The Ultimate Detox

Three days in a resort in Phuket is unimaginably long (beaches and exploited but adorable baby elephants aside).  On Day Two, I decided to treat the resort as a health spa and indulge in a little tune-up.

I started my day with a stretchy abs class: forty minutes of deep stretching and balance moves -including several recognizable yoga poses – followed by twenty minutes of intense ab work. I topped that off with thirty-five minutes on the treadmill and reviewed the spa menu.

The usual relaxing massages and facials were tempting, but I was intrigued by the virtuous sounding “Ultimate Detox”; a one hour and fifty minute package consisting of a body and skin detox and lymphatic massage. I was going for a tune-up after all, and this promised the reduction or at least reshaping of “hard fat” and cellulite, and with exercise (check), a possible reduction in any water weight I hadn’t yet sweated out in the 90 degree + high humidity heat.

I presented myself for my detox and after a thimble of lychee juice and a hot towel, was lead to a room featuring a toilet cubicle, shower/steam cubicle, bathtub and treatment table. I was asked to strip and put on meshy disposable boy shorts and a shower cap – sexy. Not wanting to hang out with my breasts out, I put on the robe and was immediately asked to take it off when the aesthetician returned and to lie face up on the table.

Now I am by nature a fairly modest and overly body-conscious person, but I’ve spent enough time getting spa treatments to know to check modesty at the door. I couldn’t, however, push out of my mind the thought that the tiny Thai woman detoxing me must feel like she had just been asked to massage and exfoliate a Beluga whale.

Once face up on the table, I was asked to sit, and a hot clay mask was applied to my back, butt, all the way to the “cleavage”, and arms. Then I lay back down and the mask was applied everywhere else, and I mean everywhere except my lady business.

Once I was covered in clay, a thin sheet was placed over me and I was wrapped like a sushi roll in gift-basket quality plastic wrap. Another sheet was then placed over me and a table-length heating pad – thank goodness for air conditioning. The aesthetician then pressed down on every part of my body, making the sheets adhere to my body via the glue-like clay. This press-down procedure was repeated three or four times while I was encased.

I was released from my shrink-wrap prison thirty minutes later, when rivulets of sweat began running down my face. The clay masque was sponged off and then the exfoliating scrub was put on. Grit was put in places it just doesn’t belong.

After exfoliation, I was ordered to strip out of my disposable panties and hit the showers. I did and then was basically told to drop the towel and get on the table. I tried to get on the table with my towel wrapped around me and then unwrap and lay down at the same time. Of course, I got trapped in my towel and my attempts to place myself discreetly and gracelessly on the table turned into a limbs akimbo, tits out unveiling. Classy.

For the rest of the treatment I was massaged while being lubed up with lotion – everywhere except a porn star’s landing strip.  The massage was an interesting combination of relaxation and abuse; nice soft, relaxing strokes and then BOOM! chopping, beating motions. I’m starting to think there’s a belief in Thailand that if the massage doesn’t hurt it isn’t working. Little did I know what I had coming.

Lymphatic Massage

Wikipedia describes manual lymphatic drainage as “a type of gentle massage which is intended by proponents to encourage the natural circulation of the lymph through the body.” Like hell.

Naked once again, without even disposable panties to keep me warm, face down on a table covered by a light sheet, the “massage” began. Strokes up and down my lower legs with light pressure, then more pressure, faster and faster and harder and harder until thrashing, pounding movements were raining down on my lower legs. My calves are pretty tough, so it was tolerable… barely.

And then she reached my inner thighs. As I was poked and prodded at a racing pace until I felt that the masseuse’s fingers just might reach bone, I made silent screaming faces into the headrest. It helped. I mentally counted off the areas she had left to beat, realizing with horror I would not be able to both maintain my dignity and silently scream and grimace once I was face up.

It was time to turn over. I attempted to maintain an impassive face while gritting my teeth.  Poke, poke, poke, pound, pound, pound, thrash, thrash, thrash. Firm but gentle face manipulation and then… it was over.

