Her black eyes examined me closely, wrinkles forming in her chestnut brown facial skin as she visually assessed me prior to my massage. “You big boy. I think you need two hour.”
“No, I’m good with one.”
She looked at my plump belly as if to say Yeah, right! “One and a half?”
“One hour is just fine. Khop khun krop,” I replied, thanking her in Thai for the suggestion.
She shrugged and motioned for me to lay on the table. We had previously gone over the laminated menu of the various types of massages available, and I had selected “Swedish (relaxation).” Thai massage is legendary for the pain it inflicts. I’ve read plenty of complaints from people complaining about being sore for days after their massage.
I was not interested in torture. I was interested in being pampered, not pummeled.
I was naturally a bit concerned when she began pressing her hands against my ankles and heels while applying her full weight. I’ve been trained in different types of massage and acupressure, and this was more akin to a sports massage than Swedish.
I decided to wait it out.
Too long, apparently. Before I could open my mouth, I felt the unmistakable pressure and pain of an elbow driving itself into my calf muscle. “You okay?” she asked.
I nodded my head and said “Chai krop.”
She was not happy with this response, and soon her full diminutive form was on the table so that she could really put herself into it.
I refused to wince. We were engaged in a battle now. This was no longer about relaxation. When I drove to her shop, I had fantasized about the scent of massage oil commingled with perhaps the aroma of rose petals coming from a crystal bowl on a nearby pedestal as expert hands gently soothed my taut muscles. In my mind, I would drift asleep as my body was gently manipulated.
Instead, I had a vicious grandma who advertised massage therapy but clearly had been trained by the elite school of torture that is required education for all top physiotherapists.
As the unmistakable pressure of her forearms running up and down my legs continued, I thought She obviously can’t go any deeper.
Oh silly man! I underestimated the power of a bony knee. After finding every single tender spot I had in my legs and back, I figured the worst was over.
You know how people talk about getting a massage where a small Asian woman walks on your back? They’re lucky that’s all that happened.
The next thing I knew, I had a foot pressing against my shoulder while another foot pressed against my pelvis. Popping sounds began at my coccyx and quickly traveled up my spine. “No pain?” she asked in a challenge.
“Nope. I’m good!” I grunted.
That’s when she proceeded to use my body as a doormat, walking all over me, and using her feet to shove various body parts away from each other.
Then the real fun began.
Soon she was sitting on the table between my legs. The soles of her feet planted against my hamstrings and shoved my legs further apart before her toes dug deep between the muscles. She proceeded to use my tendons like guitar strings.
I began deep breathing exercises but almost choked when she performed a hernia examination with her feet, her toes digging deep into the space between my leg and groin (through my shorts). Except this time I didn’t have to turn my head and cough.
When it was finally time to flip over, I was relieved. I had won! But her smile told me she had more tricks up her sleeves. I closed my eyes and pretended I was so relaxed I was falling asleep as she ran her fingers and elbow between my ribs. “You okay?” she asked craftily.
I nodded my head.
“Not too much pain?”
“No, I’m good!” I replied. Yes, I AM that stubborn.
After she was done abusing me, she took hold of my Buddha belly and moobs and began kneading them as if they were a large pile of dumpling dough. Meanwhile, she muttered blessings.
At least that’s what I’d like to believe they were.
After she had worked back down my body, my legs were put into a figure-4 position while she attempted to dislocate my hips.
Back at my feet she was not satisfied until each toe gave an audible pop! as she tugged on them. My left big toe was particularly obstinate and refused her ministrations. It eventually gave in, though, and she said “Ah ha!” with glee when it finally succumbed.
As things began to wind down, I was instructed to sit up. She got behind me, sat down with a pillow in her lap, and my head was lovingly placed in her lap where she lightly stroked my forehead, gently tugged on my ears, and stroked my cheeks and chin.
And then she started lightly smacking me all over my head.
She thankfully returned to relaxing strokes and kneading. At least until she had me sit up while she finished “relaxing” my neck by driving her fingers into every tender point she could find along the base of my skull. I was then doubled over so she could lightly rub my back.
And then she returned to slapping me literally upside the head. I couldn’t help it and started laughing. It was just too comical.
Finally my “relaxation massage” was done. When I stood up, I was instructed to shake and bend my limbs. Good advice since I was finding it a bit difficult to stand.
Hours later my body was still cracking and popping. In the middle of the night, I began to feel the after effects of her elbows and knees. The temporary wonderful feeling after the massage has been replaced by aches and pains. I had to check to see if I had bruises.
The day after is most definitely not as good as the first couple of hours after being on the table, but later in the day the pain dissipated.
Would I do it again?
I’m not so sure. Generally I prefer massages that leave me feeling good or that at least don’t leave me rethinking my choices the next day. Once the pain subsided, things felt pretty good. I’m still crackling and popping a bit a few days later, but nothing that’s painful.
Have you ever experienced a Thai massage? If not, would you be willing to give it a shot after reading this?