Goan massage

Whenever there’s a possibility of a massage, I’m reminded of a former boss who used to have a regular lunchtime massage with a Hungarian woman. He said he always found it an uplifting experience. His own boss didn’t believe him and, when he went, he too succumbed to her charms despite his best efforts.

Fortunately, all my massages have been sedate affairs. Having been on the train all day yesterday, I decided to have a massage today. I called my Goa guide/taxi driver and asked him to recommend a massage place. He asked me whether I wanted a man or woman. I said in the UK, it’s usually a woman but why did he ask. He replied, “OK”. I then realised that I might have been misunderstood: I said I really wanted a massage not a “massage”!

He picked me up later in the day and said he’d found one. Fifteen minutes later he pulled up outside a “Thai Massage Parlour”. He saw the expression on my face and said, “You don’t like”. I replied, I was thinking more of an “Ayurvedic massage” (whatever that was – I couple mentioned it to me Hampi!). So he called his friend then smiled at me. “I know exactly the place!”

When we arrived at The Centre for Ayurveda and Healing, I was asked to choose from a menu of options. I went for the full body massage and steam bath.

And it turned out the male/female masseur question was irrelevant. There was a bold sign on the reception desk saying that there will be no “crossover” massages. This was not some veiled reference to ladyboys but rather that man shall be massaged by man and woman by woman.

I was taken to a massage room, stripped off and lay on the bed. The bed didn’t have a hole in it for your face, which was a bit disappointing. I always feel I’m looking into the abyss when I’m looking face down in the hole although usually it’s the masseur’s feet shuffling about.

The masseur started with my head and gave it a brisk workout. After which, he went through his paces: chest, shoulder, arms, fingers, thighs, calves and feet. He flipped me over and repeated on the back. It was not overly painful but there was one move he had that had me wincing. It consisted of pressing down with a finger or thumb while moving from back of knee, down the centre of the calf to the ankle. He did that four times and of course he repeated it on the other leg!

Finally, he sat me on a stool and gave me a head massage. In some ways, it was similar to a British massage. However, he had more twirls and spirals, punching and pinching, stretching and rotating. It was also as much an aural experience as a tactile one. There was a lot of noise: slapping, clacking, drumming and possibly some other percussion instruments. I’m sure I heard some maracas at one point.

After the massage, I was wrapped up, and taken to the steam room. This looked more like a Victorian scientist’s lab than what we think of as a steam room. It consisted of an octagonal wooden cylinder with a hole for my head to stick out from. Once entombed, I saw him turn on the contraption and steam started coming out though the wood joints. Within minutes, my body was sweating and even my face had beads of perspiration, which he gently dabbed away.

After twenty minutes of this, I emerged soaking wet.

When I returned to my taxi, the driver asked me how it was and added, “You look refreshed and you smell nice!”. That was the “Ayurvedic oil”, I said (whatever that was – the masseur mentioned it).

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