And now for something completely different

With apologies to Monty Python for stealing one of their catch phrases, it’s no secret than humans crave variety … especially in the horizontal sporting events.

That even holds true for experienced Asian-babe-a-holics like your old Uncle Hannibal. After enough trips to Southeast Asia (or after being an ex-pat here for some time), you’ve done all of the usual bonking spots many times over … not that’s there’s anything wrong with that. Sooner or later, you’ll want to try something different from your usual fare.

Perhaps we can make a suggestion?

If you find yourself in Bangkok and you’ve done all the usual haunts often enough to want a change of pace, here’s one you might enjoy:

Sazanka Massage

What’s that you say … you’ve never heard of it? That’s not surprising; many ex-pats haven’t been to this one either (unless they have been here a very long time).

Sazanka Massage is tucked away in a non-descript section of one of the less upscale ex-pat hangouts, Washington Square (which is just off Soi 22, Sukhumvit Road). The nearest Sky Train stop would be Phrom Phong (the same stop for Baron Massage that we had featured in last month’s column) but Sazanka is a bit more of a walk from the station (maybe 400 meters). So the first time you go there, you’re probably better off taking a meter taxi to Washington Square.

I’ve found that very few cabbies know the name “Washington Square” and so you’ll need to ask for it in Thai:

“Sukhumvit, Soi Yee-sip-sawng, krap”

[For pronunciation, the “v” in Sukhumvit is pronounced like a “w” in English. “Soi” is pronounced like “soy” (as in beans). “Yee” and “sip” are pronounced the way they look, “sawng” is pronounced like the thing they sing at Karaoke places and “krap” is pronounced like “crop” (and not like “crap”).]

When your cabbie turns down Soi 22 from Sukhumvit, he won’t know where to stop, so you’ll need to show him. Washington Square will be on the left side maybe 100 or 150 meters down from Sukhumvit. It’s not marked and the driveway is not obvious until you’re right there, so the thing to look for is a small, multicolored, striped awning in front of one shop … that’s where the Washington Square driveway will be. As you see those colored stripes approaching, have the cabbie slow down and turn in there (into the driveway). Have him drive in (you’ll pass by the parking attendant) and continue going straight for maybe 30 more meters.

Sazanka will be in a blue-gray building on your right side. Hop out of the cab, settle up the fare on the meter and stroll into Sazanka. You have arrived.

What makes Sazanka different (from other massage places that the average Western visitor will have been to) is that Sazanka is set up to appeal to Asian (as in Korean and Japanese) palettes.

It’s billed as a Korean place, but the girls are Thai. And unlike most of the places in Thailand that cater to Japanese men (e.g. Soi Thaniya), this place does not turn away Western men. I haven’t seen any other men entering or leaving, though, so I can’t handicap the ethnic mix of their clientele. But your old Uncle Hannibal – and his band of merry reprobates – have always been welcomed warmly here.

Unlike Thai massage places, there’s no “fishbowl” here (where their girls will be seated behind glass so that you can select the one that gives you the most urgent wood). Instead, they show you a menu at the front counter that has several combinations of services (ranging from 500 baht to 1380 baht, with the time and particulars varying for the different combinations).

In the interest of being thorough my first time there, I went for the last choice on the menu (which included the works). The tab on that came to 1380 baht (about US$35). They don’t collect in advance, by the way … you pay them on the way out. And for that you’ll get two hours of their finest personal attention.

Once you’ve decided what you want done to your handsome physique, they’ll have you take a seat on a couch and they’ll show you a photo book with the name and picture of each girl. Some may be unavailable (either they are off that day or are with a customer upstairs) … those ones will have a yellow Post-It sticker over them. Just tell the manager which of the remainder tickles your fancy and he’ll call her down.

Just before going upstairs, you’ll see a bank of small lockers on your right. That’s where to deposit your valuables while you’re being taken care of upstairs. They open with a key and you’ll be given the key (on an elastic wrist-band) to keep during your massage.

[I’ve heard an unconfirmed report by one buddy that the same key opens all of the lockers but haven’t checked it out personally. He had reported that he accidentally tried to open the wrong locker and it did open … with his key. That said, I’ve never had anything lifted here.]

Once you pick your girl, she’ll be called down to escort you upstairs to a room with a massage table on it. There, you disrobe (she remains clothed for the entire two hours) and wrap a towel around yourself. Then she escorts you down to another room with a tile floor and another massage table covered by plastic where you’ll lie down.

