Although I had originally planned to take the trains from Cambodia to Thailand, the flight was really affordable to get up to Chiangmai. So, I decided to not spend an entire day travelling, and instead had another uneventful flight–up to to Bangkok. On the flight, I had an exit row seat, and ended up meeting some other believers and then hanging out with them in the lounge. While in northern Thailand, I was fortunate to have some friends of friends to stay with. When I landed at the airport, I was not sure how the week was going to pan out. I really wanted to take a massage class, but in my research I had not been able determine one that was well priced and had a good reputation. Waiting for a taxi to my friends’ house, I started talking to a gentleman, and it turned out he was heading to a class! So, I decided to see if could enroll in the class the next morning.
MONDAY 1/21 I learned the art of Tsong Tau use.. these are pickup trucks outfitted with benches in the back, and they have caps on them to cover and protect the passengers. Great thing is, they cost only 20 Baht (about 70 cents) per ride. As I drove, I obesrved the city and enjoyed watching all of the motos, tuk tuks, tsong taus, the moat as we passed it, and the families and students going by. Monday though Wednesday, the medical school had graduation and it was fun to see how they celebrate. There were the usual flowers and balloons–as well as many cute things like Hello Kitty items. Hard to imagine these are for advanced degree graduates! hehehe.
Today was the first day of our Thai Massage course at Loi Kroh massage school. We have just 5 people in our class (2 American and 3 Japanese), so we have very direct instruction and a good deal of practice time :). I enjoy that the class is taught in two languages, and although our Japanese students know very little English, we are able to work on each other just fine!! The techniques for Thai massage are really adaptable, and I am excited to add this ancient treatment method to my repetoire of modalities for clients.
Tonight I had dinner with two of my hostessess, and was introduced to Kao Soi –YUM, love this food!
Second day of class, and then dinner with a bunch of ex-pats (rode over on a moto–love it!!). We had taco salads, and really enjoyed each others’ company. I massaged about 5 ladies tonight.
Class, then the night market (where I bought a bunch of gifts to be sent home!). After that, massaged two of my hostesses. Great day…
Class, and another massage given.
Finish up class, said goodbye to my Japanese friends. One of them was particularly fond of me, and I think just curious to be around an American… she was always hugging on me and wanted to practice the Thai routines together. It is interesting, because at home my size and skin color are not unique, but in Asian countries, I am like a giant! One of the sweet things is that most people want to hug this giant, so I oblige (you all know how I love hugs) ;).
In the afternoon, I rented a motorbike to go up Doi Suthep (great views, climbing, and then sunset!!), and then dinner with my hosts and their friends. Had a great conversation with someone working on developing kinship care in Thailand and China (and hoping to spread to other countries). Wonderful Shabbat time..
Elephant nature park!! My massage class friend, Scott, highly endorsed this experience, so I reserved my spot on Friday for an early morning pickup and day with these beautiful pachiderms… The van drove us about an hour and 45 minutes north of Chiang Mai, and as we first entered the park I knew it would be a special day. The elephants get to wander all over their park, and it was simply beautiful.
After arriving, we promptly were involved in one of their feedings (they eat 150-300Kg of food each per day!!), and our tour guide started sharing the stories of those who are now cared for at this refuge. The day was filled learning about the mission of the organization, how Lek is trying to transform mahout trainings of elephants from a fear and pain base to love and positive reinforcement, and feeding, hugging, and bathing the gentle giants. Probably my favorite moment is when I had a 1:1 moment with Dani, my friend who I got to ‘kiss’. I also got to meet Mae-the mamma (who I had heard about a year ago from my co-worker whose daughter volunteered here for a week). Just being next to these huge and beautiful animals was an impressive day… If you ever get the chance, GO HERE!!
Last night with my hosts, movie time :).
Early morning flight to Bangkok, sat next to some encouraging believers–and got to pray with them. When I got to Bangkok, did the city in a day:Taling Chan boat with 4 UNESCO folks, Wat Pho, Flower Market, and then walking through the park. Flew down to Phuket in the evenin.
BEACH DAY!! Kata beach, snorkeling, lunch on the beach, received a massage, walk around town, nice ‘down’ day… Although its always nice to be on a beach, I realized this is an activity I much prefer with others. Today I especially wished my sister were travelling with me, so we could play cards or another game!
Boat/ferry to Phi Phi–spent the trip visiting with a couple of Aussies: Martin and Rob (who we call “Lob”). While everyone else was soberly looking forward to the arrival at the island–we were enjoying the journey with lots of laughs and fun. Arrrived on the island, checked into my lodging, and then set out for a 2 hour hike to Long beach, snorkelled on the reef, and saw sharks!! Took a private boat back right at sunset…
SCUBA dive trip with Hippo divers, saw a lion fish, striped sea snake, and turtles!! I was fortunate to have two instructors (one in training) to help me review my skills, and I thoroughly enjoyed being ‘down below’ again (it has been 4 years!). After two dives, came back and took a nap. In the afternoon, hiked to the lookout, and witnessed a couple get engaged at the top! I hiked the back way (not the stairs), and mostly was with folks who live on the island (not tourists). I realized the lean-tos are not for living, but rather Tsumani refuge, since this whole island was devasted just a couple years ago. I enjoyed smiling and waving at kiddos and mammas along the way, and watching the motos driving to the top with ice cream. There was a Chinese family that I walked by, and when I greeted them in their language, it brought a deep smile! Monkeys swung overhead, and sunset was, again, stunning!
Ferry to Krabi–share BUS to airport. I love that there is always someone there when I want to split costs! When I got to the airport, I saw one of the other students from the massage school again. What are the odds?? So Greg and Nickolas (from Singapore) and I hung out until our flights came.
When I arrived, I had the night with a Skidmore friend, Julie and family. Julie and her hubby and I went downtown and saw the Singapore skyline, harbor and casino lights. Wish the visit with them was longer, but I was unable to move my flight to NZ back (they are booked out through the whole week!). Better short than nothing.
FLIGHT to New Zealand on Singapore airlines. Arrived in Auckland and found a roommate for the night who is also doing a world tour! It was great to visit with Julie, but the only drawback is that the hostel I was at I experienced bed bugs :(. Moved accomodation the next day, needless to say!
Shabbat fellowship with a small group in Auckland After a sweet time of worship and study, I was able to take a nap, and then Jacqueline served Khao Soi for lunch! Too funny… My favorite food–what a blessing. I had a chance to play piano and lead worship for a while, which was sweet, as well.
More on New Zealand to come…. finally getting the updates done! 😉