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A Very Thai Massage

View of Bangkok skyline from my hotel room
by ADAM JONES-KELLEY

After more than 24 hours of violently emptying my stomach in Singapore, my body was in quite a state, so my first order of business upon arriving in Bangkok was to indulge in a traditional Thai massage. (Truth be told, this would have been top of list under any circumstance, but I really was in sorry shape, so that seemed the best excuse.)

In past visits to Bangkok I’ve gone to Health Land, an absolutely first-rate professional spa. This place is entirely above-the-board – no extracurricular activities here. But Health Land had no last-minute appointments available on a Sunday afternoon, so I wandered out of my hotel sure I’d find something close by.

Almost immediately I found a charming-looking place offering “clean” massages – a definite plus – and ducked inside. The pleasant women at the desk did her best to sell me on various things like a body scrub, aroma therapy session, etc, but I was quite content with just the massage. Ok, I did splurge on the additional 15 minute foot-massage. I think I would have splurged on an additional 5 hour foot massage, but it wasn’t on the menu.

Thailand

I was a bit concerned when the tiny girl who would give my massage strolled into the room. She had to be about 4’8 and appeared to weigh about 12 lbs. Could she possibly soothe my sore achy muscles? (And am I wrong in thinking it's a bad sign when said masseuse, upon seeing me disrobe, asked if I was cold? I wasn't, but I certainly wasn't going to admit it. I assured her that I was in fact freezing, then spent the next hour trying to get her to turn the a/c back on.)

She turned out to be exceptional. 90 minutes under her expert hands and I was feeling entirely refreshed and rejuvenated. I was about to tell her as much when she looked up at me with bored, unfocused eyes and asked, “You wan happy ending?”

I stared at her, disbelieving. She had asked with about as much interest as my cat shows in the evening news. It turned my stomach.

“Er, no, I’m good, thanks”, I managed to stammer.

This was apparently not the answer she expected. She cocked her head, reached under the towel, and asked again.

“You no wan happy ending?”

I lurched up, clasping the towel, and assured her I didn’t.

“Wha? You gay?”

No, I’m not gay. I just don’t care for a happy ending. Uh, thank you.”

“You gay. You no like me?”

“I like you less than I did a few minutes ago.”

“Wat wrong wit you?” she angrily demanded.

I was sweating profusely. It occurred to me that I was terrified of this tiny Thai girl.

I suddenly hit upon a solution.

“How much is the happy ending?” I asked.

“You gib me 300.”

Thailand
Wandering a street market, Bangkok

“300 Bhat?” (This is about $9.)

“You hab?”

“Yeah, I think I can swing it. Tell ‘ya what – I’ll give you the 300 Bhat, but I don’t want the happy ending. Ok?”

“You pay, no wan nothing?”

That’s right.”

Stoopid American.”

This was not the first time I’d been so accused.

“Yes! Yes, that’s right! I’m stupid! And gay. Thank you. Er, whatever.” (I probably should have gone with gay from the beginning – might have saved me $9.)

I know I lose man-points for this, but I was desperately relieved. I still can’t quite explain my reaction, and I realize I’m either the world’s biggest coward, terrified of a 90-pound girl, or the world’s worst consumer, but I felt like I’d just achieved a stay of execution.

I passed her the money and she padded out of the room. I belatedly asked for a receipt, I guess out of habit. I got only a derisive snort in response. Probably just as well – I’m not sure how I could have included a “happy-ending avoidance fee” on my expense report anyway.

Stupid American.

Adam Jones-Kelley
President of Conway, Inc.

Adam Jones-Kelley

Adam Jones-Kelley serves as President of Conway and Publisher of Site Selection magazine, having been with the company for nearly 20 years. Adam is a featured speaker at events around the world and a regular contributor to Conway's various publications.

 



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