Thai Massage – My Poor Western Body
My dog Vito has difficulty understanding the difference between feet and hands. Sometimes, he’ll bring the ball to my hand and I’ll throw it. Other times, he’ll bring it to my foot, drop it, and stare. As if to say, “Why can’t this appendage throw?” I guess to dogs all paws do the same thing and so should ours. Vito has it right though when it comes to the Thai massage. After the masseuse instructed me to lay on my stomach, she proceeded to jump on the table and commence the Thai massage by climbing on top of me and using her hands and feet as if they were equals.
A Thai massage is a full on assault of the body. It is nothing like a traditional Swedish massage. First, you are clothed in funny looking Thai pajamas – loose fitting pants secured with a draw string and an equally loose t-shirt, usually both in a dark Earth tone. They also do not use any oil either. In Thailand, oil is for sex massages, and I didn’t see any of those offered on the spa menu at Cape Sienna Hotel and Villas. The massage starts with a foot washing. My feet soaked in scolding hot water while the masseuse used abrasive soap to cleanse out the dirt accumulated from several days of walking with sandaled feet around Kamala Beach. She then used her feet and hands to contort and bend my body trying to force it into the posture it should be in. From walking on my feet to straightening and twisting my spine, I felt like I was in some sort of sick yet fantastical torture chamber. It was part massage, part yoga. After my muscles were pulled, manipulated, rubbed, and beat, I sat sipping a rose bud tea overlooking the ocean waiting for Mrs. Gourmand to finish with her mani/pedi.
At least this was my impression after my first massage at the Cape Sienna Hotel in Kamala. After a second massage in Chiang Mai at Fah Lannah Massage, I learned that the massage at Cape Sienna was watered down for pampered tourists (and a lot more money, too). What I thought was being contorted and manipulated was nothing until I was bent backwards into a full wheel with the masseuse under me supporting my back. My wife came along for this massage and we were bent, beaten, and pulled on floor mats next to each other. We tried not laugh as we caught glimpses of each other being pretzeled into positions our Western bodies aren’t supposed to move into. Once again, we were treated to rose bud tea while our bodies tried to process what they had just been through. Was it a massage or a workout? Either way, I was dripping in sweat and feeling awesome.
I don’t want to make it sound painful. I actually learned that I prefer the Thai massage to the traditional Swedish massage. After all, I did go back for a second and would have had a third or fourth if time would allow. Massages are just too cheap and parlors too plentiful not to get several a week. The key is to get away from the resorts and hotels for authentic massages and cheaper rates. Heck, you can get a foot rub down on nearly every street corner. Those looked a bit to unhygienic and gross for me as I watched fat, sweaty white men getting the kinks worked out of their hairy feet. I said no and stuck to massage parlors with walls.