Sometimes things don’t go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures from the road.
As I approached the massage and beauty salon, I began to have some misgivings. Even though many Laotian massage enterprises are perfectly legitimate, the parlours of yesterday still colour them as dens of sex and decadence.
I walked through the door with Chloe, a fellow Canadian who was equally determined to see what the fuss was about. The Lao massage had come highly recommended and at 60,000 kip (about $8) an hour, it seemed a bargain. We pointed at the treatment menu, and were taken upstairs.
I was led to a room, which consisted of a single mattress sitting on the floor. (Maybe I pointed to the wrong option?) I was instructed to disrobe and put on a pair of shorts big enough to fit a water buffalo, and wait.
The door slid open and revealed a young Lao woman. “Sabaidee,” I greeted her, as she motioned for me to lie on my stomach.
I couldn’t see what was coming, which was probably best. Digging in with her fingers like she was trying to reach my internal organs, the masseuse twisted and pulled every muscle along my spine. I buried my face in the pillow to muffle my whimpering.
As she climbed on top of me and drove her knees into my thighs, “mmm-uhhh” escaped my lips, which I hoped she would take as an expression of enjoyment. Making her way down to my feet, she grabbed and twisted them like screw tops. She would make one hell of an interrogator: If she had asked, I would have given up all of my PIN codes to make her stop.
Then she crossed my legs at the ankles and proceeded to try and make my feet touch the back of my head. I felt like I was auditioning for Cirque du Soleil.
Eventually, the masseuse gave up on her quest to turn me into the letter U. My legs dropped to the mattress and I felt her tap me on my right leg. Finally, I thought. Something that doesn’t hurt. Then I realized she wanted me to turn over.
Lying on my back, I no longer had a pillow to cover my grimaces, so I did my best to maintain a neutral expression. Not an easy thing to do when someone is slowly crawling on top of you and putting her full weight on your legs. With both hands on my hips, she paused while pushing down hard enough that I was sure dislocation would follow. She twisted my arms behind my head, but the arms received mercifully short attention before she grabbed each of my fingers and hyperextended them, ending with a knuckle crack that I was sure would shake Chloe from her reverie next door.
Arriving at my head, the masseuse moved behind me and carefully positioned it on her lap. As she lightly drew circles on my temples with her fingers I felt some relief and settled in to enjoy the moment. Until, whack! Whack! Whack! She was slapping my forehead like a bongo drum. I felt like I was starring in a Three Stooges film.
Dropping my head back down on the pillow, she quietly said,“finished,” bowed, and left the room.
After my first Lao massage, just having any ending to it at all made me quite happy enough.
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