When I think of Thai massages, I envisage bamboo, plastic palm trees and pan-pipe music. And housewives and trust fund kids as the only people with the time or money to enjoy them. Nothing could be further from the experience at En Masse, in Gardens, Cape Town.
After walking in through an inconspicuous side door, I found myself in a truly beautiful space; a dark cocoon that blends old and contemporary, high ceilings and wooden floors with blue-black walls, sculptural details and cool white light glowing softly from tubes descending from above.
I was immediately transfixed by the sensuality of the interior design and the rich scent of essential oils. My masseuse, Louise, informed me that the scent is bespoke; En Masse Number 3. And it succeeds in making you feel cleansed and tranquil before you have even gotten into your white robes.
There is nothing try-hard or particularly Asian about the place; the vibe is somewhere between the chill-out room in an incredibly plush club, a boutique hotel, and going to the beach.
And the people are friendly and easy to talk to. I was escorted upstairs to the treatment room – a large space divided by moving screens of white fabric that form semi-private compartments as you slide them – and invited to lie on the white floor mat.
The massage then commenced. She began gently, at my feet, with her hands working magic from the first push. Before I knew it I was being bent and twisted, massaged and stretched. I was given a yoga massage, so named because it’s just like a yoga session, but without any of the effort. And the feeling afterwards is the same too; an incredible combination of rested and energised. I felt like I could have slept for a week.
The massage is dry, the idea being that you can dash right back to the office without anyone noticing you were gone. But there was no way I was doing that. There is a vast selection of teas to choose from, and I wallowed about for another hour, soaking in the relaxation and thinking about how much I didn’t want to re-join the real world outside.
En Masse is a brilliant idea. Making Thai massage a thing that you do when you have a gap between meetings or on your way home from work. There’s no need to book ages in advance, no messy oils on you, and no inauthentic Oriental twists. They have managed to distil exactly what it is about Thai massage that makes it so rejuvenative and packaged it in a convenient and stylish oasis of cool.
If you’re in Cape Town for the festive season, be sure to drop by. And if, like me, you’re one of the poor fools who works here and manages to feel almost permanently stressed, make room for a session or two every month.
En Masse offers Thai, Shiatsu, Reflexology, and Pregnancy massages and pricing starts at a reasonable R350 for a 60 minute session, with 90 and 120 minute options. Membership rates are also available. Their 47 different tea blends and filtered water on offer are complimentary.
For more info visit www.enmasse.co.za.