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Vientiane for the body and mind

By: Marian Reid Posted: April-29-2008 in
Marian Reid

I had forgotten to stop and reflect on my body and mind – the healthy routine I had back in Australia had been left somewhere back in my old life, probably in storage with the rest of my things.

I was in need of a detox, my muddled mind in need of some calm reflection.

Luckily for me, Vientiane has its fair share of 'cleansing' havens; this rambling city has almost everything you need and without the crowds.

For me, the first step is always a good massage and The Oasis, next to Full Moon Cafe, is a wonderful place to start. This little business has taken on the luxuries of any spa back home. As soon as you step through the door to be greeted with soft music, calming water features and a cup of herb tea, the outside world just melts away. The staff are friendly and the traditional massages superb. Ask for Mr Loth and you won’t be disappointed. A massage here starts at 50,000 kip (US$6.50). Others worth a try are the slightly tired but still good value White Lotus just north of Nam Phu, popular for their blissful foot massages (45,000 kip) and Papaya Spa, which is perhaps the most indulgent place in town. Originating in the pretty western side of the old quarter near the Mekong, Papaya now has two locations in Vientiane. This would be the essential port of call for the true luxury lover.

There is always the part of me that thinks the best things in life lie down a small alley and to the right, which is exactly where I located my favorite foot massage place in Vientiane. Set just behind the Pho Dung noodle shop, Povusanh Massage practices traditional Thai massage, and at half the price of the more spa-like ventures. The ambiance may be missing, but my feet could not be happier.

There is only one thing that makes a great massage even better, and that is combining it with a sauna. Laos is famous for their herbal saunas – wood-fire generated steam infused with traditional herbs to heal, cleanse and energize. They are found all over the city in various forms, but by far my favorite place to unwind is at the leafy Wat Sok Pa Luang Sauna.

Run by the vivacious, friendly and funny Noy, this sauna is frequented by locals and expats alike, Sunday evening often becoming the sauna rendezvous for friends to chat about their weekend. The sauna is simply comprised of a rustic wooden structure, surrounded by rambling vines, tall trees and an air of seclusion. The sauna room – infused with sweet smelling herbal steam is next to an open area for sitting and drinking tea between hot sauna sessions. It's my idea of heaven.

The sauna also offers one hour traditional massage, once the muscles have relaxed and are ready for some pummeling, stretching and fine tuning. At only 40,000 kip, sauna and massage included, it's the best value in Vientiane and the ideal way to launch into the new working week. Of course, you can also just use the sauna for 10,000 kip.

With my body in shape, it's time to center on cleansing my mind. Ten years ago, the abbot at Wat Sok Pa Luang started a Saturday mediation session for the expat community, and it is still going strong. Following the tradition of vipassana, the one hour session is made up of 20 minutes sitting, 20 minutes walking and 20 minutes sitting and focuses on mind-body awareness. Participants are guided through the practice and given tricks to help them stop thinking about what to cook for dinner that night and more about ... well – nothing.

The small, open-air meditation temple is in a tranquil setting within the forest-like wat grounds. Monks are present at the session and participants can pay by donation if they choose. Get there 10 minutes early to settle into the mood – sessions start at 4pm.

Yoga is relatively new to the city, and at this stage there is only one dedicated yoga space. The beautiful Vientiane Yoga Studio is close to Wat Sok Pa Luang and surrounded by a lush and tranquil garden. The owner and teacher, Marnie McDonald is certified in the Sivananda style of hatha yoga and has earned a loyal following among the expat community. As soon as I find my place on a mat and stretch into the first downward dog I am overcome by that incredible sense of release yoga always brings. My body is saying “it's about time you did something right!” Classes run most days for 50,000 kip. Contact Marnie on 020 7608 365 for a timetable and directions.

So now that I have my mind and body sorted out, I can go back to my beer and late nights with renewed energy and state of mind. But perhaps it might be wiser to find a happy balance – everything in moderation, as they say.

user avatar Anonymous


When the working hours on person increases.We feel more stress and mentally disturbed.However,a massage therapy provide our body relaxation in genuine sense.Our body feel light and energetic and free of pain.Mental disturbance also went away.So every age people should enjoy massage and remain fit. With write massage body comes closer to soul.


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