Jodi has this thing with massages; she loves them but will only get a massage if someone she knows, i.e. me, is right along side going through the same experience. Personally I can take ‘em or leave them. They are usually more painful than relaxing, and the money spent really isn’t worth the cost. At least that pertains to massages in the US where the cost is somewhere between US$40 and US$80, but here in Southeast Asia the cost is usually around US$5 (or less) for an hour session. Thus, I have found myself occasionally giving into Jodi’s pleas. We’re heading into China tomorrow, possibly presenting a whole other range of massage opportunities so I thought I’d give you a breakdown of my massage experiences thus far.

Thai Massage
Before heading out to Thailand Jodi and I met up with my friend, Matt, to pick his brain on Thailand and a few of the other countries that he’s visited. He told stories of his wild Bangkok adventures and the infamous massage parlors. While Bangkok sounded great, his stories of the massage shops were enough to freak me out. He informed us that you had to be a bit careful since a lot of the places were light on the massage and heavy on the sex. I was already not a big fan of massages and the prospect of fighting off a masseuse didn’t sound like a relaxing time.

Upon arriving in Bangkok and walking around the streets a bit, it is not hard to find a massage parlor. They seem to be on just about every street. In fact there was one just down the road from our hostel which we had to walk by everyday. And everyday Jodi would make a comment about how nice it would be to get a Thai massage to ease the pain from sightseeing. Of course thoughts of Matt’s stories filled my head but as far as I could tell the place looked legit with no funny business going on. Finally, with all my excuses exhausted we made an appointment.

I felt a bit uncomfortable as the women spoke in rapid Thai and then giggled as one rubbed my feet. Are they dirty? Smell? Probably, oh well it feels good. With Jodi laying beside me we both opted for the traditional Thai massage. While stretching my muscles, I whimpered occasionally when her elbows dug into my back. She would move my body and put me into these strange stretching poses until things cracked but the hour passed by quickly and the experience was enjoyable.

Vietnam Massage
When we were in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) Jodi was looking through the Lonely Planet and noticed a school that taught the art of massage. The school was cheap (about $3 for an hour massage) but there was one thing very interesting about this massage school—the pupils were all blind. This allows the blind to learn a skill that they can use to support themselves and their family. I thought this sounded like a good idea, especially the price. And so, I agreed to go and get a massage.

Call it a random feeling or some kind of intuition but as we got to the gate of the school I suddenly got a feeling that I should quickly back out. But it was too late, Jodi was committed and I had already given my consent. Up the concrete stairs we went to pay and get assigned our masseuse. Jodi and I were quickly separated.  My masseuse firmly grabbed my hand and hurried me away to an air conditioned room that reminded me more of a hospital emergency room than a massage parlor. Six beds cordoned off by sheets were the only attempts of privacy. The room was pretty much empty except for one man on the other side of the room, asleep and snoring away. I’m not sure if he was a client or a masseuse taking a little nap but he certainly sounded relaxed. It was a bit strange stripping down to my underwear but I assured myself that the guy was blind and that it would be ok. Handing me a towel, I laid on the bed and my massage began.

I admit that I am not an experienced massage patron but this has to be my strangest massage experience ever. For what seemed like 45 minutes the massage consisted of rubbing which alternated between my shoulders and buttocks. I was a bit surprised at this technique but I wrote it off to some kind of  blind Vietnamese new fung schway style, when in Rome I kept saying to myself.

About every ten minutes someone would come in through the sheet wall and converse with my masseuse and then they would leave together. I would be left alone quietly reflecting, listening to the rhythmic snoring of the man in the next bed. My masseuse would then return and resume the butt rubbing only to get a phone call. The effect turned my hour long massage into something like one and a half hours. I also think that he often forgot where he left off which caused my butt and shoulders to get a large amount of attention and my arms to receive almost no time at all. Random thoughts kept popping into my mind, wondering how Jodi (in the woman’s only area) was liking her butt massage. With my butt and shoulders thoroughly worked he finally gave my legs a quick rub down and it was over. I thanked him, got dressed and left the massage area to meet Jodi in the courtyard downstairs. Sitting only a few minutes, Jodi joined me and I quickly asked how her massage was, “It was fine” she said. She gave a quick rundown, saying how they kept getting interrupted, her masseuse leaving the room a lot and forgetting where they left off. I kept waiting for her to say something about the amount of butt rubbing but it never came. Looks like I was the only lucky one.

Laos Massage
When in Luang Prabang Jodi and I experienced our first Laos massage. They gave us karate robes to dress into and left us for about 10 minutes to change. It only took two minutes to change clothes so we spent the rest of the time practicing our kung fu moves. I thought it would be a lot like the Thai massage with lots of stretching and a bit of pain, but I have to say that my massage in Laos was by far my favorite. No crazy stretching, no fingers digging into my back, and definitely no butt rubbing. It was just a nice and relaxing massage.

One Response to “Massages around Southeast Asia”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Too bad you missed the Balinese massage, where you lay naked as the day you were born on the table. “No clothes? Not clothes at all, right? You’re sure? Not even underwear? No clothes?”