The Bali Masaaaaaaage

By Amy Chavez

For The Bali Times

“You want massaaaaaage?” says the lady to me, drawing out the second syllable the way all the massage ladies on the beach do.

“I give you good price,” she says. I politely decline.

“I’ve done all kinds of westerners,” she continues, as if we are all completely different species, “German, France, Japan.” I continue walking down the beach.

“You want massaaaaaage?” says the next lady down the beach as I am now in her territory. “I give you good price.”

Makes you wonder if they all went to the same school.

Instructor: Okay girls, all together now, 1-2-3:

Girls: You want massaaaaaage?

Instructor: Louder – Sing it, baby, sing it!

Girls: You want massaaaaaage?

Instructor: Very good. Now, add the next line. Ready? 1-2-3:

Girls: You want massaaaaaage? I give you good price.

Instructor: Everyone clap your hands.

Girls: You want massaaaaaage? I give you good price (clap-clap). You want massaaaaaage? I give you good price (clap-clap).

Instructor: Okay now, Siti, You tell them how to feel. Take it away, honey.

Siti: You tired. No good. Siti make you feel better.

Okay, now Rose, your turn.

Rose: I come back tomorrow, yeah? Rose good. Rose make you feel good.

Everyone together now: You want massaaaaage? I give you good price (clap-clap).

The truth is, however, there are many kinds of massage in Bali and the beach is just one place offering them. There are lots of competent masseuses, and even some really excellent ones, but it takes some research to find the right one for you. Here is a short guide to a few different types of massage:

The Beach Massage

The danger is not in the massaaaaaage itself, but in committing yourself to lying in a stationary position for an hour. You may as well consider yourself locked in a half-Nelson as, in what can only be described as forced shopping, the other vendors on the beach converge as they have an entire hour to sit next to you and convince you to buy their wares, which are shoved prominently under your nose.

Should you adamantly refuse to buy, they will suddenly break from their professional beach-vendor character and say, “Oh, come on, I have seven children.”

“My husband have two wife,” says another, lying.

But for the person who likes to multitask on their vacation, this is the massage for you. While lying there relaxing to the occasional ooh and ahh, you can also get all your souvenir shopping done. It’s easier than online shopping, and you don’t have to give out your credit card number. While you’re lying there, you can also get a pedicure and have your nails done. Some day soon, I imagine you’ll be able to get an entire facial plus eyebrow plucking, eyelash combing and a nose job all in a compact, one-hour massage.

Therapeutic Massage

If you’re looking for pain, however, I highly recommend therapeutic massage by a trained professional at a massage parlor, especially for those of you who are no longer invincible. Perhaps all those sports injuries have come back to haunt you or you have a stiff neck from your job sitting at the computer all day. Myself being of this crowd, I tend to judge a masseuse by his implements.

For my first therapeutic massage, a tiny Indonesian woman leaped on my back and started pounding with her fists and digging in her elbows. She must have been from Java, because next, she took out a kris and removed the knots from my back one by one. Using just the tip of the kris, she deftly removed a variety of knots: a bow line knot from my sailing activities, several square knots from typing on the computer, and even a clove hitch I had developed from working with horses.

Next, I’m pretty sure she drove a truck over my back. Not just a normal pickup truck with a couple bales of hay and a dog in the back, but a Mack truck with large treaded tires and a trailer full of chickens clucking and feathers flying out the sides. Believe it or not, it felt great. When I become too old to work, I’ll volunteer with the department of transportation to be a part-time speed bump.

The next therapeutic massage I received was from a Balinese man. After dousing me in coconut oil, he kneaded me as if I were bread dough. While he was at it, he reached deep into the tissues and scraped out residue between my shoulder blades, then took out my spine, placed it on the pillow next to me and reassembled it later vertebra by vertebra. To finish off, he drove up and down my back in an SUV, which occasionally got stuck in the coconut oil and spun its tires. Lastly came the hooves. As a final touch, he laid me down on the ground and let a whole herd of Bali cows trample over me. It was bliss.

Chinese Foot Massage

If your feet are tired, I recommend a foot massage. After one of these, you’ll realize the difference a professional masseuse can make. The best thing is you’ll be able to run even faster the next time you hear, “You want massaaaaaage?”

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