So what drives a person to get a massage? Last Sunday, for me, it was sweet relief. My back was murdering me. Perhaps the pain was
repercussions of bad running form or too many hours spent on long bus and plane rides. Also, curiosity was quite motivating. What was a Thai massage like anyway?
I might only be in Thailand once...
I decided it was worth the experience. After a long, hot walk down a busy road, I finally found a place. The sign next to the door read: GOOD PRICE FOR GREAT QUALITY. I forced the high school part of my brain out of the gutter.
At the door, I was given pink silky slippers. I took off my shoes and entered the little shop. I was greeted by many smiles.
People in Thailand love to smile. I feel like the culturally incompetent American, dumbly returning smiles on a constant basis. I think there's an art to it; there are different types of smiles and different times to express them. Of course, this is strictly hypothesis based, but I think I'm on to something.
One of the Thai women approached me with an open menu. To my surprise, there was an English section. I pointed to the Traditional Thai Massage, 180 baht for one hour. The amount translates to $6.06 USD--for one hour.
"Can a man give you massage?" The woman asked. She had such a gentle, thickly accented voice. Noting the obvious apprehension on my face, she added, "It is very good massage. He is very good."
Reader, are you familiar with the expression "soft brown eyes"? I never understood how eyes could be soft. However, if you can just imagine it, hers fit the description. She looked to be in her forties, although it's so hard for me to tell, with long, shiny brown hair curled in at the ends. Her eyes were noticeably large, beautifully shaped, and...soft.
In the end, I agreed to it.
Passing through a jankity sliding door, she took me up a tiny, narrow staircase in the back of the building. The steps made that hallow, squeaky noise associated with old, rotting wood and the lights grew dimmer as we ascended. I forced myself not to panic. She led me into an airconditioned room. One door, no windows. Mattresses lined one wall with curtains dividing them into tiny rooms. My apprehensive American mind buzzed with images from Taken and random human trafficking documentaries I've seen.
The woman produced a pair of pink and red pajamas and placed them on one of the beds. She motioned with an open hand toward the mattress. I obediently walked over and she closed the curtains around me.
The pajamas were huge, far exceeding any appropriate human proportion. I wrapped the draw strings around my waist twice and securely tied them with a double knot.
I didn't have to wait long before the masseur appeared. He looked a bit older, maybe in his forties. I noticed he was wearing pajamas too, except his were offwhite. Skipping all formalities, he indicated that I lay down on my back. I looked at him blankly for a second. This was all happening so unceremoniously.
As I stood there hesitating, my back suddenly didn't hurt so badly. If they didn't have my shoes and I only their pajamas, I might've made a run for it.
Like a scared little kid, I eventually laid down. He began with my feet, cleaning them with a wet, cool towel first. I couldn't decide what to do with my hands. I finally left them resting on my stomach in stiff mummy fashion. Should I close my eyes? Keep them open? The ceiling boards were painted a creamy white frosting color.
What happened next is difficult to explain since I'm actually not completely sure myself.
However, first, reader, you should know that in the States I went to a chiropractor on a fairly regular basis. After my first visit, he explained I have the flexibility of a fifty-year-old man.
That being said...
I endured a traditional Thai, full-body massage.
I don't know what I was initially expecting. When I thought of "a massage" I thought of strong hands kneading out tight backs.
However, if you look up Google Images of "Traditional Thai massage," you'll find pictures like this:
To say the least, my understanding of "massage" has been redefined. That's not to say the experience was bad, it was good...in a painful sort of way. It was like getting a massage by a monkey. He used his arms and legs in ways I had never seen arms and legs be used.
When the hour was finished, he got up and went as unceremoniously as he came. I was left in a pile on the mattress, dazed, yet surprisingly okay.
After a little recuperation, I stood up, shook my arms and legs a few times, changed, and found a cup of tea waiting for me downstairs. The Thai woman greeted me with a smile. "Was it good?" She asked. I lifted my eyebrows and nodded my head, "Yeah...it was really good." I winced a little from how awkwardly dirty that sounded, but she looked pleased. I wondered if my masseur was her husband. I didn't want to ask. The soft-eyed woman spoke English well. She asked me about myself and my thoughts of Thailand and introduced her daughters. When the conversation eventually lulled, I paid and went to retrieve my shoes.
I exited the shop victorious. Even though I was really only manipulated deadweight during the course of the hour, I felt like I had accomplished something extraordinary. In retrospect, it was actually quite a good massage. I might even do it again.