This is the place I go for massage in Phuket (the shop in pink). For less than £5 an hour, I get physiotherapy-standard massage by a masseuse called Da, who is well-trained in the art of Thai massage.
Da, and the other masseuses, are in their late thirties or early forties. And this is the proprietress, Reena, who is a driven businesswoman: she has a laundry shop nearby. The three ladies come from farming villages in the provinces and are totally respectable: they are here to earn money to send back to their families.
So as you can see, they don’t give massages in low-cut tops. And nor do they offer “extras”. In fact, on the door, there is a sign that says, “NO SEX!”
One evening, on my way back from my solo evening run, the ladies invited me to join them for dinner, which they ate sitting outside on the veranda by the front door. It was a balmy evening and it was really pleasant. We were joking and laughing, despite the language barrier.
Anyway, as we sat there, a man stopped in front of us and fixed his eyes on me in that suggestive way which I found offensive. “Massage?” He asked lewdly. “You do massage? You very pretty.” He was a Westerner, and he spoke to me in that patronising way that I often find foreigners do to locals. I jumped out of my seat and almost punched him in the face, straight between his eyes. My blood was boiling like a cauldron of witch’s brew.
Quick as lighting, Reena stood up and said politely and firmly, “Sir, we no do naughty massage. And this lady no massage you. I massage you.” The expression on her face was ominous, her body language was clear, yet she was polite, calm and totally in control. It was as if she stood ten feet tall.
The man slunked away like a cockroach. We continued with our dinner, laughing gaily at the encounter, until a group of Chinese tourists stopped by. “Come in, come in,” Reena said gaily as Da and Tran gathered up our plates.
I got up to leave, thinking to myself, what a pleasant evening, and I have learned something from my friends, namely carrying on with life with serenity. Don’t get easily upset so easily, because life is full of all sorts of people.