A trip to the barber shop at The Landmark Bangkok is like a walk down Memory Lane, evoking memories of a ritual that has all but disappeared in many parts of the world. A mini massage completes the treatment.
The Barber Shop in the basement of The Landmark Bangkok offers traditional men’s haircuts – and other services – at bargain basement prices.
I can’t remember when the trips to the barber shop stopped and the trips to the hair salon started.
Was it when I was living in oh, so sophisticated San Francisco, where going to a barber shop might have seemed a bit déclassé?
Or was it in Hong Kong, where traditional barber shops went the way of the Dodo Bird so long ago I can’t remember? Not sure.
But I DO remember this: I have long missed that one element of the masculine ritual that comes at the end of the haircut, which the stylists at even the most stylish of hair salons always skip: the pulling out of a flat blade and the shaving of the upper neck and around the ears, followed by a splash of cologne and a dusting of talcum powder.
Leaving behind that oh, so clean feeling . . .
One of the many things on my “to do” list before leaving on this extended trip to Bangkok and Bali was getting a haircut, and it was one of the two things (that I have remembered so far) that I forgot to do on that final trip into town.
After checking into The Landmark Bangkok, I asked at the front desk if there was a barber shop nearby. To my surprise, I learned that the hotel had a hair salon and a barber shop and that men were welcome in both.
And I am NOT talking one of those pricey, high end, super expensive retro, British style barbershops with dark wood paneling and brass fittings. I mean a traditional barber shop like my Daddy used to take me to when we both needed a haircut.
When I walked inside. I was greeted by the barber. I looked at the price list, and the prices seemed reasonable. I said, “I’d like a haircut.” I was seated in one of those barber chairs that I haven’t sat in in decades.
Unlike those discount barber shops in Hong Kong, which promise a haircut in 5 minutes, this barber took his time. He moved so slowly, in fact, that I thought he wasn’t removing enough hair.
About 45 minutes later, he had finished with my hair and – using sign language – asked if I’d like him to do something that no barber has offered to do since I was in graduate school, which was about 40 years ago: trim my bushy eyebrows.
“YES!” I said.
When he was through with my eyebrows, the massages start: the head, the neck, the shoulders, the arms …
I was starting to wonder if there had been a misunderstanding: I had wanted a haircut, not a massage. I had seen “head massage” on the menu. It cost more than the haircut. Was this going to cost extra? And if so, how much?
While I pondered the cost of the unexpected “head massage”, which extended to the outer torso, I decided it would be worth it – whatever the cost. I hadn’t worked out the exchange rate yet, but I knew that it would not break the bank.
And then it happened. Out came the shaving cream, and the barber started to lather my neck and around the ears.
He reached for the flat blade and started the ritual I have been missing all these years – and that most younger men don’t miss, because they have probably never experienced it.
Slowly and meticulously he shaved my neck and around my ears, leaving behind that crisp, clean line that I can only imagine is there.
When he was through, he applied cologne, but no talcum powder. I saw the hair tonic on the counter. I was sort of hoping he would apply some – just for old time’s sake.
I never liked the stuff, but it would have been a nice touch. And, if truth be told, I would have liked some talc …
Then came the mirror. When I gave the barber the thumb’s up, he burst into a massive grin. He obviously took pride in his craft. He looked genuinely pleased. And so was I …
On my way out, a woman – who appeared to be his wife – handed me the receipt. It was 280 Bahi, or US$7.90, the cost of a haircut on the price list. The massage was included in the price.
The Landmark Bangkok, 138 Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, Thailand. Telephone: 66 (0) 2254-0404.
The hotel is a short walk from the … Skytrain station.