Travel / Vietnam

A Vietnamese Massage With A Not So Happy Ending

In my last blog entry introducing the concept of saying yes to the situations you encounter abroad, I mentioned a Vietnamese massage that went rather poorly. For me it was just an incompetent massage, but unfortunately for my good gay friend, it turned out to be life scarring. So I would like to add a footnote to my yes policy: learn from the things that happen to you after you say yes. This being said, I was rather new to the yes concept a few years back and did not learn from my first inept Vietnamese massage, and naively walked into another massage parlor three days later.

I had spent the past couple days trekking in the Cat Tien National Park which resulted in some muscle soreness. My friend Tyler and I decided that a massage was in order so we ventured over to the local karaoke/massage parlor. The fact that there was a karaoke bar in the front of the massage parlor should have been a big tip off that we were not in for top-notch massages, but like I said, we were naive.

We each paid three US dollars for what was supposed to be an hour long massage. Tyler was then escorted directly to a massage room and I was thrown into a storage room to change. When I came out of the storage area there was no one there waiting to show me where to go next, forcing me to timidly journey back to the karaoke bar in my towel.

I proceeded to the woman who I had paid earlier, pointed at my neck and asked for a massage. She then angrily ordered me into another small room and closed the door behind me. It was a sauna. I’ve never really been one for saunas. I get bored very fast and in a country like Vietnam I don’t feel the need to sit in a hot humid room. If I wanted to be in a sweltering environment sweating my ass off I could just go outside where I would at least have a scenic view while doing so. I figured that they were just trying to loosen up my muscles though, so I patiently waited… and waited…and waited.

After ten minutes I was bored out of my mind and uncomfortably sweaty. Nobody had come to retrieve me, so I decided to go back into the karaoke room and ask for a massage again. If they thought they were going to get away without giving me an hour-long massage they were wrong. This time instead of bringing me to a massage room like I expected would happen, the irate Vietnamese woman threw me into a shower room with a door that refused to stay shut.

I rinsed off quickly and was exasperated that Tyler had been getting a massage for at least fifteen minutes while I was being shuffled between rooms. I marched into the karaoke bar again and asked for my massage. The third time was the charm and I was led to a small dimly lit very beige room. The satin sheets were a washed out seventies floral print that may or may not have been washed since they were first thrown onto the bed a few decades ago; it was impossible to tell.

This massage was very similar to my first Vietnamese massage. It was wimpy and careless. She prodded my back like a six year old touches raw hamburger meat with disgust. On top of the mediocrity of the massage, my masseuse, a term I use loosely, kept leaving the room every ten minutes or so. At the time I had no idea why. There would be a knock on the door, she would have a quick talk in Vietnamese and then she would leave. These mystery talks apparently were revolving around the topic of the man in the next room, my friend Tyler.

To put it simply, he just wanted a massage and they wanted to give him a little something extra. After his straightforward refusal of a happy ending, his masseuse decided the problem was that there weren’t enough girls in the room to satisfy him, which is why my masseuse kept getting called back to duty in the room next door. Poor Tyler.

After my masseuse returned for the fourth time, she started forcefully talking and pointing at my back. I figured that she must have been asking if she could rub harder so I nodded and said okay. Boy was that a mistake.

She left the room again and when she came back she poured tea tree oil on my back. That wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the severe pain she began to inflict on me next. She had brought with her some kind of torture tool and decided to dig it into my back as hard as possible. The tool craved outlines around my shoulder blades and vertebrae. I wiggled and writhed under the pressure she exerted with her torture tool, but she refused to relax.

When the abuse was over, she yelled at me in Vietnamese which I took as a cue to roll off the bed and escape. As I slid off though, something metal fell to the floor. We both reached for it, but I got there faster only to find that the terrible torture device had been a dog tag! Yes my friends, it was a dog tag, the kind the US army gives our soldiers. She grabbed it quickly out of my hand and shuffled my confused and horrified self back into the storage room.

