Massaging; the truth

June 28, 2012

So today, I had my first ever massage. At least, the first massage I’ve ever had in a spa. As many of you might know, Blossom is a massage guru, and spends her life in spas, so I’ve heard a lot about them, but have managed to avoid ever having to set foot inside one until today.

I wanted a leg massage (who would have thought such a thing existed?) so I had to phone them up and warn them of the carnage that was going to be facing them, but they took it in their stride, as it were.

I’ve never really got the whole spa thing, and, to be honest, today didn’t convince me. Just as I’ve always wondered why, for many women, the height of sybaritic indulgence is a bath with candles around it, I’ve also never got why you’d want to be pummelled while naked and listening to un-music. Perhaps it’s some sort of atavistic flight-or-flight response, but I found being cocooned in a series of towels while jungle noises floated in from the stereo made me fearful of being attacked by an anaconda at any moment.

Perhaps for me there is a difference between being peaceful and being relaxed. I’d have been more relaxed if they’d let me play Zombie Gunship on my iPad while they ministered to me, but they seemed unhappy about that. So instead I gazed into the weave of a super-fluffy towel, listening to the faint sound of traffic in the distance outside, and wondered what I was missing.

But, to be fair, it was pretty good. The girl who had the bad luck to draw the short straw that was me was superb. And those hands! You know that mechanical cargo lifting suit that Sigourney Weaver wears at the end of Aliens, when she fights the mama alien? This girl had hands like that. She could have torn apart buildings, thrown trucks around and pulverised diamonds to dust with those fingers. It was awesome.

What was also awesome was her tenderness and gentleness when she needed it. And the fact that she seemed not to mind dealing with my feet. Even I don’t like dealing with my feet, preferring to keep them very much at arm’s length, and mine were in a particularly manky state after their recent travails. But she tended to them like she was Mary Magdalen. Such a simple thing, but such a powerful reminder of the power of touch.

One of the things that struck me was the curious intimacy of massage. After my leg, my therapist had a go at my shoulders and head, in what is probably known as a head massage. There was a lot of scalp rubbing going on, which I could have taken or left, to be honest. (I could really have left it when I got to a quite formal dinner later and discovered that I looked like Worzel Gummidge.) But during some of the face bits, the therapist would at points gently cup my face between her palms, and it felt like something tender that a lover might do. Which I found a little disconcerting, to be honest.

But on the whole, it was great. My leg felt a whole lot better afterwards. Bits of me smelled wonderful. I was cheerful and at ease with the world. There is something astonishingly wonderful, if worryingly self indulgent, about having another human being focus so totally on you for an hour. Especially for less that $20. So I’m now officially a little bit in love with Miss Jiang Theary of Bodia Spa. I won’t be rushing back, but I won’t be discounting it entirely, either.

[I’m interested to see how many hits a blog post with the tags ‘massage’ and ‘Phnom Penh’ might get. So if you came here looking for hints on sex tourism: shame on you.]

In an entirely unrelated note, here is the latest in my occasional series of Weird Cambodian Houses. I look at this little fella, in the middle of the shot, from my balcony, and every day it makes me laugh. It occupies the ground space of a station wagon, and can’t have been popular with the neighbours. But it’s home for a whole family.


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