The Goan beaches are popular hotspots for yoga and ayurvedic medicine. I figured while I was in Palolem, I should get an ayurvedic massage, which I read you could find for about $8. So, I followed the signs for an “ayurvedic massage spa” and found a hut near the beach. Outside the hut, I met one of the female masseuses, an Indian woman in her 50s. I told her a wanted a full body massage and asked about prices. She told me in a whisper that she would give me a discount and showed me a menu of services. While I was looking it over, she whispered again something about price and discount, but then said her boss was coming and she quickly scooted back into the hut.
Sure enough, the boss showed up a minute later and I had to spend several minutes haggling with him over what service I would get and for what price. We settled on full body for $16 (originally about $34). He ushered me into the hut, which was one room where there were about 4 plastic-covered foam beds divided by hanging sheets, and several other people getting massaged by male and female masseuses. The “boss” brought me into the first space and said some things to the female masseuse in Hindi. The hanging sheet was pulled shut and I was told to undress. Stupid me was only wearing my bathing suit and a skirt, so I awkwardly pulled off my skirt and my bathing suit top down while the massage lady was watching me. It was really uncomfortable considering that the Hindu religion is so conservative and requires a lot of covering up of their women. Although, I’m sure this lady sees naked people every day in her line of work.
Anyway, I climbed onto the table face down and the woman poured at least 3 cups of oil (pretty sure it was cooking oil, as afterward Maren confirmed that I smelled like a tortilla chip) on my back and proceeded to get all the way on top of the table, so she was standing over me, for my back massage. She then got off the table and moved onto my arms (more oil), my legs (more oil), and my feet (more oil). Then I’m told to flip over. In the next 20 minutes, I got another giant bottle of oil rubbed on my body and a full frontal massage, with a solid 3 minutes focused on only my boobs. It was SO WEIRD!
Last but not least, the woman sprayed a bunch of oil into my hair for a head massage.
The entire hour was far from relaxing because I couldn’t get over a few thoughts:
- The whole set up felt like a pimp-prostitute business with the “boss man” booking clients, setting the price, taking the money, and then passing the client on to the worker. I kept wondering how much money this poor woman was actually going to make off my massage. I bet it wasn’t more than a dollar or two.
- I hate feeling greasy, and with so much cooking oil on my body I was pretty much getting prepped to dip into a deep fryer and served as a side to someone’s Big Mac.
- The breast massage was awkward for obvious reasons.
- I’m pretty certain there was nothing “ayurvedic” about this massage. I assume none of the employees had any training in massage therapy whatsoever. The massage was basically a “fluff & buff” rubdown.
Bottom line: Don’t pay for an ayurvedic massage in Goa unless you’re actually at an official ayurvedic center.