06 Jan

Thai Mass-‘Ouch’

The massage platform is on the beach with soft sand leading up to it and, when the tide is high, the waves lap underneath in a calm, rhythmic pattern. Dappled sunlight filters through the palm trees and the scent of tiger balm is carried on the breeze as the Thai girls call out to all who pass ‘mass-age, would you like a mass-age’ in their lilting voices.

It’s hard not to give in to the call. At home, a massage costs upwards of $60 for an hour whereas here it’s a measly $9! We have seen massages offered throughout all of our travels but kept telling ourselves that we would wait for the infamous Thai massage so, as soon as we got to the beach, we made a beeline for the platform.

Massage Platform, Koh Pha-Ngan It all starts out nice enough, with a soft mattress and a pretty draped sarong, but before too long I am writhing in pain as the once-kind-and-gentle masseuse digs her elbows into my back and I realize that this is no spa experience. In fact Thai massage is not supposed to be like getting a massage at the spa. It is based on energy channels, pressure points and stretching…and it can be painful.

Massage, Koh Pha-Ngan-2 She starts by pressing gently but firmly all down my back and legs and then slowly increases the pressure and the pointed-ness of the pressure until she finds a knot. Then I know I am in for it. Next, she works on the knot with her extremely strong fingers until it’s released or I beg her to stop.

She is small, but deceptively strong, and can bring me to my knees with one hand tied behind her back…luckily she is also very kind and constantly asks if I am okay and offers to make it ‘less strong’…I  take her up on the offer.

Massage, Koh Pha-Ngan-6 J seems to be even more manipulated than I am. I open my eyes to see his masseuse standing on him pulling his arms and legs in various directions, or twisting him into various impossible positions and then ‘helping’ him to stretch. He communicates with her using grunts and groans as she giggles and seems to get some perverse pleasure in delivering the pain.

When it’s all over we both lie there, exhausted even though we haven’t done anything. She gives us some instructions for stretching later and we drag ourselves to our deckchairs to recover.

On the way to breakfast the next morning we pass by her platform. She calls out and asks if we are ‘kaput’…we respond that ‘oh yes, we are kaput’…and promptly make an appointment for the next morning…it’s addictive.