So this has never been diagnosed, but I have chronic back pain. At home, this affliction had me seeking regular massages (yeah, poor me) until I discovered acupuncture: much more affordable, long-lasting relief. The thing is you have to keep up with the treatment for maintenance and well, I haven’t been. Since I have yet to muster up the courage to get stuck with needles by a stranger who doesn’t speak my language, I have been opting for massages, especially at the price point offered in Indonesia. 

For the past week, I have had some pretty serious neck and trap pain and I am nearly positive that my last massage in Yogyakarta did more harm than good (yes, thank you for cracking my back with your feet…) I took a day trip to Bogor from Jakarta and after a walk around the city and through the famous botanical garden, I reached the pinnacle of pain and decided to get a massage. 

After a quick Google search I knew exactly where this massage would take place based on the reviews alone, those that were translated to English anyway. (pssst, it’s called Top Reflexy…they don’t have a website)

Upon entering the establishment I grew a bit concerned as there was a sign on the desk saying Maaf…something…something…full. I completed enough Duolingo Bahasa lessons to know that maaf means sorry. And if you are reading this, then you and I likely have the same interpretation for the word “full.” I asked the receptionist for clarity. “Is it possible to have a massage?”  She stared at me blankly as I withdrew my phone to type the question into Google Translate. She read my question and immediately replied, “yes, the therapists are all boys.” I was a little dumbfounded that she had those words, but could not piece together that I was asking for a massage at a massage parlor. Whatevs. 

The boy therapist assigned to me led me up the stairs to a mattress on the floor. He signaled for me to lie down and threw a towel over me. I guessed this was gonna be one of those fully-clothed massages. The funny thing about massages in Asia is that each one is like my first massage ever because expectations vary from place to place. Sometimes they wash your feet, sometimes they give you an outfit to wear, and sometimes they perform ridiculous acrobatics on you when you were just “here to relax.”

Anyhow, he touched my foot for all of two seconds before trying to roll up my leggings. He indicated they should roll up past my knee. Clearly this fellow had never worn leggings before. He said something in Indonesian. I agreed and he left. I hoped I was agreeing to a pair of shorts or baggy pants to borrow. During these foreign language interactions, I also create alternative scenarios in my head. Maybe he said I should just take the pants off and he left for privacy. But god forbid I take the pants off and he comes back with shorts. I’ll just wait. He came back with shorts. Phew. Crisis averted. 

Shortly into the continuation of the massage, he started asking me full blown questions in Indonesian. The only word I understood was Indonesia. I replied, “yes.” That did not appear to be a satisfactory answer, so I changed it to, “no.” Alas, still not an acceptable response…must not have been a yes or no question. I had to giggle and shrug and speak English really fast until he stopped speaking to me. The best communication we could have is removing the knots from my aching muscles. 

There were about 5 mattresses in this room, all separated by flimsy screens for privacy. Just a few minutes into my massage another female patron and her boy therapist set up shop on the mattress closest to my feet. This woman’s response to her massage was completely unexpected. This woman seemed to be in agony from the get go. While I couldn’t fully see what was going on, I definitely could hear it. This is the most vocal I’ve heard anyone be during a massage without using any words. It seemed utterly painful 80% of the time, but possibly pleasurable 15% of the time. Yes, geniuses, there is a missing 5%. Whatever those remaining sounds were could not be attributed to a human sentiment quite frankly. At this point I thought to myself, what a comical massage. 

It was like the universe replied directly to me, “oh, you think that is funny…?” Now, the room is full. A few more lady patrons entered with their boy therapists and I was then surrounded by other customers. While these ladies got set up, the torture had been completed for the lady at my feet. 

A few minutes later the woman on my right burped…quite loud…and said nothing after. I muffled a giggle because I’m seven. As her massage continued, so did the belching. I was in shock that this was her bodily reaction, but I guess the massage just pushed all the air out of her. The burp pattern was intermittent but frequent. I kept wondering what the lady to the left of me thought of the ruckus. 

And then it happened. Left lady started burping too. There was surround sound burping happening and I was in utter disbelief. I was stifling laughter due to pure shock. The women started speaking to each other which of course I couldn’t understand, but could only assume went something like, “I shouldn’t have had that nasi goreng before coming here, teehee.” As the symphony continued, I couldn’t help but think, “should I be burping too?” They must have only booked thirty minutes as they were out before my massage had finished. I pictured them leaving arm in arm, skipping away as new-found burp buddies.  I was alone at last, trying to enjoy the tail end of my massage. It was actually the best massage I had had in my travels (not massage experience, just the massage itself). As much as I tried to relax and keep my thoughts at bay, I couldn’t shake the cacophony I had just endured. Pardon my Indonesian, but it was fucking disgusting.