Month: January 2014

Working holiday!

It’s a matter of perspective, I guess.

This morning, I left “home” (I’m going to call it “home” from now on, since “home” is a shorter word than “the guesthouse.”) around 07:30. This was the perfect time to see the kids arriving at school, which is on my way to Loi Kroh Massage School. They were so cute. Some of them reminded me very much, physically, of my students back at Frost Lake Elementary. Those ones were probably Hmong as well.

After the school, I passed the blind massage place, so I took a picture of it.

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The massage by blind people is next door to the tourist information, and the man there called out to me as I walked by.

-Good morning! How are you?
-Morning! Good, you? (Sharon)
-Not as good as you!
-Why?
-I’m working! You’re on holiday!
-I’m working, too!

Amazingly, I am. Wow. I love my job. I love my job normally, but this? This is great. I get to come to Thailand to study, and it’s technically work!

Later on, I was walking around and saw (another) sign advertising Muay Thai schools. I remember how Mike, my teacher when I was training, would talk about his time in Thailand at a training camp. I remember how exotic that sounded, how unreal. Now it feels so obvious. If you aspire to proficiency in something, and that something has a home base, yes, absolutely, you should go there. Studying a thing where it comes from adds depth and understanding, as well as proficiency, to your practice.

Today, and for the next 2 days, as well as next weekend, my work is to practice Ruesri Datton, or hermit stretching. This is yoga in the Thai massage tradition. I thought that doing this first would help locate me here, and prepare me for my massage trainings.

My teacher is Napa, at Loi Kroh Massage School, just a short way southeast of the eastern gate of the city. I like her. She agreed to do this class during MY available dates, which means they are finding strange mixes of people to share the class with me, and it will be only me taking it for certification. I pay the group price, and receive almost private instruction. How generous of her, and the school!

Napa is very quiet and slow-moving/speaking, but funny. She makes jokes you have to be listening closely to in order to get. After the 2 Japanese tourists (they are here only for the weekend) left, she explained everything again in detail. Then we practiced a few more poses. She talks a lot about your intent as well as the purpose of each pose. I didn’t write that part down, but now I think I should have. I will try to correct that tomorrow.

After class ended, I asked about the abdominal detox massage. This massage is one of the specialties of this school, and I’m curious. I have deliberately left one week here unplanned, in order to decide between that and one or two others. Napa asked her colleague if there was time to massage me today, and told me to come back in a couple of hours.

I wandered around that neighborhood, which is also near the Night Market, and stopped in at a temple (Wat Loi Kroh) before heading back.

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Unfortunately, when I returned, my period started, which meant no massage for me. Certainly no abdominal detox, anyway. I haven’t decided what massage I’ll have instead, but maybe I will try out as foot massage in the market. We’ll see.

So after, I thought I’d see if I could find the various guesthouses where Matt and I stayed last time. Then I could think about the price and whether I wanted to argue out of my place.

It took me a while. I wasn’t really sure where to look, and was orienting myself upside down on the map, thinking they must have been down when they were really up.

I found them, and inquired. The rates were nearly 3 times what I’m paying, and one of therm is booked all month. The other is booked for another week. So I decided to relax about it for now.

Leaving, I got turned around again, and stopped in another temple. I think it must have been Wat Duang Di, as I study the map now. I found the anus and scrotum amusing on this lion/dog/whatever.

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After the wat, I followed a narrow road but was turned back by a man in the road. I had wondered why he was standing there, staring at me as he was. I got close enough and he shouted out, pointing at the ground. About 20 paces from me, was a medium-sized pale snake, moving around on the ground in the direct center of the road. A bicycle was between me and it, so I hadn’t seen it before. I wonder if it was his bicycle. He wandered off, looking agitated, then back again. I turned back the way I had come, and warned two other tourists, who also turned back. A scooter passed us going that direction, but a moment later she returned as well.

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Funny thing about being here so long. I don’t NEED to do anything right away. I realized that, and decided to head back for a rest. Then I really got lost.

During all of this wandering, I was dressed in my training clothes: Thai fisherman pants, sports bra, and T-shirt. Most of the tourists were wearing hippy clothes or shorts and tucked-in polo shirts (vacation clothes of the Baby Boomers). Locals wear anything from really traditional stuff, to hippy stuff, to the same sorts of modern clothes you’d see anywhere. Not many westerners were wearing Thai pants. Strangely, I felt out of place, like a poser. Which is funny, since this is an outfit I wear quite often, most every day in the summer, for work as well as on the beach, and sometimes in the winter. In fact, on this trip I’m planning on buying better-quality ones that I’ll wear in the winter as well.

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So. I stopped writing in order to go eat at the Saturday market. Unfortunately, it’s only Friday. I’m so confused. Fortunately, I went alongside the small market at the Chiang Mai Gate, which I mostly walked right past, until I saw the yummy snack I remember so fondly from last time: sticky rice in bamboo! There were 3 varieties, which meant that I had no ideas which to choose, so I took the most expensive one. It was amazing, with a core of egg custard! Wow! How’d they even DO that?

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After wandering around for another hour, realizing that I didn’t want a sit-down meal, I actually went back to the same stand, where I bought sticky rice and meat wrapped in banana leaf. This I took back home, to eat on the roof terrace.

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I have concluded from the roof terrace experience that there are indeed better rooms, and that perhaps I should ask about changing. I will do so tomorrow afternoon. Now it’s time for a little more reading, then sleep. 6:30 comes early!

