Think Thailand and images of sprawling green mountains, exotic foliage and the odd elephant might spring to mind. There may even be a couple of tuk tuks thrown in the mix for good measure.
The recently opened Thai massage parlour Express Unwind in International City is owned by LA spa-obsessive Annie Phuang, dipped in garish green paint and there’s not an elephant – or person for that matter – in sight (‘That’s going to change soon,’ assures Annie. ‘Residents are moving in all the time.’)
But don’t let that put you off, for the moment you enter the Grinch-coloured walls of this Thai establishment you’ll be world’s away from any feelings of isolation. (We’re sure even the elephants would feel at home here.)
Time Out was assigned Sindy – who hails from the hills of Chiang Mai and was hand-picked by Annie for the centre – and led to a small IKEA-esque booth with a perfectly laundered pile of clothes neatly folded on the mattress. For us, cleanliness is paramount and already Espress Unwind was raking in the points.
Things kick off with a no-nonsense rub, which instantly sets Sindy apart from the troupe of masseuses scattered about Dubai. While a five-star tickle is mildly therapeutic, we’re all about ironing out those nooks and crannies, so happily exchanged panpipes and scented candles for the masterful hands of Sindy.
When the kneading is over – she used all manner of limbs to straighten us out – we’re heartily patted with a handmade poultice, which Annie assures is made in Chiang Mai. With eyes shut, the gentle squelch of the poultice on our back and the hum of eucalyptus in the air, it’s fair to say Express Unwind transports us back to those sprawling green mountains, exotic foliage and lumbering elephants. We could almost hear the buzz of tuk tuks in the background. Well, nearly.