My first thai massage
Upon landing in Bangkok, I had 2 things I needed to do; eat pad Thai, and get a Thai massage. Following the recommendation of the hostel workers, I headed to Tony's Massage around the corner. For 100 baht I could get a one hour traditional Thai massage. That's roughly 3 USD, how could I possibly go wrong? I'll tell you how.
I proceeded to follow the Thai man upstairs to a small rectangular room consisting of 5 mattresses on the floor, 4 of them occupied and 1 behind a curtain that would become my torture chamber. The experience started off with a typical calf and thigh massage, my knots being kneaded out by the strength of this small Asian man. I typically never speak up during a massage when the pressure is too strong, always telling myself that the pain will be worthwhile in the end. But when I opened my eyes to see this man's elbow angrily digging into my thigh, I somehow found my voice. "Ouch, too hard" I said. To which my assailant flashed a sadistic grin and continued his attack. This was only the beginning.
There came a point, when my foot was tucked behind my ear that I wondered if maybe, in the dim lighting of the room, this man had mistaken my 5'1" frame for that of an Asian. Surely he knows most westerners can not bend that way. Thank god for years of yoga or I may have seriously injured myself. When it was finally time to flip onto my stomach I was relieved, the shoulders are always my favorite part of a massage. Fast forward 5 minutes to a knee in my rib cage and thumbs pressing into my skull with the strength of an elephant. It was at this point that I began to fear for my life. Surely that much pressure on my neck and spinal chord can't be good. "Just breathe, you'll be okay, you will make it out of this alive" I told myself. And then the pressure increased. I was convinced my eyes were going to pop out of my skull and I wondered who it would be that would eventually find me here. Would I suffocate or would my head burst under the pressure of these inhumane Thai hands? I didn't want to find out the answer to that question.
After enduring 20 minutes of pain in my neck and shoulders, my torturer instructed me to sit up. I had just started to accept defeat, accept that I would walk out of this place with my lifeless arms dangling from the sockets, my knees shaking and buckling beneath me, when I heard it: a blood curdling scream coming from the woman two beds away from me. "I'm not alone" I thought, "she too is being tortured". I tried to communicate to the other victim telepathically, "I feel your pain, they are doing it to me too. Stay strong, we'll make it". The realization that I was not the only victim in the situation gave me the strength I needed to push through. I began to wonder if this establishment had ever been investigated, there's no way this is humane. And then I remembered that the staff at the hostel had actually recommended it. What kind of masochists am I staying with?
One last karate chop to the back of my neck and the torture was finally over. I quickly threw my clothes back on, tossed the money on the counter and pushed my way to the sidewalk. I had made it out alive but a part of me would never be the same. My body had been contorted in ways I never thought possible. My brain, still trying to process what I had just endured, could not remember how to get back to the hostel. After a few wrong turns I made my way in a circle, back to the scene of the crime and managed to stumble my way home.
"What have I done to deserve this?" A question that repeated itself in my mind throughout the "massage" remains to be unanswered. You've won this round Bangkok, but I'll be back.
*note: this story has been dramatized for comedic effect. I'll probably get another massage tomorrow.
**Update: I am now thoroughly obsessed with Thai massages. After leaving and returning to Thailand numerous times, I have made massages a daily ritual whilst in land of smiles.