A Red Yao herbal bath at the Victoria Sapa Resort and Spa

No 11, Vol.5, December 2015 – January 2016

Photo: Victoria Sapa Resort and Spa

At the mountain resort of Sapa, I had got up and finished breakfast by seven o'clock; much earlier than usual for me. My tour guide telephoned to announce she would be arriving late. I had suddenly found myself with time on my hands. I decided to use this to experience something intriguing I had read about - a Red Yao herbal bath. The Yao ethnic minority are named after the red head gear worn by their women whom you see all over this small town; the hats cover both head and ears and are useful in the cold Sapa winters, I imagine.
After a short stroll from my hotel and up fifty metres of steps, I found myself at the doors of the Victoria Sapa Resort and Spa. At the lobby, I requested this spa treatment. They suggested, as my time was limited, that I try a half-hour body massage and half hour soaking in the herbal water. I was informed it would take some time to prepare the bath, but while I was waiting, they served me a pot of complimentary green tea in their breakfast restaurant, which had a panoramic view of the mountains.
Soon, I was in a buggy being whisked away to the hotel's recreational area. It is only a hundred metres away, but up a very steep hill. Apart from the spa, there is a grassy badminton field, a petanque (French bowls) rink and a first for me in Vietnam - a heated indoor swimming pool!
A charming young masseuse was there to greet me. She asked if I wanted to be rubbed hard, medium or soft and said to just ask if I wished to change the pace. There was an element of aromatherapy as she used a sweet-smelling ointment. In addition, there was meditational music playing in the background.
On I went to the herbal water, heated to lukewarm and poured in a hard plastic tub, an imitation of the true Yao tub, which is made of wood. The water was dark brown, the same colour as the herbal tea my wife in Saigon prepares and which I drink almost daily. It seemed almost sinful to waste an herbal tea by sitting in it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my half hour soaking and also the sweet smell of the water.
Later, an English friend and long time resident of Sapa told me that people often include this treatment along with to their trekking and the best Yao village for this is Ta Phin. It can cost as little as four dollars. He added that it can used to treat all kinds of ailments and the Yao use it in particular for women who have just given birth.
At all events, I came away feeling well toned-up for a day's trekking and feeling it had been time and money well spent
Prices - a one hour aroma therapy massage costs 1,000,000 dongs. Red Yao herbal bath for 550,000 dongs.n

Victoria Sapa Resort and Spa
Xuan Vien St, Sapa, Lao Cai Province
Tel: (020) 3871-522,

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