Tantrum Injury: A Massage Experience in Saigon

Have you ever been in the situation where you were so mad you did something silly that hurt you back? It happened to me last Saturday in Saigon, which generated tantrum injury term from mr. Mck. Here’s the story.

After wandering around Ben Thanh Market in a hot, humid temperature to buy oleh-oleh, we ended up in New World Hotel for a drink. After a tiring, serious, deep conversation about conquering the fridge magnet world, where two of the guys were determined to penetrate and be successful entrepreneurs, we decided to go for a massage on the place next door called Le Lai. I insisted very hard that I did not want a naughty massage, so one of the guys went there first to make sure that it is a descent, respectable place. He came back with a good news that it is indeed a nice place, and ladies get 30% discount. Great, let’s go! So 4 guys and I went to Le Lai to have a full body massage. The receptionist gave a locker key to each one of us, and explained that guys will get sauna treatment, but I won’t. I started to feel annoyed, because it means this place is meant for guys generally, since they don’t provide a separate sauna for ladies. But that’s ok, as long as I got the massage with 30% discount. The guys then were directed to a door and I was directed to a different door right next to it.

Then my unpleasant journey began.

The lady took me through a narrow corridor which ended in a small bar. The bar was quiet but not empty, there were several Japanese guests who were drinking and watching sport from a big screen TV. The light was dim, with several gambling machines scattered around. I started feeling uneasy, feeling like I was in the wrong place. My idea about spa, or experience in that matter, is incense smells all around the room, chill-out music at the background, candles everywhere, Zen-like vegetation arrangement, a sound of flowing water, staffs who are brisk, quiet but efficient, and herbal or ginger tea served before or after the session. Everything but a bar with a dim light, big screen TV and gambling machines!

The lady kept walking across the bar, then opened the bar counter door and let me in. I was confused and a little bit panicking. Did she think I was applying for a barmaid position? But she didn’t stop there. A door at the back of the bar area was pushed open and I was gently led inside to…. the kitchen! There was a lady sitting on a stool peeling something off who did not even look when we walked in. Contrary to the depressing feeling at the bar, the kitchen was bright white and looked more like a hospital. I looked at the lady who took me, I wanted to ask why she was taking me here, I was afraid that I was being kidnapped or something, but she kept smiling and nodding and opened another small door next to the huge fridge and indicated with hand gesture that I had to get in.

We ended up in another narrow corridor with maroon carpet and wood paneling. She turned left at the end of the corridor and I found myself in a massage area.

Except that it’s full of Japanese guys with pink bath robes, having their feet massaged. Most of them were asleep, some of them opened their eyes when I entered the room and stared at my breasts (I was wearing a very low cut top). I felt more and more uneasy. Is this really a nice, descent place? I didn’t see any lady guests…

The lady politely asked me to sit down on an empty chair and vanished behind the reception desk. A guy appeared with a wooden basket filled with water, put it down next to me and indicated with his hands to have my feet put inside the basket. I started to protest, that I wanted to have a full body massage, that I didn’t request a feet massage. He looked at me helplessly, then shouted something at the lady behind the counter who came to me in an instant.

I told her that I signed up for a full body massage. But from her broken English I gathered that she offered me a feet massage because I didn’t get sauna treatment like the other boys. After this I could go to have a full body massage as promised. I thought that this offer was generously weird but well, I wouldn’t turn it down anyway. I had my feet massaged for about 45 minutes when the chair next to me (which had been empty) was occupied by (another) Japanese with a pink bath robe. Only that he had his nails done (seriously, manicure!). And the lady who did his nail brought a standing lamp along, switch the bloody thing on, and had my eye blinded by the light. Also it made the Japanese guy aware of my presence so he stared at my breasts intensely and ignored his nails altogether….

I was more and more feeling uneasy and annoyed, so I was glad when my masseur told me he was done. After signing off, the first lady who took me through a strange pathway, took me back to the front desk (of course, through the door next to the fridge in the kitchen, another door behind the bar, over the bar counter, and appeared on the lobby magically). Hold on. Why did she bring me back to the lobby?

