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September 25, 2013

Brutal massages and gap girls and boys

Tom McLaughlin

Chaing Mai, Thailand – Imagine downtown Frederick, or any older section of any town where the buildings are all connected, having a massage parlor at every other door. Out front would be slim, young Thai women appropriately dressed and smiling at you.


Behind them is a door with a large picture window framing a long room lined with single beds, a thin mattress where customers receive the beating of their lives.


My 60-minute Thai massage was administered by a middle aged lady who managed to stretch my arms and legs into unimaginable positions. Even though I yelped in pain a couple of times, she just continued to administer the Abu Ghraib torture system to my body. My toes and fingers went in different directions than nature intended, my head twirled like the little girl’s in the Exorcist; and, somehow, she managed to wiggle under me, thrust my back upwards with her feet until there was a mighty crack.


The guy next to me, about 24, 6’4 and 225 lbs of lean mean muscle, has just finished his massage and asked for another one. They found two more girls to continue to beat the hell out of him. This fine specimen of one of the former Soviet Republics (I quit trying to learn them long ago, although I find the goings on in Georgia amusing as I think about the other one with the capitol of Atlanta) continued to enjoy the brutality with a smile on his face.


I staggered back to the hotel room and collapsed on the bed moaning. My wife asked what happened and she looked at me like I was some kind of wuss. I had imagined a young supple Thai girl finger tipping my aging muscles and joints. As I write this, three days later, the new aches and pains have given way to the old ones which were the ones I was trying to dispose of when I first went in for the “therapy.”


Scattered between these dens of torture are restaurants serving both western and Thai food. The menus are all the same, serving burgers, club sandwiches, fried chicken sandwiches, french fries and spaghetti with tomato sauce.  My favorite was the salad.


Chaing Mai is 18 degrees above the equator and in the highlands so the climate is cool enough to grow salad vegetables. Where I live in Kuching, Malaysian Borneo, we are one degree above the equator on a river. They had wonderful green beds holding colorful peppers, ripe tomatoes cukes and a few tropical surprises thrown in. The dressings were all bottles but what a pleasure it was to eat these fine appetizers after going so long without them.


The people here are mostly westerners. There are the gap* year crowd, wonderful young people from Europe with the ladies dressed in tight shorts with tops and the guys in cargo shorts and T-shirts, both struggling with huge backpacks. They usually stay in hostels where rooms can contain between four and 10 beds arranged bunk style, singles or doubles depending on which combo will squeeze the most people in, guys and girls together. The $8-$10 price usually includes free wi fi, laundry services (a beat up washing machine with sun drying), common showers and bedding. I would love to be that age again.


At night, they emerge all showered and clean after their day’s journey of train, bus, hitchhiking…think cheap as possible. They usually eat at one of the above mentioned eateries. They then head for the bars, the guys moving in groups of two or three drenched in cheap cologne, the girls hoping the guys will buy them drinks and giving hope for what all guys want at that age. And if you don’t remember what that is, I feel sorry for you.


Suriani and I enjoy talking to them, listening to their college plans, dreams and perceived future. They view this trip as a once in a lifetime adventure, but I tell them they will have many more wonderful adventures to come. And I am living proof of that.


To be continued…


…Life is good. . . . .


*The gap year is the year between high school graduation and the beginning of college. Many European teens travel to Southeast Asia and Australia over land before flying back home via Bangkok.


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