Blind massage in Hanoi

I have a soft spot for a massage and often measure the civilisation of a town or city by the quality of their masseurs. In Thailand blind traditional masseurs are not unusual. Now they’ve found their way to Hanoi.

Hanoi has plenty of masseurs, they are overwhelmingly women and they work the Nha Nhnis – or guest houses where men can hire a room, and a handy masseuse, by the hour. And if you don’t want to go to the spas and beauty parlours that have now opened in Hanoi (quite OK masseurs there) where to go? My Vietnamese friends took me to a centre off Ngoc Khanh street in Ba Dinh, now Hanoi’s diplomatic quarter. Hahn welcomes me whilst my friend Nam Huong explains in Vietnamese about the kinks in my neck and the missing bits of my lower back – necessary as I couldn’t go into such detail with my basic Vietnamese.

Upstairs there are basic, screened off rooms; Vietnamese women often bring their own pyjamas to wear (in Thailand you’d be given a pair). The massage is rougher around the edges than what I’m used to in the best places in Thailand, where massage’s elevation to a temple art, experienced practice and a demanding middle class have refined approaches, techniques and reading the body rather than following a learnt technique.

But the young blind masseur has the basics in hand, so to speak, and the style here has echoes of that in Thailand, a mix of acupressure, muscle pressure/squeezing and stretches. He also uses a local balm and a heat lamp when massaging my back.  At night the centre is more than a workplace as the young masseurs, mostly from the countryside, eat and sing and play guitar together in between massage gigs.

Worth a try. But take Vietnamese friends with you the first time. Prices are ridiculously low – less than two Australian dollars for an hour’s massage. So, as its an institution which supports the blind through skills training I’d make an additional donation each time.

How to find it: Tam Quat cua Nguoi Mu (Massage by the Blind) is in Ngo (Alley) 94 off Ngoc Khanh Street in Ba Dinh, on the same side as, and about 100 metres west of the Ngoc Khanh hotel.


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