“How do you feel?” the masseuse asked. While thinking “Mugged,” I smiled and weakly uttered a “great, thanks.”

But was it worth it? I noticed zero slimming or cellulite appearance reducing results. I did acquire quite a few colorful bruises in interesting and not so interesting places. Now that’s hot.

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Molotov Cocktails, Tiger Bars, & Thai “Girlfriends”

Le Meridien was an oasis of tennis, fitness courses and beachside cocktails.

Yet, after two days and nights we needed to venture outside its gates. It was beginning to feel too Dirty Dancing in its isolation and we needed to dodge the nightly entertainment before a cute little Thai girl with limited vocal range attempted I Will Always Love You once again.

Patong was a hop, skip and short taxi ride away and was rumored to have a decent restaurant or two so we hustled into a cab and made a break for it.

Along the road we took note of the local gasoline delivery system – bottles for sale that would have made lovely Molotov cocktails. And then we reached Patong.

Cocktails anyone?

I am so grateful we didn’t stay in Patong.

Patong is Reno on the beach without the “glamour.” The streets are packed with flea market stalls selling touristy Chang tees, beer cozies, cheap swimsuits and fake watches and handbags. The beach was a mass of drunken frat boys and the like and the bar-lined streets were packed with Thai “girlfriends.”

We were constantly solicited – by men – to attend “ping pong shows.” By the fifth such solicitation my simmering outrage was edging toward a full boil and I barely held back my urge to shout “Why would I want to watch a show featuring an exploited woman shooting ping pongs out her pun tang?!” Instead, I shot them a look of contempt strong enough to make them scuttle away.

Dazed and appalled, we headed to a corner bar for a drink and as it turns out to watch the Thai “girlfriends” in action.

I knew about the sex trade and human trafficking that exists in Thailand and its neighboring countries long before setting my feet upon its shores. I’ve supported the Somaly Mam Foundation to aid in the fight against sex slavery for several years and have read and highly recommend her book The Road of Lost Innocence. I was not naïve. I was however, completely unprepared to see the problem close-up, especially after having spent several days in Bangkok and only having once glimpsed what was undoubtedly a “house of ill repute.”

Pursuant to the literature on the topic, easily found in the tour guides of Thailand, the “girlfriend” scenario works like this. Girls staff bars, either employed by the bar or freelance, as “customers” in tourist areas and the like. The girls chat up single men, playing bar games like Connect Four and something involving nails and a hammer (no double entendre there) to break the ice. The girls then try to convince the men to take them out on the town, buy them things and give them money. In return the men are guaranteed a home run on the first date, referred to as a “happy ending.” The girls are generally in the business because they are poor, sometimes with children and a deadbeat husband to support, sometimes with parents and siblings in more rural areas who need the income made by the girls to keep from starving, sometimes just not skilled enough to find other work. The money is good and sometimes the girlfriends can even become wives of the fareng (foreigners). But this ain’t no Pretty Woman.

The business flourished thanks to the presence of U.S. Troops during the Vietnam War (as if our contribution to the region of KFC and McDonald’s wasn’t bad enough) and a steady stream of Australian and other foreign men even today. The scope of the business is breathtaking, and not in a good way. For example, the Tiger Bar, takes up no less than four square blocks. You walk in and then if you start to wander back you find that it just keeps going and going and going. It would take a packed downtown Vegas casino to fill the Tiger Bar on the ground floor alone.

It keeps going and going and going….

Some of the clientele is what you would expect but some is absolutely baffling. We saw good looking twenty-something men touring the town with their Thai girlfriend in tow. These men easily could have found ladies of their own land willing to engage in the infamous hostel hook-up (yet another reason I’ve never stayed at hostels), yet chose to buy a Thai girl instead. As an independent American woman I was nauseous, pretty much constantly. I wanted to ask these women and girls if they really wanted to be doing this. If they didn’t have another option. If they were at least being treated ok. I wanted to shame the men for buying women.

But mostly, I just don’t want to still live in a world where women need to sexually sell themselves to get by.