A Phrom Pong spa’s unique enzyme treatment is hot, both literally and figuratively. At Ease’s Rice Enzyme Bath offers clients the chance to submerge themselves into a wooden tub filled with three feet of warm brown rice enzyme in a hot room.
For the uninitiated, rice enzymes are chemicals created by bacteria. These specific ones are fed regularly with dry rice bran and look and feel like a cross between soil and sand. Believers think the thermic and enzymatic effects of the baths can do everything from increase metabolism to cure jet lag and kill certain kinds of cancer cells.
The treatments originate in Japan — mostly popular in colder regions like Hokkaido — and are available at just one other spot in Bangkok, a Japanese spa in Ekkamai.
During the 15 minute treatment — any longer poses a risk of dehydration — users of the bath are said to sweat as much as they would during a two hour jog.
To keep it clean, spa attendants scoop the rice bran and enzyme mixture from the bath and perform a pasteurization process on it between users.
Though the treatment might sound strange, and like an especially hard sell in a tropical city like Bangkok where most inhabitants think they sweat too much as it is, it’s proving to be a hot seller. We had to call three different days to try and book a quarter hour appointment. Though At Ease is open daily from 9am until midnight, we were told on two consecutive days that they were completely booked.
When we arrived to try the Rice Enzyme Bath (THB600), we were very tired and hoped the bath might help, as some advocates claim. We were sent to shower and change into disposable spa underwear, a matching bandeau top, and a shower cap. Pro tip: put on the shower cap and then wrap your head in a towel before enzyme bathing if you don’t plan on washing your hair afterwards and don’t want to walk out with enzyme crust at your hairline.
As you enter the rice enzyme bath area, the room is hot and smells like, for lack of a better way to describe it, dusty old expired rice or pasta. We climbed up three steps to the edge of a wooden tub. Because the enzymes look like dirt and don’t smell great, it’s not particularly inviting but we pushed ahead.
It felt like stepping into a pile of warm earth. The attendant comes and covers clients deeply in the enzymes, which feels like being buried in sand at the beach. Once you’re in and covered, it is sort of pleasant. The room is dim and spa music plays softly.
During the bath, they advise guests to sit up if they get too hot, and to carefully move their limbs if they want to stimulate the enzymes and increase the heat.
Neither the rooms nor the baths are heated by electric methods. The baths are kept at around 60 degrees Celsius by monitoring how much the living mixture is fed. The constantly occurring fermentation process is what makes the baths warm
A few minutes into the treatment, users will start sweating. The sweat from the covered parts of the body is simply absorbed by the enzyme mixture, but most users will be dripping sweat from their faces. An attendant checked in periodically to mop our face with a cool towel.
When you climb out, you’ll be filthy, including under your nails and in your hairline. As we showered off — without soap, so as to let some enzymes remain on the skin — we were very hot and red. It was extremely hard to pull jeans on and we’d wear something lighter if we returned.
We were certainly more relaxed coming out when we went in and remained sweaty for the next few hours. Though some users report plumper skin and increased energy afterwards, we mostly just felt sleepy but content.
It would be hard to quantify many of the benefits that the enzyme baths claim, but we did find it relaxing. Would we do it again? Probably not, though it would certainly be more tempting in a cold climate.
At Ease Spa
Sukhumvit Soi 33/1
Open daily, 9am-12am
Starting from THB600
BTS Phrom Pong