Thanks to the scorching Cambodian heat and humidity, my skin has seen better days. And frankly, sharing our bed with a colony of fire ants hasn’t helped. Cher and I have admittedly spoiled ourselves with the inexpensive options at the U and Me Spa next to our hotel. On our second to last night, we decide to take advantage of the “full” spa package: Citrus body scrub, steam room and 90 minute massage for a whopping total of $72 for both of us. Cher points out the irony of having a spa treatment prior to our visit to Stung Meanchy, the city’s garbage dump that we have on schedule for Saturday evening. Nonetheless, we sally forth to U and Me and are greeted warmly by the staff. Not surprising since we have been in there every day.

Our spa experience gets off to a less than auspicious start. Our two spa attendants show us to a room and ask us to strip down except for the oh so flattering paper panties that they have provided. “This isn’t so bad” I think, as they prepare to leave us to change when one of the girls exclaims, “Oh, I forget!” She dashes over to a cabinet drawer and proceeds to pull out a spa bra for each of us.

Let me add a disclaimer that the majority of the women here in Cambodia are, shall we say, a bit smaller in the chest region. And I, by virtue of some pesky DNA family traits, most certainly am NOT.

The spa bra is, at best, a size A. As the spa girl turns to leave I attempt to explain that this product, in no way, is going to work. This would be embarrassing under any circumstance. Toss in a handy language barrier and you get one red faced American with her hysterically giggling little sister pantomiming the impossibility of a DD cup fitting into a A cup. They are still not getting it: “Madame, please put on, please” An older woman who works at the spa stops by the room to see what the excitement is about. She finally gets it but has no solution, since it is the biggest spa bra that they offer. With little choice, I finally agree and they patter out of the room giggling as the older woman explains the problem to them. Good times.

I cannot adequately put into words the next five minutes attempting to put on the spa bra. Cher is attempting to help but the two of us are laughing so hard we can barely stand up. The end result is rather like trying to hold a bowling ball in a Dixie cup. I lay down on the table, all sense of modesty completely out of the window. The girls come back in and apparently the visual aid is all the need to truly comprehend the situation. One of them mercifully brings a towel.

Then the scrub begins. The spa girl is getting so intimate with the scrub; I begin to feel that I should have perhaps bought her dinner beforehand. We are scrubbed to within an inch of our lives and then led to the “steam room”. Which is actually a “steam box” about the size of a double coffin. Cher and I are popped inside and immediately the claustrophobia begins to set it. Cher lasts about five minutes. “I’m about to have a Native American vision quest” she declares. “Get me the hell out of here!”. She attempts to open the tiny Alice in Wonderland door but it won’t budge and appears to be locked from the outside. They “really” want you to sweat it out. Cher is having a meltdown literally and figuratively. She writes the word HELP in the steam on the little window. Finally, she forces the door open and flees to the outside. I stick it out for the duration hoping to purge all the toxins I am going to simply replace at Stung Meanchy the next day. Cher stands outside and offers commentary about the shower, including the bottle of Palmolive to wash off with. I scroll Red Rum in the window and try not to pass out. Did I really PAY to be shut up in a box sweating profusely when I have been doing it for free every day?

As I spooned with the fire ants that night in bed, I thought ahead to our last day in Phnom Penh and upcoming visit to Stung Meanchy. This week has gone by so quickly and already the kids have wheedled out of Cher and I a promise to visit in January. One thing is certain: I’ll be packing a can of RAID and my own spa bra.

– Heather E. Connell

Visit the Small Voices website for photos from Heather’s travels.

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