Words by Pin as told to Nikita Velasquez; photos by Nikita Velasquez.
When I opened my first parlour, I couldn't imagine how shitty it was going to be. For the first two years, on a daily basis, I would receive phone calls and visits from men who were asking if we offered "happy endings". I was very naive back then and didn't understand what they were talking about. When I found out, I was shocked and disgusted.
Soon these kinds of requests became just another part of the job.
Now, I own two Thai massage parlours in Stockholm. The first opened 11 years ago and the second 18 months ago. Every day, I get up at 6AM, and make sure everything is in order at home before I get ready for work. I say goodbye to my two teenage daughters, and take a taxi to work. I get there at 9AM.
My employees come in from 9:30 AM and together we get the parlour ready. We stock the shelves with ginger tea, massage oils and clean towels. At 10AM the first customers drop in. As my girls don't speak Swedish, I handle the bookings. Since I have two places to worry about, my phone rings all the time.
Things are always a bit slow before lunch. That's when we're able to receive drop-in customers. They're mostly guests from a hotel around the corner. During afternoons and evenings, we're usually fully booked. Our standard massage costs 500 SEK [€50], but we also have a jacuzzi, sauna and manicure area.
At the newest parlour, I have four full-time masseurs and at least two interns at all times. I cook lunch every day at work and we take turns to eat. My parlours are open until 8PM, so I spend all my time rushing between the stores. I go home at around 9:30 PM.
I started this business not only because I'm good at what I do, but also because I wanted to offer people, mostly couples, a time to relax. I'd say 90 percent of my customers are women, athletes or couples.
I'm originally from the North East of Thailand, and so are most of my employees. People from this area are known to be hard-working and dedicated. Thai massage is an ancient healing system – it's a respected practice that I'm proud to be part of. A traditional Thai massage practitioner is required to complete 800 hours of training before they get their diploma. I train my employees for free. We're like a big family, cheesy as this may sound.
But things weren't always this peaceful. When I opened my first parlour, I had no idea what I was getting into. I've had guys coming in asking for blowjobs, handjobs or getting completely undressed ahead of the massage. I've received phone calls from strangers in the middle of the night. My two daughters have been affected by all this as well. They quickly had to learn not to answer calls from unknown numbers. Sometimes I let my ex-husband answer the phone so he would scare them off. Many of these men have threatened to write bad reviews about my parlour in different online forums when I haven't given them what they want. I've reported some of them to the police, but nothing has happened.
I don't blame parlours that do offer sexual services. There are women there who are in vulnerable positions; women who come from nothing, own nothing and have families they need to support. I don't think the women who get caught for performing sexual services are the reason to why my line of work has a bad reputation. I think the problem is a combination of men, the police and the media.
It's sad how something I'm so deeply proud of is considered a dirty business in Scandinavia. There are over 300 Thai massage parlours in Stockholm and the police suspect that around 40 of these offer "happy endings". Although that's a lot, it's not the majority.
Of course this whole situation has ties to Thailand's reputation for sex tourism. In a way, Thailand has become a holiday destination for the perverted. It's something that's been brought back to Sweden, resulting in the idea that all Thai massage parlours offer sexual services.
Every time news emerge about prostitution at a Thai massage parlour, I know I will start receiving strange phone calls again. And so I have to ride out the wave until next time. It seems to me that these news stories are published for entertainment purposes only – not to change things and protect us. My employees know they are safe when they work for me but they have also told me many horror stories regarding places they worked at before.
Even though the situation is much calmer now, my job has been both a blessing and a curse, which is why I wouldn't want my daughters to choose this line of work. I hope my work will pay off and give them a bright future. After all, I only do this for my kids.