Banged Up Abroad

Thai style pedicure
My face tells more than words ever could. Khao Lak, Thailand 2011. Time heals, so do bones.

If only the ladies knew how much money could be made “extracting information” from combatants of the war of terror, they would have traded their sun loungers and spa positions for Quantanamo bay years ago.

On recommendation of my friend and yoga instructor, Heini and I decided to ditch the beach for a day and head into the city for a bit of “rub rub”. After living in Thailand for almost 5 years I’d only taken 4 massages during that time, my memories of why I’d taken so few had eroded.  Whatever the reason I didn’t partake before, it was a blur to me. One that was soon to come back.

As we headed into the incense layered building I began to have flashbacks, the smell, the low mattress, and almost darkness of the massage den all began to dawn on me. Each room reminded me of Abu Gave pictures I’d seen in the “press” with whimpers and groans coming from behind the curtains. And the scene was set for 90 minutes of what I can only describe as torture!

A lady of about 90 years old guided me onto the mat and indicated towards the pile of prison clothing on the mattress. I stripped and adorned the baggy shorts and shirt, unfortunately going commando today wasn’t a well thought out idea. Once dressed I laid on my front and waited the joys to come.

To start with it was actually pleasant. A bit of oil rubbed around my legs and feet, the smell of aloe vera filling the room and for a moment I started to relax. My masseuse then asked me what pressure I preferred, I chose “hard”, as I didn’t want to seem a weakling in front of my wife next door.

Smiling masseuse begins her work
For Hundreds of tourists the idea of a Thai massage is appealing.

Seconds later I was whimpering and regretting my decision as 90 year old fingers of steel pushed onto every body part causing muscles to retract further into the limbs they once served. With each new application of oil I knew that more pressure was inbound to my poor body. At this point I was committed, and all I could do was whimper, groan and hope for a fire drill, earthquake, or something else to stop this mad woman pulverising my body.

My back and legs were soon jelly and devoid of feeling as muscles turned to liquid, the pressure being so intense that I felt I should confess to anything to make it stop. She moved behind me with her arms under my arms, hands behind my head in a sort of “full nelson” wrestling move. Bending and twisting my upper body in ways that were never felt before I heard audible cracks that I can only assume were ribs and vertebrae being separated in what I could only hope was a temporary realignment. Like a true professional who knows no pain she continued until I had no other option to demand she STOP STOP STOP! I almost expected the next part of the therapy to be waterboarding and fingernail removal.

Thankfully she took my cries seriously and released her death grip on my head, laying me back down and continuing the rub down with a pressure rating of “weak” to “gentle”. As the fear and tension released from my body I relaxed and enjoyed, thankfully I could still move my toes and neck. I wondered briefly if she was just playing “good cop” for a while and would return to the dislocating of bones and tandems later.

After a good oiling up and almost falling asleep my fears subsided and I relaxed to the point of almost enjoyment, almost… Hearing my wife heavy breathing from behind her curtain I felt that again as claimed many times – women have I higher pain threshold than men, as she appeared to have fallen asleep.

With a bruised ego and body I have come to the conclusion that Thai massage is not for me and I write this as a warning to lesser men who believe they should “experiment” on holiday. By all means try, but beware of 90 year old Thai masseuses.

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