If you’ve ever been to Southeast Asia, you know that there are a plethora of massage parlors to choose from. Posh or affordable. Full body or foot massage. Inside or outside. Oil or dry. “Happy” or not – (yes, that’s a real thing. And not a thing we would recommend.) Thai, Balinese, aromatherapy, hot stone…the list and options go on. So while there are endless choices out there, we at Mad Monkey like to find unique options for a great massage in Phnom Penh. And when indulging in an hour (or two!) of pampering also contributes to the local community and helps a great cause, who are we to refuse such a luxury?
Where to get a massage in Phnom Penh
If you’re looking for more than just a typical massage, get a blind massage for an amazing experience – whether you’re sore from hiking, cramped from a long-haul flight, in need of some serious body work from an injury, or just trying to find some AC to cool down. Unless you’re looking for a super glamorous spot, blind massage parlors are a perfect combination of culture and relaxation.
Massage in Phnom Penh: What is a blind massage?
A blind massage parlor is an establishment where the massage therapists are blind. While this may seem strange, think about it: people that have lost their sight tend to have other heightened senses. Blind massage therapists are known for being exceptionally intuitive and more focused on their sense of touch. They are often able to identify problem areas more efficiently and effectively.
Massage in Phnom Penh: Why get a blind massage?
Not only is getting a blind massage a unique experience, but it provides employment for people in Cambodia’s blind community. In a developing country where there is often already a lack of work opportunities, it can be even more difficult for those with disabilities to obtain jobs. With nearly 150,000 blind people in the country, blind massage parlors have become more and more common as this practice doesn’t require eyesight. We checked out Nika’s Seeing Hands Massage Therapy Center because of their superb reputation. While establishments like Nika’s provide excellent care for their employees, be careful as there are many businesses with the name “Seeing Hands”, none of which are connected to Nika’s. Many are copycats and some exploit their workers or encourage them to provide more than just massages.
Doing research is always important, especially with businesses like these. At Nika’s, they are all paid fair wages (a one hour massage is $7 and each employee receives half of that per hour they work – remember that this is also Cambodia) and Nika even provides them with accommodation. She personally trains each worker and ensures they all have an equal amount of work.
Massage in Phnom Penh: What’s a blind massage like?
The massage style at Nika’s is Japanese shiatsu. This type of bodywork involves a lot of pressure to different pressure points on the body. The massage therapists will use their thumbs and other fingers, palms and sometimes their elbows or even knees to apply pressure, which relieves tension and pain. They will also contort your body into different positions to stretch and pull different areas.
I was able to get a massage from Nika, the owner. “You carry a lot of stress in your shoulders”, she said, “don’t love your computer so much!” She did a quick assessment, pressing down on various areas. “You have lower back pains?” she asked. “Not that I know of”, I answered. After working on my upper body, she started on my lower back and sure enough, I could feel the tension she had detected before. “If it hurts, you can scream or kick me off” she chortled as she melted the stress away. After one glorious hour, I floated away, perfectly content.
Massage in Phnom Penh: A Bit of Background on Nika’s Seeing Hands
Nika is the owner of Nika’s Seeing Hands Massage Therapy Center and is also an advocate for the blind and visually impaired in Cambodia. She studied massage therapy at Maryknoll from 1993-1995 and also furthered her education in Japan. Knowing that her family couldn’t support her forever, Nika wanted to establish a career that would allow her to be independent and self-sufficient. Because healthcare for the blind isn’t stable, Nika was worried that she would be a burden on her family. She knew that massage therapy was a good skill for the blind, so she has dedicated her life to this practice and to helping other blind people become self-reliant and successful.
Massage in Phnom Penh: What You Should Know
If you’ve splurged on $100+ massages in other countries, this experience may be a bit different. Nika’s is a modest building between the neighborhoods of Tuol Sleng and the Russian Market. After speaking with the receptionist, you’ll be led upstairs to a large room with a row of beds. The dim room is neat and clean with lockers to store your belongings. You’ll be sharing the room with others so privacy isn’t really an option. They will provide you with fresh clothes to change into: pajama style pants and shirt and there’s a little curtain changing room to undress in. Once you lock up your belongings, there’s a little pocket on your bed where you can store the key.
The massage therapists will often kneel on the bed next to or over you to apply the appropriate amount of pressure. They will ask if you have any specific problems or pains (or they’ll just detect it themselves). You can tell them if you prefer soft, medium or hard pressure and change accordingly throughout if you’re feeling uncomfortable or feel like turning up the pressure. They will often have several layers between you and their hands – sometimes a sheet or a towel. Nika speaks excellent English and the level varies amongst the other masseurs.
You can choose between one hour, an hour and a half, or a two hour massage. The price is $7 an hour and they’re open every day from 7am-9pm. They often get booked up so call to make a reservation: 012948088
NOTE: Neither Mad Monkey nor the author is associated with Nika’s Seeing Hands. This isn’t a sponsored post, I just happened to stumble upon this place 🙂
Want to know more about blind massages in Southeast Asia?
If this article got you curious about blind massages in Southeast Asia, check out these articles for more information:
Healing Hands of the Blind from Mekong Responsible Tourism
Nika Triumphs Over Society’s Blind Prejudice by Elena Lesley from The Phnom Penh Post
Blind Massages of Southeast Asia by Rachel Hand from Worldette