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Travel Days & Arrival

Traveling leaves me with a surreal sense of time. I woke up in my own bed on Wednesday morning, missed my bus and took a taxi to Schiphol. 3 flights and 3 countries later, I’m lying in my guesthouse bed in Chiang Mai. It’s 4:45 in the morning, 2 dates later. Friday.

After checking my bag in Schiphol, I heard my name. It was one of my clients. I knew that her daughter and daughter’s family were on the same flight, and there they were. They’re not bound for Chiang Mai, though. I’m idly curious where they decided to live for their 5 months in Thailand, but forgot to ask. 

Weather in Amsterdam: moderately cold but no wind for once and seemed dryer, so I wasn’t very cold in my light layers for travel. Here’s the view:
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The flight was uneventful, my favorite way to be able to describe a flight. I had an exit row seat.

We landed in Helsinki. There was snow and I remembered how lovely Helsinki is. I should go back to Finland. But not in winter. You can’t tell how pretty Finland is from the airport, but here it is:
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The layover was only about an hour. I stretched my legs by walking around. I’ve been having trouble with my left leg for a while. It starts aching in pain when I sit in a chair for longer than about 10 minutes. This wasn’t improved by injuring one of my left toes badly the other day. I can’t wiggle my toes or stretch them right now, which makes my leg cramp up even more.

The next leg of the flight was the long one, to Bangkok. I thought I’d gotten very lucky when I saw my seatmate, a tiny pierced and tattooed girl, about 20 years old. She was nice enough, but replaced excess size with cramming all kinds of stuff into the seat with her. And I’ve never been elbowed so often on a flight before. I don’t think she was doing it on purpose, just very unaware.

It was a bad flight. Finnair was fine, no problems with weather or plane. There was, however, a toddler just across the aisle who screamed during almost the entire 9 hours. Open-throat, full screaming. During one of the infrequent sleeping periods, I watched it start screaming before it woke up. I am not exaggerating. I wear earplugs, always, on flights, but this was too nearby for them to do any good. And when the baby briefly stopped screaming, the 2 Finnish business men behind me would actually talk louder. How can 2 people talk for 9 hours without pausing?  The point of this is to say that, even after taking a sleeping aid, I didn’t sleep. My eyes were bloodshot when we landed, and I was feeling kind of hazy.

Bangkok was foggy at 7am, so I didn’t take this picture until the flight out.
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Bangkok airport is like a garden. It was less festive than last time I flew through, though. I suspect that has to do with the current unrest there. As Thailand approaches elections, there have been demonstrations that turned violent, culminating in a state of emergency being declared a couple of weeks ago, and military order. Don’t worry, family people. This is not going to affect me in the north at all, and we’re staying with a friend when we go through Bangkok later on the way south. Besides, that friend said that its actually much safer now that the military has stepped in. So from that perspective, everything’s fine. For all the other perspectives, read the news.

I had a bit of stress sorting out this transfer. I had 2.5 hours to get through customs, puck up my bag, check in for the next flight, and get to the gate. And it was more than enough, especially since I asked if I could go through the priority lanes. I shouldn’t have stressed.

I had an exit row again for the last flight, next to a young american couple who were so stereotypically american that I was slightly in shock. If the girl said “thank you SO much!!!!!” one more time to the flight attendant, I was going to explain to her that she gave the impression that she would have died if another second had gone by without the help said attendant proffered. How many times can you over thank someone during one pass-by with the garbage collection? It was a one-hour flight. Thank goodness.

Welcome to Chiang Mai!!
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Not much of an impression. But I like it. There are mountains here, hurray! And lots of trees.

I got my bag and took a cab to my guest house. I’m not so sure about my guest house. I’m giving it a day or two to see, so more later. The people are really nice, anyway. I have to speak Dutch with them, which is funny.

After unpacking and showering, I went for a walk. I remember so much from 3 years ago, but it’s confusing. Matt and I weren’t in town much, last time. We went on a couple of area trips and also stayed at our cooking school a few days. Town is even smaller than I remembered, and I’m curious to see what I think, spending this much time here.

I wandered the route to get to my first days of classes, and stopped in to ask about motorcycle rentals, which was reassuring. Nice chat with the guys there. I think I will probably go ahead and try it, but we’ll see. If I do, it won’t be for a couple of weeks, anyway.

Then I went to the blind massage place for a 2-hour massage.

I had to use the toilet when I got there, and as I waited for it to be available, I was nearly run into by 3 careening masseurs. One of them turned out to be mine. The one that had fallen through 2 doors, headbutted his colleague, and in general been the moist clumsy.

But luckily, he wasn’t clumsy during the massage. He was awesome! It started very very slowly, with lots of palm pressing up and down my leg. The left leg, so I was super happy.

He used mostly Wat Po protocol and technique, but not strictly. I was impressed by the slowness of the double thumb presses, which gave them a very different feel. I’m going to skip most of the detail here because I’m tired again and want to nap a little before my alarm goes off in an hour.

After the massage, I had a crappy pad Thai in a tourist place on my way home, bought a big bottle of water at 7-11, and went to bed. It was about 6pm when I fell asleep.

I woke up at 8pm thinking it was 8am, even though my clock said 20:00. I freaked out that I was late for class, then looked at the clock again. Back to sleep!

And that was my first day. I will try to write every day, and I promise more pictures, too.