My lovely friend Katie and I decided to go for a massage the other night. Katie had been before and warned me not to expect a Western-style spa. It sounded like an adventure to me! 😀
We met Katie’s Korean friend and she took us to get our massage. We entered a large building and locked our shoes in the little shoe lockers in the lobby. In our socks, we rode the elevator, went past a ping-pong table, through a room with pool tables and down some dark stairs.
Finally we went through a heavy stripped curtain and entered what was clearly the women’s changing room. Several women wandered about in various stages of undress, and an older, naked woman was vigorously drying herself off. We had arrived.
We went through a doorway into a smaller, very warm room. Two purple beds stood in the centre of the room and the walls were lined with overflowing bookcases, and glass cases and shelves full of lotions and potions. A small couch had been crammed in between a coat rack and a water cooler. There was even a large plastic pig balanced atop one of the bookcases.
There were two women (the massage ladies I assumed) and a teenager (the masseuse’s daughter, I later learned). Katie’s friend had said she was going to come with us so she could translate our needs. I had assumed that meant she would come and quickly go, but she settled herself on the couch, clearly intending to stay for the whole two hour massage.
The women indicated that Katie and I should undress. The daughter chose that moment to open a bag of chips. Dinner and a show anyone?
Even after almost 7 years in Asia, I am still not as comfortable naked as Asian women are. They watched as we stripped down to our underwear (thankfully I was wearing cute undies! :D) and settled ourselves on the beds. They appeared quite fascinated by the ridiculous length of my legs, and burst into laughter when I offered to trade.
Finally we were settled in. I took a deep breath and prepared to relax. The women began to chat. And the daughter continued to eat. My Korean isn’t very good but I understand about every tenth word, which makes it hard to tune out.
“Rustle, ruslte .. crunch, munch…”
“… legs… big… legs…”
“foreigners… big…. ”
The massage lady had pulled the bed away from the wall before I had climbed in but it wasn’t quite far enough. Every time she dug into my muscles with her powerful little fingers, my head banged against the wall. Clearly the bed had not been designed for tall people. 🙂
And then the questions began. How much water did I drink every day? Did I know that the dead skin on my left foot meant that my left shoulder was sore? Did I know I had small feet for such a tall person? Did Katie have trouble with her kidneys? Did I know I had a mole on my back? (A mole which everyone in the room had to come look at.) Was I a vegetarian?
Apparently the massage lady could tell from the softness of my feet that I didn’t eat meat. How odd.
I am not very good at relaxing, especially when there is so much to look at and listen to. However, it seemed that I was under the able hands of the massage Nazi. Every time she caught me looking around, or obviously listening to their conversation, she would slap my leg and hiss “Relax!”
There was also a heating pad on the bed which gave me the peculiar feeling of getting a massage while being grilled.
After the two hours were up, I felt like I had been run over by a combine harvester. I had been kneaded into a blissful, boneless pulp. I almost didn’t mind that they all watched us get dressed.
“First time, soft, soft,” my massage lady told me, cracking her knuckles. “Next time, more hard!”
I suspect my jaw hit the floor. If she pushed any harder, she might break right through my skin! 🙂 As it was, I woke up the next day covered in tiny, thumb-sized bruises. I’m black and blue from head to toe. But what a glorious massage. I can’t wait to go back!