In the few short, hot hours we had been there,
So instead of retreating to our hotel, we decide to shake off the E. coli from lunch and walk down a block to a massage parlor that our taxi driver had pointed out to us on our drive in from the airport. (Wow, I never realized how seedy that was until I wrote it out.)
We walk in the front door and are met by three exuberant Vietnamese women dressed in brightly colored uniforms. We say massage. They say massage. It's pretty clear we're there for massages. We're led through a curtain, up a set of stairs, and into separate rooms.
The set-up is less what you might expect from a spa and more like a cleaned-out storage closet. There's no towel or slippers – just a table with a comically baggy pair of cotton shorts laid out. Through some not-altogether-internationally-recognized hand gestures, it is agreed that I will take off all my clothes, put on the skorts, and lay facedown on the table.
My escort leaves the room. Suddenly, I catch a whiff of excitement (which looking back may have also been terror or food poisoning). I'm getting a massage in
The masseuse comes in and, with a swiftness that can only be described as catlike, jumps up on the table and sits on the back of my thighs. Then she cracks her knuckles and starts hitting me. Hard. Initially I'm concerned – not unusual when someone smacks you as hard as they can. But since she's doing it with her hands formed into some kind of dual-fisted karate chop, and the blows are producing this unique hollow cupping noise, I assume she must be using an ancient Vietnamese technique designed to release my chakra. (This traditional massage beating would prove to be a common occurrence, leading to the creation of our second vacation game, "Crime or Cultural Norm.")
It goes on like this for a while, her hitting various parts of my body; me resisting the urge to defend myself. Things almost boil over when she is massaging the back of my legs and, as she runs her hand up my skorts (without the least hint of modesty) half her hand swipes clear up my unclenched butt crack. I lift my head off the table with a start but quickly compose myself. Be cool, Dan! Be traditional!
Finally she tells me to roll over and, while straddling my shins, starts tickling my kneecaps. Now I admit, in hindsight this is where I should have known that something was wrong.* But at the time all I could think was "Who am I to question the ancient art of
Unfortunately, by the time I'm done thinking all this the masseuse is unabashedly cupping my balls. "That's not very traditional," I think as she continues coming on with the aggressiveness of a summer camp counselor. As she reaches over for the bottle of massage oil while leaving one hand firmly ensconced on my genitals, I sit up and start saying "No" in as many internationally recognized ways possible. A wave of confusion comes over her, and if facial expressions could be translated into words, I'm pretty sure our conversation would have gone something like:
Her: "Are you sure you don't want me to jerk you off? I believe in
Me: "While you seem like a very nice girl with a surprisingly strong grip, my girlfriend is right next door and she frowns upon other women fondling me, whether paid for or not."
After a longer amount of time than it should take for someone to remove their hand from underneath your baggy cotton shorts, she climbs off the table and leaves the room. I get dressed, find Brooke sitting in a bizarre waiting room with two Vietnamese women staring at her, and say, "Let's go."
We silently put our shoes back on, pay, and hurry outside. I am the first to speak.
Me: "We need to regroup."
Brooke: (hesitantly) "Did she hit you?"
Me: "Hard. And she touched my privates."
Brooke: "She just kept whacking my head like she was mad at me."
Me: "At least it only cost $11."
Brooke: "True. You can't put a price tag on being beaten and molested."
* Brooke would later modify this experience into the educational game "Massage or Molestation" where she would touch a part of my body and I would have to determine whether it was the good kind of massage or the bad kind. Either I have a ton of erogenous zones, or this game was tougher than it sounds.