Thai massage, Doi Inthanon and Karen hilltribe village

Traditional Thai Massage . . .

” . . . is a combination of assisted yoga stretching, calmness of meditation, accupressure and reflexology.”
Text taken from http://www.healingpathways.net

I experienced a traditional Thai massage yesterday morning with a masseusse at Bor Nguen (get the play on words?) massage centre. Not too sure i enjoyed the experience but it certainly brought about an entirely new definition to the word “massage!”

I was instructed to change into the clothing provided (which consisted of some baggy polyester silk fishermans trousers and a light loose fitting cotton/linen shirt), i was given a hot cup of green tea, and lay myself down on a bed in a candle-lit room listening to some soothing Thai music. So, as you can imagine, i was under the impression that the next hour would continue along much the same theme. I was quite wrong!

Much of the process at the beginning seemed to consist of finding certain pressure points in my feet and legs, which was reasonably relaxing, but then just became incredibly ticklish when she got to the inside of my thighs! As the process moved on, it seemed more to do with stretching the muscles to their extreme potential, which at times was verging on painful! Think Yoga class when you’re not the one in control of how far you push yourself! There was one point when she had my body balanced on the soles of her feet (her heels at the base of my spine) while she pulled back on my arms. I felt like we were a pair of circus performers!!!

Obviously, Thai massage has proven physical benefits to our bodies (although i’m not entirely sure i was feeling them during the process!) It has been practised for centuries : its founder, Shivaga Komarpaj, a doctor, was a friend of Buddha himself. The practice balances the energy flow around the body, and releases energ blockages, thus leading to an increased sense of vitality and well-being, whilst enhancing flexibility and invigorating the nervous system. Maybe i’ll wake up tomorrow and feel re-juvenated!

Wat Prathat Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep is 16km north west of Chiang Mai. It’s peak (1676m) was named after the hermit Sudeva, who lived on the slopes for many years. Near the summit is Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, a major pilgrimage destination during important Buddhist holidays of Makha Biya and Visak. To get to the Wat involves the slightly strenuous task of climbing a Naga staircase of 309 steps.

I’d just been wandering around Wat Phra Singh when i met up with Henna and Stene (2 Danish girls travelling the same sort of route as me) and we decided to share a taxi together up to Doi Suthep. They’d just completed a homestay with a Thai family, and as a result had ended up attending a Thai funeral (!!?). I also discovered that they’re staying at the same guesthouse as me. It’s a small world over here too!

Spent the evening wandering around Chiang Mai’s night bazaar, which is an activity well worth persuing even if you don’t buy anything. There’s streets and streets full of stalls selling all sorts of handicrafts and foods. I eneded up munching on some fish cakes and chilli sauce and some rose apple and guava.

Doi Inthanon National Park

Thailand’s highest peak, Doi Inthanon (2590m) has 3 impressive waterfalls cascading down its slopes : Nam Tok Mae Klang, Nam Tok Wachiratan, and the highest, Nam Tok Siriphum (Siriphum apparently means lucky in Thai). The entire mountain, which covers an area of 482sq.km, is a national park.

I completed a brief tour of the park today with Penguin tours. We stopped off at Nam Tok Wachiratan and the King’s and Queen’s Pagodas, before completing our jouney to the peak. The 2 pagodas face each other on neighbouring hills approximately 100m apart. They were built by the Royal Thai air force to commemorate the King and Queen’s respective 60th birthdays. The King’s pagida was built in 1989 and the Queen’s 5 years later. They were built using money from the wages of the Thai soldiers. At the peak, there was a very cheesy sign reading “The highest point in Thailand.” Unfortunately there were also crowds of Asian tourists flocking around it taking turns to have their photos taken by it, so i didn’t have a chance to do the same!

The Royal Project

After lunch we spent half an hour or so at The Royal Project. It’s a project where opium farmers have changed to cultivating vegetables and flowers instead. His majesty The King personally participated in selecting the right crops to replace opium. As well as being a very productive place to visit, it’s also really beautiful, with hundreds of different flower varieties in so many different colours and shapes and sizes.

Local Karen village

There are 4 different types of Karen hill tribes : Skaw (white) Karen, Pwo Karen, Pa-o (black) Karen and Kayah (red) Karen. We visited the home of a white Karen tribe. The village consisted of 23 homes (built on stilts or posts) housing 96 inhabitants. Their economy is based on the cultivation of rice and vegetables and the farming of livestock. We watched them weaving cotton scarves, which are now a major source of income for them due to the visiting tourists who purchase them. Each scarf takes approximately 2-4 days to make (depending on the size) so they are worth every baht of the 200-400THB the Karen people charge for them.

Summary of the tour

Booked with Penguin tours in Chiang Mai, 8am-5:30pm 800THB. Price includes all transport, entrance fees and lunch.
The main problem with the tour was that due to the length of time it took to travel between Chiang Mai and the park (approx 1-1 and a half hours), there was not a grat deal of time left to cram all the sights in inbetween. However, our guide, Tom, was fantastic. He was incredibly knowledgable and always gave us a substantial amount of backround information about each place nd its people.

Photo is of the Karen hilltribe village, Doi Inthanon National Park.



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