Searching for a Massage in Pangkalan Bun

One morning last week I woke with a very sore shoulder and it has steadily worsened. Being in Indonesia, my first course of action was to get a massage ‘pijat’. Although, today in Indonesia, this seems to have become the second course of action and the first course of action now seems to be panadol. I wonder if everyone agrees with me?
anyway back to my search for a pijat…
Trees had a most unsatisfactory pijat from a lady who lives nearby Bu Arfa, so I knew I didn’t need to start my search there. Instead, Bu Arfa suggested I visit a blind lady who lives near the family who babysits Intan. As I had had an amazing message from a blind lady in Yogyakarta and knowing it is a really good way of helping someone who would find it very hard to find employment, I was only too happy to give her a try. Unfortunately when we found her house it was only to dicover that she was sick and in hospital.
So back on the motorbike.
This time we headed home keeping a lookout for a sign on the side of the road saying ‘pijat’. We hadn’t gone far when we came across such a sign. We followed it down a very rocky and steep dirt road past warungs and ‘kebun’ before we came to a row of tiny timber rooms rented out for varying purposes. The front room was a salon and the last room was where Bu Tia lives with her current husband and does her massages. Outside her room was a wooden post in the ground with another small plank nailed to it and on it was painted, “Bu Tia, Pijat” . We stood at the doorway and called out, “Orangnya?” the Kalimantan way of asking, “Is anyone home?” A small lady came to the door and invited us inside. The first room was an empty room with a sheet of lino on the floor. Once in, she motioned us through the curtained doorway to another room which had no ventilation and was very hot. Even though there was a fan going, it seemed to be struggling to make any difference to the temperature inside the room let alone moving any air. There was also a double bed and right next to it on the floor was a mattress. Along the wall were boxes stacked so every bit of floor space was used. I was given a sarong to put on and told to take off my skirt and shirt and then lie down on the mattress. This put me directly in front of the fan but had I not seen it on, I would not have been able to tell there was one in the room let alone facing me! While beginning the massage, she & Bu Arfa starting sharing information about themselves as is usual here in Indonesia. Often this information sharing reveals an unknown link either through family or friends however as Bu Tia is originally from Sumatra, no such commonality was revealed. She asked me how strongly I wanted my massage and when I said not too hard, she then had difficulty applying pressure which suited me. Her fingers would either hurt or tickle! So after I alternated between groans and laughs, she & Bu Arfa thought maybe I would be better off with a lulur (body rub). As this was my first lulur, I couldn’t give a preference for a goats milk lulur or a traditional Balinese lulur, and I left it up to them both to decide which one would be best. For some reason they chose the Balinese lulur which had a rose scent! Go figure! It felt like a rose scented salt rub. At first she would take a dab of the mixture and then rub it into aq small patch of skin until the salt rubbed off the dead skin. All I could feel was a burning sensation! After a while it didn’t burn so much but I wonder if it was more that she didn’t rub so hard. I think this was because she was quite concerned that my skin reddened with rubbing, something Indonesian skin doesn’t do!! While the lulur didn’t address my sore shoulder muscles, it was certainly relaxing lying there and surprisingly once she started, the stifling heat in the room was no longer noticeable. For the lulur, she charged Rp150,000 which is exorbitant, especially by Pankgkalan Bun standards and much to Bu Arfa’s embarrassment. However I just said that Bu Tia is the one who was the real looser from it all because there is no way either of us would either return nor recommend her!
The next night, Bu Arfa suggested I try a local fellow who has no training yet seems to have done lots of reading and has in the past helped Bu Arfa with various muscle and joint issues. We walked the short distance to his place which is right next to the musholla (looks like a small mosque). Outside his door was a sign saying ‘Buka” so we sat on the chairs lined up along his verandah while waiting for him to finish mahgrib prayers. Because the word for his/her or he/she in Indonesian is ‘dia’ and doesn’t specify gender, I wasn’t sure until it actually started if I was going to be massaged by a woman or a man. The wife came home first and invited me in to the sitting room just inside the front door. So while I waited for whoever was going to massage me, I sat in the tiny room on a bed which was against the window. I was given a sarong to put on and told to remove my shirt, so I sat there while a few others arrived and sat outside on the chairs. The room had obviously once upon a time been a sitting room because on the walls were still of interesting things that had been collected over the years. There were several mounted deer heads, a set of horns, many faded photos, a skeleton poster with all the labels written in Chinese and also an Indonesian version right next to it. While I was looking at the walls, a man walked through saying a brief hello and smoking a cigarette. Thankfully he opened one of the side windows which let out some of his cigarette smoke. He walked off into the house and then reappeared shortly afterwards minus the cigarette! He asked me where I was sore and after being told that my shoulder blades were tender, he began to massage the area until he found the exact point at which I was tender. I think when I jumped a mile high he became nervous and unsure of just how much prodding I would be able to bear. He then grabbed some spray which he sprayed on my back and then wished me well! Naturally the next morning when I woke, there was no change and my shoulders were still extremely tender and sore.
Today at work, I decided to pop out during the middle session and investigate the reflexology place a few doors up the road. I waited till after 10am, and then headed off. I walked in the door and the place was deserted. Several chairs were set up ready for customers but maybe the clientele come much later in the day. Eventually a young fellow came out to the front to ask me what I wanted. Of the options, I think the traditional massage was what I needed however he explained that as they have no female staff yet, the only service they could offer me was foot reflexology. After my experience in Jakarta, I knew that was exactly what I didn’t want, so I returned to school once again disappointed.
My search continues…..


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