A Blind Massage Experience in Thailand

by Editor

By Elizabeth Dickinson

It was through a narrow doorway with a silver sign that said “Perception” above it, so camouflaged by the storefronts on either side that my tuk-tuk driver almost missed it. The hallway and stairs were lined with candles, a faint guide lighting the edge of my path.

The spa reception was small; I was asked to sit on an overstuffed chair and handed three vials, to choose my preferred scent. I had booked an aromatherapy massage and was familiar with the vial of patchouli, deep and woody. I recognized lavender’s light floral simplicity. The last was new to me, and I instantly embraced the fruit, floral, wood, and musk sensuality of white tea.

Once my oil was chosen, I was taken to the treatment room. After removing my clothes, I changed into disposable spa panties and a shower cap. Sliding under the sheet on the massage table, I waited for my masseur, who I knew was blind.

The Thai government had organized a program to train the blind in massage, thus creating employment opportunities. Having relied on the sense of touch their entire lives, it seemed a perfect match.

Soon, my therapist was led into the room by one of the receptionists. Hand in hand, she walked him to the massage table, said a few words in Thai, and then he greeted me with clear English, “Hello.” I replied in kind.

The receptionist left the room, turning off the lights as she went. My world was lit again by candles, and my masseur had changed from a clear figure to the blurred outline of a man with medium-length hair wearing an N95 mask. He said, “On stomach, please,” and I turned over, not struggling to conceal my breasts with the sheet as I do when receiving massages back home.

My aromatherapy massage began, and the aroma of white tea filled the room; the complexity of the scent was massaged into more of a blend, the notes moving together so I could no longer identify woodsy from floral.

blind massage oil

This bouquet of tea was pressed and smoothed and rubbed and worked into my skin, from leg to leg and arm to arm. There was a massage of the decolletage and neck. He said, “On back, please.” I turned over with the comfort I had when situating myself on my stomach, fanning the sheet from my front and flipping over, with no care for modesty!

Occasionally, there were clues during the massage that he was blind. There was a short search for the top edge of the sheet so he could pull it down to massage after I had my back. He placed his hand on my back as he circled the top of my head to reach the other side of my body and patted the lower portion of the bed for the bottle of oil.

The end of the experience was different from any body treatment I had ever received. He said, “Sit, please,” and I did so as he climbed onto the massage table behind my back and sat cross-legged. I felt the massage reach my shoulders and the base of my neck, finally relaxing my head with a shampooing motion.

He finished his work, got off the bed and quietly said, “Thank you.” He searched for and found the door, opening it and calling to someone in Thai.

I dressed and went to the reception area. After paying, I noticed my masseur sitting on a short couch and approached him saying, “Thank you,” touching his hand with some Thai Baht, a tip for an excellent job.

As I made my way down the dimly lit stairs, I could make out a quote on the wall, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision.” I pondered it and smiled, thinking of all the things I still wanted to do with my life and whether or not want, and ambition, qualified as vision. 

Walking down the hallway, I took a moment to appreciate the candles and how they had helped me. Then, I made my way outside and into the burst of life that is Bangkok.

Assaulted by the sound of car horns as opposed to gentle spa music, sunlight the shade of a bonfire, not a candle flame, the knockabout of crowding pedestrians instead of the pressure of years-long trained touch. I took, on my skin, the trace of a blind masseur’s hand and the aroma of white tea.

Elizabeth York Dickinson received her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She is an esthetician travelling the world in search of beauty and wellness practices. Her travel essays have been published in GoNomad and The Costa Rica News. She currently resides in Evanston, Illinois.

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