Galle Stories and Tips

In search of a decent massage

Photo of Sri Lanka, Asia

I decided to enjoy a massage on my penultimate day in Kalutaru. I’ve only had two previous massages and the one I most enjoyed was an Ayervedic massage when we stayed in Kerala. As this was one of the options I was happy to sign up for the "treatment".

There were several options to choose from. I’d seen a treatment centre and spice garden just off the main street close to the hotel and popped my head round to check it out. In truth I’d just made the small detour of the street when I was accosted by the treatment centre’s "representative" or tout. He ushered me towards a small room where the doctor was sitting and within seconds I was sat down while he explained the options to me. At 3500 rupees he was offering a two hour programme of massage and steam bath and although it sounded very professional I wanted to check out where the treatment would be administered. He pointed to a small alcove and then pulled back the curtain. In this tiny cupboard sized room was a massage bench and a small table. It was dowdy and uninviting and didn’t really attract as a place with the type of ambiance that made for a relaxing and therapeutic massage. I decided to give this one a miss!

The following day when my wife and I were strolling down the beach we once again saw that there were numerous massage centres along the way. Bizarrely they seemed to be twinned with restaurants or craft shops. The centres’ representative lined the beach trying to cajole us to check out their restaurant or shop and to try a massage at the same time. Somehow that didn’t ring true with me and I wondered how professional a service I would be signing up to. That sounds like it was high pressure sales but in reality the "pitch" was fairly low key and when I indicated that I wasn’t interested they just smiled and said "perhaps another day".

The safest bet seemed to be the services that were offered on site at the hotel. Here the ambiance was set the moment you walked into the massage centre’s reception – gentle running water and a smart setting. I checked out the massage rooms and the receptionist led me over a short bridge, through the trees to a modern block where there were modern, clean, bright and spacious massage rooms. This was my preference and so I booked for an hour’s Panchakarma Ayuvedic Treat. It was actually called Sambahana with Vaspasweda. None the wiser? Well it was actually a full body massage with medicated oils followed by a steam bath.

I arrived a little early for my treatment but was almost immediately taken to the centre where I needed to give a brief description of my medical conditions (although I’m not convinced that the masseur had read them) before I was escorted upstairs to the massage room.

I clambered onto the "operation couch" face down in a non too dignified fashion and soon the process of dripping oils onto my back commenced. I’m thankful that the massage wasn’t too "hard" and I was soon relaxing as the guy set about his work. Given a little longer I reckon I’d have been in the land of nod but his request for me to turn over interrupted me. Having "flipped" the oil was again applied and I suspect I was now almost "oven ready". A few "knots" were found and as I groaned he remarked "pain". "uh huh" was my response and although I had anticipated that he’d let up a bit he seemed to concentrate more on that very spot. No use complaining, I thought, it must be doing me some good. Didn’t feel that way at the time but I have to confess that the following day I did feel "much easier".

Of course the head massage was superb, despite having oils poured onto my head and that was not far short of putting me to sleep.

But that was soon over and I had to patter downstairs to the steam room for the last part of the treatment. Now I’ve never endured a steam bath like this before. It looked more like a wooden MRI scanner and I gingerly climbed onto the slatted wooden bed which was covered in leaves, before the coffin like top was lowered down. My neck was covered over in towels and the steam turned on. "Just shout" he said, if it gets too hot for you. I felt like James Bond in Thunderball as the temperature increased and the masseur was nowhere to be seen. Not that it mattered because when he got back I was ready for it to be turned up a notch.

The final part of the treatment was a warm shower to release the oils and then a gentle meander back to my room for an early evening siesta before dinner.

A most enjoyable experience.

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