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It’s nudity on a new level.

I’ll be gentle with you and start out easy. Idyllic Bali. Resort style. Two massages a day. No phone, no internet. The calm before the storm, you could say.

The Balinese are a very sweet and friendly people, but also freaks in terms of individual choice and freedoms. They think it very strange for a 34-year-old woman to be unmarried, and even stranger that she should travel alone.

“Did your husband leave you?”

And they watch you, all the time. Like stalkers, en mass. I shit you not. They knew where I was at all times. I guess you could say that the staff of the resort were my collective yenta. After I got used to it (insert freaking out and becoming paranoid for three days), I actually grew to like it. I felt very looked after. When I left, they said, “We are sad that you go. You here so long, you like family”.

How-ev-er. The massages are another experience. Say goodbye to zen, say hello to my little friend. My little Balinese friend, who told me her life story but also beat the shit of me under the umbrella of zen. It’s nudity on a new level. They dress you in, well, a Gandhi nappy. It covers… your bits? Nope. Your dignity? Nope. The preliminaries? It covers nothing.

Do you think you at least go into a back room and change, to actually put it on yourself? Ha! Please. Don’t make me laugh. You walk into a large room, the windows free of pesky curtains (and the gardener hovering with a watering can on the other side), with three massage tables ready to go. And they turn and stare at you. As if to say, “strip”.

You think you can negotiate. You can’t. No, you can’t keep your underwear on, sorry, no dice. And as for your boobs, they’re swinging free like Tarzan and Jane. And they stand in front of you and watch you undress. Two women – because this humiliating 1.5 hour spectacle is a two woman job. They fold up your clothes and take them away like an errant child, never to be seen again. You’re left standing there, in the only attire God gave you, and then they put the Gandhi nappy on you. Which is basically a strip of muslin tied around your waist, and an additional strip fed through your legs and fastened at the back. This puppy is flimsy, and comes undone with your first step.

Let’s just say, if Gandhi had a load, that nappy wouldn’t hold shit.

Now you’re ready for the next stage. And you thought the nappy was bad. You sit on the massage table, and they stand in front and behind. You’re officially a nude Gandhi sandwich. They take … five moments to say the Balinese traditional prayer. Which is, kind of a lovely sound actually (in sandwich stereo) but … did we have to wait until I was naked to do it?

You think, at least Tarzan and Jane will be covered because when you get massages you lie down on your stomach … right? Forgeddaboudit. They lie you down on your back, with your boobs cooling in the breeze and your … okay, what word can I use here? Your … ‘Gorbachev’ peeking from behind the muslin curtain.

By this stage, you’re feeling a lot like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole. How the hell did this happen? All you did was follow a white rabbit, for cryin’. Well my friend, you thought the rabbit hole was rough but you don’t even know what’s coming next!

“Off with her head!”

They get out the oils, and they baste you like a turkey ready for roastin’. I mean, literally baste you. They don’t have those baster squirter things, but they have ladles of oil which is marinated over your turkey for a good thirty minutes (at which point, you turn over like a good little roast so they can baste your butt). If you were smart enough to choose a different treatment, you become The Human Salad. Avocado, herbs, the lot. I grew quite hungry.

So, you’re a naked Gandhi, basted turkey … but it aint over yet. They then proceed to bend you every which way. As in, lift your leg as high as it will go (over your head) and then out, to the side. “You very flexible”. Uh huh. So the nappy, which was holding on for dear life as it was, is now about as dignified as dental floss, man.

Let’s just put it this way – there’s a group of women in Indonesia that have intimate knowledge of my body.

Ten women, who know my body better than I do. And it’s a sad thing to note that ten women have seen my ‘Gorbachev’ in recent months, but not one man has.

And you thought you were just buying a set of steak knives.

But wait, there’s more! Oh yes, I did go back for more. Why, I couldn’t say. Probably because all of these rituals of humiliation were in my resort package. Gratis, but not grateful. Do you want to be ritually humiliated, ma’am? Well, only if it’s free.

The coup d’état was the … pause for traumatic memory, biting my forefinger and tearing up … open chakra treatment where they (believe it or not) ‘open your chakras’. Apparently you have a number of chakras around your body, and there resides a chakra around your butt / Gorbachev region. Well that one must have been particularly blocked because she beat the crap out of me for ten minutes. Specifically, five minutes spent on each butt cheek.

She started on the left cheek and just went for it. Like she’d just got her electric bill and it was double what she thought it was gonna be. I’m face down at this stage naturally (nothing natural about it!) and she just goes for the cheek. I bite my lip, I figure she’ll spend a few slaps in the area and move on. Ha! Don’t make me laugh. She applied for a permanent visa and set up residence.

Five minutes later, she mercifully takes the slapping off the left butt cheek, down the leg and to the foot. That cheek burned like the town in Gone With The Wind. Even after the slapping had ceased, I could feel the hand print on my ass. And the worst thing was, I knew where she was going next.

