Massages are generally wonderful but occasionally there are some annoyances. Here are some…

  1. My number one pet peeve is the use of cellphones during a massage. Almost every girl has one. I don’t mind if the girl is working alone and takes the odd call and immediately responds with ‘I’m busy right now but I’ll call you back later.’ But some just keep jabbering away to whoever called them while using their other hand to continue the massage.

Texting is the other big problem. I know the girls can get pretty bored with their job and a bit of texting can add some stimulation to their day but I’m paying my masseuse to give me full attention with two hands, thank you very much! It usually happens when you’re lying on your stomach. They might be massaging the back of your leg and they think you might actually be asleep so they’ll start messaging and texting. If you suddenly realize she’s only using one hand, chances are the cellphone is lying on the bed between your legs and getting poked by her other hand. They try to be sneaky about it but I’m on to them! When I hear the buttons being pushed, I turn around and look at her. I don’t get angry, that’s not the way to do things in Asia. But I let her know that I know. If it really bothers you, ask them to turn it off and concentrate on you. Or ask them beforehand not to text or ask if they plan to be using a cellphone during the massage. I will still give her a tip but a reduced one and I might let her know that she would have gotten a much bigger tip if she hadn’t used it. And I probably won’t use her services again.

2. The Bait-and-Switch: a good looking girl (a pretty young thing) at the shopfront will beckon you with her siren call of ‘Hello Massage!.’ You look forward to a nice hour with an attractive masseuse. She leads you into your bed space and you get ready. She comes in and begins a nice back massage but a minute in to the massage, her hands lift off you and are quickly replaced by another pair of hands, hands belonging to a much older and not as attractive woman who finishes the massage. Of course, I’m too polite to comment on this change and the massage will usually be just fine (older women have had a lot more experience and are often stronger as well). It might also be a situation of a totally different girl coming in right from the start. If you want to make sure you’re getting what you hoped for, ask the girl: ‘Will you be doing the massage?’ My most uncomfortable situation was in Luang Prabang, Laos, when I was lured in for a nice massage by a lovely young woman. I lay on my belly and soon my ‘masseuse’ comes in and begins to massage me with a large and strong pair of hands. And then ‘she’ spoke: a deeper, raspy voice asking if I wanted strong or medium pressure. I turned to see a ladyboy sitting on my back grinning. The massage wasn’t too bad at first, until he/she began touching my naughty bits. That was the end of that! I remember several ladyboys laughing as I left in shame.

Lesson learned: if you have any doubt, ask if the person who draws you in: “Will you be doing the actual massage?”

The ‘bait-and-switch’ obviously has a purpose: it gets some of the older, less desirable women a chance to work.

  1. Filthy massage parlours and bedding materials. It’s uncommon but happens more often than I like. The towels and sheets might have just been used by someone else. I like to have fresh towels and sheets on the bed. Sometimes, in the cheaper places, they get reused – a lot! If you’re particular about cleanliness and just have to see your favorite masseuse, bring your own sheet and towel. I’ve even seen girls start refolding a used towel or stretching the wrinkles out of an oil-soaked sheet while I’m still getting dressed: they don’t even try to hide it! The rolled up towel that goes under your head over the opening for your face is often reused as it never got too oiled up, just compressed by your head.

4. Theft: it doesn’t happen often but it does. The only time I was ever robbed was in a massage shop in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. The masseuse was a surly, heavily overweight woman who, upon seeing me place my clothes on the floor beside my head, shook her head and put them on top of the next bed. I assumed she was just being considerate of my clothing (perhaps the floor was dirty?). During the massage, I remember having only one hand massaging my leg for a while, and I think at that point, she was reaching with her other hand to rummage through my pants pockets. Oddly enough, she left 300 baht, the exact amount I needed to pay for the massage. I couldn’t prove it, of course, but in the future, I plan to keep my clothes within reach whenever possible. I was even thinking of attaching a little electronic motion detecting alarm to my billfold or maybe a small camera (no, that’s going too far!).

Lessons learned: keep your clothes beside you where you can see them, although if you want to relax as you should, you can’t always keep an eye on your clothes or possessions. So, the next advice is to only take enough money for massage and a tip and don’t take any other valuables (like your passport).

5. Uncomfortable massage beds. Some of them are thin mattresses lying on the floor (common), others have a small hole for your face but usually too small for my big head and it often starts pinching on my forehead or on my throat and I have to continually readjust my position to relieve the pain. Hard little pillows are also annoying.

6. Girls who want big tips and get aggressive about it. Example: in Saigon, I was handed a slip of paper with three choices of feedback (good, great, the best, with suggested tips of $10, $15, and $20 respectively.) It was a ridiculous moneygrab and the massage was crappy. Occasionally, you’ll find some girls who get pouty when they feel the tips aren’t big enough.

7. Having to keep one’s underwear on during an oil massage. I always try to get it off if I can and cover with a towel. It allows more freedom for the masseuse and I don’t get my underwear covered in oil. But there are legalities in some areas, such as parts of Laos and Vietnam where the morality squad has set the standards….

8. I don’t like being treated like a walking ATM, a farang loaded with cash.

2 thoughts on “Annoyances”

  1. Good afternoon!
    My name is Veronika Akhmadshina, I represent a group of therapists inSt. Petersburg, Russia.
    From 10 to 23 November, we will have and education in Phu Quoc, where we will train with our teacher manual and structural practices.
    We would like to meet with masters of Vietnamese massage school and receive training regarding face and body practice there for 4-5 days. Your massage techniques are very respected in Russia. This training will be a good start of our friendship and future cooperation.
    Best regards,
    on behalf of the Club of the Massage therapists in St. Petersburg
    Veronika Akhmadshina
    hotel Blue Paradise,Phu Quoc 10-23 November

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