The jungle screeched and whirred, closing in on us as the inky twilight of southern Thailand darkened the thick tropical forest. For seven months, my husband and I had been trekking through Asia, our packs laden with heavy climbing and photo gear, our hearts open and eager for new experiences. Our bodies were tired and sore from recent days spent scrambling through caves and scaling the steep limestone towers of Phra Nang Bay.
We had been talking about getting massages, deciding if the 250 Baht ($8) price tag was feasible on our dwindling budget. As we traipsed along the path, a gibbon howled, reminding us of the invisible threats lurking in the shadows and chasing us past the makeshift ‘Massage & Reflexology’ sign into a simple, somewhat primitive bungalow.
There wasn’t much fanfare as we entered through the gentle clatter of a beaded curtain. With a television blaring in the corner and few other lights, it was tough to take in the details of the room. There were six or seven mats lined up along the floor and before we knew it, each of us was lying on one with a practitioner kneeling at our feet. As they worked, the Thai women chatted and laughed; my husband and I occasionally glanced at each other, wondering ‘what the heck is happening here!?’
For the next 90 minutes, our bodies were pressed and pulled, stretched in directions we had never previously considered. I can’t say I remember feeling blissful or even relaxed at the time – but we were both astonished at the pressure generated by a 100-lb Thai woman. As we walked back to our bungalow through the black night, we definitely felt different. Our overworked muscles had been released and as we accepted the discomfort of new experience, sleep came swift and sound.