While traveling, sometimes you may encounter unexpected opportunities to ‘do what the locals do’ that may be out of your comfort zone, but if you keep an open mind and just go with the flow, you might come away with a unique experience.
As we finished our day trip, our guide Vanna mentioned that he was planning on getting a traditional Khmer massage after dropping us back at our hotel. He said he usually went for massage about a couple of times a week — which was good rest and relaxation time for him given his job as tour guide that required lots of walking. He asked if we would be interested in trying that. Kristi wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go back to the hotel, but she encouraged me to try that out since we had plenty of time before dinner time. Back when we were at Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand, we skipped the opportunity to try out traditional Thai massage, so she said I should give the Khmer version a try.
It was an interesting experience. I was taken to a room with a row of mattresses, and was given a t-shirt and a pajama pants to change to in the nearby wash room. Once I changed clothes to that, the masseur came in and asked me to lay down on one of the mats. He said ‘hi, how are you doing?’ in English, but pretty quickly I found out his English was not that good and he barely understood what I told him. So I stopped talking and let him do his job.
The traditional Khmer massage is essentially a full body massage that addresses the muscles and the joints of the body. The masseur started stretching, pulling, and pressing various muscles of my body to loosen up any part that was stiff. He didn’t say much while doing it, but he said one word many times, ‘pain?’, whenever he thought he ‘tweaked’ my muscles or joints too much. It wasn’t really painful, but I learned that I’m pretty ticklish at some parts of my body. The massage lasted about an hour, and it did help relax the body after the full day of walking. It was also a unique experience that I didn’t even plan and normally I wouldn’t even think of doing.
I took the photo below before I left the room after the massage was done and I changed back to my street clothes. You can see the row of mattresses in the room.