I’m a type of guy who can really appreciate a good massage, heck, even a bad massage, but of the one or two I’ve ever paid to receive in the States, I’ve had trouble feeling it was quite worth the steep price. For this reason, I was excited to find that like many fine things in Thailand, you can buy an hour-long massage on the beach for the price of a cheap cocktail back home in Boston.
Steph, on the other hand, has never been much for massages. For some reason, to her they just don’t feel like much more than painful friction and pressure. My theory has held that she simply hasn’t had a good one yet; perhaps, I thought, this trip would be the time that she’d learn to appreciate a massage – that and coffee, but we’ll get to that later in the trip. In hindsight though, Thailand may not be the best choice for this awakening to take place.
Thai massage is a unique practice with interesting and ancient roots. Instead of speaking to the particulars on that history, I’ll just summarize the style as a focus on pressure points in muscles, increasing flexibility, and well, a healthy bit of good old-fashioned pain. Knowing this ahead of time, I wanted to make sure I’d get the most authentic experience I could, so I spent the previous day walking the beach scoping out the massage practitioners that looked best – essentially, we’d want the most jacked up muscle ladies I could find.
We settled on a place with very kind (and of course built) ladies who set us up with two side-by-side massage tables, right on the quiet beach on Koh Lanta. Our massages started out with the what I assume to be the basics – a firm sucker punch to the arch of the foot – and then quickly got to business. It wasn’t long before Steph and I had women kneeling on our backs and pulling our arms toward their sides forcefully and repeatedly, as if our bodies were rubber dinghies that these women needed to return to port before the tide went out. Muscles were stretched, digits cracked, pelvi squeezed. Not a few times, I’m sure I heard Steph actually yell “Ow!”, after which her masseuse surely asked if the pressure was too much, and upon affirmation, merely dialed it to 11. “Please relax your body,” they’d remind us, while pressing a heel into regions no foot should ever graze.
All the while, you might think we were at least soothed by the gently rolling, crystal clear waves less than 50 feet in front of our eyes; but even if we could have blocked out the pain of the contortions in which we’d been placed, we still had to ignore the women’s screaming and laughing children, running around and underneath our massage beds wielding sticks and shovels.
When the children’s cackling hit a peak, our practitioners stopped to see the cause of the ruckus. She laughed at them and turned back to us: “They’re just chasing a large snake! You know co-vra? Co… I uh, cobra? You know cobra?
Haha! Thailand has many large snakes,” she reminded us, before reiterating our need to relax our damn bodies. With this, Steph rolled her head in my direction with a look that confirmed we’d need to approach this massage thing another time.