in the Groupon offer).
No hardselling at the reception when I was about to leave except they asked whether I would be interested in purchasing the same package again at the same price of RM78. Although the service was okay and I have absolutely no complaints about the therapist, I don’t think it’s worth RM78 for this kind of spa. Perhaps RM48 or RM58 at most. Furthermore, I don’t relish having to sit in almost total darkness in the cinema room again and having my skin scraped until it has red streaks. Once is more than enough.