Best spa treatments in Ho Chi Minh City

There are plenty of things to keep you busy in Vietnam's largest city, so it's worth taking the time to relax, unwind and de-stress. Luckily Ho Chi Minh City has some great spas if you know where to look.

two women relaxing in spa of ho chi minh city
  • Dana Filek-Gibson
  • June 2018

For all its charm, the allure of Ho Chi Minh City’s organised chaos has its limits. Spend some time in rush-hour traffic and even the most devout urbanite will tire of blaring horns, hazy skylines and white-knuckle drivers.

Peace of mind may seem impossible to achieve while dodging motorbikes or navigating the cacophony on any given street corner, but the city's residents manage to find ways to recharge in the big city. Meditation and yoga are popular, along with an array of spa treatments, from traditional-medicine practices such as cupping and massage to beauty-focused services including hair-washing, manicures and skincare treatments.

Some residents, however, are better at self-care than others – after an excess of caffeine, one too many nights out, and an avalanche of unread emails, I set out on my own quest to de-stress and experience the city’s more mindful side.

Enjoy a manicare on a spa day in Ho Chi Minh City
Enjoy a manicare on a spa day in Ho Chi Minh City

My first stop is Mandala Wellness, a holistic centre whose services run the gamut from juice cleanses to acupuncture, qi gong, and life coaching. As I sat down, feet-first, before my reflexologist Naomi, I was a bit apprehensive about the poking, pinching, and squeezing this might entail.

Naomi, however, puts me at ease. Feet, according to reflexology, serve as miniature maps of the entire body, and pressure applied to certain areas of the sole can break down the toxins in corresponding parts of the body.

The pokes and prods on the soles of my feet were strange but not unpleasant, and I could not have predicted the amount of information Naomi would be able to glean about my sinuses, neck and liver simply from my feet. She warned that the full effect of the treatment wouldn’t arrive until later in the day – and it did; come nightfall, I was out like a light – I walked out of the room feeling oddly awake and pampered from the ankles down.

Thoroughly detoxified, my next mission was to counter the wear and tear of the city's heat, dust and humidity. L’Apothiquaire, a plush District 3 spa specialising in skincare, boasts its own line of natural, organic products for this very purpose. My equally perceptive L’Apothiquaire consultant extracted the finer details of my personal skincare habits from nothing more than a momentary inspection of my face, and prescribed a 90-minute Soin Transparence facial to cleanse and heal my skin.

Ayurvedic, a traditional Indian massage technique.
Ayurvedic, a traditional Indian massage technique.

The first few minutes were spent bathing my face and décolletage in a hot, purifying steam before zeroing in on my blemishes. With each rejuvenating mask, I could feel my skin tightening. A light massage rounded out the experience, sending me off to a quick slumber before I was woken and ferried out looking a little brighter than when I arrived.

Peak relaxation, however, came at District 2’s Aveda Spa. Housed in a spacious villa, this spa employs the traditional Indian techniques of Ayurvedic massage. Catered to each individual’s prakriti, or body constitution, services feature a tailor-made combination of herbal oils and emphasise the opening of the body’s energy channels, which is believed to detoxify and revitalise.

Spa owner Poonam Barthwal explains the basic tenets of Ayurveda and assesses my body’s constitution through questions about my hair, skin, appetite and mood. My answers and pulse gave it away: I was a pitta, the constitution associated with fire.

My Ayurvedic treatment, abhyanga, consisted of a synchronised, four-hand full-body massage. At first, the feeling of many hands was a little jarring, but once the masseuses got into a rhythm I could feel my body begin to relax. The motions of abhyanga are slow and steady, covering the entire body head to toe.

By the time the massage was complete, I could have sunk into the table I was so calm. But a few minutes zipped up in a tent-like personal steam bath jolted me awake before I was sent back on my way – no closer to quitting caffeine, staying in, or clearing my email inbox, but recharged and ready to face the daily adventure of life in Ho Chi Minh City.