The ‘4-handed massage’ is considered by some to be the
ultimate sensual experience: two people, two pairs of hands, working in unison
to overload the recipient’s nerve centre with pleasurable input; rubbing,
stroking and squeezing them into a state of sheer bliss. Exclusive holistic
spas offer it as their deluxe treatment; writer Neil Strauss used it to
engineer threesomes in his seminal pick-up novel The Game.
Well, I can go one better than that. Ten better in fact. A
fourteen-handed massage. And of course it happened in Bali.
Bali is the global epicentre of massage. Ok, the quality in
Thailand is probably better, but it’s hard to beat Kuta for quantity. Walking
around the smiling hustle that is Bali’s tourist town, you are greeted at every
third or fourth step by “massage?”
from a chorus of smiling, fresh-faced Indonesian girls. Sometimes an effeminate
boy will offer: “massage with her…” and, as you walk past with a smiling shake of
the head, will follow up with a camply hopeful “or me..?” At the beach, old
ladies appear from nowhere and begin crooning the massage mantra, all the while
kneading your sunburnt shoulders with fingers like tree roots.
So there I was, walking around Kuta on my last day in Bali,
with a couple of hour’s and100k ($10) of Rupiah to burn before heading to the
airport. Ten bucks goes a long way on Poppies lane, and I figured it should get
me a good hour’s massage, plus a Bintang vest and a pair of fake Raybans.
Rather than shop around I decided to take the very next offer, which took all
of 3 seconds; a sweet smiling girl standing at a busy corner. With price and
duration agreed on, she led me off down a series of quickly narrowing side
streets until we were distinctly off the beaten track. At this point I would
have been worrying about walking into some kind of ripoff situation, had I not
been distracted by the flock of girls that was attaching itself to our party.
They were all squealing, “massage?” at various pitches, while squabbling
violently amongst themselves. Meanwhile my attempts to deter them with
firm-sounding No’s were thwarted with warm smiles and “don’t worry, free!”
assurances. I knew it wouldn’t be free of course, but at that point there
wasn’t much I could do. By the time I was led into the massage ‘studio’, if one
bed in a small room really qualifies, the flock of 10+ girls had been reduced
to a team of seven, ranging in age from early teens to mid forties. After a few
more weak protests, I pulled off my shirt, lay on my belly, and let them get on
So, you wonder, was it the
unforgettable sensory experience it should have been? Was true bliss attained?
No. Seven pairs of hands giving
you a half-assed massage still equals a half-assed massage. The girl I had
originally selected did a decent job of my back and one of the older ladies
worked efficiently enough on my left leg, but the other five weren’t really giving
it their best, I could tell. They just sort of selected a small area of flesh
and stayed there, tweaking it absent-mindedly: an elbow here, a calf there, a
small patch of back, a forearm. And so, while my senses may have remained
utterly underwhelmed, I had to love the situation I’d found myself in, and
enjoy the silly banter that was better than the massage itself.
Predictably, the ‘hour’ lasted
about 25 minutes, and everyone demanded payment. I made a big show of
explaining that I had only agreed to pay 50k to one girl, BUT: as they were
very nice and I was very kind, I would pay an extra 50k, to be shared between
everyone else. This was accepted as reasonable, with only a token amount of
sad-face pulling, and soon I was waving them goodbye, heading to the airport
with an empty wallet, a big smile, and yet another Bali story to tell.