I was still connecting the dots in my boggled mind so I couldn’t defend myself when the indignant madam barged in on me half dressed and stole three whole dollars from me for a tip. My ongoing shock from the dog tag discovery prevented me from fully realizing what was happening at the time, but shortly afterward I was furious. I had given the masseuse a 100% tip for a massage that left my back bruised for a week!

Tyler was nowhere to be found when I was leaving because he had left early due to his sexual harassment. I was worried because our guide had warned us that the women in our group should not walk alone around the grounds at night because the male monkeys might attack us. According to him, male monkeys are attracted to female humans and have no problem showing their affection. Tyler had left me to walk home alone so I sprinted as fast as I could back to the cabins because I didn’t want my terrible massage hour to end with a monkey rape.

After I got back to the cabins I showed my battle wounds to my fellow travelers and Tyler told me all about his own disturbing massage. We have no idea why my masseuse attacked me with a dog tag. It could have been her idea of a good way to exfoliate, a release of some pent up aggression against Americans, or maybe she was just having a terrible day and decided to take it out on me. What I do know is that I should have learned from my first massage in Vietnam, but I didn’t.

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16 thoughts on “A Vietnamese Massage With A Not So Happy Ending

  1. i just randomly found ur blog thru google and i just wanted to say excellent excellent blog!!! i’m in vietnam right now and i feel like i m really missin out b/c i havent encountered any monkey rapists yet!!

    ur “yes” blog was great too!! i jumped on the back of a moped for the first time and i swore he was takin me down to some alley so he could rob me, but i m still alive!!

    • thank you so much! it’s great to get feedback from someone other than family and friends :) i hope you have an awesome time in vietnam! good luck with road crossings and motorcycle rides, it’s pretty crazy over there!

  2. Just like someone else talked about what a wonderful blog this is. Typically I dont take the time with a comment although for your effort you will get one. Wonderful

  3. Hi, my name is Tien and I am a Vietnamese American. I have an explanation for the dog tags if you’d like to hear it. I remember visiting Vietnam when I was very young and the local villagers really wanted American quarters. The reason for this is because of the ridged edges. They would use the quarters to scrape lines into a persons back and it would break up blood vessels and draw the blood to the surface of the skin without breaking it. It’s supposed to be therapy to get rid of toxins out of the body and expedite getting well from a sickness. So it’s not specifically just dog tags, but a hard metal that can scrape the crap out of your skin. I even have relatives that do this to their children over here in the states when they get sick.

    • Wow! Thank you SO much Tien for that insight! The dog tag incident has been a mystery since 2006, it’s nice to finally know the reasoning behind it. I really appreciate you leaving a comment and visiting my blog. Mystery solved!

      • I’m sure you were terrified, but the story is pretty funny to us Vietnamese Americans. The moment you mentioned the dog tag and bruises, I instantly connected the dots as did Tien. It’s nothing personal buddy. :) I enjoyed your blog.

  4. I love it! i laughed out loud as i read your blog. I came across your blog while researching for authentic vietnamese massages. Sadly to say, I have not found a single reference to this mysterious massage for professional use….still searching. If anyone out there knows anything about Vietnamese massages and I mean the real deal, please let me know. stella

    • Thanks Stella! How disappointing that you can’t find references to Vietnamese massage for professional purposes. I’m constantly saddened and a little disturbed by how many people find my blog by searching some variation of “Vietnamese massage happy ending.” It makes me happy that those creeps don’t find what their looking for on my blog. I’ve actually had morons reply saying I should have just gotten the happy ending…apparently they didn’t quiet understand the story…or even get that I’m a girl and I wasn’t being offered one. I hope you are able to find what you’re looking for. Perhaps try searching for blind Vietnamese massages. I’ve heard they do very good and legit work. Or perhaps you should take a trip to Vietnam and do some in person research! :) Good luck!

  5. It’s called a coin rubbing – they usually use a product called Tiger Balm (just smells like tea tree oil) then they rub off just the uppermost layer of skin with any sturdy object although quarters work best. Everyone in my wife’s family does it. They do coin rubbings for headaches, colds, flu, or any other ailment. It is a common Vietnamese home remedy.

