Category Archives: Bangkok

Wat Po… Final days and plans

Tomorrow is my last day and also my exam at Wat Po. Hopefully this time tomorrow I will be a qualified Thai Massage Therapist. We have learned the “basic” routine which is a two-hour massage which comprises acupressure, stretches and yoga-type positions. It’s great for general suppleness, so I can now bend in many more directions than before. It also really is energising, and since I’m spending 6 hours a day being massaged (yes! yes!) I’m really energised!!! but it also means I can harldy get to sleep at night…

Wat Po - the temple of the reclining Buddha and my massage school

Wat Po - the temple of the reclining Buddha and my massage school

My routine is pretty settled. I get up around 6.30am to have fruit , yoghurt and nut for breakfast, followed by a cold shower before getting the boat to Tai Chi. After an hour of stretching I head to school until 4pm, with a break for soup and noodles. At this point I treat myself to a fresh coconut, go swimming with my new friend for about an hour (Camille mon colloc – tu serais fier de moi, je krolle mieux que tous les Thailandais dans la piscine reunis), take the boat home, have a soup and some fresh fish, meat or veggies… and then Marie-Pierre and I practise massage together before I get to bed.

It’s exhausting! Massaging is very physical, and I spend most of time kneeling, which I am not super comfortable with. It’s crazy how fast my body adapted to it though, because I can now stay in that position for a couple of hours before my feet and legs start complaining. Also being massaged, especially the Thai way (I get walked on a lot, and poked constantly) makes the muscles specifically and the body in general react pretty strongly. I have aches and pains constantly… But swimming and walking around helps.

So I’m in bed by 10pm. It’s not very sexy but I don’t really mind… What is glamour though is that MP and myself are preparing a holiday! Some might say that I’m already on holiday, but my tight schedule would convince anyone that I’m working hard (right?) Anyway, we’re heading to Koh Phi Phi tomorrow after my exam or the next day. We’ll stay for a few days for sure, and then I’ll travel back to Bangkok or straight to Chang Mai on the plane.

What I’ve found out is that in Wat Po there is a therapy course, which is basically how to treat specific conditions (like tension headaches, period pain, low back pains, etc) with Thai massage, i.e. manual therapy. The course is intensive: 60 hours in 10 days and pretty expensive (250 Euros) but I think it would be worth it.
Also, I have learned the South Thailand massage, which is different to the Northern one. I won’t go into the usual North/South debate (even though North London is better than the South) but the Northern one was developped for the popular classes working the land, who spent their days bent over in the rice paddies. It focuses on the lower limbs and is mainly stretch based. It is easily usable on sportspeople who also tend to have tightened, shortened muscles.

Kneeling on someones ankles, not as easy as it looks (does it look easy?)

Kneeling on someone's ankles, not as easy as it looks (does it look easy?)

So tomorrow is Thai Massage Exam (a grilling done by 3 Thai teachers, and a 2 hour massage done on one of them), more swimming and then going to the beach. After that, probably heading to Chiang Mai to learn Northern style massage and/or heading to Bangkok to learn therapeutic use of Thai massage. There is a national holiday on November 5th, where a candle is lit into a lotus flower which is then delicately put on the water/river… If it floats, it brings lots of luck, and the best thing is you can put as many lotuses as you like! Lucky me 🙂

Anyway, everyone will be glad to know my intestines are in perfect working order, that it is raining like pissing cows this evening (another amazing thunderstorm, and a great French expression purposefully literraly translated) and that my mosquitoe repellent is very effective. Also, I am eating like a sumo. Tonight we went to a very Thai 99-Baht all you can eat fest, complete with cross-dresser singer, who treated us to at least 6 out of tune “happy birthday” tunes, thankfully with a selection of delicious meat, seafood and vegetables to grill on a table barbecue, cook in a hot soup or on a proper barbecue. I even got to see Brazil kick some Venezualian ass (4-0 when we left the place)
I have taken some photographs but don’t have my cable with me, so it will be for next time.

Life is good.

