Magic Malaysian Pedicure and Manicure One of my favorite things about living in Malaysia has been my bimonthly manicures and pedicures. Thereís just something about a nail appointment that makes me feel very pampered.
I discovered this decades ago, so Iíve made it a regular and mandatory event in my life. I never go more than two weeks without going to the nail salon.
Having been a frequent user of many spas and nail salons around the world, I think of myself as a quite well-informed spa critic. So, it is with adequate knowledge and objectivity that I write this article.
Never have I felt more pampered at a nail salon than I do here in Malaysia. Let me walk (or write) you through a typical day at the Chez Nails nail salon: First, although I always make my next appointment when Iím leaving my current appointment, Chez Nails, my neighborhood salon, takes walk-ins.
So, if you want to be completely random in your pampering sessions, itís no problem.
But, being that Iím a creature of habit, I never show up without an appointment. I always book my appointment at noon. And I plan on staying at the nail salon most of the afternoon.
Chez Nails is a tiny little place. Itís on the seventh floor of the fancy Paragon Mall. Thereís a small reception desk backed by a wall that only extends halfway across the width of the tiny salon.
From the halfway point to the far right-side wall of the salon, thereís a curtain. And behind that curtain is a secret room where my salon attendants perform magic. When I appear at the reception desk, they all greet me with huge smiles and warm hellos. I hug Choe, who is the salon manager and my personal manicurist. She and I have a special connection, She even joined my gym and has become my gym buddy. We do core, balance, and yoga workouts together. Sheís the oldest of all the employees ó 25, and tiny, as cute as can be, and absolutely adorable.
After gushing over me for a few minutes and offering me tea, Choe parts the curtains and escorts me in to the secret, magic space behind them. It spans the full width of the salon, with a platform on which four huge, cushy pedicure chairs sit, just waiting to make my day.
Occasionally, thereís another customer there, but on the vast majority of my visits, Iím the only one. I usually have the place to myself, and I feel like the queen bee. The chairs have a massage function, but I prefer to just have extra cushions and no vibrating. So, theyíve always prepared my special chair in advance.
I routinely sit in the third one. I set down my big mug of hot green tea, remove my hat and shoes, take off my rings and place them in the special little jewelry box next to my chair, and then settle into my throne.
Then, Choe covers me with a fluffy white blanket. She knows the air conditioning makes me cold. As soon as I sit, three salon attendants scurry up to me ó one on each side of my chair and one at my feet. The two flanking my sides place cushions under my forearms. This is a place where you receive left hand, right hand, and simultaneous foot service.
Iíve been to countless salons that do my manicure first and then my pedicure, or visa versa. And Iíve seen women have both at the same time, twisting from side to side to accommodate the manicurist who is on only one side of their body. Iíve always thought, "Gee, if Iím having a manicure, I want to relax. Whatís the point of twisting from side to side?Ē
Well, at Chez Nails, I get the best of both worlds: simultaneous manicure and pedicure, and no twisting. A fourth attendant approaches with a catalogue full of movie CDs and asks me if Iíd like to watch a movie. As I flip through the choices, she says, if you donít find a movie you want to see, we can play your favorite music. I have a choice of all sorts of films: romance, comedy, historical, non-fiction, even season series of "Friends.Ē
On a few occasions Iíve even brought my own movie DVD. The large television screen is directly in front of my chair, and thereís another one on the other side in front of the other two chairs. The movie attendant pops in my movie of choice, asks me about the volume, adjusts it according to my wishes, asks if I want subtitles, and if so, in which language.
I reflect on all the nail salons Iíve been in that have a television tuned into some annoying station, forcing everyone in the salon to watch some undesirable, loud, obnoxious show (usually some trashy reality junk) while theyíre trying to relax. Why havenít any of those salon owners thought of movies or nice music? Iíve seen quite a few good movies at the nail salon this year.
On occasion, Iíve taken my Mandarin Chinese notes, and practiced with Choe. She speaks perfect Mandarin and perfect English. But pampering is much more fun when itís not mingled with Mandarin.
The pedicurist at my feet fills the tub, tests the temperature of the water, and starts my luxurious pedicure. I never have to tell her what I want. She already knows ó the usual French pedicure.
The manicurists at my sides start toiling away, gently, doing everything they know I like. Itís heavenly. Although Iím surrounded by young, beautiful Chinese girls, all of whom are friends and colleagues, they refrain from chatting with each other as is typical in so many other salon settings.
Itís my magic pampering time, they wouldnít want to spoil it or impair my ability to hear my movie. Surrounding me are placards bearing all sorts of nail art. I mean, these girls can do anything imaginable to your nails: They can draw on them, paint on them, sculpt figures on them, skillfully arrange bling on them, or even place dangling charms on them.
Itís about so much more than nail polish there. Iím just fascinated looking at all the options. If only I were bold enough to try some of them! Iím always, always there long enough to see a two-hour movie; sometimes longer. Theyíre all perfectionists.
But, not the kind of perfectionists who take forever and make lots of mistakes. Theyíre efficient, dexterous, adroit. As a perfectionistic surgeon myself, Iím always quick to notice others who have natural dexterity. These girls strive for symmetry and perfection, checking on each othersí work to ensure that my hands match perfectly.
Sometimes, George wanders into the nail salon while Iím there. When he does, one of the girls scurries to settle him into the comfortable chair next to mine. Often, he brings flowers for me or chocolates for everyone. They all swoon over his romantic gestures. When he leaves, they never fail to tell me Iím the luckiest woman on the planet because I have George. But when I leave, I tell them Iím lucky because I have George and them.