Thai Massage – With Happy Ending

Thai massage

Photo by MariaChily

Disclaimer: If you’re really looking for a story with a happy ending, go here.

I am writing this blog post in my head.

In fact, this post may be my only salvation. For the past 15 minutes, I have tried meditation, visualization, and everything else imaginable to take my mind off the fact that there is a woman sat on top of me.

Under normal circumstances, this would be viewed as a positive thing. But in this given instance, one of her meaty arms — which are thicker than my thighs — is currently working its way up my leg, leaving a trail of numb destruction behind.

My only hope is that my travel insurance will cover the costs of a speaking computer such as the one Stephen Hawking uses — I’ll need it to express myself once someone wheels me out of here.

This blog post, which is slowly materializing out of the pain-shrouded mist in my brain, is a distraction as I teeter somewhere between the abyss and instant enlightenment through suffering.

All around me in the darkened room are the sounds of exertion: popping, groans, grunts, and smacks of hands on bare skin. Not even a whisper interrupts the ambiance of what sounds like the warm up for Roman gladiators about to enter the arena.

Snap! Groan.

How did I end up here?

Just as when mortally-hungover people flop around on the floor like dying fish the Saturday morning after a bender exclaiming, “I’ll never drink again!” they inevitably end up back in the pub a few nights later…

Here I am again.

I am attempting my second Thai massage in Chiang Mai. With neck and back aching after a 12-hour night train to the north, a massage sounded like a good idea at the time. Maybe it was the fact that the spa had a special: $3 for one full hour. Maybe in a temporary lapse of judgment I thought I should give this world-renown style of massage another chance.

Maybe I was wrong.

For four years, I’ve been trying to forget my first Thai massage, and now I found myself sprawled on a mat again waiting to be squashed like a nervous cricket. My first Thai massage in 2006 — performed by a woman with more upper lip hair than I have — broke any romantic notions of attractive, silk-robed Thai girls smelling of jasmine and padding around on tiny feet.

No, my masseuse smelled of garlic and cheap cigarettes. By the time that woman finished crushing me with her calloused banana-fingers, I realized for the first time what it was like to ooze out of a place like a slinky — bones having been crushed to dust. The old woman took such pleasure in giving foreigners pain that I was afraid she would look up my family one day mafia-style to give them massages, too.

At least this time around Lucy, my thirty-something masseuse, is a total sweetheart. She has soft hands, a warm smile, and a good heart. But she is also a sadist. Her pleasant smile makes her even more terrifying.

Pop! What was that?!

Thai massage requires the bending and torquing of joints and limbs beyond their natural range. Satan’s own torture handbook couldn’t compete with this stuff. Women with robotic hands strengthened over years of repetitive massage knead muscle fibers like putty. Sometimes you find your legs entangled with the therapist’s, both of you sweating, and wondering, “Gee, is that [insert joint here] supposed to bend beyond 90 degrees?”

Some of the massage positions are a little personal, even borderline erotic, as you both share sweat and exertion. But sexual fantasies are the last thing on your mind when you’re in this much pain — trust me.

Thai massage is the modern culmination of ancient medicinal brutality. Think of well-meaning doctors armed with saws during the Civil War. Make no mistake: this is combat — and unlike UFC or mixed martial arts fights, there is no tapping out on the mat or screaming, “UNCLE!”

As my hour progresses and nerves scream out for intervention to end this madness, I wonder if I will have permanent damage. The years of adventure have been good to my soul but not to my body.

My back — a little iffy anyway after a rock climbing fall — makes me nervous. When Lucy’s impossibly-strong fingers finally made their way to my groin, I had to stop her for the first time. A gortex mesh — a gift from the surgeon after skydiving-gone-wrong in 2005 — separates my guts from casual viewers. If Lucy presses down with all of her weight, she has the potential to pop me like a grape. I would hate to make a mess all over the lovely spa. Customers would surely lose their protein shakes.

Snap! Uggghhh…

Despite Lucy’s best intentions, right now I am her puppet and my strings are pain. She is a master at pulling those strings. She could make me moonwalk if she wanted. As she lumbers around me on the mat like a polar bear, I can’t help but look past the half-pulled curtain and envy my neighbor who has an attractive, size-zero massage therapist using pencil-thin fingers on his neck. Wait…is that bastard even smiling?

All across the darkened room, which reeks of camphor oil, I can see people intertwined in various postures. Some postures look erotic; some look like something that would scare Hulk Hogan white.

My hour passes languidly. As far as I can tell, we are nearing the end. At this point, my consciousness has left my body and drifted to the ceiling. Looking down, I can see some poor sucker really getting it…

But that quivering mass of numb flesh is mine.

As I sit up, Lucy indicates that the massage is finished by smacking me with open palms. The blow to the head could have knocked out a Shaolin monk, but then something strange happened. A peculiar warmth — pure chi energy which was once blocked — began spreading across my chest and my limbs.

Either this is what the instant of comatose paralysis feels like, or something good has come of all this. Lucy knows her stuff after all.

Thai massage blends Eastern energy beliefs with deep tissue massage. I did not feel the warmth spread from toes to fingers during my first massage experience. The last time I remember this strange, tingling sensation of healing welling up from deep in my body was after getting acupuncture at my Shaolin school in China.

Whatever Lucy has done, it worked. As she helped me up, I was expecting to float back to the lobby on my cloud of new energy. Instead, it felt more like I was slinging numb, partially attached bags of meat — my legs and feet — in front of me.