The Right Butt Cheek.

I’m lying there, waiting for it. She’s making her way up the right leg … it’s coming, and here. it. is. And I thought that electric bill was bad, but the right cheek got it worse … like the black sheep of the family. It wasn’t fair was she did to that cheek. I mean, at least keep it equal, you know? The right cheek hurt worst than the left. Oh, the pain.

When I told my tale of woe, my friend said, “Didn’t you say something? Ask her to stop?”

“No, I took it like a good little Westerner”.

On the upside though, my chakras are now officially open.

The fable of Fabio

Day One.

Night time. Rome. Lugging my cumbersome home upon my back, I set out to find my hostel. However, the closer I get, the further away I seem to travel from the respectable part of town. Cue Fiesta Terrace Hostel (more Festy than Fiesta). My host emerges from the dark, like something out of the movie, Delicatessen.

Fat, sweaty, his gut protruding from beneath his once… white (?) t-shirt. “Ah, bella! Yes, come in!” He comes further into the light, to show dark circles under his sluggish eyes and makes to link arms with me (abort! abort!) before leading me to the office of further darkness.

“Just one night, not three.” I say.

One night? You book for three, yes?”

“Yes, sorry. Change of plans.” (In the space of the last five seconds).

Lose the deposit (but better that). My bunk bed lists dangerously to the right (not unlike the Titanic right before all hell broke loose) and I know – no way I’ll see the dawn sleeping on that puppy. Oh Sweaty One pulls the mattress to the floor, and crams it between the rest of the beds, saying, “This is good, no?”

That night, I slumbered next to a Brazilian with braces, who grinned a lot but couldn’t understand a word I said.

Day Two.

Hotel Postiano. Greeted by a jolly, well dressed man sitting behind a (well-lit) desk, I can’t believe my luck. I fall upon him, as if coming to a mirage in the middle of the desert.

“You are very friendly,” he says, “you smile all the time.” Insert usual chatting here. “How many siblings do you have?”

“Four brothers, two sisters” I say. (Might as well throw in the lot, go for the gold).

“Oh my goodness!” He raises his hand, which stays suspended in the air until I obligingly give him a high-five, and starts laughing. “In my country, we say, ‘Your father is a good player, and your mother is a good goal keeper.” The hostel is clean, fresh and as close to 5th Ave as I’m likely to get. The Gods have smiled upon me.

Day Three.

I wander through the ruins, trying to find the kick ass jewellery shop of my prior visit.

“Excuse, do you have the time?”

“No, sorry.”

“Hello, I am Fabio, and I come from Florence. But I come to Rome to study architectural ruins for my university.” (I aint making this up!) “I take you to grass, we sit, and I show you history of Rome, yes? You come with me, on my motor bike, yes?”

Ah yes, here before me stands an Italian man with sweet, big brown eyes called Fabio and I think, what the hell. I always say no. Let’s give this ‘yes’ malarkey a shot.

“Okay.” I say.

“You come on my scooter, yes? We drive around corner to park, and we sit. Yes? I have my sister’s helmet. You ride with me, yes?”

“Okaaay.” (HOLY SHIT!!!!!)

I hop on the back of his (sister’s) motorbike, grabbing on for dear life as he nonchalantly enters mad traffic, all the while looking over his shoulder at me, chatting away, not looking at the road. The traffic stops in front of him, but he doesn’t. I let out a whimper here, a whimper there. Secretly, I was lovin’ it, but I seriously thought, ‘it could all end here’.

“It’s okay, I see. I know.” He says, weaving in and out. He parks near a landmark, where the Roman’s used to race chariots. We sit, and he starts to explain the history of Rome.

“I have idea. I go and get something to drink, and we sit and toast to this scenery, yes? It will be romantic. Very nice, yes?” Sure, I say. He turns to go, but then as an afterthought says, “My friends at university, when we drink, we give each other money to pay. Yes?” Is that the jingling of alarm bells in the distance? He leaves, comes back with champagne. He weaves a tale of shop attendants and closing shops, and then he hits me for the cash. “25 each, yes?” I nearly fall off my patch of grass. “50 in total?” I say, incredulous. (Abort! Abort!)

Yes folks, we have a scammer. I repeat, we have a scammer. Baby brown eyes named Fabio tried to liberate me of my cash. How could this happen? Anyone with the name of Fabio is immediately trustworthy, surely! But this is where romance ends and real life begins people. Take notes, I’ll wait while you sharpen your pencil.

Happily I say, “I only have 8 Euro on me.” He starts to get angry, and suggests going to a bank. Definitely bells, but I think it’s the death toll. “It is not millions, no? You didn’t tell me this when I went to get drink, no? This is not honest of you.”

Aaah, the irony.

So much for the history of Rome.

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