Prison Spa Pampering and Tears of Fire

Photo by Lee Starnes

Photo by Lee Starnes

Sawadee kaa! So… I’m here in Chiang Mai enjoying the last few days of my stay here, for now.

Just now I was interrupted by the King’s anthem playing… all of us here at the Internet café had to take a little break and quietly stand up and show our respect. Suddenly there were some thousand people walking past on the street outside, in some sort of a parade. People dressed in white, school children in their uniforms, university students, people in military style uniforms; some carrying burning candles, and then there were at least four massive marching bands. (I absolutely l-o-v-e those drums!!) In the middle of the procession there were four guys carrying a big, tall thing with a framed and decorated picture of the King. I’m guessing this was some sort of celebration regarding the King. Here in Thailand, whatever it is, it’s always about the King ;) …

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Anyhow… Since last time I wrote to you, I’ve mostly been studying and hanging out with my friends. After the oil massage course with Jang, I started focusing more on my Thai (language) studies again. My teacher Ann is on holiday, so I’ve started studying with another teacher. His name is Sompop, and he is fantastic :) He’s funny, patient, handsome and has a very big heart. Sompop has taught me a lot about the Thai language this week, but has also managed to add surprisingly much about the Thai culture, spirit, beliefs and other very interesting stuff. Up until last week I was only trying to improve my conversation skills, but this week I started writing and reading as well; just because I love the beautiful design and shapes of the thai letters and numbers :) I’m enjoying it very much!

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Last weekend I took part in a Cranio-Sacral Therapy workshop, with Rosemary Wallace at the Naisuan House. It was very interesting! I’m not sure yet if I’ll be giving CS treatments or not, in the future, but I’ll definitely be using a lot of what I learned there in the other kinds of body and energy work that I do.

Lotus, Thailand

On Wednesday last week I had a wonderful few hours at the Prison Spa. Yes, I mean prison as in ‘jail’… :) At the Women’s Correctional Institute here in town they actually have a spa! They offer traditional Thai massage, herbal massage, foot massage etc, and it’s excellent! The women (some of the well-behaved ones, at least) get about two month’s training some time before they are about to be released, and at the end of their training they get to work at this spa. They can keep most of the money they earn too, I’ve been told. There are some uniformed guards hanging out there all the time, but otherwise you wouldn’t guess it’s a prison. The woman who gave me the massage is 31 years old, from Chiang Mai, and she had been sentenced to two years. She will be released in the end of November, and she’s planning to start working as a massage practitioner then. I’m sure she’ll be successful, because the massage I had was fantastic! Two hours of reflexology combined with a bit of thai massage (I was sitting in an armchair), hand massage, shoulders, back, neck, head and face massage as well… Wonderful :)

Last night I had one last dinner together with my friends, arranged by them. It was so so so lovely! We got together at an Italian restaurant, almost all of us, one last time before I’ll be flying out on Sunday. Many people (ten!) showed up, and I was just so pleasantly surprised that the wonderful people here are so willing to take time for things like this, even with short notice. I really don’t like good-byes, so I’ll think of it as ‘see you soon’s instead ;) Food was great, the company even better!

Buddha reflection, Chiang Mai, Thailand

When the Cranio Sacral workshop ended, I decided to leave Naisuan House and move downtown. I’m now staying at a fancy (but still budget) guesthouse, very close to school. I’m so happy there, and I feel like a princess :) I just happened to walk past there one day on my lunch break, and I fell in love with the place immediately. It’s very airy and spacious, the bathroom is just fabulous and the service is great. You can have a look at I do miss the rooftop garden at Naisuan, and especially the people there… and I also miss the wonderful smell of flowers when passing through the flower market by songthaew (bus taxi) in the mornings. Lilies, jasmine, lotus, orchids, roses, frangipani and heaps of other fantastic, colourful flowers sitting there in massive piles, some organised in unbelievable decorations…

There are two temples between my guesthouse and school, which makes for a lovely energy… Sometimes I’ll wake up to the sounds of monks chanting, and during quiet moments at school I can sometimes hear the rhythmical, ringing sound of coins dropping into the donation brass bowls in the teak temple outside the window. To me, it’s just super exotic and it creates a wonderful atmosphere..!

I could easily get used to this, it’s been a fantastic week so far! I’ll be studying one hour in the morning, and then I’m having a long and nice brunch with Berit (think fresh fruit, mango or banana pancakes, fresh coconut, fruit shakes or sometimes even a brown rice salad… and very good conversation on top of that!) before I go back to school for one more hour with Sompop. The afternoons are all different, but they usually include a few hours of studying at a nice air-conditioned cafe, sitting in a lovely armchair somewhere in a quiet corner. My favourite places usually play Jack Johnson or some very laid back jazz, and serves brilliant ice green (jasmine) tea latte… I always go out for dinner, usually some Thai or Indian food, sometimes Middle Eastern, Japanese or Italian. Yummy! Late evenings I usually spend lying on the bed reading, watching Bollywood music videos, practice writing and reading Thai or just relaxing. I’m such a lucky girl :)

Chiang Mai, Thailand

I haven’t seen much tv at all here in Thailand, so I can’t say anything about the soap operas, news etc. What I can tell you though, is that there’s a 24 hours live Buddhist monk channel, where they show dhamma talks, guided meditations, ask for donations to build new temples etc. Now and then they break for a few minutes of karaoke style chanting/singing in Pali or Thai, with a backdrop of cute Manga style cartoon people singing and smiling. Very funny! Every night on one of the other channels there is a show that reports on all the good stuff the King did for his country that very day. And often also what the Queen and their children did. I would love to see that back home, get to know what the Swedish King is up to every day… if anything relevant, haha :)

Street market in Chiang Mai, Thailand

There’s a Thai festival coming up soon, called Loi Krathong. Already now you can see lantern balloons in the evenings, floating in the sky. Very, very beautiful! They are like hot air balloons, flying thanks to a burning piece of wax attached to them. Some of them have fireworks as well, like drippy ones… liquid fire, tears of fire, falling stars… pure magic! They are amazing to watch, and absolutely one of the most romantic things I could ever imagine… preferably watching them sitting together with someone special on a white sandy beach somewhere on an island in the South of this country, beneath the rustling palm tree leaves, among the fire flies and geckos, next to the ocean where the sun is setting and the saffron red full moon rising :)

So, I’m going to stop here and go get myself some dinner. This might be the last travel report I send you on this trip… we’ll see. I’ve already bought my tickets for my next trip, to India and back to Thailand again :)

Miss you all. Keep in touch!

Lots of love & metta

มะลิ | mali

Posted in: Travel