Michael’s first massage in his life was an $8 Thai massage in Bangkok today. He’s never experienced any style of massage before due to being ticklish and not liking strangers touching him. But he was a good sport and decided to try a Thai massage. To summarize the experience before I get into the details – any future massage he will get can only serve to impress. The bar was set so low it was subterranean.
Massages are cheap in Thailand. A masseuse ordered to our hotel room costs $16 per hour. An upscale massage spa is $14 per hour. You would think being used to $50+ per hour massages in the U.S. we would settle on one of these luxurious options. But no, not us. We decided it would be a good idea to stop at one of the massage parlors dotting the side streets near our hotel. Each advertised the same price – 250 Baht per hour for a Thai style massage – approximately $8 per hour.
The masseuse led us up a few creaky staircases to a third floor room that looked like a small high school gymnasium, with mats laid out side by side, five to a wall on each side of the room. That was the first indication that this would not be a massage experience I was used to.
Thankfully, I saw curtains separating each massage mat so breathed a sigh of relief that at least there would be some privacy. I was wrong. The curtains were pulled shut to allow me to undress and then flung wide open for the actual massage portion of this experience so that any passerby, and let me tell you, that room saw more traffic than the 405, could observe me in all of my sprawled out glory.
You would think that at least a dimly-lit room would help with the privacy bit. It would, if I had the good fortune of being in such a room. I did not. I might as well have been in surgery, a dentist’s chair, or getting my blackheads extracted during a facial. Because that was the “mood lighting” of the overhead lamp that glared over me for the duration of the massage. I naively wondered if they turned it on for us to get undressed and situated before dimming it. I was wrong again. The spotlight remained on the entire time.
I wondered if this experience could get any stranger. It could and it did. As I was ready to whip off my harem pants, t-shirt, and bra, and hop under the towel/blanket in my underwear, the masseuse handed me a button-up shirt and a pair of pantaloons.
Straight up pantaloons, no joke.
And a short-sleeved button-up shirt that I guessed a Thai grandma would wear. I was not wrong on this account. When I got back to the hotel and Googled “Thai grandma”, the below image was one of the first search results. That was my shirt and that was how it fit. Except my pantaloons didn’t reach my boobs so I had a good six-inch portion of my ghost-white stomach exposed. There is a reason why it is ghost-white. Like Edward Cullen minus the sparkly bit, my stomach does not like to be exposed to the light. It’s quite shy so this dress code was unnerving.
For Michael, as a massage virgin, all this was taken in stride because he thought it was a normal part of the massage experience. He calmly put his pantaloons on, tried to tie them unsuccessfully around his waist, and then just held them up with his hand. He put his grandma shirt on and buttoned it halfway. He looked at me expectantly, while inside my head I was screaming WHY THE HELL AM I WEARING PANTALOONS FOR A MASSAGE?!
Now that we were dressed and ready to work in the rice paddy fields, the curtains were flung open and the massage began. I was still in shock at the public massage and my pantaloons, so managed to lay quietly for the first half of the massage as my brain worked on overdrive to process all of this information.
About a half-hour into this very unique massage, a few new customers entered the room and I started chortling under my breath as I heard them being handed their massage uniform.
“Oh! A shirt. To wear? Now? Oh! And also pants. I…I…I’ve never worn pants before.” I heard a stupefied woman with a Russian accent remark.
“We’re putting on pants for the massage?” A confused American man asked a few minutes later.
At this point my chortling was morphing into full-on hyena laughter. Michael’s concerned masseuse asked me if I was ok. When I didn’t answer because I was trying to control myself, she leaned over to Michael. “Is madam ok?” Yes madam is ok. Madam might have expected massage therapy during a massage, but she was gifted with laughter therapy instead.