Several years ago, good fortune carried me all the way to Thailand for a business trip. In Bangkok, between cooking classes and trips to the market for magnificent shopping adventures, I had the pleasure of visiting a spa to get one of the renowned Thai massages.
And last week, I was able to revisit the experience -- sort of. Instead of the 22-hour trip to Bangkok, I just had to make a 20-minute drive to Arlington. There, right in Arlington's quaint old downtown district, and within shouting distance of the University of Texas at Arlington, sits a haven of escape.
Sanford House Inn and Spa has become immensely popular as a wedding site and a lovely place for lunch and weekend dinners. The lodging element affords a good in-town getaway, with cottage suites and villas among choices. And I'm all for the staycation that gives me the refuge of a spa.
Said spa -- a new building across the street from the inn -- caught my attention with its depth of massage options, and the Sabai Thai Herbal Massage in particular. The spa menu promised "a meditative massage that promotes a deep sense of peace, calm, and tranquility." Because I've been in short supply of meditative time and a deep sense of anything related to calm, this massage seemed like the only logical choice.
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The experience: After I changed into a cotton robe and made my way to one of the massage rooms bathed in warm vanilla light, I gave myself over to therapist Maggie Hammond. I picked up the suggestion of exotic scents that began to take me away from my typically self-absorbed, stressy state as Maggie gently rubbed my feet and stretched my limbs for a few minutes before starting the treatment.
Right away, I realized that the Sabai Thai herbal approach is not like most massages. Usually, I do want a deep-tissue approach in which someone kneads away my tension forcefully. But just the scent of the healing herbs put me in another place, and I was happy to simply sink into this more subtle process.
Maggie explained that Sabai translates from Thai to "relaxed," and that the approach in Thai massage is to work 10 of the main energy lines, or meridians, along the limbs and torso. In this particular treatment, her goal is to work both the body and the spirit by decreasing stress and tension and improving energy and mood.
To do that, she employed an assortment of herb bundles, which heat in a steamer near the massage table. Inside each one, tied up in cheesecloth and secured tightly with string, is a fragrant blend of lemongrass, lavender, orange peel, turmeric, kaffir lime, patchouli, ginger, sage and camphor.
For nearly an hour, Maggie rubbed one of the bundles along the meridians of my arms, legs, chest and back. Slowly and with ample but comfortable pressure, she pushed the warm herbs along, changing out the bundles as they cooled.
After finishing an area with the herbs, she worked her own massage potion of coconut oil and vanilla bean into my skin, sealing the treatment with still more calming movement.
Maggie cautioned me that because the treatment pulls toxins from my body, I would need to drink plenty of water for several hours to flush out the bad stuff. Clients who fail to do that have reported being sore, because the toxins have been coaxed out but not washed away. I guzzled water for the rest of the day and stayed physically and mentally happy.
Best of all, Maggie sent me home with the herbal bundles to use in a hot bath that evening.
The result: My sense of peace and tranquility endured for a few hours more, letting me extend my spiritual revisit to a magical land across the globe. If only I could bottle that -- or just visit Maggie once a week.
The cost: A 60-minute Sabai Thai Herbal Massage is $120; a 90-minute version, in which Maggie works more on range of motion and stretching, is $150. (Check with the spa for its monthly specials. During spa week, Oct. 12-16, for instance, the spa will feature three of its treatments for $50. These will include an Algo facial with glycolic peel, a 30-minute massage with specialized foot treatment and a partial lowlight or highlight with hairstyling. Appointments will fill up quickly.)
About the spa: The Sanford Spa & Salon, which has a full staff working in four massage rooms, two facial rooms and a hair and nail salon, is open Tuesday through Saturday. You can request a spa lunch, catered from the inn's restaurant, with your visit, too. You can also book a spa appointment and purchase a spa gift certificate through the inn's website, www.thesanfordhouse.com.
Find the inn and spa at 506 N. Center St., Arlington, 817-277-0115 or 817-861-2129.