Stickman Readers' Submissions March 22nd, 2012

My Special Massage in Laos

Last time I traveled to Vientiane from Thailand I walked past the massively thick walls of the U.S. embassy. Just around the corner from That Dam, I found a charming little massage parlor. I entered through its sliding glass doors, and requested a foot massage. I didn't expect anything sexual at all. Inside, I found a group of about 6 eager girls, and one of them led me into an empty dark room. It appeared that I was the only customer.

As I sat in a reclining chair, my masseuse, who looked to be about 20 years old, coyly asked me if I wanted a hard massage or a soft one. I replied “hard.” Nothing special anticipated. From her manner of speech I knew that she was a country girl, not from Vientiane. She told me to lay back and relax. What ensued was totally unexpected, and this was unlike any foot massage I had ever had before. As she plied her wares, it became apparent to me that she was totally new to the business. Perhaps I was her very first customer. I had only wanted a foot massage, and I didn't realize that I would be breaking in an inexperienced young farm girl.

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I decided to make the best of the situation, and I quietly lay back in my chair, in a dreamy state with my eyes shut, as she worked my lower body.

Suddenly a sound like a gunshot interrupted the stillness, and I felt someone grab me violently. Was the establishment being raided by the Lao police? Was I being arrested in an entrapment sting vice operation to extort money from farangs?

No, the shot that rang out was the sound of cartilage tearing as she twisted my right ankle. I screamed in pain and asked my masseuse from hell what she was doing. She looked equally surprised, and said in Lao: “You said you wanted a hard massage.”

I left that shop with a badly sprained angle that would take about 3 months to completely heal. I considered getting medical care while still in Laos, but then I thought about my brother in law who was told by a Lao doctor that he had heart failure, and possibly liver cancer. Like most Lao who can afford it, he came to Thailand for medical treatment, upon which he was told by a Thai doctor that he was perfectly healthy. I feared that the Lao doctors might decide that my foot couldn't be saved, and amputate it. I thought perhaps I should wait until I limped back to Thailand before I commenced physical therapy.

It's a common myth that P4P is unavailable in Laos. It's available, though probably not at that particular massage parlor. The P4P places are generally frequented by Thais or Laos, but not farangs. The girls don't speak English.

On my first trip to Laos several years ago, I was approached by a friendly farang from San Francisco just after leaving Nongkhai in the no-man's land before being granted a visa to Laos. He asked to share a cab to Vientiane ostensibly to save money, and I agreed. This guy turned out to be gay, and was meeting his Lao boyfriend at the border. Fortunately for me, because I'm not gay, we rode a van with three rows of seats. The driver sat in front, I took the middle row by myself, and the two lovebirds sat in back.

I had an interesting conversation with the Lao boyfriend as we drove to Vientiane and went past his place of employment. He said he worked as a criminal prosecuting attorney at the People's Court (not the one on TV). He warned me to stay away from Lao girls, and that cohabitation with a Lao national was illegal. He then asked me if I had a map. I did, and he pointed out the places to go for heterosexual P4P.

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I've heard of only one guy being busted, and it wasn't P4P. A Thai guy was caught living with his Lao girlfriend, and it cost him a 40,000 baht fine. I'm certain there are other similar cases.

I haven't visited the establishments suggested by the prosecutor, but I believe that they are safe, because the mere fact that they are in business means that protection money has been paid to the right authorities. Why would the Lao government screw up a lucrative business for them by busting its customers?

Laos has more of a corruption problem than does Thailand. When I entered Laos from Thailand, I used to hate the long waits in obtaining a visa on arrival that I sometimes encountered. That was, until I found a Lao girlfriend who was always able to whisk me through quickly. I asked her how she did it, and she simply said that she understood how things work in Laos. I understood what she meant after I spotted her tipping the Lao border police 20 baht.


Laos is a lovely place to visit, but best to leave the naughty stuff for elsewhere.

Yikes, that massage experience sounds awful!

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