Today in Bangkok it is sweltering- nearly 95 in the shadows- and as it is our last day together, Brigitte, Jack and I decided to get Thai massages at an air-conditioned shop on the street. By 7:30 tonight, Brigitte will be on a plane heading east, I will be on a train heading north, and Jack will be on a bus heading south. So relaxing massages seemed in order before we parted ways.
My massage was divine. I elected to have an oil foot massage, which is actually a foot, leg, arm, head and shoulder massage, though they do tend to concentrate on your feet. You sit back in a soft, reclining chair and kick your feet up onto a padded stool, where your masseuse sits and rubs the hell out of your feet. Getting a Thai massage in Bangkok is generally pretty hit or miss, and tends to miss more often than it hits, but for $5, I am always willing to sit down for an hour and give it a go. And the last three massages I have had have been spectacular.
So I sat back and relaxed in my chair today, and a few minutes later my masseuse arrived with a basin of water, filled with ginger, lemongrass, and a sachet of herbs. I deliberately gave her a smile, as I feel that you tend to get a better massage when you show them a little amity before they begin. She returned my smile with a gleaming smile of her own, and we began. My feet soaked for a few minutes, and then she wiped them clean with a washcloth, lifted them out of the water, and set them on the stool in front of me. The next hour is a blur, as I was asleep almost immediately. I woke up several times to her strong thumbs sliding up my calves and over my knees, and her hands kneading my feet in a lulling way that knocked me straight back out.
She had to rouse me at the end, and it took a moment, as I was coming out of a heavy fog of dreams. When I was finally alert, and realized where I was, she smiled at me and gestured to the stool she had been sitting on. I sat up groggily and moved into the chair, for the head and neck portion of the massage. She finished with a vigorous scalp massage, and when I stood up, my previously braided hair was loose and several pieces were falling into my face. I accepted her offer of a cup of tea, and walked to the back, taking a seat on one of the hot pink chairs against the wall.
When she returned with the cup of tea, I had begun to re-braid my hair. She made a disapproving clucking sound with her tongue and whipped the hair out of my hands. “You want me do?” she asked, but she had already begun braiding. “Sure…” I said, still groggy, dropping my hands into my lap. She parted my hair on the side, and proceeded to French braid it in a way that framed my face, so that when she was finished, I looked like a proper Dutch girl. I sat obediently while she braided, and as my head moved with gentle jerks and tugs, I felt an easy camaraderie with her, like a younger girl who is in the competent, braiding hands of her savvy older sister.