Pushing through the crush of tourists, touts and boatmen on the wharf in the Vietnamese beach resort town of Nha Trang, I’m eager to find our boat. We’re off for a day cruise to the islands in the bay, as part of our tour with Footsteps in Asia, and there’s a masseuse coming with us! That’s an unexpected bonus.
Tin is much more than a masseuse; she turns out to be a fully-fledged beautician. And the more she can do for us, the more she can charge. Our party of eight eagerly lines up to have her minister to us.
As our blue boat chugs out onto the water amid dozens of others just like it, Tin spreads out a towel on the sun deck and sets to work. Massage, manicure, pedicure, eye-brows (plucked and threaded)…she’s equipped to do the lot.
But first there’s time for a quick dip. We bob in the water off a rocky island and leap into the water. I’m not in for long…there are bitey sea-lice and too much flotsam and jetsam (of the plastic variety) for my liking.
Onboard again, I’m in Tin’s clutches. First, a head, neck and shoulder massage. I can feel that the knots have eased a little since Kuala Lumpur but Tin’s strong thumbs still find them easily. She works them hard and I’m once again amazed by the power of such a tiny woman.
“Turn over!” she commands, and I comply. As she draws my hair back off my forehead and massages my face, I know she has designs on my eyebrows. One of my companions has already been plucked and threaded! I’m nervous. I don’t want to end up looking like a plucked chook, with pencil-thin brows. I instruct her “strays only”.
Tin is fast and skilled, and my watching friends assure me all is well. Then she grabs a thread and starts work on the top line of the brow – and I’ve had enough. It hurts. A mirror is produced and I’m satisfied she’s stayed within the boundaries. The brows look beautiful.
Now Tin turns her attention to my hands. Cuticles first, then clippers, then an emery board. Within minutes, my fingernails are beautifully even. It’s the first manicure I’ve ever had. Next, a choice of colour. Tin produces a professional-looking box of about 30 nail varnish colours to choose from and we agree on a deep red that almost perfectly matches my self-painted toe-nails.
She’s clearly keen to work on those too – but I’m adamant. My mangled big toe is out of bounds. It’s feeling a bit better, but no touching, thank you.
For all this, I hand over the princely sum of 250,000 dong (about $11.50).
A few minutes later, our boat stops at a floating fish farm and we disembark to take photos. When I step back on board, Tin is beside me in a flash, grabbing my hand. My nail varnish is ruined; it was not quite dry enough when I started using my camera!
Patiently she breaks out the nail polish remover and then applies two new coats. I try to offer more money (after all, it’s my own fault I’ve spoiled her work), but she waves me away and turns her attention to the next customer.
A Glass Half Full travelled to Vietnam as a guest of Footsteps in Asia and AirAsia.