In the last few years, there has been a rise in the number of people in Cambodia suffering from locomotor-associated pains, especially regarding muscles such as stiffness and strain, which prompted Cambodians to look to traditional methods of massaging and physical therapy for help.
Chea Leap, is a skilled masseur, who works at the massage parlour “Dai Tep 4-2” in Siem Reap province, a store that has been opened since the 2000s. He explained that, at the beginning, most of the massage parlours were occupied by foreign customers, but he said “ For the last 4 to 5 years, the trend changed and we get more Cambodian customers now.”
Chea continued, “ Most likely, this change may be due to locals beginning to become more aware about the health benefits of massage therapy and how much it can help them.”
According to the observations of this 10-year masseur veteran, “The foreign customers who employ the service usually come about two times in a month, just for their physical health. That is why most of them are healthy. As for Cambodians, they would not come unless their pain is almost unbearable which means, some of them have pain on their waist, their legs or hands, back, neck, elbow during extension, and shoulders,” said Chea.
Conversely, due to being a visually impaired man, “Some customers are interested in your skills as a masseur, but once they have experienced it and found that our techniques can relieve their pains and health problems, they began to place their trust in our service,” mentioned Chea.
He continued, “In reality, we only knew these skills from our time in training under foreign and Cambodian practitioners ever since the era of Bun Mao, who trained since the 2000s.”
He added, the most noticeable thing was, “Some of the customers got their pain from doing heavy work, and others got theirs due to the natural ageing of the body and everybody has it, the only difference is the level of severity.”
Out of all the customers aged 30-60 of the massage parlor Dai Tep 4-2, Chea clarified that, “According to my personal experience, we can group our customers into two types. Those who are under 40 years old, they only have a bit of a stiffness or sprain somewhere on their bodies, and after a couple of sessions of massage, they would feel better. On the other hand, those who are above 40 years of age, need longer massage sessions to ease their blood circulation again.”
“In short, massage is a natural treatment technique that utilises our innate our body movements ” said Chea.
Since historical times, the art of massage is deep rooted in Cambodian society, and those who are well-versed in the art, learn from practitioners before them and pass the knowledge down the generations from parents to child, from grandparents to grandchildren. As for the people within communities, they do not really value or pay the right amount of fees for these practitioners, at most they would just present them gifts which may also be in the form of a little money. What’s most regrettable is that all these ancient techniques are not chronicled or compiled for the younger generation.
Sok Leang, is the manager at the massage parlour Dai Tep 2, situated along road number 55, Sangkat Beoung Rang, Khan Daun Penh, in the middle of Phnom Penh. The massage parlor has about 10 practitioners. Leang said, “Our massage parlour is also starting to see a rise in local customers, and most of them visit us due to pains all over their bodies.”
Leang continued, “The practitioners at our massage parlour are visually impaired, but they have gone through the appropriate training course at the Association of the Blind in Cambodia (ABC)”.
He stressed, “People who love to get massage should support the employment of the blind by going to parlours with blind masseurs.”
The service fee at massage parlours that employ the visually impaired in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and other provinces is commonly $5 per hour for Cambodians, and $7 per hour for foreigners.
Hav Thiriroth, a senior employee at the Association of the Blind in Cambodia (ABC) with Bun Mao as the director as the association, is also visually impaired.
She stated that, the association continues to provide massage training courses to all the visually impaired in Cambodia, so that they can be independent and generate income themselves. However, these training courses are available thanks to “the help from certain organisations in Cambodia, generous individuals, and especially, the support of the masses by getting services from these talented blind masseurs.”
She added, for the last few years, “ABC has only managed to open a training course with only 6 spots for trainees,” because the courses can last up to three months. It is sad because there are thousands of blind people in Cambodia.