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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

No Boom Boom For Jeff


Ha Long Bay

“So how do you feel about a massage tonight?  The Vietnamese are supposed to give the best massages in world,” pontificates  Stan as our boat pulls into a little harbor in near Cat Ba island.  Stan is our little tour’s expert on everything – I try to avoid him as much as possible but a massage sounds like a good idea. The boat tour of Ha long Bay and overnight stay at Cat Ba Island are “must do’s” for anyone visiting Vietnam.

Stan in one of his more happy moods
This is supposed to be a “swim break,” and Stan boasts that he swims a mile every day, so he’s quite keen on having his daily swim.  We’re anchored just off a huge floating boat city and I’m not really keen on swimming in raw sewage so I opt to remain on the boat. I generally avoid spending any more time with Stan than I have to, but a massage sounds like a good idea.
“What kind of a massage?”  I ask cautiously.
“Just a regular massage - no ‘boom boom,’” Stan replies.
I don’t have to be a genius to figure out what ‘boom boom’ is. 
“Okay,” I reply, “I could use a massage.”
Stan then proceeds to have his swim.

When we return to the dock at Cat Ba Island, Stan is keen to have a shower, and I offer to scout out the little town and look for a suitable place to have a massage. 

There are several massage parlors along the waterfront.  Some of them appear legitimate, but one in particular does not.  As I pass by this particular shop two attractive young women wearing low cut orange dresses and sporting heavy orange make-up emerge and try to entice me into their shop.  “You want boom boom?” they ask.  
“No,” I answer, “just a regular massage?”  “No boom boom.” 
They are very insistent and won’t take no for an answer. Finally to get rid of them I imply I might come by later and move away from the shop as fast as I can.   

Stretch and me
I happen to mention my problem of finding a decent massage place to Stretch, our Vietnamese guide. (Stretch has a complicated Vietnamese name that I have trouble with so I nicknamed him ‘Stretch,” a nickname that seems to have stuck – much to his chagrin.) Stretch says he has a good buddy who’s a professional masseur who will give Stan and I great massages for only 5 bucks.

An hour later our tour group arrives for dinner.  Stan is not looking very well.  In fact he’s looking a bit green.  For the first time in two days, he doesn’t offer an opinion on any subject.   He says he’s not feeling well and thinks he’ll skip dinner and the massage and just go to bed.  I guess swimming in sewage doesn’t agree with him.  The rest of our group isn’t interested in massages and are planning to go out for drinks, so now there’s only me.  Stretch says he’ll pick me up on his motor bike in front of the hotel in an hour and take me to his buddy’s bar for my massage.

Not wanting to carry a lot of cash at night I just throw a few dollars into my pocket and head downstairs.  Stretch is about 10 minutes late I’m sitting on the steps in front of the hotel waiting for him He pulls up and motions for me to get on, and off we go. 
“Where we going?”  he asks as I climb on.
“I thought we were going for a massage,” I answer, a bit puzzled, since he’d only offered this about an hour ago.
“You want boom boom?”
“No! I told you, Stretch, no boom boom -  just a regular massage!”  
On the look out for a masage

Then it dawns on me.  This is NOT Stretch driving the motorbike.  I have jumped on a complete stranger’s motorbike, who is now heading directly in the direction of the ladies with the orange make-up’s establishment.  I’m trapped!  We’re going too fast for me to jump off.  The driver pulls up on the sidewalk in front of the shop and delivers me into the waiting arms of the ladies who run out of the shop and pull me off the bike.
“You come back for boom boom,” they scream delighted.
Just when I think things can’t possibly get worse, they do.
“Hey Jeff, what are you doing?”  I hear from directly across the street.    I look up and see ALL the other members of my tour group (except Stan), who are seated at a bar across the street enjoying the ensuing scene, as I‘m desperately trying to explain the bike driver and girls that I don’t want boom boom.  It’s all been a big mistake.

The driver and girls are not happy campers and the scene is rapidly getting ugly.  I take the money I had in my pocket for the massage and throw it on the ground in front of the driver and the girls and try to beat a hasty retreat past my howling tour mates.  It’s was at that exact moment that the real Stretch arrived on his motorbike. 

Now the scene is rapidly turning into a brawl as the real Stretch and the fake Stretch threaten each
other with the girls cheering them on.  Finally the real Stretch motions for me to get on the back of his bike and we take off to a combination of cheers  and gales of laughter from my tour group.

Stretch’s masseur works out of a dark dingy little bar on a side street.  He’s the biggest Vietnamese guy I’ve ever seen.  I’m a bit worried because I don’t see anywhere to lie down.  
Cat Ba Island at Night
Where’s the bed?” I ask.
“No need bed,” he states with authority and then proceeds to pick me up  like a rag doll and toss  me around like a wrestler.  I’m being suspended upside down from his  shoulders listening to my bones crunch when it suddenly occurs to me  -  I don’t have  any money to pay this guy! I threw it all at the “boom boom” girls as a diversion to get away! 

From that moment on, I stop enjoying the massage and wonder what kind of a human pretzel this guy is going to leave me in when he finds I can’t pay him.  Then I remembered:  I’d stashed five dollars as emergency money in a secret pocket in my jacket.   I was saved!

When I returned back to the hotel I found Stan nursing a cup of green tea. 
“How was the massage?” he asked. 

“Nothing Special,” I answered as I limped back up to my room.  

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