Five Senses Spa
Hoi An has witnessed a phenomenal rise in spas, with over one hundred opening in just two years. With rising tourist numbers come tourist traps and an increased demand for something South-East Asia is known for-massages and other beauty services at a fraction of the price it costs in Western countries.
Like the plethora of tailor shops and leather stores flanking the streets, finding a decent spa can be tricky as the quality is so variable. Coupled with reports of theft and scams.
One spa that’s developed an honest highly reputable reputation is Five Senses. Owned by a young woman from Hoi An, it offers high quality services at affordable prices in a professional setting.
Hidden sat down with Le Thuc Quyen, the owner of Five Senses to learn more about how she established her business into a brand that customers flock to.
Address: 14 Phan Boi Chau – Hours: 9am – 9pm – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – Facebook: @fivesensesspahoian – Telephone: +84 35 602 2423
The Owner’s Story
Hoi An’s population size is pretty small, numbering just over 150,000. In the town and villages you won’t see much poverty, and the overall sense is that the tourism industry has brought good money to Hoi An. Which it has. But outside of the hospitality industry, there are few professional opportunities. So most young people leave if they want to pursue careers in other fields.
Quyen was one of these, leaving home to study petrochemical engineering. But living away from home, and her future career path didn’t bring her much satisfaction. After graduating in 2012, she realised she didn’t want to work in a male dominated field. Nor did she want to remain away from family.
For her, family and community are what matters most. So it was this deep sense of needing to be rooted to what she held dear, that led to Quyen returning to her beloved Hoi An. At 24, she had no qualms about moving back in with her parents in her childhood home in the Old Town. According to the the traditional Vietnamese values she ascribes to, this was how it should be.
Quyen had no intention of staying home. Vietnamese women are extremely hard-working, and it’s expected women will work or run their own businesses. Quyen knew she needed to do something for herself, which would allow her freedom while also providing the same to other women. While pondering business ideas, a few of her expat friends mentioned that Hoi An lacks affordable, high quality spas.
The idea was born, and soon after, she was fortunate to find a building located just across from her home. For many young entrepreneurs, family and friends provide business loans, not banks. With $25,000 from her parents and friends, and priceless emotional support, Five Senses opened. Quyen was 24 at the time, with no prior experience in running a spa or any other business. Passion is highly overused but when Quyen talks of needing passion, it seems fitting. She was passionate about starting a business that was right for her, and that would represent Hoi An in a good light.
Five Senses Spa – What’s Behind the Name?
While brainstorming names, Quyen heard of a place called Six Senses. She felt it would be too ambitious and misleading to call her business that, so chose Five Senses instead. The number five is also considered lucky in Vietnam.
The name delivers. Compared to other spas in Hoi An, (excluding resorts) Five Senses is in the top tier. Faux wooden floors, bamboo ceilings and an indoor green wall create a welcoming ambience, along with soothing music and a delightfully fragrant scent.
Five Senses Spa – Growth
Five Senses started out with eight beds and five foot chairs, allowing it to only see a few customers at a time. In 2016, the landlord decided to sell the building. Quyen knew she had to purchase it. Five Senses was able to expand, adding a second floor and increasing its space and beds. Now the spa can see up to 20-25 people at the same time. On average, Five Senses has around 40 clients per day.
Quyen employs an all-female staff of 12 therapists and three receptionists. The therapists all boast considerable experience, and are highly trained. There are no official cosmetology schools to provide certification. Instead, most therapists get their start at resorts where they are trained.
Most of Quyen’s staff have previously worked at resorts or other spas. Additionally, Quyen has hired a consultant who’s a spa manager in Bali to periodically give her staff training in the latest techniques.
Hidden Hint: Spa services at resorts cost up to five times more per treatment, because of fancier surroundings. The staff skillset is the same.
But it’s the personal touch that Quyen really cares about. She’s at the salon seven days a week, and is on hand to greet and chat with customers. She’s attuned to the energy clients give off, and has trained her staff to be aware of voice tone and body language. This means knowing if a client wants to chat or wants complete silence, looking at facial expressions and body reactions during treatments to see if something is off.
We asked Quyen if she’d recommend specific therapists for specific services, but she was reluctant to play favourites, instead saying all the staff have similar experience, and are equally good at what they do. However, she does assign therapists to clients based on their pressure preferences when it comes to massages.
Five Senses Spa Treatments
The treatment list runs the full gamut-massages, facials, waxing, threading, body scrubs, body wraps, manicures pedicures, foot exfoliation, and hair services.
Massages are the most popular, while the best seller is Five Senses’s signature package, comprising of a massage, facial and choice of third treatment. There’s a wide range of massages to choose from, including hot stone, body therapy, aromatherapy and even prenatal.
When Hidden visited Five Senses, we opted for a massage and facial. Upon arrival, we were whisked to a foot chair, our feet soaked in a warm soothing herbal bath. Left to relax, we looked around, feeling the essence of the Five Senses approach. The music was typical spa music, the interior calming to the eye. A scent of lemongrass fragranced the air, and a cold bottle of water refreshed.
Our feet wiped and dried, we were led upstairs to a massage room by a lovely middle-aged lady named Mai. Asked if we wanted a soft, medium or hard massage, we opted for medium, later asking for stronger pressure. Mai regularly asked if we were okay, and was gentle despite applying firm pressure. Although there was a bit of limb stretching, at no point did we feel our limbs were being pummelled or harshly manipulated. Overall, it was enjoyable, and relaxing. Our only complaint, if it can be called that, was that the lights felt a bit bright. A dimmer room would have been perfect.
The standard facial involved a five-step process of double cleansing, exfoliating, a mask, and moisturising. While not deeply intensive or rejuvenating, it did the trick in clarifying our skin, and we felt and saw a noticeable difference.
Hidden Hint: Tipping is not expected, but an average tip of $2-$4 is appreciated.
The Spa Industry
Seven years ago, there were around 50 spas operating in Hoi An, which Quyen says was the perfect time to start hers. With a booming rise in tourism, there’s been a mushrooming of the industry. The small town is home to almost 400 spas, with at least 100 opening in the past two years alone. The trend shows no sign of slowing down.
Although Quyen is nostalgic for the Hoi An of her childhood, a quieter time where bicycles were the primary means of transport, and life ebbed and flowed to natural rhythms, she’s thankful for what tourism has done for the community. Most of the spas are owned by individuals, providing equal opportunity for financial success.
Situated in the heart of Old Town, Five Senses is surrounded by three spas, with several more just down the road. And yet Quyen has established a reputable brand. This is because she sees it as more than a business. Customer satisfaction is everything for her and her team. Learning from her customers is important as is asking them for advice. Quyen feels her clientele can share knowledge and best practice of spas in their home countries. In seven years, there’s been steady improvement in all that they offer.
To get the most out of your visit, Hidden recommends making an appointment through Facebook on their online booking system. Arrive on time, or slightly earlier. Don’t have expectations of the five star luxury available at some resorts. There aren’t any robes, soft slippers and the like, but the service is great.
Be relaxed and comfortable, and be sure to communicate with your therapist if you aren’t. While they will check in regarding pressure, don’t be shy to speak up if the pressure doesn’t feel right, or even if the lights are too bright, room too warm or cold etc.
The signature package is great value for money, and time spent here won’t be regretted.