Thursday, April 10, 2014

All Massages are Not Created Equal

I thought that today, to usher in the weekend, I would write about a couple of the massages I have gotten throughout my travels. If you know me, you know that I am always in search of a good one for my tricky neck trouble. Here's a review of the ones I got in Thailand, and a little bit of trauma from Bulgaria.

One of the big draws of a trip to Thailand is the Thai massage. On every street there are all sorts of places, some nicer than others where you can get one of these famous rub downs. I had three while I was there, two in Bangkok and one in Koh Phangan. All three were very different. I felt like Goldilocks and each massage was a visit to a bear's house. The first was my most expensive, at the Ambassador Hotel. It was a lovely experience where I was given very large pants to put on (which I needed assistance with), and I got a nice massage with a cup of lemongrass tea to enjoy in the lobby. It had all of the normal stretching and cracking that you get, but it was too soft for what I needed on my neck. The next one was at a very cheap no name place on the same street as my hostel. This one was incredibly painful; I felt like I was being beaten up. It was terrible; the lady was digging her elbows into my spine, ouch. Reluctant to put myself through that again, I headed to the islands. I ended up having a few free hours in Koh Phangan before my ferry, so I found my way to a spa in town. I’m so glad I did because that is where I had my best massage. I got to wear the enormous comfy pants that I developed a fondness for, the facilities were clean and well decorated, I got a cup of lemongrass tea at the end and it was a fabulous massage. Phangan Leela Spa was the perfect mix of stretching, and massage, and there were no elbows in my spine which is always helpful. It was sort of a shame that I had to leave the island after finding something so fantastic. But alas, all good things must come to an end. 

I had just presented at my first international conference, and I was feeling pretty good about myself. As a reward I thought that a massage at the hotel spa was in order. It started out like all massages do by being taken to a room with a table in the middle. The lady who brought me there, however, didn't leave, so I had to relinquish my clothing while she waited, arms crossed with a scowl on her face. It was a stand off at first as I waited for her to walk out the door, but after much pointing, she won and I temporarily lost my clothes. The rest of that hour went on in similar fashion because she didn’t speak or understand a word of English. She shouted out instructions in Bulgarian, and I did my best to follow. There was even a chest massage that was incredibly awkward (for me) and completely uncomfortable. I felt lucky to get out of there alive because the massage was rough and anything but relaxing. At the end, I put my clothes back on as quickly as possible, paid the bill and ran back to my room for room service. That was enough Bulgarian culture for one day. 

The moral of this story is sometimes they are fantastic, life changing even like John in Amsterdam who would need his own blog post for the positive impact he had on my life. Sometimes they remind you of a medical exam, and most of the time they are just average. But wherever you go, a massage will give you a little insight into the culture and provide you with interesting stories to tell your friends. 

****If you ever find yourself in Amsterdam, pay John a visit at @Next in Nieuwemarkt (right around the corner from the metro station). He is the best at what he does, and he’s a great guy. Tell him I sent you.****