One of the joys of visiting Thailand is the amazing massages; they’re everywhere, they’re unbelievably cheap and it’s a perfect way to pass time if you’re on your own. An hour or two of zoning out from the world in a semi-sleep state whilst all the tension in your body is pummelled away is like entering the Garden of Eden for a massage lover like me.
Walking through the busy streets of Bangkok on your own in the intense heat is jolly tiring, trying to navigate with the photocopied A4 city map provided by the hotel is challenging, politely turning down tuk-tuk drivers’ advances is wearing, sight-seeing is exhausting, crossing the road in Bangkok traffic is a feat, and taking in the mind-boggling assortment of objects for sale in the street markets and the wonderful smells from the food stalls is sensory overload. It was all wonderful and utterly draining, I was teetering around with a bottle of water in one hand and a sweaty soggy map in the other by the middle of the afternoon. So it was simply bliss to have a smiley Thai masseuse work her magic on my aching limbs. There’s no frills to the experience, no soothing relaxation music or tables with holes for your face to look through, it’s all very basic; the customer lies on a floor level futon and the masseuse works round you, kneeling on the floor and using her body weight to press down on various pressure points round the body. Heaven.
An older American lady (sixty-something) in our tour group didn’t have such a positive experience. She booked a three hour massage and was shocked when her male masseur produced a condom half way through and showed it to her. ‘No’ she spluttered, ‘that’s not what I’m here for!’. Unsurprisingly she didn’t enjoy the rest of her three hour massage and ended up escaping early. I think the top tip there would be not to have a three hour massage as that really is quite a long time and not to have a male masseur. We (the rest of us are non-Americans) all found it very funny, but she was traumatised by the episode.
Back to the here and now. Our tour group is currently in Laos, having started out in Bangkok and moved on to Chang Mai where I honed my Thai cooking skills, turned a year older and bathed with elephants at a local elephant sanctuary, such majestic, gracious creatures. It’s heart-breaking that the future survival of elephants in Northern Thailand lies in sanctuaries due to the greed-driven actions of man. We marvelled at some amazing temples (they do begin to look a bit alike after a while) and travelled for two days on a traditional slow boat, sailing up the Mekong River from Pakbeng to Luang Prabang. The Mekong is wide and low and carves a powerful path through the dense, green jungle. Controversely, the Laos Government plans to build a huge dam across the Mekong, the effect it will have on the river’s aquatic ecosystem can’t be anything but disastrous; the river is already heavily polluted with litter (and goodness knows what else), we saw so many plastic bags and bottles floating alongside us, it was saddening to see.
Next stop: Vang Vieng and Vientiane, followed by Cambodia for (a very strange, warm, turkey-less, but hopefully fun) Christmas.