In Siem Reap I got a chance to try a few things I’ve never done before. When confronted with the opportunity to try something new, within reason, I never turn down the opportunity!
I was familiar with acupuncture before coming here, but I had never had it done before. I don’t have any health problems (that I know of) that require such treatment. Still, it’s always been an interest of mine.
Not too far from where I lived in Copenhagen there was an acupuncture clinic, but I never went. Besides being crazy expensive, like I said, I didn’t need it.
I didn’t need it here either, but at $20 for a session I had to give it a try.
The biggest surprise was how thoroughly she took down my medical history. It was better than any medical doctor has ever done, asking about family histories of diseases, my eating habits, sleeping habits, and all kinds of stuff.
This place is completely touristy. She said about half her clients are tourists who come for one session, like me, and the other half are locals or expats in Siem Reap. Still, she treats each client like they’ll be a customer for life.
I said my goal for the therapy was just to relax a bit. So, in the end she gave me a treatment accordingly.
She started with my back. The first few needles didn’t hurt, but it hurt in some places. It didn’t feel very good when she put needles in my Achilles tendon, for example, or the top of my foot. It hurt in other places as well. But in general it didn’t hurt too much.
Once the needles were in my back, I just relaxed for about 20 minutes. Then she took them out and I flipped over.
She loaded me up with needles in my legs, feet, stomach, hands, and forehead. As I relaxed, she left the room and came back with what looked like a huge Jamaican marijuana joint. But it wasn’t. It was some other herb and she heated up different parts of my body to help the channels open up and allow the energy to flow.
I forgot to mention that the acupuncturist was from Malaga, Spain so I got to speak Spanish for the first time in about a month! It was still there and we did most of our speaking in Spanish!
How did I feel?
I felt fine. I’ve always had problems with being tense and uptight. At the time I had some bad diarrhea but I didn’t have it anymore after the therapy. The acupuncture could have helped, or maybe it naturally went away. Hard to draw the correct links here. But I did feel relaxed and I’m glad I gave it a try!
My first ever massage was while I worked at Siemens in Denmark. They paid half and the employee paid half. It was five minutes of enjoyment and 25 minutes of pain. I thought maybe I’m not cut out for massage. But I’m always up for something new and ready to give things a second try..
Fish Foot Massage
Ok, I had seen these massages on the news, but I think the first time I saw it for real was here in Cambodia. They seem to be everywhere in Siem Reap.
So, for $1 for 20 minutes, how could I not try? I tried it my first night here, actually.
So, how was it..
At first it was extremely ticklish. It was so ticklish I couldn’t keep my feet in the water for more than a few seconds.
Then once the tickling went away it hurt. It didn’t feel good at all. It’s not that the bites hurt, just all the chaos happening I guess.
But I reached an equilibrium and then it was just normal. The fish ate and ate and ate. In the end, I don’t know that my feet were any softer. But it was a fun experience!
And a video if you want to see the fish attack me!
In Vietnam I had my second ever massage. It cost $8 for an hour. When I walked into the massage room there was a sign saying to check your bag to make sure you had all your belongings before leaving. So, that made me a bit paranoid. Every time I heard footsteps in the room (it was a room with four beds separated by a sheet) I would look over at my pants to make sure everything was still there.
Yes, upon entry I had to take off my shirt and pants. When I got on the table, the first thing she did was pull my boxers down from the top and up from the bottom. She didn’t do anything inappropriate. But I couldn’t help but wonder if they do such things sometimes to, forgive the pun, feel you out and see if a tip for a happy ending is in the cards.
Well, it wasn’t in my cards.
She did a good job, but it wasn’t life-changing.
The problem came at the end. She gave me a piece of paper asking to write my name, rate her service (bad, good, very good) and then write down a tip. On this paper, others had left tips that were twice as expensive as the massage I received. So, of course, this was a scam of sorts to get you to leave a higher tip than you’d otherwise leave by moving your internal tip fulcrum using social cues.