The receptionist asked if I want to pay together with the guys or separately.

I was stunned.

I thought I will have my body massage?

The receptionist looked confused and tried to explain that I wanted feet massage. I shook my head, no, no, I wanted a full body massage! I pointed my finger at the promotion on the counter, that was that I want. But the receptionist insisted I wanted a feet massage.

I tried hard to explain to her that I was brought to a room for feet massage, which I didn’t request in the first place, and was told that I could have my feet done while waiting for the guys doing the sauna, then I would have my body massaged afterwards. The lady looked more confused, called the other lady who appeared in 2 seconds but suddenly suffered an amnesia and told me that I chose to have my feet done when she offered both feet or body massage.

I was getting more mad, and asked if I could have my body massage as promised. They said it could be done, it would take another hour to do, I had to pay another 180,000 dong, but the guys will be off in 5 minutes. Unbelievable. After 5 minutes trying to explain I didn’t get what I wanted, I gave up, there was no need to argue more and I’d pay.

The receptionist produced a bill, and instead of getting 30% discount as promised on the promotion board on the desk, I was charged 45% more (10% VAT, 5% service charge, and 30% something else). By this time I was already lost my patience and demanded to know why I didn’t get 30% discount. They said 30% discount was for full body massage. So I went back saying that that was the session I wanted, I never wanted a feet massage since the beginning, and now I was charged full price too? And what the hell is 30% SP charge? And where is my discount?

We went back and forth saying the same things, until I realize there was no point of arguing or trying to explain or clear things up. It’s either they were sneaky, stupid, or combination of both. I slammed the promotion board and stormed off.

I was more annoyed when I met those 4 guys, looking fresh, relaxed and happy, saying how good the sauna and the massage were. Back to the hotel room, still full of anger, I jumped on the bed, grunting, hitting the bed with both fists, but this time I lost.

The bed was hard enough and it bounced me back on the floor. With my bum first. And as I tried to avoid to have an intimate contact with the chair next to the bed, I felt a sudden pain on the left side of the neck. It hurt as hell and I stayed on the position for a several seconds. And when I got up, slowly, embarrassingly, caressing my bruised bum, I realized that now I had a neck strain.

That’s when mr. Mck, who stood half meter away, grinned widely, said that I just had a tantrum injury. No sympathy for me, of course.

So much for trying to achieve a total relaxation. I had to get down to our hotel’s spa center to get a full body massage, to have my neck relaxed a bit, and to calm myself down.

I‘ve learned several things from this experience:

  1. Never try to get a massage in Le Lai, Saigon.
  2. Never, never, never trust a Vietnamese lady with big smile and broken English. Write down what you want and have it agreed before you are rushed to a different room. Otherwise you are screwed.
  3. Never trust a massage or spa center which leads you through a back door of the bar. Or kitchen. When it looks and feels dodgy, it probably is.
  4. Never stay in a room with Japanese guys with pink bath robes.
  5. Never show your tantrum in front of others
  6. As above, especially when your tantrum results in neck injury…..
  7. Most importantly, be patience…!



  1. Anita, you crack me up. My American friend calls it a spiral of doom. I’m sorry for the bad ending, I want to believe it’s just a fun punch line but your story is so funny. Wish I had been there … hehehe! I hate to tell you I am giggling. But I am.

  2. I’m sure the wine has swiped away your anger, no? 😉

  3. Anonymous says:

    Oh dear. That sounds scary! But the worst is imagining Japanese guys with pink bath robes, euuuww!

  4. Damn!

    Why don’t I ever have this kind of adventures that make great storytelling stuff.

    I’m really sorry for the embarrassing experiences you went through, but you have to admit they make life a little bit more spicy.

  5. Finally Woken says:

    @Colson: believe me, when I was going through it, it wasn’t funny at all! But then after the neck strain incident, I realized how silly I was. And well, being in a room full of Japanese men with pink bathrobes was a quite experience… :)

  6. That’s an awesome story – I loved reading it, thanks! I’m moving to Bali in January – let me know if you have any tips! Cheers, Ryan (in Saigon for the moment riding out the rain)

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