Over the past year I have had the opportunity to frequent a little business where blind people give massages. This is actually a common business model in several of the countries we’ve gone to in Southeast Asia. And, if you think about it, who would be better at finding a tight muscle in your back than someone who has a super sensitive sense of touch?
Since I’ve been here I’ve gone to two blind massage centers. The one I go to the most is this one, the Eastern Traditional Blind Massage Center. It’s located on Jalan Thambipillay, just south of Jalan Tun Sambanthan by the YMCA. If you’re not looking for it, though, you may miss it. This business follows the traditional business style of being one of many connected to each other with minimal signage out front.
A lot of businesses in Asian countries have tiny doorways that lead to a thin staircase that then lead to upstairs businesses. There are usually residential apartments behind or above the upstairs businesses since it is still common for the owners of these establishments to live in the same site as their business.
It looks a little creepy at first, and it feels a bit creepy going up the stairs (the first time I came here I was wondering if I was ever going to be seen again), but that is just leading up to the unique sight you are faced with at the top of the stairs.
They leave open areas to help with air flow since these building were built without central heat or air. Many still do not have AC, but, as you can see here, some residents have opted to add window units. The railed in area always has bits of trash on it, but they do clean it off occasionally.
Sometimes there will be several doors to different businesses at the tops of the stairs if it’s not all residential in the back, so it’s nice that there are names on the doors. This particular place is the only business up here and just at the top of the stairs.
Inside there is a lonely looking counter much as you would find in a sparsely decorated doctor’s office in the US. The same guy is there every time I go, whether it be mid-morning, late afternoon or late evening. He was even there when I went in on Christmas day. But then, so were several of the masseurs. I haven’t come to a firm decision on whether or not this guy is blind. The desk clerk at the other massage place I went to is blind, which was kinda cool. He told us he could tell how much people paid based on the feel of the money. We gave him several different bills and he got each one of them correct. It was pretty neat. And, yes, we could tell he was blind. His eyes were all cloudy and white. The guy at this place, though, has had me changing my mind constantly. I’m pretty sure he isn’t blind, but I’m still not 100% about it.
Anyways, once you tell the guy at the desk that you want a massage and any preference on who (I usually request Ms. Kuan. She’s amazing!) he will direct you to a little waiting area.
The seats are comfy, but I’ve never been waiting more than a few minutes. Well, I think once I waited for about 5-10 minutes, but that was because Ms. Kuan was at their other location around the corner and someone had to go get her for me.
The rooms aren’t so bad. The first time I came for a massage I had been expecting it to be like the US where you have a private room that is tastefully decorated with soft music playing and the masseuse is all about your privacy and such. Here, not so much. lol. The rooms are pretty much just several tables with this mattresses separated by sheets.
The masseur takes you to your partition and if there are other people getting massaged, you may end up seeing a little bit of skin. This is why they keep the men in one room and the women in another. The rooms are usually completely dark, so all you really see if someone else is in there is a bare leg or some feet. They give you a towel to cover up with and have a pretty good system to keep patrons walking through other people’s massages at a minimum. They usually put the first person in the very back corner and then the new people at the next one. That just leaves the first person having to walk through the new person’s area when the first person’s massage is done. Not a perfect system, but it works.
The only thing that makes me uncomfortable with the massage is that once they get started, they aren’t too keen about keeping the towel on you. They do put a towel over you when they first start the massage, but they move it around a lot and it doesn’t stay on your person for very long. I guess it’s because they are blind and can’t tell they’ve pulled the towel down to your waist or completely off of you. That was definitely interesting. I kept grabbing the towel and pulling it back up to my shoulders or wrapping it around the front of me when she had me sit up so she could rub my shoulders. I guess they don’t pay attention to that part if it because they’re blind and can’t really tell that they’ve made you indecently exposed. Thank goodness it was so dark in there.
The lady that massaged me tonight did a better job at keeping me covered up. When she was massaging my legs or my arms, she didn’t just flip the towel around like the other lady did. She moved part of the towel over and would tuck it under my other leg or under my side. A few times she pulled the towel down too low and I’d have to pull it back up, but I guess that’s to be expected when the towel she was using was a child’s bath towel. Or maybe it’s because I’m tall and everything here is made for tiny people. With my head up against the wall, my feet were hanging off the end of the massage table. When she went to massage my legs, she felt my feet and felt the table and felt my feet again. She said, “You must be very tall. Are you 5’7″ or maybe 5’6″?” I told her I am 5’8″ and she said I was very tall and said I must have very long arms and legs. lol.
As for the massage, it’s usually pretty good. I wasn’t impressed with the first few, but once I had Ms. Kuan for a second time and she understood that I really did want a DEEP massage, it got better. I’m relatively thin and she told me she was worried about breaking my ribs. Then she started cracking jokes about feeling like she was washing laundry when she was massaging my back. -.-
I first got into going with Troy’s coworker, Aasma, and she REALLY likes Ivy, so she always requests her. One time she let me have Ivy and she took someone else and I have been jealous ever since. lol. Ivy always does long massages and she does them super deep, so massages done by her are fabulous. Two weeks ago I went in and Ivy was there and she gave me a 2-hour massage that did wonders for my back. Having scoliosis I’m always in some sort of pain or discomfort from the knots in my back and she just worked and worked at them until they were gone. It really was wonderful.
Even though Ivy is so good, I’m still a bit partial to Ms. Kuan. She does a really great job and she’s always trying to convince me to try durian or other strange Malaysian foods. She cracks me up and just a funny little old lady. Not that she’s super old. I’d say she’s probably in her 50’s or 60’s. I really will need to buy some durian from her before I leave here. I’ve made it a goal to try it before we head back to the US in three weeks. It just really stinks, so I’ve been avoiding it. lol.
So, yeah, blind massages are pretty darn awesome. I’m going to miss them when I get back to the US. They’re so cheap (RM45 at the first place we went to and RM40 at this one) and they do a great job. It has to be something with them having a super awesome sense of touch. I think I’ve had better massages at the blind massage center than I did at most of the massage places I went to in the US. And I’ve been to several in Utah, Virginia and Oklahoma. So, if you’re ever in an Asian country and want a cheap, but effective, massage, check out a blind massage center. It’s a fun experience.
CONTACT INFO: You can just walk in and get a massage, but if you prefer to set up a time, you can call 032-274-1337 or 032-274-5372 or 032-272-4715.