Well, I left more than I planned to, but much less than the others. And, of course, I never went back. The masseuse said the tip is the only thing she lives off of and the rest goes to the massage place. She might be telling the truth, but it’s hard to know.
In Siem Reap, Cambodia I got a Thai massage. It was only $5 for an hour if you didn’t get it with oil. Instead, I wore the equivalent of doctor’s scrubs and she massaged through the clothing.
Again, very strong hands, good job, etc. It seemed like the difference was that Thai massage involves the use of the masseuse’s body. She would grab my leg, interlock it between hers, and use her body to stretch and compress my body. Interesting experience.
And no funny business this time at all.
When I went down to pay, the lady asked me how she did. Apparently it was her first day. I gave a very good review and I was happy to see her massaging someone else when I went back a few days later for a Khmer Massage..
Ok, fast-forwarding to the future, I got a Thai massage in Chiang Mai, Thailand as well. I think the Thai massage I had in Cambodia was better than the one I had in Thailand! It wasn’t painful, but wasn’t terribly enjoyable either. Just so-so. Below some pictures from the experience.
A Khmer (Cambodian) massage is rough. I negotiated it down to $7 with oil for an hour. Both the receptionist and the masseuse asked me to confirm I wanted a Khmer massage. They said foreigners usually prefer Thai massages.
Well, now I understand why.
It was rough. Freaking rough!
To start out, she hiked up my boxers like in Vietnam. But she’d go up my hamstring and then come down grabbing a piece of my DNA factory along the way. It didn’t feel good and was a harbinger of things to come. Khmer massage gives the impression like pleasure and feeling good is just around the corner. And then she beats the crap out of you.
Actually, each time she finished a stroke it was like she .. I don’t know how to explain but you can finish a stroke with gentleness or like you’re swatting a fly. She did it like she was swatting a fly.
And when she’d finish off each part of my body she’d just beat the crap out of it like I was a punching bag and she was Mini-Mike Tyson! At times I wondered why I was paying to get beaten up by a 4ft-8in 80lb woman!
At the end of the massage I felt violated and just wanted to crawl into my mom’s lap and cry. Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit. But when presented with the option, always go for the Thai massage!
Yes, I know I haven’t made it to Laos yet on the blog.. But I have in real life and I had a massage there too. I should include it to round out massages for all of Southeast Asia.
Lao massage was kind of a mix of all of the above. It was a mix of nice pressure on the muscles, yet finishing up with a beating. However, the beating was not as severe as that of Khmer massage.
Yes, the words happy ending are inextricably linked to the word massage here in Southeast Asia.
That said, not once was there any semblance of hanky-panky during these massages. It was always professional and never was I asked for a happy ending – nor did I want one.
In all honesty, I didn’t feel great when I had most of these massages. So when you are focusing on relaxing, but not so much that you lose bowel control, a happy ending isn’t on your mind. I often got these massages when I was exhausted and hoped the relaxation would help me recharge my batteries.
Another feature of these massage parlors is how they attract customers. They always have a beautiful woman outside or at the entrance to greet customers. Then they often have a beautiful woman, though less so than the greeter, to show you to where you’ll receive the massage and leave you be to remove your clothes. Then the masseuse comes in she’s often not beautiful at all.
I guess that sounds horrible, but I didn’t care. I just wanted a massage and was not looking to fulfill some kind of fantasy. But if you are, you’ve been warned.
As I said to start off this post, I’m happy trying anything new. Don’t be afraid of the fish massage. It’s a fun experience. I would say I prefer Vietnamese massage, then Thai, then Lao, then Khmer is way, way down on the still unpopulated list. I never would have known had I not tried. And it’s hard not to try when these massages and acupuncture cost a fraction of what they’d cost at home.
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About Adam Pervez
In mid-2011 I left my cushy corporate job and took the plunge into a life incorporating my passions of traveling, writing, volunteering, learning, educating, and telling stories. I study what happiness means to others, offer what I can from my engineering/MBA background as a volunteer, and try to leave each place better than how I found it. Read more.