No hanky-panky

For my trip to KL this time, I wanted to try a few new things rather than just revisiting the old.

Firstly, I decided that I’d like to try a blind massage as it’s a social enterprise that’s well worth supporting. There are quite a few blind massage parlours, so I looked online for some reviews before making a booking. You have to be careful with massages in Asia because it’s not always clear exactly what’s on offer, and you might end up with what’s euphemistically referred to as a ‘happy ending massage’.

But as soon as I saw this review …

… which stressed the total absence of any hanky-panky, I knew I’d be in safe hands here, so I phoned up and booked a two-hour body and foot massage.

I have a love-hate relationship with massages; I love the idea of a massage, and I love they way my muscles feel after a massage – but I absolutely hate the way it feels at the time.

I always have the fond idea that a massage in Asia will be like a massage in Europe, and will involve some oiled stroking while I gently nod off to sleep, soothed by the rhythmic strokes and the soft music. The reality is that as soon as the massage starts, with the vigorous karate chops down the back, I think ‘Oh God, this again! Why do I keep signing up (and paying for) this torture?’

The next stage in an Asian massage is the straddling. The masseuse leaps up onto the massage table, knees either side of your body, and starts pressing down hard on your back with sharp, staccato moves. It makes my teeth rattle and the pressure and the echoes make me feel that my head’s completely empty – a deeply unpleasant sensation. Then when the pressing moves a bit higher up the back, behind my chest, I start coughing convulsively.

Sturdy massage table to withstand the Asian straddle technique

An oiled forearm, with the full weight of the masseuse behind it, is then rolled up and down the spine like a makeshift rolling pin and all the knotted muscles crunch and throb, first as she rolls up the spine and then again as she rolls back down.

As the focus of her pummelling moves down the body, I begin to dread her gettting down to the feet, which are always agony; double agony in fact, because what she does to the left foot she then does all over again to the right one. But at least with a blind massage I didn’t have to fake nonchalance and pretend that I have a very high pain threshold. She couldn’t see me, so I was free to screw up my face in pain and ‘ouch!’ silently without upsetting her. But on the minus side, she had no idea how painful I was finding it and didn’t tone it down one iota.

Usually during a massage I’m locked in my own bubble of misery, but at one stage during this one I became aware of a loud hammering in the next room. At first I thought they must have the builders in, but after a while I realised that it was one of the male masseurs chopping and pummelling a client. Poor sod, I thought, feeling very thankful that segregation of the sexes is a strict policy at the blind massage parlour.


New experience number two focused on dealing with my bird issues. Ever since I watched Hitchcock’s The Birds as a child (parenting was very lax in the Seventies) I’ve been a bit bird phobic. This was exacerbated by a pigeon flying into my mouth a few years ago in St James’s Park, the memory of which still makes me gag. But I recently read an article saying that phobias need to be confronted and dealt with or you risk passing them on to others, so I decided to confront my bird phobia head on at the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park.

For a small supplement to the entrance fee, you can choose to be covered in birds and have your photo taken, so I decided to give it a go. Although I do admit that I watched the family in front of me as they posed and studied the birds carefully, just to make sure there weren’t any pigeons.

Then it was my turn, and as there was only one of me, I had to have all the birds on me, not just one or two. I sat there, clenching my fists as instructed, and the birds leapt up onto my arms with the practised ease of seasoned performers. But there was one parrot that kept trying to take a chunk out of my finger. The bird handler nobly poked his finger out for the parrot to bite instead of mine – but even so I was reluctant to take my eye off him in case he struck when I wasn’t looking.

‘I don’t know what you’re looking at – I’m not doing anything.’

So here it is – the proof that I chose to be a bird perch and I lived to tell the tale. I may not be looking at the camera, and I may be grimacing rather than smiling … but I did it!