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A massage for mini-me?

VIETNAM | Saturday, 6 November 2010 | Views [11570]

A pretty bug from the Dalat flower garden that thankfully, has absolutely nothing to do with the following tale.

A pretty bug from the Dalat flower garden that thankfully, has absolutely nothing to do with the following tale.

Even if there was things to do in Dalat when it's pissing rain, we weren't interested. I had sold Uma on the idea of visiting Dalat solely on the steam room, sauna and hot tub at a certain 'Dreams Hotel'. They seemed like easy dreams to satisfy but thanks to everyone else using the same guide book as me, the hotel was booked out. Although a full hotel was an unheard of precedent, an empty and half the price one was found a few doors up the road.

Hotel 171 was intelligently named after it's street address to ensure there were no copy-cat hotels stealing customers. Such behaviour is a common occurrence in Vietnam when you request to be taken to a particular hotel, you often get shunted off to a dodgier version nearby. So now, places add 'The original' to their title, something the copycat places also did about a week later.

Hotel 171 was new enough not to have any copies, or customers. It was the third such place in a row that we had stayed in. Impeccably new and well appointed yet ridiculously cheap. We currently have 3 double beds in our room, a fan (Dalat is too cold to require air conditioning), a T.V., hot water and a balcony for $10 a night. How such places are initially paid for, and continue to make a profit does not warrant thinking about lest a quick check of the craftsmanship reveals concerning corners cut in its construction.

Wandering out into rains that had continued to fall since the moment we got out of bed, our mood was anything but upbeat. Like an oasis in the desert, or the complete opposite really, a neon sign appeared advertising 'massage, sauna, steam bath'. Ignoring the absence of functioning neon, and better judgement when it comes to such offers being made in Asia, we went inside. The foyer was spartan, possibly allowing for minimal loss if a quick get away from a police raid was needed. It's biggest appeal was that it wasn't raining indoors, and the $5 price tag alluded to nothing seedier than genetically modified oil being used.

It was an hour massage we paid for, but the use of the steam room afterwards was what we really wanted. No one turns down a massage any way, and I thought nothing of the fact my masseuse was actually rather attractive. Separate rooms meant little either, although being asked if Uma was my girlfriend straight away started to wake me up to my own naivety. Most massages require stripping down to your smalls, and doing so while the lady watched, I easily overlooked as merely a cultural difference in relation to privacy, ie. there isn't any in third world countries.

She quickly got stuck into my back with aplomb, my groans illiciting concern that she was being too rough. Believing there is no such thing, I encouraged her to continue. She had exhausted her polite English vocabulary with a feigned interest in my birthplace, duration in Vietnam and feelings about Dalat, somewhat tarnished as it was by the weather. She utilised her knees, feet, elbows and basically any part of her body that could rearrange my own.

After 15 minutes, I was asked to roll over, Knowing that backs get the lions share of attention when it comes to massage, I thought I was just going to get short changed on the duration. A quick tummy rub required my undies being pulled down below my pubic line and something stirred inside my head. I overlooked it as she quickly moved onto working my quads.

The leg closer to her presented no challenges, but the far leg would have been a logistical nightmare for someone shy, or more concerned with proper protocol. She may have been focusing on what her hands were doing, but my mind was alerted to what her forearms were inadvertently massaging as they extended across my body. I quickly realised it was my conscience stirring in my head, and not the devil horned 'Id' of Freudian theory that had being running the show like a dictator for the last few years.

Apparently, the moral ambiguity of what I feared was unfolding had awoken the saintly side of my conscience, my 'super-ego'. He had appeared dishevelled from near abandonment, harp strings frayed, and halo slipping but his voice sang loud and clear about the moral consequences of what was quickly turning into prostitution. I wasn't asked for any money, but a few quick pats of Harry Jnr. and some pointing at her own mouth didn't leave much room for misunderstanding. If only charades in the hospital was that clear cut.

Having enjoyed the massage up to that point, and realising the lady was probably hoping that a 'happy ending' would result in a much bigger tip, I didn't just walk out, like I think I should have done in retrospect. I made it quite clear that my 'girlfriend' would be less than impressed if she wasn't at least there to watch. Index finger to the lips is a pretty universal sign as well and her English vocabulary suddenly grew exponentially with the change in circumstances. “Your girlfriend is with my friend. She not know. Our little secret!” Incredulous at such a blatant offer of adultery, I wondered how many men before me had seen that as acceptable behaviour.

At such times, I am embarrassed by my maleness and its dictates on my response. Her blatant disregard for emotional commitment, whether I was lying or not, my body overlooked as the crime it is. Not out of free will, but as a slave to conditioning where any degree of arousal contradicts my verbal opposition. Pitching a tent made my pleas for a 'normal' massage seem even more of a feigned sense of indignation.

Shame is pretty universal too, and thankfully she spared me the prolonged sales pitch that  every other opportunist had put me through over the last week. Realising that the rest of the hour had to consist of legitimate massage, I pretty much got the same treatment all over again. And to my dismay, a similar offer that involved the same degree of fondling that would result in serious jail time were our genders reversed.

This time her English was more ambiguous and may have included the word 'baby'. That particular word was quickly followed by others in my mind such as 'alimony', 'commitment', and 'terror'. 'No' was obviously not part of her vocabulary, and discretion not part of her repertoire. Overlooking my steadily increasing objections, she thought she deserved a consolation prize of a not so sneaky look at what I had going on. It's all pretty normal by my understanding of what's supposed to be going on, but her surprised look has me asking questions now. Not about something I felt completely comfortable with up till that point, but what exactly it was she was expecting, or had been confronted with in the past?

Either way, it was about the point I realised $5 was too much unless this lady was a doctor working hard to pay her way through med school. I had been polite enough for either of us to avoid losing face, but my goods only go on show when I am drunk enough to think its appropriate to the situation. Neither was I drunk, nor did I think this was the situation that I came to Asia to experience.

I got up off the table and was escorted to the steam room by the still smiling and giggling groper. When Uma joined me soon after she could tell straight away that her massage was somewhat different from mine. We sweated our way through laughter and incredulity in the steam room amazed that such offers could be made so blatantly. We were hit up for a tip upon leaving but both Uma and I have trouble doing so when such gratuities are expected rather than just appreciated. Miss 'Mockery of monogamy' was lucky I didn't ask her for a tip as making her the recipient of my 'hands of licentious intent' would have cost me far more than my sense of decency.

Tags: culture, misunderstanding, near miss

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