Review: River Palace Spa — Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The sex industry looms large throughout Southeast Asia especially in the minds of westerners. Poon hounds and moral warriors alike can come to see the place as one big brothel. Among all of the countries in the area Cambodia may have the biggest reputation of as a home to all things vice. A big part of that undoubtedly a result of news stories covering illegal and underground outfits that attracted criminals and predators from around the world in the aftermath of the infamous civil war but there is more to the picture. More than a few have commented online and in print on areas like the streets lined with girlie bars near the riverside in Phnom Penh.
There are larger and more obvious adult oriented shops in Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines but for whatever reason people seem to be less effected by those venues. Apparently there is a sketchy sort of mist hovering over the land of Cambodia that gives a lot of foreigners the idea that sex is for sale in every nook and cranny. This seems to result from a combination of hype and an inability to understand the local language and culture. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Japan where flashy neon signs can give people the idea that all sorts of fun abounds.
A few years ago a commentor on this site mentioned that he came across numerous flashy signs in Tokyo that he thought were related to sex. They listed amounts of time next to prices. When he saw one hour for 2000 Yen he thought he had discovered a pinsaro. Then another and another. Eventually he realized that he was looking at signs for parking garages.
There are a lot of pinsaros in Japan and there a lot of shops selling sexual services in Cambodia too. But that doesn’t mean that every single venue is in the skin trade. People with some sort of worldliness and experience which I would like to think would describe a lot of readers of this website already know this.
The River Palace Hotel and Spa sits just north of Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh. The creation of the hotel was apparently a large local attempt at creating a luxurious hotel near the heart of the city. In actual fact the place is suitable but not really special in any way. Its size is not matched by the level of staff. Visiting the place one can easily find parking areas with missing security guards and empty halls and desks. Of course there are some people working the hotel and they are courteous enough but they are nothing like the staff at a place like the New World Makati in Manila or the Grand Park City Hall in Singapore.
That makes sense considering the location and the rates involved. A room at the River Palace in Phnom Penh costs just $32 USD per night. That’s a might lower than what you would pay at the aforementioned hotels.
Obviously this is not a review of the hotel as a place to spend a night. Rather it is a review of the “spa” element of the establishment which is open to everyone including those who are not staying at the hotel.
The River Palace is easily found on the riverside road just beyond the Japanese friendship bridge. It would be difficult to miss with a large sign in English. The spa section can be a little more difficult to find. It is accessible by passing through the hotel lobby and heading right but it also has its own entrance to the right of the main entrance.
Customers entering the spa lobby find a cavernous by mostly empty room. There is a small desk where the receptionist sits along with a cooler containing a number of drinks. The receptionist can speak basic English and is able to explain and book sessions even if the pricing system is elaborate and confusing.
A one hour oil massage using the best lubricant in house costs $26 USD. Some sort of ten dollar fee is than added to that for some reason. From the new total of $36 a $20 discount is offered. So the total ends up being $16. Why they don’t just start out by saying that a one hour oil massage costs $16 is anyone’s guess. Perhaps they need to find something for the receptionist to do beyond staring at her phone for eight hours a day.
At $16 massages at the River Palace cost more than they do at most other places around town. In low end massage shacks body rubs can cost as little as $2.50. In some of the better spas they are $10. I guess the large and somewhat elaborate structure has to be paid for somehow. Massages can be paid for after the fact.
Once selecting a type of massage customers are taken up a flight of marble stairs to one of many very large massage rooms. These rooms are among the biggest and cleanest to be found anywhere in the world. They are also outfitted with central air which is a big step up over the box air conditioners that are usually used in local massage establishments.
Customers are not given a choice of masseuses at River Palace though surely if they had the name of someone who they had used before in mind they would be able to make a request. In any even the women who work at the River Palace are mainly very attractive gals in their early twenties. They wear totally professional uniforms that suggest that no funny business is available.
Customers may have to wait quite some time after entering the massage room and changing before they see a masseuse. I do not know why that is. This is one of many questions that a visit to the River Palace gives rise to.
Once masseuses do arrive it is all down to business. The massages are well done and professional and the women who provide them are warm and kind but there is nothing special to be found. That means that the massages themselves are not particularly mind blowing even though they are quite good. It also means that no sort of sensual services are available at all.
In this the River Palace Spa joins the ranks of many other massage parlors around town including the previously reviewed Orange. Of course there are places that do offer sensual services. This is just not one of them.
Once massage sessions at the River Palace conclude customers are able to utilize a large and clean shower room to remove any oil on their body. This is a nice touch that a lot of places lack. Even when places around town do have shower rooms they are often very shabby.
Once customers finish cleaning up they can head back down the marble stairs and to the front desk where they can settle up their tabs and tip their masseuse who waits to big them a found adieu.
The River Palace has its share of idiosyncrasies but it is a decent option for a legitimate massage in clean and well appointed quarters. It even has a high score on TripAdvisor. Such a thing is not always so easy to find in Phnom Penh. Since this is website is focused on the adult industries I give the place one star.
River Palace Hotel and Spa. National Road No. 5, Sangkat Sras Chork, Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Open seven days a week, noon to 11:00 PM. Phone: +855 (0) 23-988-777 Website: http://www.riverpalacehotel.asia Map on website.