Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.
After all those hours sat in the passenger seat of a car I was looking forward to my nine o’clock massage appointment. But I was also pretty hungry. I thought about putting the massage back half an hour so I could get something to eat, but it was late and there just wasn’t enough time. Besides, a massage on a full stomach is not a great idea. All that kneeding and circulatory rerouting is likely to release some unwanted gas, which would not have been a pleasant experience for me or the masseuse. No, food could wait a little longer; I wanted my massage, so I decided to stop off at the little on-site spa on the way to my room and to let them know that I would be coming as scheduled.
When I opened the door and looked into the little waiting area of the spa, I saw a reception desk, a few chairs and two Indonesian girls wearing the white, nurse-like cotton uniforms of the professional beautician. They were both slumped on the loungers half asleep. Surprised by my abrupt entry, they shuddered out of their semi-slumber and shifted upright in their chairs.
“Erm, sorry” I said, as I had obviously disturbed them, “I’ve got a massage booked at nine? Mr. Green? I booked it this morning.”
Still a bit groggy, they looked at each other in bemusement. I assumed neither of them understood English until one of them said, “You want massage sir?”
“Yes” I replied. “I have massage booked for nine.”
The girl stood up and walked toward the reception desk as if to check the timetable. I don’t think there was really anything in the timetable to check, but she turned to me and said, “Nine o’clock? No massage at nine o’clock sir. You wait half hour mister?”
“Erm… yeah, ok, nine-thirty’s ok.” I said.
“Ok, lady come to your room at nine-thirty. What your room number?”
The girl who was pretending to read the timetable looked a little older than her colleague and seemed to be in charge. Of course it was also possible that neither of them were in charge and she just spoke more English. I say this because her colleague looked as if she had no idea what we were saying; she was a stumpy but curvy little thing with droopy eyes, a flat face and long black hair held back off her face in a schoolgirl fashion by a headband, and if I’m being honest, she didn’t look as if she had any idea about much of anything. Of course that didn’t mean that she wasn’t a great masseuse, but I was doubtful. I was also doubtful about having the massage in my room. My bed was against the wall, which meant that the masseuse wouldn’t be able to get the full 360 degree access to reach the necessary parts that needed kneeding. But it wasn’t only that. It was late in the evening, and perhaps I was being guilty of making stereotypical assumptions about private massages being offered in Asia, but I didn’t want to be distracted by the blurry lines of any suggestion of a ‘happy ending’.
“No, I don’t want massage in my room” I said, “I want massage here.”
The girl in charge seemed a little put out that I wanted my treatment in their spa rather than in my room. She probably wanted to wrap up and go home early, or maybe they hadn’t had much custom and the massage rooms weren’t ready, I don’t know. Whatever the reason was, it didn’t do much to allay the prurient leanings of my overactive imagination. But, the customer is always right, right?
“Ok mister, no problem” she said “I call your room when ready, ok?”
“Ok” I replied, “Thirty minutes, yeah?” She smiled and nodded. I then rushed back to my room to have a quick shower before she arrived.
By 9.30 I was showered, ready and waiting for my call. At 9.40 I heard a knock on the door. I opened it and there was the little, flat-faced, droopy-eyed massage girl with all of her massage kit. “Massage mister”, she said.
I was about to ask her why she had come to my room when I had asked to have the massage in the spa. I was about to ask why she had not called as had been arranged. But as I opened my mouth to say something, I changed my mind. I looked at the girl with her tired, droopy eyes and her seemingly permanent look of bemusement and decided to concede. If I was going to spend the next year in this country, or only six months, I was just going to have to get used to how things worked – or didn’t work. Putting up with the inconvenience of having an hour-long massage in my room instead of in a spa was a good way to start. So I stripped down to my boxer shorts and submitted myself face down in prostration into the palm of Buddah’s hand in hopeful anticipation that the next hour would be one of blissful massage magic.
Like most people, I enjoy a good massage. I have suffered from sciatica in the past and I had regular massages as part of the many treatments I used to get rid of the pain and realign my muscles. I’ve had all kinds of massages – gentle therapeutic massages, deep tissue sports massages, aromatherapy massages, Swedish, Thai, Cambodian, Chinese – I even had a non-contact chakra massage once (it didn’t really do much for me) – but I’ve never had a Javanese massage. It was great.
The little masseur went through here massage motions from fingertip to toe with a series of swift, swiping motions. Her little hands whipped up, down and around every muscle she could find in a fantastic frenzy of emollient movements whilst I drooled into my pillow and melted into the mattress.
There really was no need for the space around the bed after all because the diminutive little thing climbed all over my back to do her stuff, absolutely magic stuff. All the knots and taut spots that had cultivated during the day’s drive, all the tensions of the previous week’s stresses, she kneeded, rubbed, and swept them all away stroke by stroke; it was almost better than sex. Actually, at one point she went so far up my inside thigh that I have to confess to feeling aroused. Fortunately I remained in control and avoided any embarrassing pointing.
“Finished mister” she said after the hour was over, but I could have lay there all night.
It was my turn to look dopey and bemused as I rolled over and mumbled a thank you whilst fumbling for my wallet to pay the girl.
I lay there for about ten minutes with a dumb smile of contentment on my face after she left and would have fallen asleep if my stomach would have let me. But it didn’t. It needed feeding. I really didn’t want to move and disturb the wonderful feeling of relaxation I was enjoying, but I had no choice. A nagging hunger for the rest of the night would have only ruined my sleep. So, remembering that we passed the big outdoor noodle place that advertised moto parking on the way back, and it was only a short walk away, I gave myself another ten minutes of relaxation before heading out for a late night snack. It was my last night in Jogja and I was satisfied that an early night on a full stomach after a great day out and a fantastic massage was a satisfactory way to sign off my first Indonesian holiday.