Getting pampered in the territory, el cheapo style…

21 May

*This post was by T2, a co-author of In The Taratory from 2011-2013.*

Everyone has a guilty pleasure. Some people like drinking red wine with dinner each night to unwind (mum, I’m looking at you!). Others like watching Sex and the City on Friday nights with a mud mask on, or squeezing their back pimples using a magnifying mirror (yep, I know people who actually get a kick out of doing this). And me? I love going out for a bit of pampering once or twice a month. Getting a hair cut, massage or spa pedicure is a marvelous way to unwind. I’m sure I’m not alone on that one, right? 😉

I’m not a loyal customer to any particular salon – if I see a special at a certain store (or discover a great Entertainment Book deal), I’m sold. The $120 cut and colour I had a few months ago at Epic Hair in Belconnen certainly rivaled a previous experience I’d had at a more exclusive salon (costing upwards of $250!). Yet, in many cases, the price will often dictate the type of service you can expect to receive.

Take those nail salons that have popped up all around the city, for instance. You know the ones – they reek of acetone and, at any time of day, they’ll be brimming with clients (mostly ladies, but I did spot a well-dressed chap indulging in a bit of foot pampering last week). Why? – because they are darn cheap. A spa pedicure and manicure will set you back $55 (or $65 if you go for the Shellac polish, which is the latest craze in nail technology. I’m happy to elaborate in the comments section if anyone is curious). This is a somewhat reasonable price to pay (you’d have to pay me MUCH more to scrub the toe jam from a random woman’s foot) – especially when other ‘classier’ salons can charge $70+ for a manicure alone (and those joints don’t even always have the cool massaging chairs – the best part of the experience, I reckon).

So what can one expect at these cheap salons? Efficiency, for one – it’s the name of their game. The pedi’s and mani’s are continuously being churned out to keep up with the flow of incoming dames. You can always bet on being welcomed inside – I’ve never been turned away, no matter how many ladies are being worked on. On arrival, you’ll be plonked in a chair and handed a remote control to adjust the massage chair settings to your liking (bum massage, anyone?). Then, your nail technician will set to work. Unlike most hairdressers, she usually won’t bother with the idle chit-chat. With a furrowed brow, she will instead concentrate on trimming your cuticles, filing your claws, and scrubbing away the rough skin on your heels (tehehe, beware – it tickles!). If you so desire, the callous remover will be whipped out to shave your rough feet back to baby-smooth (I’m not a fan – seeing long strips of my skin on the towel used to dry my feet gives me the heebie-jeebies). Finally, you’ll be swiftly dried off and painted, then plopped in the corner with a trashy magazine to wait for the polish to dry. It’s all over within the blink of an eye (well, usually between 30-40 minutes – quick enough to do on your lunch hour). Finito!

These salons are definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, though  – the lack of conversation with your technician, the feeling of being herded through the mill, and the constant buzz of nail drills in the background aren’t particularly conducive to a relaxing pamper sesh. Some also question the hygiene practices of these salons (I understand that all the tools are steralised before use on a new client, and I reckon that they’d be subject to frequent checks by health inspectors… but better to make your own judgement call on that one!). The bottom line is this: if you want your tootsies to be lovingly stroked and massaged while you’re sipping on dandelion tea, head to a day spa and shell out the big bucks. But if all you’re after is a quick tidy up and polish at a reasonable price, hit any one of the many salons located in the Canberra Centre or Westfield shopping centres. (For what it’s worth, I’ve found that one of the best cheap-o nail salons is Love Nails in Manuka).

Now, onto my absolute favourite indulgence: massages. If only I could live in Bali, where cheap massages are on tap 24/7! Since I’m a Canberra girl, David Lin’s Chinese Massage in Belconnen (or Westfield Woden) is a pretty darn good alternative. You know it’s serious business when you walk in to the store and the employees are wearing white doctor’s coats. Don’t expect a warm, friendly welcome – in fact, don’t even expect them to crack half a smile at you. It’s part of the experience, I suppose. After pointing to your desired massage type from a ‘menu’, you’ll be ushered over to a table and covered with a sheet. There’s no stripping down, no relaxing music, no aromatherapy-type oils.

Well that doesn’t sound like a real massage, I hear you protest! Fortunately, I’m not fussed with all the extra frills. In fact, I hate those soft, soothing ‘massages’ that do absolutely nothing to loosen the knots in your back. I recently had a massage at an upmarket day spa as part of a body scrub package, and I actually found myself mentally urging the masseuse to wrap things up because the massage was so friggen’ feeble (yes, I did politely ask her to increase the pressure, but that lasted all of five minutes. Sigh). In contrast, David Lin’s crew get straight to the point, digging their elbows into stiff shoulders and pounding the stress away. I always opt for a 30-minute neck, back and shoulders massage, which sets me back $40. Sure, the tick-tick-ticking of the timer is a bit off-putting and there’s really no privacy in the room (apart from a couple of curtains separating the tables), but it’s a price I’m willing to pay. Like the nail salons, do not go to a place like this if you need to be treated like a princess – there’ll be none of that here! What you can expect is a good, hearty rub-down; nothing more, nothing less. As an added bonus, you may also be able to claim remedial massage as a health rebate (David Lin is a registered provider, but be sure to ask for an official receipt).

I’d really like to expand my Canberra massage experiences. I’ve heard that Thai Bliss in Civic is amazing, so that’s next on my ‘to-try’ list. I’ll be avoiding Zhang’s Chinese Massage in Civic, though – the first and only time I went there, I got a really young girl and her itty-bitty fingers just weren’t strong enough. She also spent the whole session sniffing her runny nose – yuck. So, readers, please feel free to let me know about your favourite massage spots! I’m up for any type of new experience (maybe a hot stone massage, or a bamboo massage?), but you’ve probably gathered that I have one main requirement: it’s gotta be a massage for tough chicks…

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7 Responses to “Getting pampered in the territory, el cheapo style…”

  1. Gary Lum May 22, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    If only I had hair 🙂
    One day I will get my nails cut professionally, just because I have always been curious to have someone else do that.
    I’m not sure about a massage though, it may also be something worth indulging in.

  2. Geoff May 22, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    I have a friend who swears by the hot rocks.

  3. [ayu] May 22, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    Ok. I’m interested. What in the world is Shellac polish? Different from acrylic nails I hope (I tried acrylic once and I think it ruined my nails, and I couldn’t stand them for too long either). But I do love me a bit of pampering and pretty nails..so pls enlighten me.

    • inthetaratory May 24, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

      yes t2, what is it? I saw it advertised today in westfield and still have nooo idea what it is. do tell! ❤ t1

  4. inthetaratory May 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Shellac is definitely not as bad for your nails as acrylic (I have sworn off acrylic after a terrible experience last year!), but it is so much longer-lasting than regular nail polish. I always tend to chip regular nail polish two to three days in, but have found that Shellac polish lasts around two weeks. It’s pretty similar to a normal manicure, but a special UV light is used to ‘cure’ the polish. They do a base coat, two coats of colour and a top coat. The best bit is that there’s no drama with removing the polish (unlike acryclics!!) – just soak in acetone for a couple of minutes and, hey presto, they’re off.

  5. Bec June 30, 2017 at 5:21 pm #

    Foot and Thai in Belconnen and Woden are awesome!!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Thai Bliss… « In The Taratory - May 26, 2012

    […] on from my recent post about massages and spa pedicures, I decided to try something different and treat myself to a […]

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