I never thought it would happen to me, but here I was in Vietnam with a big smile on my face as my massage concluded!
I love massages, but rarely treat myself to this luxury back in the States as they are so ridiculously overpriced. I mean, $100 an hour – seriously? It’s not like I’m seeking legal council; it’s basically manual labor in my mind. Anyway, over here in S.E. Asia I get one most days and an hour only costs about $5. Yes, that’s twenty times less, and further, no tip is expected.
Everything is so inexpensive here. Being retired and able to snowbird in Asia allows me to live very affordably whilst avoiding the plummeting temperatures back home.
My to-do list for the day was completed. I had worked-out on the beach, gotten 3,000,000 Dong ($150) from the ATM, and purchased another 5 liter bottle of drinking water, so it was time to relax, though barely midday.
As I pulled my hotel room door shut, I thought perhaps I should have hit the bathroom before heading out – one for the road as it were.
Nah, I’ll be fine I concluded, it’ll just be an hour.
The receptionist at my current favorite massage parlor around the corner informed me that, “only man now, girl afternoon.” Yeah sorry no can do, I had a bad experience in Laos with that last year. Though somewhat dejected, I remembered being handed a flyer the day before promoting special prices ($3.45/hour) at another parlor close by. Ok, I’ll give that place a try I figured.
Following the flyer’s directions, I proceeded down a tiny back alley and spotted a sign reading “Blind Massage” which is not uncommon, but is almost always masseurs. Here we go again I thought.
A smiling man welcomed me in, moving the religious offering which sat in the doorway. There were flowers, a small statue, burning incense, various treats and bottles all on a round metal tray. Once I removed my shoes, I was shown to a padded seat with a footrest used for foot massages and presented with tea and a slice of watermelon. Two young girls were on the seats to my right fidgeting while watching videos on cell phones. The one closest would snuggle over and show me her screen from time to time, expressionless.
Music was blaring and you could hear the rattling of pots and pans from the back room and smell lunch being prepared. It became quickly evident that this was basically someone’s home where massages were given. It was just me and the family as far as I could tell.
After five minutes or so, I was informed, largely through hand motions, that my masseuse would arrive in five minutes, which of course in Vietnamese time, means at least ten. It was a bit early in the day for a massage and I realized that was part of my masseuse shortage situation.
Is anyone doing the math here? Between walking to the two parlors and waiting sipping tea (big mistake) I’m already over a half hour behind schedule. So, I planned that I would use the toilet when taken to the massage room which should surely be any minute…
A middle-aged woman suddenly appeared in the room, not having come through the doorway to the alley. So there was either a second entrance (which would be unusual) or she had been there all along and was going to fill-in. I’m going with the latter.
She took me upstairs and I was surprised to see that there were simply five massage tables in a small room, but no sign of a toilet. I would have to go back down the stairs, walk through the “kitchen” and use the family toilet. I somewhat felt the need to go but made the snap decision that I could wait. Bad decision!
She stood there, as is typical, while I undressed, holding her hand out to take my clothes and hang them up. It was then that I remembered I wasn’t wearing underwear. I demonstrated this fact to her just pulling down my shorts a bit and she said something disapprovingly and heading down the staircase, calling out something to those below. She returned and held a towel before me as I removed my shorts.
As I got facedown on the table I could feel an uncomfortable pressure on my bladder – the green tea had really kicked in! But here I was naked and now it would really be a big production to relieve myself. I would just have to suck it up; surely it wouldn’t be that bad.
She oiled up my back and hopped up on the table, on her knees, straddling me and pressing down on my back as she rubbed up and down my spine. She would rest herself, sitting on my butt from time to time between applying her full weigh upon my back – oh such glorious discomfort!