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Activity: An Unforgettable Massage at Le Parfum Spa

For my first time in Halong Bay, I was expecting what most people do: adventurous treks, sightseeing, stunning natural beauty, and maybe the occasional moments of downtime aboard a sailboat. Though that turned out to be true, there was a lot more I didn’t expect when I booked my tour on Paradise Elegance. Among those unexpected experiences was the onboard Le Parfum Spa.


I read about the spa services, as well as all the other amenities on board, but I was skeptical. I didn’t expect the spa facilities on a Halong Bay cruise boat to be full-featured or feel like a full-blown spa-like I’ve been to before. But from the moment I stepped onto the boat through a shower of rose petals, immediately greeted by friendly staff with a welcome drink, I began to suspect there was a lot more to this than I had anticipated.


A Day of Discovery

My priority, of course, was to explore Halong Bay, get a sense of the local culture, see the sights, and take some photos for my friends and family back home. And those expectations were met from the first day, even as the cruise first began and those amazing rock formations surrounded us, slowly drifting by. It didn’t even feel real like I was on the set of a movie that takes place in a mystical jungle world. Our first stop was the pearl farm, and I got a fascinating insight into how pearls are harvested. I decided to take advantage of the option kayaking opportunity at this location, and I loved it. It really felt like I was taking the adventure into my own hands and exploring the bay on my own.


After this excursion, we headed over to Sung Sot cave (the crew called it “Surprise Cave”). And it was, indeed, surprising! I walked in expecting to see some interesting rock formations, but the inner chamber was actually stunning, like natural colosseum full of unbelievable natural erosion patterns and stalactites and stalagmites formed over thousands of years. This was a long, winding path with lots of stairs, so it did push me a little bit! But the views and the natural beauty were well worth it. 


Needless to say, after an afternoon of kayaking, strolling, and climbing quite a few stairs, I was ready to relax. I found myself needing to take a break, and this was when the spa treatments began to sound tempting. I asked one of the staff for a menu and when I got a look I was actually floored by how many choices there were. There was an entire array of facials, as well as massages in different styles like Balinese and Vietnamese, plus massages that target individual parts of the body (like back, legs, and feet). Having worked my upper and lower body that day, I decided to go for a full body treatment, and what better way to experience Vietnamese culture that to choose the Vietnamese massage?


Origins of Vietnamese Massage

As I later learned, the art of massage is actually an integral part of Vietnamese culture. It’s a tradition that has formed over thousands of years and has recently expanded and evolved to incorporate elements of Japanese, Swedish, Chinese, and Thai massage. The Chinese influence, however, is probably the most notable characteristic of Vietnamese massage.


Vietnamese massage deals primarily with points of tension in the body and using focused, steady pressure to relieve them. While this may sound intense to the uninitiated, it’s actually a very gentle, effective, and relaxing massage style. Of course, no two massages are quite the same and everyone has different, specialized needs when it comes to massage. You’ll want to make sure you communicate with your masseuse which areas are sensitive or need extra attention, or which areas you’d prefer to avoid.


A Treatment I’ll Never Forget

Before the massage began, I filled out a short questionnaire with basic questions about my health and preferences, and I could even circle the parts of my body that I wanted the masseuse to focus on. I waited for a minute sipping on some cucumber water before the masseuse emerged from the parlor and invited me to enter. This was a massage parlor unlike any I’d ever been in. 


The only way I knew I was on a boat was because of a small circular window almost looked like a small movie screen showing the gorgeous Halong Bay scenery slowly drifting by. Otherwise, this parlor had all the characteristics of a full-blown spa. Gentle, zen music played as a pleasant, but not overpowering herbal aroma filled the room. The masseuse was sure to ask me if I needed to adjust anything about the environment—temperature, music, etc. I decided to go with the music she had selected and for me, the temperature was just right.


I chose the 60-minute treatment and I did not regret it. My masseuse spent a lot of time on my back, which I had indicated on the questionnaire prior to the treatment. She focused on pressure points and gently kneaded away some tough knots, but asked me if the pressure was okay. I told her she could apply a little more, but it was nice to know that she was paying attention and tailoring the message to my preferences throughout. 


For the final phase of the massage, I sat up as the masseuse gently “chopped” up and down my back. I felt like I was in a daze or a trance, my body was so thoroughly relieved and relaxed. It was not how I expected to leave the session. Thinking back I can’t compare that experience with any other I’ve had. Perhaps it was more than the masseuse’s skill. It could have been the gentle drifting of the boat, subconsciously lulling me into a sense of total calm. The mysterious wonder of Halong Bay is an enigma unto itself, but the experience of Le Parfum Spa aboard Paradise Elegance was undoubtedly one of the most unexpectedly luxurious and delightful experiences I’ve ever had in my travels.


Choosing Paradise Cruises

There are so many cruise companies in Halong Bay offering day trips and overnight stays. But Paradise Cruises seems to operate in a class of its own—the crew confirmed with me that even the short day cruises offered spa treatments! It’s not something you might think of as essential when traveling to a natural paradise like this, but let me tell you, the relaxation and calm I felt after my treatment (and, admittedly, a couple of treatments more the next day) really set the tone for my entire visit, allowing me to fully enjoy the experience of Halong Bay while feeling completely relaxed and refreshed. Paradise Elegance also had astoundingly nice cabins with private balconies, as well as some of the best food I’ve had throughout my travels in Vietnam. 


Don’t miss your opportunity to experience the best of Halong Bay while treating yourself right! Paradise Cruises will surprise you at the kind of experience that is possible on a simple cruise ship in Vietnam’s most famous natural wonder.