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Today is the greatest day… and pearl of wisdom!

Safe and sound in Bangkok. Flight was as it is supposed to be, on time and with no hassle. At the Airport, after clearing immigration remarkably smoothly, I walked dizzily to the turning belt of doom. This is where destiny decides whether you deserve your bag on not. As the carrier belt spat a few suitcases out, I hoped it would vomit my own 8,5kg backpack (mission accomplished, excellent packing as it including my heavy walking shoes) so I could get myself to the city centre. A few long minutes passed, and I was disappointed to see that everyone else’s bags seem to appear, but mine was nowhere to be seen.
Suddenly, the belt sprang into life again and produced more luggage, included my trusted travel companion. I hugged it and put it on and left the airport grateful…

I got an express bus to the centre of town, my head feeling fuzzy as I had a few movies to catch up on, and didn’t get the sleep necessary to being on form on arrival.
As I hopped off the bus at Kao San Road, the busiest and most touristy place I have seen so far, I negotiated for a tuk-tuk to take me to another part of town, one less busy and quieter with some cheap, clean accomodation.

Busy Kao San Road

Traffic is really quiet compared to Bombay(!), but sillier than Paris or anywhere in Europe! It smells of food everywhere. The guesthouse is Sawatdee Guest House in Thewet, as everywhere it is very hot (33 degrees when I was at the ariport) and humid, with a noisy fan that kept me awake all night.

As most of you know, despite having a definit project with many things I want to do and learn whilst on my travels, I left without really knowing what I would be up to. As the landlady showed me a room, we saw a girl going into her room. I was told she was French also, and studied massage.
Now this is why I don’t plan things. There is no need! It just happens! I took the room, and knocked on the girl’s door. “I’ve been told you study massage. If you have a minute, would you mind talking to me about it?’

It turns out that Marie-Pierre had a great evening talking about massage and stuff in general in a superb restaurant on the edge of the main river of Bangkok, a couple minutes walk away from where we’re staying.
She started a course at Wat Po, the world’s oldest Massage School, and is so happy about it. We agree she will take me with her the following day to check it out.

Wat Po

Wat Po

I have been in Thailand for 3 hours, I have my bag, a new friend and a great way to start my project. After a delicious meal and a bad night’s sleep, we headed to the “boatstop” close by. We hopped on the boat and it sped down and across the river a few times before arriving to Boat Stop #8, Wat Po.

My first day has been super: we ran through the basics of hands on Thai massage, and now are learning step by step. It’s only hands on, and the teachers speak very little English, which means they guide us rather than explain. It gets a little frustrating no to understand why we do things, and not to be told much of the theroy behind it, but it’s a great way to start and get working hands on.

In 5 days, I’ll have an exam, and then I can continue training at the Wat Po for 3 months continuously for free! There is branch in Chiang Mai, so I might transfer over there in a week and check the city out.

Marie-Pierre and I walked back home from school, via Kao San Road, a Pad Thai place and a swimming pool in posh hotel. We walked in looking aloof, and blagged our way to hot towels, the pool and a lovely refreshing swim.

This my friends, is my first 24 hours in the country of a thousand smiles. Loving smiling all the time! Tomorrow, going to a “Thai Tai Chi” type class early in the morning, before continuing my massage course, exploring the city and enjoying the amazing food.

Thai Tai Chi, or cross of yoga and Tai Chi, performed standing up

Thai Tai Chi, or cross of yoga and Tai Chi, performed standing up

My brother gave me a pearl of wisdom as his goodbye to me: “Tous les matins, réveille-toi en te rappelant à quel point tu as de la chatte“, loosely translated as “Every morning, wake up remembering how f*cking lucky you are” (actually, the literal translation is as follow: “…remembering how you have cat”, or more precisely “…remembering how you have pussy”; as pussy = luck/lucky in slang. Some of you may agree with this?)
So no matter how good/bad/depressing/amazing/extraordinary things get, I promise to all of you stuck at home/in the office that I will remember how lucky I am to be out there living the dream.

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