• theGREENtravelbug

Misleading Makassar massage

Mis à jour : 3 déc 2019

Hopping from island to island, I was often 'in between ferries' in certain transit cities, such as Makassar, where I spent a couple of days to relax while waiting for the upcoming journey. My next stop was Jakarta and getting there would take me at least 50 hours on a ferry. The boat was to leave at 3 am, so I decided to hang around in the neighborhood close to the harbor and spend my time visiting some more tourist attractions while wandering around the center.

My first stop at the Dutch fortress and the adjoining museum was soon interrupted by several pushy taxi drivers wanting to offer me a ride as soon as I would finish the visit. I did not need transportation at all. I had all day and most things I wanted to do were within walking distance. One man, who was driving a trishaw, a cycletaxi, was very persistent though. He kept on insisting to drive me somewhere. Each time he saw me at the fortress he sought eye contact and beamed his biggest possible smile at me. The only reason I would possibly give in, would be experiencing a trishaw ride with a local guide who can provide some juicy knowledge about the city. Still, everything on my itinerary was very close, so it would not make such a difference. I wondered how I could change my plans to make it worth it. Then an idea entered my mind. Backpacking had given me a sore back and I could use a massage. The driver would know the best places at a reasonable price and he could even take me there.

When the Indonesian driver walked up to me for the fifth time, I told him about the plan. After some confusion about having just a massage and no 'private time with a girl', he told me he knew the best place. When I asked for the price he said it would be around 150.000 rupees (10€) the price I had expected. For some strange reason or because of bad negotiating skills, he quickly changed the price to 200.000 (13€). The small difference didn't bother me that much, so I agreed and we went for a trishaw tour around the city towards his recommended massage parlor. The trishaw blended into the traffic, nearly touching other vehicles, but always making it through. Some steeper or rockier parts were not ride-able, so we both got off and pushed the vehicle until roads were close to normal again. In some small street, at a building that could easily be missed, we stopped and the driver announced our arrival.

When we got in, I got a strange feeling. The many pictures of girls and the shady looking men made me think of prostitution. I had never gone to a prostitute or a massage parlor before, so I could not judge correctly. At the counter I asked a back massage for one hour and mentioned I did not want any extras, just to be sure. After paying the 200.000 rupees I followed a guy who led me down the hall. There was red lighting everywhere and I did not feel comfortable with the feel of the place. When I went to my 'room' behind a curtain, I found a bed instead of a massage table and I was less and less sure this was not a brothel. As I prepared for the massage I noticed a little sign in the corner of the room. It was written in Indonesian, so I needed my offline dictionary to find out what it meant. One word I had recognized straight away: 'prostitusi'. Word by word I made sense of the text as I stood there, typing in my underwear. I got to the point where I understood that prostitution and unacceptable behavior was forbidden, but I had not finished the whole text. Before I could finish translating, the curtain slid open and a girl, who looked to be in her young twenties, entered the room.

Not knowing what to expect and still hoping the voice in my head was wrong, I lay down on the bed and repeated I only wanted a back massage. She nodded. When I asked her name, she whispered it so silently, I was sure I could sense fear. This was all very uncomfortable, but I told myself I would have the massage, get rid of the back pain and leave this strange place as soon as possible. The beginning of the massage seemed to be random pushing with one hand, while she was on her phone with the other hand. As I hoped this was a warm-up and would soon turn into an actual massage, I was disappointed when no actual change happened. That driver had definitely set me up for a more expensive, less qualitative and possibly sketchy massage. I tried to enjoy the half massage, but it was in vain. Half an hour into the session, the girl suddenly announced the massage was over with the confident phrase: 'massage finish'. I tried to argue I paid for one hour and was still sore in my back, but she replied again 'massage finish, now ziki ziki'. It didn't need a lot of imagination to understand what 'ziki ziki' meant, but she emphasized the meaning by pointing between her legs. When I refused, as strongly as possible, she thought I just wanted a hand job. Once more I declined her offer and tried to ask for an actual strong back massage instead.

Fifteen more minutes of attempts at massaging and she announced again the massage was finished. She seemed disappointed she didn't make more money. I packed my stuff, left the place and walked back towards the city center, feeling very strange. I still had some trouble realizing what had just happened and I did not know how to feel about it. Next time I would make sure I decided myself where I would have a massage and I would do proper research before ending up in sketchy places.