Tok Zen

Tok Zen

This is Thai massage with a twist and not for the faint hearted – alongside using pressure from the hands, knees and elbows in the traditional way, a wooden hammer and chisel are also deployed to work the meridians (or zen) of the body and unblock the flow of chi.

The story is that this rather specialised form of massage was invented by farmers whose exhausted bodies needed more serious therapy than that offered by the usual massage style. Simple wooden tools like hammer and chisel were also readily available, and can be used with much less effort needed from the masseur.

My long suffering husband was brave enough to try this, and at the time did not find it any more painful than a proper Thai massage can be. By the following day, however, he was definitely suffering the after effects, especially along the arms and legs where the tapping went closer to the bone.

Investigation reveals that the best tok zen tools are made with wood from a tamarind tree which has been struck by lightning, then blessed by a Buddhist monk. It seems unlikely this was the case with the hammer and chisel used in the Silom massage parlour we visited, but the experience was something special nonetheless!


Water Massage

So, there you are on a shopping spree in the mall, needing a pick-me-up. A massage would be perfect, but you don’t have the time or the inclination to check into a spa, strip off and end up an hour later slick with scented oil.

Many places run a thriving trade in 10 minute shoulder massages or coin operated foot massage machines – this comes somewhere in between and is highly entertaining to boot.

The water massage machine is a large metal pod in which you lie down, fully clothed and protected by a thick rubber sheet, whilst being pummelled by jets of water. It works a treat, and you emerge invigorated but unscathed.

Not that the sensation isn’t completely weird, however. It is somewhat disconcerting to be shut inside the massage capsule in the first place, even though the end is open so your head is more or less in the open air.

Then the sensation of being under the great sprays of water whilst remaining completely dry is very odd – like trying to shower through the curtain, or walking in a river in waders.

It is also incredibly noisy as the water pounds against the thick rubber sheet, which is why you wear ear protectors.

But a 10 minute blast is a lot of fun and at £10, well worth it for the amusement value as well as the invigorating effect. We tried this in London’s Westfield and would do it again any time.

Facial Massage Cream

Facial massage is something most Western women only experience as a small part of a regular facial, tucked in between the cleansing, the treatment and the moisturising at the end. In India, however, it is a mainstay of the typical beauty regime, and usually involves natural plant-based products rather than high-tech chemical formulas.

I found this facial massage cream in Mumbai, ready prepared in a handy tube, and thought it well worth taking home to try. From Jovees Herbal Care, it contains lemon, orange, papaya enzymes, wheatgerm, sugar cane, avocado, pineapple extract and vitamin E, each ‘carefully chosen to help skin regenerate its natural defence’.

According to the packaging, the fruit enzymes help soften and heal the skin, the vitamins restore smooth radiance and collagen elasticity, and the whole product encourages lifting of dead skin cells to leave the complexion glowing.

Keen to give it all a go, I was stopped short by the instruction to use the cream with raw milk and massage for 20 minutes. Apparently plain water is an acceptable alternative, but still – 20 minutes is rather a long time… I did manage a few minutes though, and found the suggested circular movements very therapeutic and relaxing.

I was expecting this product to be rich and hydrating, but adding water actually turned it from cream into milk, and rather than being absorbed into the skin it needed wiping away with wet cotton pads. Washing your face at the end is recommended, which means you then have to apply yet more cream to moisturise your skin.

Never mind, I liked this quite a lot and will be using it again.