One of the nicest things about living in Asia is taking full advantage of body treatments like massage, manicures, hair styling and more. It's part of everyday life for the locals but for falang, it's a treat that now is both affordable and accessible, and we're all more than happy to indulge. And why not? It's good for you.
Here, I've done the hard yards for you and found the best spa and massage treatments in Vientiane. Here are my favourites, in no particular order...
The best facial care: Lily Spa
Lily Spa is known for its facials and personally, I really love them. They only use French products which smell heavenly and are very moisturising and gentle (I have sensitive skin). It's a very soothing experience for the delicate skin on our faces that's exposed to the daily grind of sun, dust, dirt, humidity and general life. The facial also includes an amazing face massage, plus hand, arm, shoulder and leg massage.
They also have facial waxing (and other forms of waxing) and eyebrow shaping. They take a great deal of care with their facial treatments, which also means don't be in a hurry. It takes about 20 mins for eyebrows and an hour for a facial.
Other services: Lily Spa also do great body massages, body scrubs and wraps, sauna, and skin and scalp dermatological checks.
Location: Lily Spa is on Rue Dongpayna right next to Joma 2 (Phonthan). Open Mon-Sat. Drop in or book ahead.
The best nail care - Cleo Salon
If you're after a really good, long lasting manicure and/or pedicure, you'll want to visit the upmarket Cleo Salon. It recently moved into a new, bigger space and is very popular with falang and hi-so Lao alike. The manicurists take infinite care and time to do a really professional job.
Other services: Cleo Salon also does hair cuts (see below), colour treatments and professional makeup.
Location: Cleo is off Thadeua in Ban Watnak, down the paved road next to the Singapore Embassy. Open every day except Wednesday. Book via message on their Facebook page.
The best shampoo & blow dry - Mr Barber
If you're after a clean, professional and affordable place to get your frizzy falang locks under control, look no further than the Korean-owned Mr Barber.
First up is the most thorough hair wash you're ever likely to encounter; 20 minutes (I timed it). Personally I'd swap out the 3rd shampoo for a really good scalp massage but that's just me. Nonetheless, it's a relaxing experience accompanied by a versatile playlist that transcends the ages from the Beatles to George Michael to Britney Spears. A wash and blow dry sets me back 32,000 kip (about $A5) and I always tip.
Other services: Mr Barber also does men and women’s hair cuts, colour and other hair treatments.
Location: Mr Barber is next door to K-mart near Rue Dongpayna. First come, first served.
Best women’s hair cut: Michelle
Michelle is an Australian expat and long time Lao resident. She’s very familiar with falang hair and styles and colours to suit individuals. I first met Michelle when I was suffering a post-haircut trauma via Bangkok. She totally sorted me out and now I’m a regular customer. Her clientele are all falang and the prices reflect that.
Other services: Michelle also does colour treatments and eyebrow shaping.
Location: Her part time hair studio is on Rue Manthatourath downtown, above the new Rays Grille and opposite the Lao Airlines building. Bookings essential. Ph: 2077895721.
Best kids’ haircut: Cleo Salon
I’ve tried lots of different hairdressers for my daughter’s relatively simple haircuts (including Mummy cuts, and I can’t even draw in a straight line) but by far the best solution for all is the “grown up” experience at Cleo’s.
If your child enjoys lying down for a relaxing shampoo (made possible by the addition of several cushions on the chair), big mirrors, bright lights, “special spray”, undivided attention and two cookies each, Cleo’s is the place for you. Cost 70,000 per child (A$10). Book ahead.
Mr Barber also receives good reviews for kids’ cuts but factor in possible wait times.
If you know me, you know I love massage. I love the smell of the essential oils, the comforting sensations of muscle-kneading, back-stretching, joint-squeezing pain, and the complete freedom of being unable to do anything else but drift off with my thoughts. And sometimes fall asleep.
The best foot massage: Manee Spa
Manee Spa is always open, professional and clean. Their foot massages are particular good. Some masseuses are better than others; if you find one you like, remember her name! All the masseuses have been trained and there's minimal fuss or conversation so you can chillax in peace. The front desk ladies speak some English so tell them (rather than your masseuse) if you want something in particular.
Other services: Manee Spa also offer full body massages, body scrub treatments, nails and waxing.
Location: Manee is off Sokpalang Road, in the soi next to Sisavong minimart. You can't miss the big wooden sign with gold lettering. Open every day. Drop in or call ahead (advised).
Best upmarket massage: Tangerine Garden
The scent of cinnamon and jasmine arrests you before even entering this restored French villa with its tiled floors and water features; Tangerine Garden Spa is a really lovely space. Given the location, it’s especially popular with tourists. I’ve had hit and miss massage experiences here though so I’m sure to specify exactly what I want at the outset.
Other services: Tangerine also offer facials, body scrubs, and sauna treatments.
Location: Tangerine Garden Spa is opposite the Ansara Hotel, downtown. Drop in or book ahead.
Best local: Embassy of Wellness
The Embassy of Wellness is what I think of as a good local - it’s has reliable massages in a clean, peaceful and professional environment. The massage rooms favour an opulent (yet tasteful) style and the masseuses are both Lao and Thai.
Other services: Embassy of Wellness also offer hair care, styling and nails.
Location: Inside the complex on the corner of Lao Thai Rd and Thadeua in Ban Watnak. Drop in or book ahead.
Best private massage
Some of the best massages, and my personal favourites these days, are via the private services of two enterprising Lao women who visit your home. Ms Vanh and Ms Banchai both run their own businesses providing massage treatments to Lao and falang clients in their homes. You provide the space and towels, they’ll bring the oil and expertise.
Ms Vanh will soon also be available for massages at the new In Cafe in Ban Watnak. Ph: 02054577454. Ms Banchai: 2077806286.
If you have a particular health concern, try a holistic massage from naturopath and massage therapist, Petina Rains. She’s available for consultations and holistic massages by appointment. Check out Village Health Vientiane for more details.
Champa Spa, Papaya Spa, Dalah Spa, Lao Mekong and “that place next to Once Upon A Time Cafe” are all worth visiting!
Got another place you prefer? Please drop a comment below.