While there, you get a series of rubdowns, starting with just dousing you with warm water. Then on come the Loofah mitts. They’re not genuine Loofahs (the type you’d see at a fancy spa) … they’re more like a pair of mittens that have been woven out of the same material as the Brillo soap pads that are used for washing dishes.

After a thorough “all over” with the Loofah mitts, you’re covered with some kind of a course salt … it might be “sea salt” but it felt to me to be about like the consistency of the salt they put on highways in the winter in places like Montana (or Siberia) and not the finely granulated stuff that you’ll find in your salt shaker. Massive quantities of salt are massaged into your skin (all over … and occasionally under).

Once you’re wearing the full suit of saline body armor, you’ll get some all over “body slapping” (for lack of a better description). The slapping isn’t quite vigorous enough to give Netguard wood; it’s more the type designed to stimulate circulation. If you’ve ever been to a real sauna in Finland where you smack yourself with branches, they seem to have a similar logic here.

Next, you get rinsed off and rubbed (simultaneously) with more warm water to remove all that salt from your skin (and from any nooks and crannies where it may have migrated). Then, if you wish, she’ll wash your hair for you. If you do want your hair washed (she’ll ask first), you’ll have a seat on a little plastic stool and she’ll do the honors. If you’ve been to a hot springs in Japan and seen the stools that were specially designed with cutouts in the middle (so that your nads don’t have to touch somewhere that other nads have been), they use those here also.

At that point, you put your towel back on and head upstairs to the room where your clothes (and the regular massage table) are. Onto the table you go.

Next, she’ll cover you with hot towels (a few layers thick) … it felt a bit like Ibusuki (in Japan) where you can have them bury you in volcanic sand, but the hot towel wrap isn’t quite so hot. While you’re under the hot towels, she’ll give you an abbreviated (in time, not in coverage) traditional sort of Thai massage, focusing on pressure points and the occasional muscle, digging in the occasional elbow, at other times walking up and down your back.

Next up is your oil massage … more oil than massage, I’ve found. She sprays oil on various parts of your body and then basically fondles you all over with her now slick hands on your now slick body. Didn’t take her all that long to discover “the General” and she got right to work treating him like her new best friend. No stopping to haggle for an extra tip or anything, she just kept on going when she got to it. The hand job seems to be included as an integral part of the massages.

After that, it’s time to don the towel again and head for the shower room where she’ll shower you (keeping her clothes on), dry you off and then take you back upstairs where she’ll help you get dressed again. Then she’ll escort you back downstairs, bid you a fond adieu and head back upstairs again before you have time to head over to the security locker to retrieve your cash (in the event you wanted to tip).

Clearly, tipping did not seem to be the norm here (same as in Japan) and the prices seem to have been set to include the equivalent. For example, many Thai places that offer an oil massage in the Sukhumvit area ask 800 baht for a two hour oil massage and then the masseuse will want another 500 baht for a hand job, which would make the total 1300 baht … toss in another 80 baht to cover road salt and you’re at just about the same price as the full course at Sazanka.

[Based on subsequent visits by your humble narrator and also by a few buddies, it seems that getting you off is included in all the menu choices. You might even get lucky and get a BBBJ in the process, as did one buddy … and he had gone for the cheapo 500 baht menu item. Can’t complain about that calculus.]

That was the blow by blow. Now for some impressions. All the folks there seemed friendly and professional, no hint of a hustle as there is at some places I’ve been to in Southeast Asia. As for the girl I took, she was very sweet and did her best to try and make sure I had a good time. She even interviewed me as a possible boyfriend when she found out that I live in Thailand and don’t have a wife.

I found the same with the other ladies I’ve taken there in follow-up visits (and I have heard similar reports from buddies) … all the ladies had excellent attitudes. In looks, they were more like 7’s than 10’s, but they do take great care of you.

As for the specific courses offered, those Brillo mitts scratch your skin more than you might realize as you’re being rubbed down. But when the buckets of salt are piled onto you, you can immediately tell exactly where your skin had been scraped … if you’ve ever watched old pirate movies and seen the facial expression on an unfortunate seaman who has just been flogged and then doused in salt, that’s the sensation. It smarts!

[The closest sensation I had before to that salt/SOS combo was when I got sandblasted up the back of my shirt by a buddy as we removed old paint from a ship hull.]

One other odd development … when I was putting my socks back on, I noticed that the hair on my legs was missing. I can’t recall exactly how much I had going in but the Loofah and rock salt combination seemed to clear-cut that particular forest.

Try it the next time you’re in Bangkok and want something completely different. This place qualifies. But if your leg hair isn’t firmly attached, you might opt for one of the menu choices that does not include salt.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply