First Time Having A Full Body Massage – Kota Kinabalu
Passing through Ninoy Aquinas International Airport, Laura and I decided to have a massage. As we weren’t spending time in the Philippines itself, we had some currency to spend, and after a night spent fighting off sleep, and trying to keep ourselves entertained, we figured we’d earned it. It was good fun, and left us both relaxed for our flight.
A couple of weeks later, after a few days in Ranau, we decided to fully embrace the fact that we were back in Sabah’s largest city, this meant: karaoke (again), a meal in a more salubrious restaurant and – I was excited to experience – a full body massage.
Entering the Sky Spa at the The Horizon Hotel, we found it to be somewhat beyond anything we’d experienced. We were living it up to a higher level in KK on this occasion – this meant, for us, a budget of £25 a night for a double room. When we looked, The Horizon was charging closer to £100. There was an abundance of marble in the lobby, neon provided a great deal of atmosphere. There was, inexplicably, a life size model of a horse wearing a lampshade.
We climbed into the lift and went to the spa – located on the 5th floor – the opulence in the reception continued up here, everything constructed from dark woods, with tasteful neon accents. We paid for the massage – at 95MYR per person, pricier than any room we’d stayed in – and proceeded to the massage room.
What happened next was decidedly awkward. With neither of us having had a full body massage before, we had no idea of the etiquette. Would it be considered overly keen for us to undress in preparation? How many clothes were we meant to remove? Should we lay down on the table in readiness?
We stood, pondering for several minutes before a couple of diminutive ladies strode through the door. In a slightly abrupt tone they told us to strip down to our underwear, as they laid out a towel on the table. They then asked us to climb onto the table and put our faces into the holes. At this point, my masseuse (I can’t speak for Laura about any of the following), covered my torso with a towel and the put a smaller, separate towel over my head. I felt a little like a body laid out upside down in a morgue. I had a bad feeling about this.
Next up, the masseuse started rubbing and slapping my back through the towel, this went on for a few seconds, before she pulled off the towel, revealing my back, and then pulled my underwear halfway down my buttocks, leaving me feeling quite exposed. She oiled up her hands, and then set about the grim task of removing my shoulder blade from my back – or so it felt. Her wiry fingers danced about my back, finding all manner of knots and general lumpy bits, eliciting pain as she went. I have no idea how such a small person could apply such pressure, but it felt like having a screwdriver applied to my back. Laura had expressed concern to the receptionist about the massage being painful, but had been reassured, saying that it was meant to be relaxing. Relaxing, this was not.
The masseuse continued her reign of terror up and down my back, before spreading to my arms, working her way down my biceps and triceps, over my forearms (making no account for the bites that I’d managed to go without scratching for days) and eventually ended on my hands – yanking on my fingers and extracting a satisfying popping sound with each pull. She then did the same thing with my legs – working her way down my hamstrings, and pulling on each toe. As she moved onto my left leg – which has a bit of dodgy knee, she finally showed me some quarter, lifting it up onto her leg to relieve some of the pressure on it, before going about digging her fingers into it with the same exuberance as before.
Having successfully inflicted pain upon virtually every area of my body from my shoulders down, she then walked back up the top of the table and started working her way up my shoulders towards my head. Images flashed through my head of Oberyn Martell’s dramatic departure from Game of Thrones, as although the masseuse was probably less than one fifth of the body weight of Gregor Clegane, her hands seemed no less capable of inflicting pain.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the head and neck part of the massage only included a brief section where it felt like she was trying to remove my head, Lego figurine style, the rest was quite relaxing, sadly this section was all too short and our hour came to an end.
Laura and I walked back to our hotel in a bit of a daze, feeling immensely relaxed. Achey shoulders and backs strained that we’d developed from carrying our backpacks had been ameliorated, and in our room – curiously enough upgraded – at The Winner Hotel, we got the best night’s sleep of the trip so far.