Two thousand years ago, in Roman empire times, you would have gone to the baths for your daily toilette. It was a necessity but also a social venue. In Bath, England, the Roman bath still exists but one cannot swim in it. In Algeria, there is a Roman bath that is still in use today.
When I moved to Rome, I did not realize how much of a spa culture Italy had. It is a normal thing to retreat to a spa town to take the waters. Ischia is an island famous for its waters.
The modern spa and retreat are all modern day equivalents of the Roman bath system.
Even today, one can get massages, treatments, food, drink, and socializing. All at the spa.
Some things are difficult to find in Bogota. Thai massage is one of them. The closest one gets is from Alvaro Silva. His phone number is 314-357-6656. Email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His massages are 90 minutes long and cost 150,000 pesos. (Massage therapists don’t usually receive tips, and some refuse, so that’s the set price.) Alvaro does Thai-, hot rock-, pressure point-, oil-, and Swedish massage. Plus, he also offers other wellness products like personal training sessions and exercise classes.
His massages are usually done on the floor on yoga mats (so he can pretzel your legs and arms) but he also uses a massage table if you have one. Only caveat with Alvaro is that he doesn’t speak English. It’s still easy to communicate with him and he can usually tell where you are in pain. Another thing that I like about him is that he doesn’t talk during the massage (unless you want to) and he doesn’t keep checking on how you like the session (I usually play music from a relaxation app on my phone so I tend to zone out and concentrate). Sometimes I wish that I had booked more than one massage because he’s spent the whole 90 minutes unknotting my back.
Most hotels have spas so one can get massages in fancy environments. I’ve only tried a few massage therapists and spas in Colombia. As this is Bogota, you can get the massage therapist to come to your house. The style of massage in Colombia seems to be mainly “Swedish.” I prefer pressure point and deep tissue. The other massages I’ve had here cost about half the price of Alvaro’s, but they were also only half as good. Most of the other massages involved lots of oil and Swedish style (light sweeping strokes). But, some people don’t agree with me and tell me that they get strong massages from other therapists (but each person has a different level of pressure that they like — one person’s pain is another person’s so-so).
My advice is to try them out and see which one you like.
San Andres is nice and has all the usual activities of a sun and sand vacation. Plus, San Andres has some decent restaurants and lots of duty-free shopping.
The only thing that I didn’t notice were too many spas. There was a spa on the beach. But as they appeared to be the only game in town, they only had 30 minutes massages available. They only had one massage table and it was separated from the public by a bamboo bead curtain (which was never closed). The main “spa” activity in the hut seemed to be the fish foot spa. Even with a reservation, we did not manage to get a spa treatment on the beach. We did find a hair salon that also had massages and manicures and pedicures.
Apparently, the smaller (less crowded) Providencia is much nicer than San Andres. Perhaps another time.
A. Spa at Home. There are several cosmeticians who come to your home for a full range of spa services. I have used only one and would like to take her with me to the end of the world. Since it is not possible, I am passing her onto you. Her name is Koli, number 01916355643. Koli does an outstanding Thai massage, as well as elaborate facials, body scrubs, excellent manicure/pedicures, waxing, etc. range. For mani/pedi she has the instruments, but I would advise having your own nail polish and top coats. If you have your own instruments, even better. Clearly, her services are much cheaper than a salon.
a. Nelos. I use them almost exclusively for blow-dry-s and for head and feet massages. All these are outstanding services.
b. La Femme. (in the same building). I use them mostly for massages and for manicure when my Koli was pregnant. I prefer Nelos for hair services. Salons also do hair for weddings and mehendi.
c. Que Bella on road 13 in Baridhara. While I was not impressed with the blow-dry there, they cut my small son’s hair exquisitely (he has long hair which has to be layered). Also, they have an unbelievable masseuse. She gave me one of the best massages in my entire life. Her name is Shiba, I think.
C. Eyelash Extensions. A recent discovery, Moo has a salon in banana, immediately after Jatra. Taneem Square at 158/E Kamal Ataturk avenue, top floor. Phone 01819192208. You must make an appointment. Cost – 2500 taka. Effect – stunning!
D. Laser hair epilation. If you have ever attempted this in the US, you’d know the high costs associated.Here, Dr. Manzur fromthe Apollo Hospital does these services, she has a machine and has been US trained as a dermatologist. Call 01713063089. Prices depend on the area you are working on, but you can buy packages as well.
How to live the good life in Dhaka? I will now share some recommendations from an expat who thoroughly loves her life in Dhaka. As she says, this is because she has learned to enjoy “the good life which is affordable here.” This first part is about tailors (she also mentions porcelain and spas which I will share next time).
a. Ferdous has extensive fabric selection, including a lot of linen. They copy extremely well (400 taka plus fabric), and make tuxedos (about 8000 taka). They also make excellent suits. Located on the north side of Madani Avenue near Gulshan 2 circle. Store is on the second floor, look carefully when you drive, they have a big sign outside).
b. K L Sweden (located across from Ferdous, on the south side when you drive on Madani Avenue to DIT2 market, the store is down a side street right after the VIP Photo building on the other end of the VIP Photo sign, which is not obvious from the main road; right next to Shinepukur plates store). They also copy shirts very well and have good linen. They also do tuxes. All very good quality.
a. Best copier of western clothes – European tailor, located at the corner of road 12 and UN road, keep walking from UN road in a narrow alley, it is right after another tailor and fish store. It has a bright yellow sign. It is down the alley once you see the fish store. Cheap.
b. Best tailor of Western clothes who can copy anything, or can make them from a simple picture (he is my personal favorite of all times!) – Johny, he comes to your house, his number is 01923270358. Johny makes fabulous ball gowns and costumes (for expats there are many balls each year… Glitter Ball, etc.).
c. Shaheen, also on road 12, is a popular choice. I do not use him, I hear he has a bit of an attitude and is relatively expensive.
d. For sarees and saree blouses and petticoats – Sharonika in Pink City. Located on the first floor (need to take the escalator once inside), and then simply ask for the store, it is a bit inside. As many will tell you, local tailors have trouble making blouses for our body types and I have found Sharonika to be very good at that. Prices are, as usual, cheap. For saree bordering (must be done for each new saree you buy) is only 250 taka.
e. I have heard a lot about the Russian tailor Svetlana, but have never used her. Apparently, she is quite artistic and good, but she is very busy and often out of the country, as well as quite pricey and opinionated on what you should be making, versus what you want to have made.
Another of the good things about life in Dhaka is getting pampered. While the spas and salons may not be as high end here as one would expect elsewhere, it is relatively inexpensive. I have had haircuts for 600 Taka ($8) which is not as cheap as it is for the locals but still inexpensive to me. The prices make it easy to go to the salon (usually ladies only) and get plucked, massaged, waxed, threaded…