I have a thing about massages. I don’t like to get them from guys. It kinda creeps me out.
But that has been overridden by fish. Dr. Fish Foot Massage, to be exact.
In Cambodia, fish massage is all the rage. Walk along any pedestrian street, and you will see huge tanks of small to medium sized fish, with a wide, wooden plank border around the top of the tank. That is where you sit and put your feet in the tank. The fish swarm you feet, nibbling away all the dead skin. Presumably, this is a massage.
I said nope, I’m not doing that. But of course, who can really say no in the end? Especially when your 13-year old daughter is egging you on, and your sister.
Up we plopped onto the platform. We delicately placed one foot, just a little bit of it, into the water. The small fish immediately swarmed. I screamed and jerked my foot out. Then, peer pressure prevailed and I put my one foot back in.
I longingly looked over to the rows of chaise lounges on the sidewalk next to us. How normal it was over there, with people getting foot massages by humans instead of fish. Oh, except that the chaise lounges sit on a sidewalk surrounded by shops, restaurants and tons of people milling around. But other than that, totally normal.
Gracie and Michelle stick their other foot in the fish tank. Ok, fine. I put both feet in. But when those fish started nibbling on me I thought I would jump out of my skin. I lasted a whole 30 seconds. Out of the water came my feet, and they weren’t going back in. The man said,”You go back in. You already pay $3.” Um, you can keep the $3.
Gracie and Moozie only got more brave after my abrupt departure. They picked up their feet, circled around while still sitting, and put them in the bigger fish tank behind them. The one with the bigger fish. I was totally creeped out, but they were loving it. A lot. They stayed in there for a half hour.
While they got nibbled, I went next door and booked 3 spots for regular human foot massages.
Finally, it’s time to lay down in front of packs of tourists and take our spots on the chaise lounges. $2 for a 30-minute foot massage. Total bargain.
Guess what? I get a guy assigned to me as my masseuse. Really? First fish, and now a guy? Can massage get any creepier?
I lay there gazing up at the restaurant on the second floor, across the street. What a great view for dinner, I thought. I wanted to wiggle my toes and wave at the diners, but thought they might choke on their Pad Thai noodles.
Michelle had to explain to her masseuse (also a guy) not to touch her big, bandaged toe (remember she had her toenail removed in the Bangkok hospital). Luckily she remembered not to stick that thing in the fish tank.
Gracie got the girl masseuse, lucky dog. And once the massages started, so did the giggles. At how good it felt, and at how ridiculous it is to be laying on a chaise lounge on a sidewalk while people order up fried rice, ice cream cones, or pastries in the presence of our feet.
It was the best $2 I ever spent in my life.
So when we landed in Thailand, we had our sights set on a genuine Thai massage, although I didn’t really know what that was.
Just down the dusty dirt road from our hotel is a little massage shop. We’d walked by it a couple of times, and had always seen the same 2 ladies outside. So the next day Michelle and I ventured inside.
The 2 ladies greeted us. The one in charge explained the variety of massages available. $10 for one hour. At that price I don’t care what type of massage I get.
We opt in for the Thai massage. We explain Michelle’s big toe problem. We show the ladies our sunburned chests, which sport the red color of Christmas.
The ladies lead us 3 paces to the massage room. Ok, it’s not a room. Anyone walking by could have gotten a fantastic view of our sunburned bodies while we stripped down to our skivvies.
Luckily, they finally pulled a curtain between us and the street traffic. And by “traffic” I mean the sum total of 6 tourists that saunter by in an hour.
There were 2 futon-ish mattresses on the floor with fresh linens which they changed when we arrived. Michelle and I laid down head to head. I was ready.
The massage ladies took their positions. Except when I heard my massage lady speak, the voice was much too husky to be a lady. Michelle and I had kinda noticed this right before we laid down, and stared at each other with the kind of look you can only give your sister at a time like that.
You already know how I feel about getting a massage from a guy. And now I was going to get a whole hour of it. With my whole body. With he/she.
The massage begins. What you should know (because I certainly didn’t) is that Thai massage involves a lot of pressure, stretching and pulling. Basically, it is involuntary yoga. You lay relaxed on a mat, and they move your body into incomprehensible yoga moves that you would never try if you signed up for a yoga class yourself.
When I laid face down, it actually felt kinda good. After 30 minutes I flipped over to the front. And the stretching… wowza! When it got to the inner hip area, I clearly remembered why I am creeped out by getting a massage from a guy. Well, I think it’s a guy, but I tell myself it’s a girl. Over and over. Because I am face to face now and this certainly looks like a girl.
It’s time for the neck and chest massage part of the regimen. I re-explain the sunburned chest. A generous supply of luxurious aloe vera cream is rubbed on. Ahh, it feels so cool. And at that moment I feel grateful for my very own breasts, safely tucked under the covers, because here is someone who probably wants some of their own, and yet I’ve nearly burned mine off this week in the sun.
Then I am slathered with lotion that smells exactly like wintergreen lifesavers. I fully expect to look up and see a small child in the back room unwrapping rolls of lifesavers and grinding them into a lotion paste.
Michelle is having her own special massage experience. Shortly after her massage begins, the lady makes a cell phone call while giving Michelle her massage.
Two minutes later another woman appears at the shop with hair that says, “I hurried over here as fast as I could on my moped without a helmet.”
She silently walks over to Michelle. And before Michelle knew it, “I had one set of hands going up my back, and another set of hands going down my back.”
At the end of the session I get a wickedly good back massage for the kink in my shoulder and neck. This is carnage from the outrageously thick, stiff pillows that Thai hotels love to give you.
And then I realize there is a real upside to my massage today. I had a very beautiful masseuse with exceptionally strong hands.
I think I’ll go back tomorrow for another.