For any woman like me who enjoys a bit of shopping; Bangkok is guaranteed to not only satisfy every desire but break your wallet but your feet, shoulders and back in the process.
The danger and the lure is of course that as the shops are open from 10am till 10pm everyday, it’s impossible not to keep going on adrenalin and sheer greed.
And so it was, after a day of running to catch trains, hopping on boats and traipsing around endless markets and shopping malls; lugging ever increasing numbers of shopping bags, I collapsed onto my bed at the hotel bone weary and aching all over. My feet were killing me, my shoulders were sore and my back felt like a mule had kicked it. How on earth was I going to manage another epic shop the next day in this condition?
If this this your experience (and in my humble opinion if it isn’t, you haven’t really ‘done’ Bangkok) look no further than the Urban Retreat opposite Terminal 21 shopping center and right next to the Asok BTS station in Sukhumvit.
Having read mixed but generally positive reviews on various fora I didn’t really know what to expect apart from unfriendly reception staff and inconsistent service but I was willing to take the risk given the alternatives in the area all looked a bit dodgy with lady boys hanging around outside and dimly lit rooms with grimy looking massage chairs. I really needed somewhere clean and inviting after my day trudging around the city. And frankly, I deserved it after all my hard work!
The receptionists were professional if perhaps not very engaging but they quickly retrieved my booking and had me seated in no time. I did tell them that I had read mixed reviews about the massages and was immediately reassured when they told me that if I was unhappy with my therapist or my massage, I could stop after 10 minutes and they would either refund my money with no questions asked or find an alternative therapist for me.
The reception area is clean and modern and despite the water flying everywhere outside due to the Songkran festival celebrating the Buddhist New Year, sparkling clean. Very reassuring. I had arrived soaking wet and covered in talcum powder, the result of several ambushes on my way there and not an eye was batted as I sat in the most comfortable, upholstered chair I could find. Bliss.
I had opted for the deep moisturizing Macadamia Oil Massage with hot herbal balls at 1900 baht which while not cheap at nearly $60 was well worth it; delicious is the only word that comes close to describing how lovely it was. I had a shower in the room before the massage began and was given protection for my hair and cotton disposable knickers to put on. All I can say is that for two hours every single knot in my body was soothed and coaxed into absolute submission by my wonderful masseuse! The tension and aches disappeared relatively painlessly and the hot herbal compresses that were rubbed over my body after the massage lulled me even deeper into semi consciousness.
After I had dressed and renegotiated the labyrinthine passageways back to the reception area I was offered an extremely sweet cup of tea and as much time as I needed to get my wits together. I rather liked that I had paid beforehand too though it had seemed odd at the time. No sour feeling at the end when after all that lovely relaxation you get hit with a bill. It also helps prevent that last minute buying of all the oils, soaps and shower gels that are temptingly on display.
I will definitely go there again. The next time though I’ll make sure I make my bookings a bit further in advance as they fill up quite quickly and it can be difficult to get a last minute booking.
Prices are definitely on the high side for the area but for the experience I had and the fact that I was able to repeat the same madness of shopping the next day in fine form, it was worth it.
Jacqueline Beaty is a freelance journalist who discovered a love of travel from an early age, living in such diverse places as Europe, Africa and Asia. Having raised a family she is now based in Phnom Penh, starting a business which happily allows her the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the region.