A Tale Without a Happy Ending

I went for a massage today but before we get to that, it rained. It rained a lot but it has a tendency to do that around here; it’s like someone turns the tap to full and then, just as abruptly, turned it off again. And so it was today.

No big deal except that we took shelter in the new bright and shiny Central Marina Mall at the north end of 2nd Road in Pattaya. It’s definitely a much revamped mall from last year and reflects the demands of the Japanese tourists that are concentrated at the nearby hotels.

The mall reminds us of the big shiny malls in the US with wide open atriums, smells of cinnamon and marble floors. The only thing that’s missing is the large mats near the doors to wipe your feel after similar thunder-filled downpours and this is where the problem started.

As we crossed from one part of the mall to another we walked though some light puddles and when my wet flip-flop made contact with the shiny marble floor, there was less friction than a Torvill & Dean number. Unfortunately the same could not be said for my rear foot that was still outside on the concrete, that had loads of friction.

So, in slow dramatic motion, my legs parted and the face of the very beautiful young Thai that was holding the door open for me, equally slowly transformed from a beaming smile to horror in response to my pirouette that would be much akin to Dumbo doing an impression of Bambi.

I went down hard and scattered cash in one direction and my iPhone in another. In a very Thai way, everyone around my prone frame collected my stuff and showed a great deal of concern about how I was and, in an equally English way, I smiled and said that I was fine as I writhed in agony.

A brief body inventory check confirmed that I hadn’t broken anything, I feared that I might have cracked a rib because the sharp pain was coming from the lower edge of my rear rib cage.

Standing still was ok but any walking or, worse, any twisting initiated a full burst of stars to the eyes as the pain explodes and recedes.

Rubbing it helped and I could reach behind me to keep some pressure on it that helped.

So we decided to have a Traditional Thai massage.

Now, for those that have never been to Pattaya, it seems the centre of the city is a massage parlour every 3rd door. I’m exaggerating but only ever so slightly. The call of “Helloooo, Wellllcome, Massage” is a perpetual aural backdrop here. Every massage shop has a small army of stunningly beautiful girls out the front with their intoxicating smiles and siren calls.

But I was less than convinced, firstly, that their style could be described as “Traditional Thai” and, secondly but more importantly, I was fairly sure that what they were going proposing was unlikely to offer much succour to my ailing rear rib cage; indeed, I was fairly sure that I would exit with more pain than I entered!

So we walked on. And we walked on to the 7-11 where Siubhan bought some water and paracetamol for me as my hobbling became stiffer to minimise the twisting motion as we walked.

But then we walked past Ayuttaya Massage, on Soi 5, which is a bungalow set back from the road with the familiar silk uniformed army of ladies but this time they were older. Quite a bit older, they were quieter and the ambiance of the bungalow was low key without the usual neon adornments. Also the prices were higher than anything we had seen walking about by about 50% more.

So we went in.

We removed our shoes at the entrance and after stopping at the reception desk to confirm that we’d like 2 x Traditional Thai Torture before walking barefoot to an outside area where we had our feet washed. And that’s where the fun stopped.

Undressed and lying on hard mats side-by-side, Siubhan and I met our sub 5-foot assailants. It started with the toes, I never knew you could crack toe knuckles!

Sharp elbows applied painfully up the legs was followed by sharp thumbs to the inner thighs. Wow these tiny ladies are strong; I can understand the ability to apply pressure from full body weight through the sharp point of an elbow, but the strength through the thumb to the crease between my leg and buttock was like a pair of Mole grips.

Legs were pulled, stretched, folded, squashed and then pushed, one at a time, over our heads in different ways to stretch the glutes and hamstrings.

All of this was painful but I hadn’t realised how tight our legs, especially the quads, were from cycling until they weren’t.

But rolling over onto my front was unbearable and I let out a chunk more than a whimper.

So it seemed strange that the feeling from my lady walking up and down my spine was more comforting than painful. But soon the elbows were back; first up and down one side of the spine, then the other.

The point of an elbow with full body weight applied exactly on the source of my discomfort told me that I hadn’t cracked a rib. I was pleased because the last time I did that, by smashing a race car backwards into a barrier at Donington Park, it took weeks of real pain before I could walk properly. Thankfully this is different.

Direct pressure is a comfort and I encourage it but twisting creates agony and I exclaim again as I sit up for the finale on the head and shoulders. I’m now starting to suspect that the intent is to dull the pain in my back by creating more pain elsewhere.

Elbows into the shoulders make both of our eyes stare widely at each other in the small, shared space and I’m not sure whether to read Siubhan’s non-verbal communication as deep love from a shared endeavour or homicidal intent for me suggesting this.

Soon it’s over and we’re paying the 300THB each for the hour plus tip and we’re walking 200m to the beach road to pick up a Baht Bus. Walking is still painful but the rest of me feels better.

Back at the apartment, I’ve had a consultation with Dr Google and the best guess is that I have strained an intercostal muscle through twisting beyond the normal extent when I fell. Treatment is paracetamol, topical application of a local Deep Heat variant and rest.

1112 delivered some delicious pizza tonight and Siubhan hit the 7-11 for the beer. That’s her Florence Nightingale stuff done and now we’re watching shit American TV that has such crap that we were enthused when The Mentalist came on as we now perceive this as “quality viewing”

Bugger! The weekend is a write-off but at least it’s still over a week before the tour starts proper.

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