Tuesday, January 27, 2009

GUEST BLOG: A Laos-y Massage

As promised months ago, Hannah was given the huge responsibility of the first ever Ahoy Hanoi guest blog. Enjoy!!!
(PICTURE: Hannah August, guest blogger.)

Hannah here, guest blogging about the worst part of my trip with Ben. No, it wasn't how he would tense up with fear that I would tumble to my death any time we would hike a mountain; No, it wasn't that he claimed his favorite foods were all the meat ones because he wouldn't have to share with me; And No, it wasn't even his incessant need to shower, sometimes even as frequently as once a day!

Sit back, Gentle Readers, and I shall tell you.

Our first night in Laos, Ben and I decided that we would treat ourselves to a massage. I wanted to try a traditional Laos massage, he wanted to do something in the herbal steam arena, so when we found a place offering a Traditional Laos Massage/Herbal Steam Massage Combo Package we were sold.
Clearly blinded by the love of a good deal (thanks, mom), it wasn't until we were led to the actual massage room that we realized our 'spa' was at the back of a restaurant. The room was sandwiched between the seating area, the kitchen and the bathrooms, with the doors facing the hallway that connected the seating area with the bathrooms.

Already uneasy seeing this setup, the masseurs handed us towels and told us to put them on. Mine was damp and had the distinct smudge of a dirty handprint. Why we didn't leave then, I have no idea.

Changed into the moist towel, our masseurs entered and began the "Traditional Laos massage" which really just felt like someone poking at you indiscriminately. Even if the massage itself had been amazing, the atmosphere could not have been less relaxing. Besides the murmur of people eating, the clanging in the kitchen, and the distinct sound of peeing, our masseurs giggled and talked to each other the whole time. It was then I decided when they transitioned between the Laos massage and the Herbal Steam massage I would politely tell them we would have to do the second part another time, and then get out of there asap.

Unfortunately, there would be no transition.

The "masseurs" (who, I should note had the same uniforms as the wait staff of the restaurant- begging the question: Were there really angry customers waiting an hour and a half for their food?) went straight into the herbal steam massage which consisted of taking scalding hot towels out of a steamer and pressing them super hard against our skin. Several times both Ben and myself yelled in pain, but they just giggled and said "sorry sorry" but continued to press the burning hot towels on our skin, in a very non-massagey way.

At one point during this process (I guess I hadn't screamed in a while) Ben whispered to me, "Are you sleeping?" To which I whispered back, "No..." but to which I really wanted to scream, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME? HOW COULD ANYONE FALL ASLEEP DURING THIS?!?!"

Finally over, the masseurs left us in our misery to change back into our clothes, but didn't close the glass doors or the curtain behind them. The icing on the bad massage cake: just then, as we stood in nothing but our damp towels and scalded skin, the restaurant's garbage men walked by.

Now faithful Ahoy Hanoi followers may remember that I got food poisioning in Chiang Mai and ask how this could have been worse than a night in the bathroom and a day passed out with a fever and weakness. The answer is that the food poisioning was free, whereas Ben and I had to pay for this torture. It was the hardest $6 I have ever handed over in my life.

And no, we didn't tip.