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Spa Travel, Nepal: The questionable capability of a clammy-handed chirapsia.

Updated: Feb 28, 2019

I have just returned from a spectacular volunteer trip to Nepal. My group painted classrooms in the Guira Shnkar Primary School in Kathmandu, celebrated Tahar with the school children and organised a mini-sports day with the older students. I, myself with one of the students, bailed on the collective sports day and had our own ping-pong/ table tennis tournament, which I lost...but only because their table was smaller than what I am used to (cough).

On our short break, our group enjoyed a seven hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara, a buzzy little city with the second largest population in Nepal. The town, which sits in the foothills of the Annapurna Range of the Himalaya, is bordered by Phewa Lake. Phewa Lake, otherwise known as Typhoid Lake is lovely to look at, and perhaps boat around, but maybe not best for swimming.

Pokhara is home to roughly one million temples, including the Tal Barahi, which sits in the middle of Typhoid/Phewa Lake. But the true showstopper here is the World Peace Pagoda, or Shanti Stupa, on Anada Hill.

Nichidatsu Fujii was a Buddhist monk from from Japan who organised the construction of the two first World Peach Pagodas in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bomb attacks at the end of WW2. His plan was to build Peace Pagodas all over the world, and he succeeded in organising 80 of them.

Construction of Shanti Stupa, by Nipponzan Myohotji with the assistance of the local community, started in the early 1970's, and, due to political pressures causing delays, was finally completed in the early 1990's. The stupa stands 115 feet tall and 344 feet in diameter. It depicts four phases of the Buddha's life, as visitors perambulate, always to the left, the stupa.

Sarangkot is another a magical little village of Nepal. Nestled on the mountainside at 1600 feet altitude, this is the place to come if you want to see a spectacular sunrise or sunset. Fighting the crowds to see the sun rise might seem a bit unpleasant to the jaded traveler, but once the sun reaches it's peak and touches the snow-capped heights of Dhaulagiri or Machhapuchhare mountains, you will realise it is worth battling the dreaded selfie sticks for supremacy and the perfect view.

Alas, this post is about massage.

Finally, I had some free time to myself, and planned to use this time, not in my rather icky hotel room finishing Circe, by Madeline Miller, but by sampling the local massage.

colourful mandala

When I wandered into the shop a few yards from my hotel, the workers were busy painting their Diwali mandalas on the pavement in front. so in tune to their artistic endeavours were they that I hastened to ask for some time. I did, however, and they obliged.

Not wanting to get naked or doused with oil only to have the notorious Nepali Dust descend on my body, I asked for the head and shoulder rub, which I assumed would be fully clothed and possibly upright. I was wrong.

I was asked to get naked and lie face down on a rather hard, and not too clean bed. the room was bright, noisy and cold. A girl, who appeared no older than 12 came into the room and told me she would be my therapist. I hesitated breaking child labour laws, but who was I to ask how old she really was.

She then jumped up on the bed with me, and stood over me. Bending from the waist, she proceeded to rub every part of my body that was not my neck or shoulders with the clammiest hands I have every felt. Such rough and clammy hands for such a young girl! I tried to enjoy myself, but found myself fantasising about five star hotels in Pokhara and what their spas might provide. I left a sizable tip, wished a happy Diwali, and got the heck out of there.

I immediately went to the star-rated hotel across the street and book an appointment for reflexology foot massage (still not wanting to get oiled or naked) for the following day.

This hotel was quite chic by my Nepal experience, so I felt quite comfortable following the concierge to the spa area. When I got to the spa, which was a cold and noisy portico, accessible from the hotel lobby, I found one man (boy), who instructed me to get naked and lie face down on the massage bed and cover myself with what appeared to be a super-sized hand towel.

I reminded him that I was there for reflexology, to which he replied, of course. He then jumped onto the massage bed, and stood over me. Bending from the waist, he proceeded to rub every part of my body that was not my feet (and included some rather uncomfortable side-leg stretches).

I left a sizable tip, wished a happy Diwali, and got the heck out of there. This time, I was resolved to the fact that I was never going to enjoy a luxury spa experience on my trip to Nepal and texted my daughter to book me an hour at our local spa for the very day I returned to London. I felt better already.

Both massage made me wanting more, and I will award no Cliftons for Comfort. But when on a volunteer trip to Nepal, I suppose it is best to just enjoy the experience, and the price, which was a steal.

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