  6. Very funny stuff, I researched vietnamese massage parlors because one of my friends coworkers suggested it. I didn’t want to go somewhere not know what to expect. I am currently living in vietnam and want to stay away from sketchiness.

    • Thanks for reading my post Lyman! I hope you are enjoying Vietnam and have found better massages than I did! I’ve heard the massages at the school for blind people are the most legit. Let me know how it goes :)

  7. Your post is hilarious, and though (sadly) it is true, I have to say that you two were very adventurous and “brave” to do what even many decent Vietnamese won’t. That kind of “massage parlor” appears everywhere like mushrooms, and like mushrooms they prefer dark, dirty, damp corners, just to be wiped out one day here and grow back somewhere again the next. That being said, we do have decent massage places. Only thing is, usually it’s a “women only” place. It costs about 3-10$ per hour, and a tip of 20% or more though not mandatory. They usually offer other services that women like such as pedicure, manicure, nail polish,… I even managed to get them to massage my hubby by taking him in tow lol. Because of the “complication” similar to what your friend Tyler encountered, they do not work on men. However, men can find a place that gives both “standard massages” and “happy ending massages”, only they need to ask. Besides, there are these places I think you might like to know:

    - Massages given by blind people. In these, there are two separate sections for men and women. The masseuse are very able, though not many speak English. To compensate, they read your body reactions better than any “normal” people you know. I think.

    - Massage parlors for women. Make sure the men are accompanied by a female companion. You can tell the it’s your husband, and they will agree to give a double massage just to keep the customers happy and in case they are checked by the police (yes, they register only to work on female customers) they won’t get into trouble. Usually they will charge a slightly higher fee for the male (harder work, so understandable).

    You can contact me for more info on Vietnam, and it won’t bother me at all to help any way I can. Mail me anytime.

  8. Your post is hilarious, and though (sadly) it is true, I have to say that you two were very adventurous and “brave” to do what even many decent Vietnamese won’t. That kind of “massage parlor” appears everywhere like mushrooms, and like mushrooms they prefer dark, dirty, damp corners, just to be wiped out one day here and grow back somewhere again the next. That being said, we do have decent massage places. Only thing is, usually it’s a “women only” place. It costs about 3-10$ per hour, and a tip of 20% or more though not mandatory. They usually offer other services that women like such as pedicure, manicure, nail polish,… I even managed to get them to massage my hubby by taking him in tow lol. Because of the “complication” similar to what your friend Tyler encountered, they do not work on men. However, men can find a place that gives both “standard massages” and “happy ending massages”, only they need to ask. Besides, there are these places I think you might like to know:

  9. Your post is hilarious, and though (sadly) it is true, I have to say that you two were very adventurous and “brave” to do what even many decent Vietnamese won’t. That kind of “massage parlor” appears everywhere like mushrooms, and like mushrooms they prefer dark, dirty, damp corners, just to be wiped out one day here and grow back somewhere again the next. That being said, we do have decent massage places. Only thing is, usually it’s a “women only” place. It costs about 3-10$ per hour, and a tip of 20% or more though not mandatory. They usually offer other services that women like such as pedicure, manicure, nail polish,… I even managed to get them to massage my hubby by taking him in tow lol. Because of the “complication” similar to what your friend Tyler encountered, they do not work on men. However, men can find a place that gives both “standard massages” and “happy ending massages”, only they need to ask. Besides, there are these places I think you might like to know:

    - Massages given by blind people. In these, there are two separate sections for men and women. The masseuse are very able, though not many speak English. To compensate, they read your body reactions better than any “normal” people you know. I think.

    - Massage parlors for women. Make sure the men are accompanied by a female companion. You can tell the it’s your husband, and they will agree to give a double massage just to keep the customers happy and in case they are checked by the police (yes, they register only to work on female customers) they won’t get into trouble. Usually they will charge a slightly higher fee for the male (harder work, so understandable).

    You can contact me for more info on Vietnam, and it won’t bother me at all to help any way I can. Mail me anytime.

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