The Thais may be famous for their massages (which, for those who haven’t experienced one, are really rather painful and not at all relaxing). The Cambodians have got the foot massage down. A Cambodian foot massage is, truly, one of my favourite things.
Siem Reap is about as commercial as Cambodia gets, and as an entry point into the country (as it is for so many people, because of the famous Angkor Wat temples), can be a little intimidating. And that’s an understatement. As a friend who visited Siem Reap after we did commented, “Cambodia is hectic.” It’s not anything in particular, really, but there is a sense of desperation in the air that neighbouring Thailand doesn’t have, and the people are a little more forward, a little more in-your-face. There’s also the desperate poverty, and the very recent genocide that is evident in everything from the lack of local business initiatives to the profusion of fake universities and the rampant behind-the-scenes corruption.
But let’s get back to the foot massages. Because Siem Reap is so famous for the temples of Angkor Wat, it’s the kind of town where you pretty much have to walk a lot. A day or three at the temples is an unforgettable experience, but the constant walking around, sometimes fairly large distances, all day, means your feet will be aching within a day of arriving at Siem Reap.
This is where the foot massages come in. All the streets of Siem Reap (a not-very-large town) are lined with massage shops with big signs outside advertising hour-long foot massages for $5 to $7 (US). Yes, you read that right. A ONE HOUR massage for $5. And let me tell you – this is one amazing massage.
You walk in off the street tired and achey-footed, and are immediately treated like a king or queen. Your feet are washed, lotions is smoothed into them, and then the real work begins. The women who work on your feet are skilled and experienced at working on all manner of feet, and seem to know exactly where to press to release weeks, months, and years of tension. It is truly a wonderful thing. After an hour (a whole hour!) of massage, it feels as if you’ve been given a brand new pair of feet. It’s almost impossible not to skip down the street. And if, at the end of the massage, it felt as if the ladies were getting a little too close to our crotches in their upper leg massage, well, I’m sure that’s just a cultural thing. Just be sure to wear long pants. And don’t nod, wink, or agree to anything you don’t understand.
The massage itself is good enough without needing a happy ending.