For weeks I’ve been trying to ignore the knots in my shoulders and an ache in my neck. Sometimes, it’s my lower back that’s giving me grief. Hours at the computer and too many long flights in (mostly) economy-class seats are occupational hazards for a travel writer and sometimes it all catches up.
But I’m off to Asia, where the massages are cheap and small hands are strong, so I’m determined that the next eight days will give me a chance to get some of the aches dealt with. An affordable massage-a-day doesn’t seem out of the question. Let’s see if I can manage it.
Day One: Seeking solace in an airport hotel spa
First stop, Kuala Lumpur. It’s an overnight stopover on my way to Vietnam and with a day to kill between flights I’m hoping the hotel I’m staying in will have a day spa.
Things don’t start well. I stumble into the hotel lobby at 4am after the red-eye flight from Australia’s Gold Coast. In my haste to get to my room and a few hours sleep before dawn breaks, I somehow manage to run over my big toe with the wheel of my 15kg suitcase. My open-toed shoe gives no protection and I yelp like a kicked puppy.
In the room, as I pad barefooted to the bathroom I leave a trail of blood spots on the tiles. Closer inspection reveals I’ve done some serious damage to my toe. The nail has almost been ripped off and the skin on the tip of it is badly mangled.
I’m asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, but when I wake the toe is throbbing. Consolation lies in Terminal Four (the wings of the sprawling hotel are named like an airport), where a severe looking elderly Malaysian woman in a long red cheong sam presides over the treatment rooms. After a cup of soothing honey and ginger tea, Susan despatches me with a massage therapist for 60 minutes of hard work on my knotted shoulders. It will cost me 130,000 Malaysian ringgit (about $39). A bargain. In Australia similar time in expert hands would cost twice that or more.
Before I can relax, I need to point out my sore toe. Foot massage – at least for my right foot – does not bear contemplation. When language fails, I point and grimace and she soon gets the message.
Once her hands start work, my masseuse is soon tut-tutting over my knotted muscles and tight neck. She concentrates her efforts on them, climbing onto the table and sitting on my bottom, the better to put her strength into it. I try to shut out the shrill voice of Susan as it penetrates the wall between my treatment room and the reception area.
Twice, as she moves around the table she brushes lightly against my sore toe. It throbs and I let out an involuntary groan.
At the end, my masseuse instructs me in broken English. I’m not sure whether she means I will be sore in two or three days, or that I should have another massage after that time. I choose to interpret it the latter way.
On the flight to Vietnam, to join a tour with Footsteps in Asia, I’m already plotting how to fit another massage into my packed itinerary.
A Glass Half Full travelled as a guest of Footsteps in Asia and AirAsia.