When I was back home in England dreaming about my first Thai massage I had visions of a gloriously relaxing hour spent in a comatose state whilst a small Thai lady expertly manipulated my limbs back to life.
What I didn’t expect was my first real insight into a life held captive in a torture chamber in Guantanamo Bay and by the look of Glen’s face when we left – I could tell he had experienced a similar kind of hell in what went on to become the longest, most painful hour of our lives.
It had all started out so well. After a mammoth journey from London to Chiang Mai earlier in the week the massage I had been dreaming about for so long began to occupy my every thought. I woke up in the morning and extracted myself from the bed in my stiffened state for the last time as I vowed that today would be the day that I finally got my massage and in turn, got my body back to behaving like it was 27 and not 97.
To my equal shock and delight Glen informs me that he will be joining me for a massage. This, people, is unheard of. Glen absolutely hates anything that involves another person touching him, or even getting too close to him, and getting him to go for regular haircuts is an ordeal that any parent of a toddler in the midst of a temper tantrum would sympathise with. But, he declares somewhat hesitantly, “when in Rome” (or in this case Thailand).
Having a massage here is not considered a luxury like it is in the UK. In fact the Thai consider it a healthy part of daily life and you can’t look up without seeing someone in the middle of a foot rub – there are stations set up along the side of every road. We however are British and as open minded as we are (learning to be…) a massage on the side of the road is not really our thing.
So instead we headed down our residential road and wondered how he would choose from the many shops advertising massage. It’s a tough process – they all appear to cost 200 baht / £4 and no one shop really stands out from another. In the end we were persuaded to enter a relatively nice looking shop after a friendly lady waved us in. What can I say, we’re easy, as you’ll read on to find out.
We must have had the look of fear on our faces because after being led up 2 flights of stairs and into a dimly lit room filled with mattresses on the floor, the lady who had earned our custom began to have what appeared would be a non-stop giggling fit. Glen and I are glancing nervously at each other and giving an awkward half laugh to what could turn our to be our murderer and still we are none the wiser to what the joke is, though we’re beginning to suspect that it is us. The fact that she could not speak one word of English made her laugh even more at our champion effort of communication charades.
Realising that we have no idea whats going on, the joker leaves suddenly (still giggling) and returns with 2 hilarious looking outfits that we are to change in to. Ah, it is all beginning to make sense!
We’re expecting to be left alone to change but no dice. Instead we stoically begin to change into what will be our outfit for the next hour (now lovingly nicknamed our torture outfit) which was essentially a baggy shirt like top and the largest trousers I have ever seen that even tied twice around me, were never going to stay up.
Yes, the lady is still laughing as she motions for us to lay face up (charades in full swing) on the mattresses and we nervously comply.
Just as I’m wondering how she is going to massage the both of us at the same time, another lady appears and before I know it and without the exchange of pleasantries my right leg is being attacked by two tiny little hands with the force of the incredible hulk behind them and I’m pretty certain that she is trying to pull my leg clean off.
Is this normal?
What is the etiquette when you suspect that you are being violently attacked but are trying not to offend someone who could be giving you the very thing that you have asked for?
I risked a glance at Glen who was laying to my right and note that he is receiving a similar treatment but his eyes are glued shut and so I can’t convey my panic discreetly. Instead I look up at the clock and wonder how slow sixty minutes can go. As it turns out, very.
The massage moves from painful to agonising as this small lady begins to bend my body into shapes that even my yoga teacher has never coaxed out of me. Mind you, my yoga teacher was never sitting on me whilst simultaneously holding my arms behind my head and pushing my back down with her feet. And that was just the start!
When my torturers mobile phone rang and I watched her remove it from her bag and go on to take the call, whilst still sitting on me, I began to see the hilarious situation for what it was and it took all the willpower I had not to wet myself with laugher. I turned my head to the left, clamped my eyes shut and made the decision to avoid making eye contact with Glen at all costs because I knew that with one look at him, I would lose it.
The odd thing is that somewhere between having my head pulled at and my arm beaten to shit, I actually began to relax into the massage and when I was asked to turn over onto my front, I actually began to think I might fall asleep. Is this why people like S&M?! Maybe 50 shades of grey is more accurate that I thought.
Whilst the pain in my back was (rigorously) massaged away and my neck cracked, all the tension I had been carrying floated away and I started to think that maybe a Thai massage would become a part of my daily routine. Until little hands started to creep up my inner thigh and the thought that Glen was getting a similar treatment pushed me over the edge and I became the crazy lady, laughing for seemingly no reason at the situation we were in.
Luckily the hour was almost up and as I was sat up and contorted into a number of seemingly impossible poses that made my back crack louder than it had any right to, we all had a laugh at the sounds coming from me and with that – the ordeal was over.
We drank the post attack complimentary tea given to us as quickly as a boiling hot beverage can be and I could tell that Glen was as eager to leave as I was so we could compare stories.
Once we got outside we both declared the need to go for a drink and it was over 2 icy glasses of Chang beer that we recounted our 60 minutes of hell and laughed harder than we have in a long time. Yes, Glen too was touched in places he thought you had to pay extra for and agreed that much of it had been truly painful (not least the Pocahontas soundtrack on loop), but we both had to admit that our bodies had never felt better.
Three days on I still feel great and concede that the rough treatment must work, but I won’t be rushing back for my next Thai massage any time soon!