My neck slumps, unable to hold the weight of my head. I’m quite sure that at least one rib is broken and my spleen may be leaking. I am 170 pounds of chewed bubble gum. I must now get accustomed to life with no bones.

Not good…but assuming that I regain muscle control within the next week, not all is lost. My happy ending was a cup of steaming-hot lotus seed tea, renewed circulation which I could consciously feel warming my body, and the realization that I don’t have to do this again — at least for another four years.

I even tipped Lucy. Maybe she won’t go after my family.

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23 Responses to “Thai Massage – With Happy Ending”



  1. Quite funny, I think most people who have had a thai massage could share a similar story. A lot of the places I’ve had one I was just waiting for the happy ending question and sometimes it was asked but all in all they were good massages. I’ve not had one since I went to a place that I knew would not ask the question and given the masseuse was male even more so, it was the most painful hour of my life and has scared me off thai massages ever since.

  2. Talk about medieval torture… eheh

    Nice one!

  3. I could use one of these…!

    Very good read, almost felt like I was the one getting the massage.

  4. Greg dahling, what a hoot. I found myself laughing, but still feeling sorry for you. Hope you are close to feeling normal again soon.

  5. Hi! Greg. Funny read. But, unless you have a deep psychological need for masochism, STAY AWAY FROM THOSE BONE CRUSHING WOMEN. I’ve been told the ones floating in silks and smelling of jasmine, can sooth your body and soul with a big Thai smile and the tap of their little finger.

    But I must admit I’d suffer some crushed bones to be where you are. Happy trails!

  6. Hi ya Greg,
    What a funny story…you poor guy…good thing you’re flexible in ways you previously thought unimaginable or unattainable for that matter. I really enjoyed this! Thx!

  7. Thanks everyone, I think the bones are growing back. 🙂

    Sally, you are so tough I think they would break their hands trying to massage you! How you been?

    If anyone hasn’t read Sally’s story, have a look at:
    https://www.vagabondinglife.com/interview-sallie-latch/

  8. I don’t feel sorry for you, though I don’t envy you either, at least not for the bone-crushing hour. I am sure if you go back tomorrow, you will feel you got to paradise …

  9. Funny! Scary too! I don’t think I’ll be getting any Thai massages. I like my bones!

  10. Perfect! I had a similar experience… when I returned I asked my husband, “Is a thai massage supposed to hurt?” Apparently, yes.

  11. FUNNNAYYYYHHH. I was laughing the entire time I read this. Just goes to show that conventionality isn’t for everyone. Hope you’re having a blast! (:

  12. Awesome writng, Greg!

    I too, succumbed to trying Thai massage twice. O-U-C-H.

  13. First decription I’ve heard of Thai massage. You’ve got this massage therapist laughing! Great visuals and amazing piece about the chi letting loose in you 🙂

  14. Oh man, that sounds nuts. I had a Thai foot massage in Prague and it was just the right amount of intense. Now I’m too scared to ever get a full body! So I’ll consider myself warned!

  15. Greg. Dear Greg, your story was very funny. I must admit I had some good belly laughs. But son, bone crushing isn’t funny. please do yourself a favor and avoid doing a Thai massage again. A Mai Thai is
    Much softer and carressing and has guaranteed pain free pleasure. As for me being tough? I’m a hopeless wimp and would never step near a Thai massage parlor after making the mistake once. Otherwise, being back in Bangkok is a real “high.”. Especially after 6 months in more sedate, controlled tho fascinating China. But it would be much better if you were here and not there…,”there” being in the Philippines, yes? How are you doing? Waiting to
    Hear about it all. Lol. Sal. PS. Thanks for the plug re our interview. 🙂

  16. Very well written. Was all that pain worth the warm feeling at the end?? I’m not sure I’d be able to handle it!

  17. Thai massage is the best. I don’t understand why white guys like you find it painful LOL Actually, I have an American friend whom I managed to convince to have a Thai massage with me here in the Philippines. He said, never again 😀

  18. Great story. I always seem to do the same thing – justify going in for a massage even though I truly am not a big fan of Thai massage. And I actually prefer big sausage fingers instead of pencil thin fingers – smaller fingers make for more painful digging into your muscle fibers. But at $3-$4 per hour, I’ll probably justify it to myself again when I get back to Thailand! -Russ

  19. My first massage in Thailand was a foot massage, a thoroughly enjoyable experience except for pestle on the tips of my big toes. When the massage finished and I stood up I felt wonderful, felt like every muscle in my body had been massaged.

    I also felt like I could sleep for a week, such was the feeling of contentment.

  20. Darn you, I was waiting for the Happy Ending part! But great story, I’ve had the same done a few times in Chiang Mai and it can at times be really painful. But when it was over I never felt as relaxed in my life, you described it well when you say ‘numb’ (but a pleasant kind of numb). If I was living in Thailand I’d be getting a massage once a week!
    Frank (bbqboy)

  21. Where was this done? I’m going to Chiang Mai soon and would love some recommendations. Thanks!

  22. Greg…greg……greg….. I can’t stop laughing when i read your article about Thai massage. You are really elastic all around and smacked like a pancake, huh…?… Nice story……hahahahhahaaaa…..

    You really made my day……..:)

  23. Oh man, that sounds nuts. I had a Thai foot massage in Berlin and it was just the right amount of intense. Now I’m too scared to ever get a full body!

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