My intention before leaving the States was to blog every other day or so while underway here in Thailand. Oh well . . . between being extremely busy with the tour and the impossibly low and sporadic bandwidth in our hotels I’ve just not been able to get much posted. Here it is day 7 and we leave Chiang Mai tomorrow. Mai pen rai. In my first post I talked about Thailand being one of the most sensuous countries of my travel experience. Today’s activities - cooking class in the morning and Chiang Mai Flower Festival in the afternoon certainly provided plenty of sensate experience. But I think Thai massage is the ultimate example of what I’m trying to articulate about this amazing country. I had some free time today so went for another beijing massage. My masseuse was an attractive woman with a beautiful smile (not uncommon), replete with braces. She began by bringing me a bowl of scented warm water for my dusty feet. When I mistakenly started to wash my own feet she scolded me, but any sting of rebuke was softened by her giggles. (aural: check) At first it felt awkward to have a woman kneel in front of me while soaping and scrubbing my feet. But her metallic smile put me at ease (sight: check). Next she led me upstairs and handed me some loose-fitting clothes to put on. I donned my “scrubs” and lay down on a curtained-off floor matt in a quiet, air-conditioned room that held probably a dozen matts. Several vases held bright tropical flowers providing a strong and pleasant floral scent (olfactory: check). My gal arrived with hot tea for me. It was amazing. It tasted slightly sweet but also had a hint of something almost malty or grainy. It was completely novel for me and I enjoyed it immensely (taste: check). She proceeded to work me over from toe to top kneading away knots and using her hands, feet, elbows, knuckles, fingers, knees and body weight to apply the correct pressure.
Thai massage is not gentle and hotspots can be quite painful. It is therapeutic in intent and a significant part of traditional Thai medicine. The relaxation comes at the end when you are so jelly-legged you can hardly stand up. My gal carried on a periodic patter with the other masseuse “next door”, their occasional laughter reminding me how content and happy Thais seem always to be. Every few minutes she would ask “Dee mah mister?” which I interpreted to mean “good”? She respected my requests to go gently in certain spots (I learned the Thai word for gentle, bau bau, on my last tour). Despite the rigor of her work I dozed off periodically. The hour was gone in what seemed like only minutes. When she finished she thanked me and Wai’d (Thai greeting and sign of respect) and left me to change back into my clothes. When I paid (150 Baht = $5 - what a country!) I asked if a tip was OK. She said of course (with her eyes and smile). I gave her an extra 50. As thanks I received a blown kiss and that million-dollar smile (sense of delight: check!).