If you’re in Southeast Asia, you can not avoid being bombarded with offers for massages. There are almost as many massage parlors as there are tuk-tuks, and that’s a lot. From fancy spas to back alleys, your massage choices can be overwhelming. If you’re in Siem Reap, Cambodia, though, you have the chance to do a bit of extra good with your massage budget.
At Seeing Hand, massages are given by blind people. The idea is twofold: 1) lacking vision, blind people are more tuned into their sense of touch and can better target those subtle knots and tight spots and 2) this provides a valuable job opportunity to individuals whose options are otherwise limited.
The massage is $7 for an hour, which is pretty reasonable by any standard.
In order to avoid disappointment, know what you will be walking into. This absolutely does not qualify as a fancy facility. In fact, I found it a bit dirty and unprofessional. But the massage was decent and for a good cause, which balances out a lot of the negatives (in my view).
Seeing Hand is in someone’s home and, if you’ve been in Cambodia for more than a minute, you will know that the average home is extremely basic by Western standards. This particular home is down a side alley and is a very simple wooden structure with one main room and a smaller room in the back (that appears to be where the family sleeps). If you need to use the bathroom, note that it will be the family’s squat-style toilet.
The main room has five massage beds in it with no separation or privacy between them (or the rest of the house/alley). When I arrived, several children were playing in this area and continued to play just outside the open door during the whole time I was there.
The masseuse did not speak English and the initial conversation (‘I’d like a massage’ and ‘hey Dad, this girl wants a massage’) was with one of the children. There was no talking after that except a ‘thank you’ on my way out.
The massage attire was not discussed and I’m not sure how everyone else handles this, but I opted to stay fully clothed. If you go a different route, note that you will be asked to turn over about three quarters of the way through so the masseuse can get to the fronts of your legs. No cover sheet is provided.
Although the overall feel of the place is a bit dirty, the sheets on beds did seem clean, which is the most important part on that front. This is no frills all the way. There’s no relaxing music, no aromatherapy, and no massage oil.
The massage was decent, although certainly not the best I’ve ever had. That said, I am not a fan of the popular (painful) style around here that involves a lot of knuckles and elbows jamming into you until you nearly scream. Some people really like that and say they feel great afterwards; I do not. This massage did hurt, although it was only grit-my-teeth bad for a few minutes.
Unless you go to a very fancy spa (probably in a Western hotel and with Western prices), though, you’re probably going to get something similar in most of the places calling out for your business as you walk down the street. With that in mind, and even with all of the things I’ve mentioned above, I do recommend you check out Seeing Hand while you’re in Siem Reap.
Pro Tip: Have exact change ready (including any tip), as the visual and language barriers can make it difficult to deal with change.
Supporting career training or career options for disadvantaged people is a nice thing to do when you can. For another option in Siem Reap, check out my post on HAVEN, a fantastic restaurant helping disadvantaged young adults.
Seeing Hand Address: 324 Sivatha Blvd, Siem Reap, Cambodia