Wednesday, November 7, 2007

One Day at the Massage Parlor

Phnom Penh is known for having masseuses with wandering hands. In the interest of journalism, I decided to investigate this claim. I would go incognito as a guy from Boston who hasn't gotten so much as a kiss since August.

The word on the street is that the girls with curious hands tend to work at massage parlors that look more like strip joints than health spas. Also, the spas tend to offer other male oriented services like haircuts.

Note: This whole process kind of scared me. I didn't want to get mugged, ripped off, or otherwise in some kind of situation I couldn't get myself out of. In addition, I had never been to a place like this, so I did not know the proper etiquette. If the woman grabs your unit and you're not interested what do you do? Does her pimp appear and beat you? Worse still, what if she doesn't grab the unit?

Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold, Just Right

The first night, I walked around looking for seedy places near my hotel. There were a couple of massage joints down dark alleys or with unattractive women working at the door. I passed.

The next day, I saw a couple of places on the river front that looked clean -- too clean. They looked family-oriented. For my research, I needed male-oriented. Then I saw a promising place: there were some attractive women standing and smiling at the door. The place looked clean from the outside. Then I looked at the name "TITI Romantic Massage." Paydirt.

I went inside. Naturally, they spoke very little English. I pointed to one of them and asked: "Will you be doing my massage?" I guess she understood, because the next thing I knew, I was seated and she was washing my feet. (The Thais have a thing about dirty feet; maybe all South East Asians feel the same about feet. Mine were certainly stinky.)

Then she led me upstairs to the massage boudoir. There was a British guy who was leaving prematurely. I asked what happened. He said the masseuses used oil and he was allergic to oil. They didn't understand but he gave them a nice tip and he left. The room was all light red materials, soft lighting; like the backdrop for a softporn movie. Each little massage area was separated by a curtain, kind of like an emergency room with multiple stations only inches from each other. The only difference here, was that instead of gurneys, there were mattresses.

Then she motioned for me to lie down on the mattress and for me to remove my shorts. I forgot that I was wearing a bathing suit -- and no underwear. I ended up flashing her. She was unphased, but I was mortified. I was waiting for the pimp to come out with the Taser from behind curtain number two and zap me. I made sure to put my shorts with my money near my head where I could keep track of them. Then she motioned for me to lie on my back and she proceeded with the massage, starting at my feet and working her way up my calves, knees, thighs, dangerously close to the goods. Then she stopped and switched legs. Then she motioned for me to roll over on my stomach. Same procedure. Then our time was up. The massage costed $6. I gave her $9. Everyone behaved and parted company. I even got invited back.

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