“Hey lady! You want massage?”
Well yes, actually I would. After three weeks of being constantly on the go since I arrived in Bangkok, coupled with some long arduous bus journeys and the weight of my backpack pulling aggressively at my shoulders as I hauled it down yet another dusty street in the 30 degree heat, a massage sounded like just what the doctor ordered.
However, not wanting to be victim to a sub-standard masseur or masseuse, or ‘poked’ in a rather unprofessional and unethical manner (you catch my drift), I did my research beforehand. I opened my Lonely Planet guide.
Bor Nguen (get the play on words?) was a small, professional establishment with a central location, tucked down a little soi off Moon Muang Road. It wasn’t the most expensive option available but it wasn’t the cheapest either – usually a reasonably safe bet. I opened the door and was met by a petite, mild-mannered Thai lady who greeted me with a smile. She led me into a beautifully decorated, air-conditioned oasis of calm – so far removed from the dusty traffic filled roads that surrounded us. Already I could feel myself starting to relax.
Traditional Thai Massage . . .
” . . . is a combination of assisted yoga stretching, calmness of meditation, acupressure and reflexology.” – Text taken from http://www.healingpathways.net
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 candlelit 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 already imagining myself drifting into a realm of tranquility, losing the sense of my physical being, clearing my mind, and for that short space of time, becoming completely detached from the reality of the outside world.
I obviously didn’t do my research on Thai massage quite as thoroughly as I should have done!
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 classes – only 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 is said to balance the energy flow around the body, and release energy blockages, thus leading to an increased sense of vitality and well-being, whilst at the same time enhancing flexibility and invigorating the nervous system.
As I left Bor Nguen, whilst it was quite surreal to be back out in the stifling heat, surrounded by a constant rush of people and traffic, and tuk tuk horns, and the aromas of food and incense drifting past me as I walked – I didn’t actually feel any different. Maybe it was ridiculous of me to think that I would. But maybe – just maybe – I’ll try that lotus position again tomorrow, and with all that enhanced flexibility, I’ll succeed 😉