I have been to a spa a few times in my life however nothing has ever compared with the spa treatment we received in Phnom Penh. This can only be described as a traditional Cambodian spa treatment, with capital T.
We were lucky enough to be introduced to a lovely lady named Jah, who is from Cambodia, and who happily took us to the spa. She told us that we were going to a spa to enjoy a traditional herbal steam experience.
Not really knowing what to expect, I just thinking maybe a normal steam room with some oils in the steam and maybe a ginger/cucumber drink to go with it.
When we got to the spa we quickly realised that this was very far from the experience we envisaged.
We arrive to a building with a sign saying “Medicinal steam bath (sauna)” so this is a good start. We then walk in through the door, leave our shoes on the side and continue to the back of the property, through what seems like someones living room. A slightly strange start to the spa treatment however we just go with it as we know we are in good hands with Jah.
The lady hands me a long skirt and tells me to put this on. I am slightly confused, as it just looks like a long skirt, however seeing one of the other ladies I quickly understand what to do with this, aka don’t come out of the changing rooms topless!
While I am getting the ready a lady is mixing different products in a bowl. I have genuinely no idea what most of it is. However I did manage to see some of the products. This included full fat milk, yoghurt, turmeric amongst other things. Jah tells me the lady mixing the products is in fact a doctor and knows what she is doing.
Once we are ready in the skirts/shorts, we get given an orange. Confused I am thinking great, I could really do with an orange right now. But no, the orange is to scrub ourselves down with, a bit like if you were to exfoliate. One of the ladies comes over to help, this is a pretty nice treat. A lady rubbing me down with an orange. Not something I ever thought would happen. Once this part is over we start again however this time with the yellow mix from before. Again one of the ladies comes over to help the “scrub”, a very nice feeling. I accidentally get some of the mix in my mouth, I discover that it actually taste ok.
Once we are completely covered in the yellow mix it’s time for the steam room. Again expectations versus the steam room didn’t compare. I can only describe this as a small broom-cupboard with steam and a few stools to sit on. There is a small hole in the ground where the super hot steam comes from.
Even though we felt like we were sitting in a broom-cupboard we really did enjoy the steam sauna. The steam has some aroma in it and it feels really good to sit and sweat for 20 min in the room with the lovely aroma. Once the time is up we hear a knock on the door, time to get out. It’s now time to relax and cool down with a break.
We are offered a banana. Very confused, we look at each, both covered in yellow milk/yoghurt/turmeric mix and don’t really know what to do with the banana. Are we supposed to rub the banana over our bodies like the orange or what? Nope, how silly are we, this is just for eating.
Once we have had a shower to wash of the yellow mix we are told to cover our bodies in some sort of body oil.
We then enter the steam room again, this time only for 5 min. This was the last part unfortunately, then we had a shower again to wash off the oils and get dressed.
This herbal steam treatment made my skin so soft and all done with edible (I think) product. If only I could go here every week. In Cambodia they say the smooth skin of the Cambodians is down to these herbal treatments.
Here in Cambodia, traditionally after giving birth, the new mothers take this traditional herbal steam sauna for recovering.
There were lots people at the spa, both men and women, however no other tourist were there at the time we were.
I would definitely recommend trying this out if you have a few hours spare and happen to be in Phnom Penh. The treatment cost only $5, so worth trying even if you are not a spa kind of person.
It’s in a bit of unusual place but don’t let that put you of trying this experience. This is the most authentic Cambodian experience I have had and probably always will be.
How to find the steam sauna
At the end of Preah Chey Chatha street and Ung Pokun Steet (St. 109), there is no number on the building but it’s not difficult to find once you get there.