Uniquely Turkey Experience – The Turkish Bath Massage (Hamam)16 January, 2011
Wherever you go in Turkey, you will see and hear references to hamam, be it along the crowded streets of Istanbul (where you can find hamam businesses at every other streets) or recommendations from tour guides to try the Turkish Bath (hamam) experience.
Wherever you go in Turkey, the Turkish Bath process is similar. A person taking a Turkish bath first relaxes in a room (known as the warm room) that is heated by a continuous flow of hot, dry air allowing the bather to perspire freely. Bathers may then move to an even hotter room (known as the hot room) before splashing themselves with cold water. After performing a full body wash and receiving a massage, bathers finally retire to the cooling-room for a period of relaxation.
I (ZQ) tried my Turkish Bath (hamam) experience in Fethiye. I had arranged my Turkish Bath for £10 with TinyAkropol (the same agency who arranged our Ephesus-Pamukkale trip). At the agreed timing, my masseur – a big burly Turkish guy met me at our hotel – Yacht Boutique Hotel and drove me to the place in Calis (about 15 minutes drive away) where I will have my Turkish Bath. The massage place was quite interesting (as can be seen in the picture of the house below) – I didn’t expect the hamam to be located at what looked like a 3-storey terrace house. This is in fact a spa centre (known as Sultan Hamam and Spa) and they even have a website: http://www.sultanhamamfethiye.com.
Upon arrival at Sultan Hamam and Spa (which also seems to be the place for Unisex hairdressing services in one of the floors), I was seated at the “living room” where I was offered hot apple tea (free – customary for Turkish hosts to offer apple tea to guests) and given a menu of other services e.g. Shiatsu (£15 for 45 minutes), Swedish full body massage (£15 for 45 minutes) and Reflexology (£10 for 30 minutes) that the Sultan Hamam and Spa offers.
The Turkish Bath package I took for £10, included sauna, full body scrub, full body soap massage and hair shampoo. I was given a sales pitch on why the full body massage (£25 for 60 minutes) and other services would complement the Turkish Bath but I stuck to what I had arranged for – just the Turkish Bath. I was then asked to go to a changing room with lockers (where I could keep my belongings). I was also given a stack of towels which I am supposed to wrap myself around (have to strip down to the underwear) and then go to the sauna (the massage, Turkish Bath and sauna are all located in the basement).
After sweating it out in the sweltering heat of the 45 degree Celsius sauna for about 10 minutes, I was then ushered into the massage area which looked pretty much like the picture below (Picture courtesy of Sultan Hamam and Spa website). My masseur (remember the big burly Turkish guy?) now topless with a towel (the same red and white checkered pattern you see in picture below) wrapped around his waist, then directed me to lie down on a large marble slab (which felt warm). He then poured cold water on me to wash off the sweat from the sauna and proceeded to scrub me with a coarse rubber scrub. Within minutes, all the dirt was scrubbed off – you can see small black stuff coming off your skin (a mixture of dead skin and dirt).
Once that was done, another round of cold water was poured on me to wash off these dirt and what followed was just like what I had seen in those World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) episodes (except I was the one being pinned to the marble slab and him twisting my arms and legs around). The masseur began to loosen my joints and muscles through various acrobatic acts e.g. sitting/standing on me and trying to pull my foot onto my head (that’s exaggerated but you get the idea). It’s not painful – instead it felt quite relaxing at times; it sounds scary though especially with the ‘pop’ sound after he loosened certain joints (they might have stiffened up from days of exploring Turkey). It was then I knew why the masseur is so big-sized; he would need to be strong to massage his customers, especially British tourists who formed the bulk of their customer base (being located near Calis which is where most British tourists come down to Turkey to escape the cold winter back home and enjoy the warm Mediterranean climate).
The next bit was the soap massage (not those kinky Japanese kind) where, like in the picture above, the masseur would prepare warm huge soap foam on towels which would then be poured onto me and applied evenly around the body (this part felt the most comfortable with warm soap foam wrapped around me). Then somemore scrubbing before cold water was again poured to wash away the dirt residue and soap. I was then led to a tap with a stool beneath it, where I sat to have my hair shampooed and washed and that wrapped up the entire Turkish Bath experience!
I was then wrapped up with towels like in the picture below (Picture courtesy of Sultan Hamam and Spa website) where I then rested for a while before going to the changing room to change back to my clothes and collect my belongings. My masseur then drove me back to my hotel. I felt thoroughly refreshed, clean and relaxed! For just £10, this was a bargain and I understood why Turkish Bath is one of the most popular activities (even among locals) in Turkey and if given the chance, I would definitely try it again in Turkey.
I didn’t bring my camera to document my Turkish Bath experience but you can check out the following video for this guy’s experience (very similar to what I went through – even the masseur looked quite similar! :-)) to get a rough idea of what I shared above – fast forward to the 1-minute mark (the beginning is just a quick introduction of Istanbul):
Sultan Hammam Turkish Bath and Spa Center Address:
Foça Burnu 1030 Sokak No: 142 Çalış – Fethiye