The day I visited the eldest Vietnamese traditional clinic: Tested and (almost) approved

“The clinic has been here for 4 centuries. It’s a traditional one, with well known acupuncteurs and very good massage therapists; the doctors can prescribe medicinal herbs and spices, special barks too” explained my Vietnamese neighbor to his amazed Westerner friend.

Just enough information to trigger my curiosity! I got the card of the mysterious place and was there in a glimpse of an eye. Enough with the expat life, I was going local!


The moment you step into the clinic, you are lost in time. How many centuries have witnessed those happy Buddha immersed in gold and red offrandes. Patients look so small in those heavy wood chairs.

The consultation is free and lucky me there is a French speaking doctor. He looks quite blasé about my symptoms. Guess I am the hundredth patient of the day complaining about a painful throat, headaches, stiff neck and shoulder .. “I always say the same thing to foreigners, he says. If you want to feel better, leave Hanoi“. Unfortunately there is not a hint of sarcasm here. He just states the best remedy.

I expect him to disappear behind a red elvet curtain of fume and come back with the most unusual herbs and dry fishes. Instead of that I’m being prescribed a box of Probiotic made in Russia. Globalization is a fantasy killer.

Next came the massage.

I loved the very first part of it: the fact that no one speak English, being a total stranger in a place that could be a spatial vessel. The walls used to be white, the fan had seen better days, but the tea is still super strong. A young Vietnamese takes me to the a small room where she points at a bath and a little wood barrel and shows me her 10 fingers. I guess I am here for 10 mn? Or I should have a 10 mn bath and another 10mn sauna?


No risk no fun ! The flagrance of the hot bath reminds me of India, an old familiar perfume of herbs. Today is The day to trust. After 15mn, with no one knocking at my door, I move to the sauna. The seat is burning hot, and in spite of my good intentions, I am checking the “door” a few dozen times before eventually locking me in. I stay there almost 20mn, and check out. The “nurses” had completely forgotten about me, totally absorbed by their Facebook chats.

I should have left. My skin was beautiful, the 30ish minutes had been great, I felt super healthy.


But I had decided to trust. Big big mistake. Next time I’ll stuck to the “In case of doubt, don’t“.

The doctor has advised the “meridian massage”. I would rename it “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. The “therapist” must have been a Maori rugby player in a previous life. If you’re looking for some kind of relaxing massage, it is definitely not here. The uttermost bored staff was lying on the neighboring beds, all on their smartphones, chatting, laughing, even my masseuse. I was up the challenge to focuse only on my breathing. But I realised my limitations: I can’t meditate while I am fearing for my bones.

Veni, Veni (almost) vici. My visit at the Traditional clinic taught me that when in Vietnam, no need to do it all like a Vietnamese. It took me a visit to the osteopath to fix my shoulder and never was I so happy to take an appointment with my kind acupunteur. Yes they are all in the expat side of town. There is a reason for that. They know what our bodies can endure! See how old Vietnamese are fit, the way they train in public parks, how long they can stay squatting. Well, we are different. At least I am. Next time I ll explore another massage in the safety of my Yakushi instead 🙂



7 thoughts on “The day I visited the eldest Vietnamese traditional clinic: Tested and (almost) approved

  1. How fun to hear your entertaining stories once again! And I so understand your position on the topic; I always want to try something new but sometimes things get lost in translation. In my case it was a Thai massage and I thought she might pull my arms right out of their sockets,

    1. Exactly ! I felt the same for my hips. I was trying to convince me she knew what she was doing but I m too attached to my body to let it go to pieces 😉 Thai massages are super strong too, I remember taking my sister to One in Bangkok and laughing so much hearing her begging the small
      woman “please be kind”

  2. Oh how I enjoyed this post and could relate. We just recently visited a LOCAL Ayurvedic clinic here in Sri Lanka and wrote about it in our latest post… so we have been on a similar path, just different outcomes.

    I must say that wooden bath tub with hot water looks awfully inviting and I do remember soaking in one of those in Hoi An in Viet Nam years back. Loved the smell too of the wood and the herbs…..

    Haha that photo of you is epic!!!


    1. Hey Peta 😊 the bath was my favorite part, definitely. When I was living in India I did a few Ayurvedic treatment and it smelled just the same. Unfortunately this one did not come with the warm oils 😉 off to check on your post 😘

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