My Overseas Massage Experiences: The Good, the Bad and the Dodgy
Some people collect exotic souvenirs when they travel. I, on the other hand, make do without the tangible mementos and collect massage experiences instead. Regardless of whether it’s a 90-minute full-body rub or an hour-long reflexology treatment to assuage my aching feet, getting a massage completes my overseas trips the same way saccharine white cream completes chocolate Oreo biscuits.
But why massages, you may ask.Well, from a financial standpoint, the massages I receive overseas are significantly cheaper than the ones that are offered back home in Singapore. Additionally, in my attempt to further save cost, I would always engage the services of masseuses at local parlours that are situated within the city central – they’re more budget-friendly than the spa treatments which are offered at the luxury hotels where I sometimes stay during my business trips.
While these street massage parlours usually won’t burn a hole in my pocket, there is no guarantee of the quality of the massages that I will get. Putting that into consideration, I have decided to share with you some of my more – how shall I put it –memorable massage experiences when I’m abroad, all for your reading pleasure and, of course, possible scrutiny.
Any massage is only as good as the pair of hands behind it, and I had the privilege of having really talented hands kneading the tension away from my body in Bali and Guilin.
Allow me to highlight the similarities between the Balinese and Chinese masseuse that made them downright phenomenal (by my standards, at least): they both were young, local, female and ludicrously cute. They were also very good at pinpointing the parts of my back that needed the most attention; but, that is beside the point, really. Did I mention they were cute? I think their cuteness played a more significant role in curing my aching back than the actual massage itself.
Sometimes you have to be very specific to get what you want – no, deserve – in life; I learnt this when I got a massage in Jakarta during an overseas assignment.
When I called a massage parlour that was recommended by a friend to book an appointment, I specifically told the front desk personnel that I wanted a female masseuse. As requested, the person who entered the room to massage me was female, but she was hardly spring chicken! The wretched woman was old enough to be my grandmother.
To make things worse, she massaged like a man – a man with burly (and wrinkly) hands that are in need of inflicting bodily pain upon unsuspecting victims like yours truly. I think she was just tired after a long day’s work and decided to vent her anger on me for being the last nuisance of a customer.
From that moment on, I vouched to request only for friendly masseuses who are young (heavy emphasis placed on this particular point), local, female and ludicrously cute. No more angry aged pigeons, thank you very much.
There are those unfortunate instances where my request can’t be met, like when I went to a shopping mall in Johor Bahru to get a massage for example. Malaysia being a multidimensional but predominantly Muslim country, any form of bodily contact between an unmarried man and woman is forbidden and bears heavy repercussions. Thus, I had to settle for a male masseuse.
While my mother and aunt were ushered into their respective rooms to get massaged by women, I had to be brought out of the parlour and to a separate part of the mall to get massaged by a man. The guy looked old enough to be my uncle.
I was perfectly fine with this arrangement, until the walk to the alternative room took about 10 minutes. Making me raise an eyebrow even higher was the fact that this room was found within a room that was within a room that was within another room. By the time the masseuse locked the door, I was practically isolated from civilization as I knew it.
He told me to remove all my necessary layer of clothes until I was standing there in nothing but my boxer briefs. He began his massage after I lay face-down upon the massage bed.
In all the years that I’ve received a massage, a blanket is usually provided and strategically positioned so that only the part of my body that is being massaged is exposed – but this time no such covering was provided! As the air-conditioning was switched on, I started to feel really cold and interrupted the small talk that he was initiating to request for a blanket. He provided me with one, but persistently asked to have the blanket removed – a request which I rejected equally persistently.
I tensed when he started kneading my thighs and asked if it was possible to avoid that region due to my obvious sensitivity. Instead of respectfully obliging, he started poking my thigh and said, “I didn’t know you were such a sensitive person?” with a smile on his face.
That was it. I felt beyond uncomfortable. As soon as the massage was over, I left the room and practically ran to join the rest of my family.
So what possible life lesson, can you, dear reader, take from my experiences of being massaged overseas? Just make sure that you specifically request for young, local, female and ludicrously cute masseuses. That is all.
About the Author:
Arman is a travel writer at AsiaRooms.com. He is Singaporean – born and bred – which means he’s very accustomed to punctuating his sentences with terms like “lah” or “lor” and having roti prata (delightful fried dough typically enjoyed with curry) for breakfast.