Everyone should have a traditional Thai massage once in their lives, if only to remind themselves never to do it again.

Wipe out all those salacious images of Thai “massage” that you might be harboring in your mind (“rub-rub” as it’s known in Bangkok’s red-light district); the real McCoy is serious business. Ja was a middle-aged handsome woman with the complexion of polished teak and the triceps of an arm wrestling champion. Her polo shirt and warm-up pants could not disguise the firm, compact body that was about to own me for the next sixty minutes at the price of $200 Baht, roughly seven dollars.

After changing into a pair of baggy pants and t-shirt, Ja had me lie on my back on a mat and before I knew it, I was in trouble. She was friendly and spoke English fairly well, yet still did not understand my grunts and groans as she proceeded to pummel, poke, and punch my legs, often twisting them into pretzel shape. She sat with her back to me and wrapped my leg around her with a choke-hold she learned from Seminole alligator wrestlers.  She kneaded every nerve and pressure point I had, making my leg twitch and jump just like an experiment I conducted in my college biology lab with a muscle dissected from a frog’s leg. But that lucky frog was already dead and couldn’t feel the pain.

The next thing I knew Ja was sitting between my legs, doing who knew what. Other than my wife no other woman had ever occupied that position. But Ja was still all business and continued to professionally inflict pain upon me in a casual, good humored way. She chatted amiably with me and warned me to be careful in Bangkok where political demonstrations between Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts were once again turning violent. As she worked on my arm, bending it behind my head in the half-nelson style of Hulk Hogan, I wondered if I wasn’t better off taking my chances with the protesters.

Ja made me roll over onto my belly and then she proceeded to beat me up some more, working up my legs, my back, my shoulders. Her elbows and drill-like fingers dug into my flesh, sending sudden shock waves of pain shooting through me. It was so awful that I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. Stars really did flash before my eyes.

Finally, I was again conscious and I realized it was over. I felt like I had tried to nap in a cement mixer. Ja patted me a few times on the back, as you would to a child who had just woken from a nightmare and said, “All finished. How you feel?” And this is the funny part; I felt great, really and truly great.

Not likely to repeat the thrill any time soon, though.

John Kachuba
The Somewhat Battered Metaphysical Traveler

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