Malaysian massage paradise
Harta dunia jangan tamak kalau mati tidak dibawa pergi
Covet not the riches of this world that do not attend you, if you die
You’re sure to have heard of Thai massage and even Balinese…but how about Malay? In Malaysia, I learned about a culture with centuries-old treatments for women and men aimed at enhancing intimacy and taking care of their precious life-giving bodies.
Gaining independence from the British in 1957, Peninsular Malaysia is home to the capital of Kuala Lumpur and East Malaysia holds the states of Sabah and Sarawak. A fusion of Malay, Indian, Chinese and Arabian people due to historical trading in the Straits of Malacca 500 years ago, Malaysia is also home to the indigenous Orang Asli, made up of Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay tribal groups. This enticing mix of nationalities is embraced in the faces of Malaysia’s people; ornately carved in the rich architecture of buildings and furniture; tasted in local markets brimming with exotic fruits, vegetables and fresh fish; savoured with festivals and traditional dishes like satay; and passed down in the healing traditions of Malay wellbeing treatments.
Most important is the understanding that it is the body which heals itself and that treatments, herbs and medicines merely assist this process.
Traditional Malay therapy consultant Sairani binti Mohd Sa’ad is behind the drive to offer Malay treatments to the world: first at The Tanjong Club at Tanjong Jara Resort, 480km north from Kuala Lumpur in the coastal state of Terengganu, overlooking the South China Sea. Sairani spent years writing down sacred Malay healing traditions in a unique sharing with her husband’s mother and grandmother, believing it was time to share these closely guarded Malay secrets to longevity before they disappeared. Sairani developed the Malay treatments, which are now extended to the Spa Village at Pangkor Laut Resort (a private island three miles off the west coast in the Straits of Malacca) and the Spa Village, serving busy city visitors at the Ritz Carlton in Kuala Lumpur.
Glowing proof of a Malay lifestyle, Sairani is a mother of five and often mistaken for a teenager. Her glossy black hair is in a ponytail, considered a natural Malay facelift technique, and she warmly encourages us prudish westerners to enjoy some of the most beneficial Malay treatments such as rendam-rendam, which is a sitz bath for the reproductive organs.
Malay spa treatments are among the most earthly I have experienced. With an emphasis on purity of spirit, health and wellbeing, collectively known in Malaysia as sucimurni, Malay treatments made me feel as though I was enjoying a delicious concoction of freshly picked herbs and ground spices my own grandmother prepared just for me.
The Spa Village has a Malay consultant to first diagnose a person’s body and prescribe treatments. In Malay, this includes cutting the top and bottom off a lime and watching the way it falls into a bowl of water. Most important is the understanding that it is the body which heals itself and that treatments, herbs and medicines merely assist this process.
In the belief that hot water makes skin sag, Malay treatments begin with a cleansing routine known as mandi bunga using cool, scented water prepared during the resort’s mandi bunga ceremony. Each day, seven men and seven women gather water in clay pots from the seven sources of water: a well, spring, waterfall, lake, river, rain and the morning dew. This is scented with seven different flowers and limes to ward off evil spirits and dispel negativity. The procession winds through the Tanjong Jara Resort among the beach-front villas to the spa to the sounds of beating drums. It is this water my therapist uses to rinse my body seven times with seven prayers – for purity and sincerity; to make my own wish; to heal; bring me Beauty; happiness; prosperity and longevity.
Each day, seven men and seven women gather water in clay pots from the seven sources of water.
Malay massage follows on a flat bed on the ground with artful strokes following the flow of blood, beginning at the feet and ending at my head. Malay massage uses long rhythmic strokes and thumb rolling, focusing on muscles and pressure points along the body. Most oils used in treatments are made from a base of boiled coconut oil with up to 30 herbs and spices prepared especially for each treatment. Special oil mixtures can be purchased at the spa to bring home, as well as the rice-based body scrub and pandanas hair conditioner that tames even my frizzy curls. The oils are a therapeutic treatment and can be applied to skin to reduce inflammation throughout the body, known as angin.
Ridding the body of angin is considered the main purpose of Malay treatments and this detoxification is a daily practice. Even bowing the head to the ground in prayer helps increase the blood circulation to the head and is an additional benefit to wellbeing. At the end of the Malay massage, my hair is pulled strongly to draw out remaining angin, and soothing stretches of the limbs leave me feeling rejuvenated and energised even in 80 per cent humidity.
Disclaimer: this blog post is intended as a beautiful and thought-provoking article for entertainment purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and cannot substitute for medical care. No representations are made as to the completeness of any information and the author is not liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the use of this information.