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Northern Style Thai Massage

Saturday, March 25th, 2006

This last week I found a very small, unassuming massage shop…very simple understated Thai Lanna-style salon with rough dark stained wood…a couple couches draped with yellow ochre and red umber raw silk cloth. Branches of pussy willow fill a huge rough dark brown ceramic vase in the corner along with various other Thai decorative pieces. I am very comfortable here. The lively and gracious salon owner, Ratchanida Bhuranabhan, brings a pan with slices of lime floating in the cool water. My feet are washed and toweled while I drink a cup of strong sweet ginger tea…good for me she says.

On my back, my masseuse pushes my legs down into the thin mat with her knees…slowly working to get my right knee to reach a full extension that has been limited for years from a car accident. Pinn, about 50, is small but strong. She is very popular around town and works freelance, including working with nerve damaged patients at the local University Hospital. Elbows between tendons and muscles, between muscles and bone. Standing, she lifts my leg straight up, and is just tall enough to push down on my toes with one hand and plant her elbow into the bottom of my foot…Oy! Oy! Then, holding my foot she pulls back on my knee and leg with her other hand. Squatting, she lifts my leg over her legs and rolls her forearms back and forth over the muscles in my tibia and femur. Oy! She squeezes muscle…thumbs pressing deeply and then sliding slowly forward…stretching the fascia covering the muscle. She finds the points of attachment of tendons, ligaments and muscles and plunges her thumbs into the crannies while I grimace and groan…she watches my face…she can tell exactly when to let up. She laughs. I laugh. Over the years, favoring my right leg and knee the muscles, ligaments and tendons have atrophied and tightened which in turn has been pulling on the muscles in my lower back causing considerable pain when I walk. She sits down at my feet, facing me, grabs ahold of my foot and pulls while she pushes her foot into the inside of my legs at short intervals all the way up to my groin. She opens my legs, pushing one leg into a bend and pushes my bent upper leg and knee into the mat with her knee…I feel like I am doing the splits. She turns me on my side and with her thumbs works her way into the inserts of my butt and hip muscles…then on my stomach she finds muscles in my back I never knew I had. Still on my stomach she sits, with her back to me, on the backs of my upper legs and pulls my legs up one at a time as far as they will go. OY! My back, my back! Then she kneels on my back and works her way up and down my back with her knees. She turns over on her back and rocks back and forth with her butt bones massaging my lower back. And on it goes for two hours, very effortless, slow, very gentle and deliberate movements…Ok? Ok? she keeps asking. Mai pen rai, I gasp! I get to endure this for about $7. I give her a hefty tip. After almost a week of this I am almost a new woman. Today she suggests I take a couple days off to heal before resuming again on Tuesday Not all Thai massage therapists work this way. Most farangs just want a nice light relaxing massage so you have to ask for “very strong.” I tell her she is my angel and she beams. I am walking on air…pain free.

Highly recommended:
Baan Sanae Chan Salon
on Charoen Prathet near the Governor’s House
(053)28092 for appointment

Stories Of The Bangkok Street

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005

Ten baht (25 cents) for a motorcycle taxi gets me to the American educated dentist down the soi and around the corner in little more than a minute…scared to death that the trucks, cars, motorcycles, light poles, garbage bins and food stands we swerve past will take off my long western legs. Have been in and out of Bangkok several months and have seen just about every specialist (all women) in the dental office…implants, crowns, surgery, cleaning….the cost about 1/20 of the cost at home. Have only have one root canal to go before flying home on July 27th.

A walk up the street past the food stalls, fruit markets, massage shops and Indian tailors…into the big expensive air conditioned Park Queen Hotel, through it’s busloads of Japanese tourists and out the back door into the hot air again takes me through a lovely park on my way to the Sky Train. If I pass through about 6:00 in the evening I stop and watch relaxing rows of Thais and farangs (foreigners) alike practicing Tai Chi to slow meditative flute music. People with their children lie on the grass asleep…catching a cool breeze wafting off the pond. Sometimes a small group of little ones can be seen sitting on the grass with their parents listening to a story teller.

Have walked up the steps to the BTS sky train above busy Suhkumvit Rd so many times I don’t even get out of breath anymore. I can either catch the clean comfortable air conditioned train in the direction of Mo Chit at the end of the line or the other way to On Nut or I can walk across and down some steps to the other side of the street where I can buy some unsweetened yogurt, swiss meusli and eggs in the Villa Market. I can take my used books to the Elite Book Shop next to the market and exchange them for others and then stop in the Starbucks on the way back to read the English language newspapers…Bangkok Post or The Nation with almost daily coverage of corruption in Prime Minister Thaksin’s government and criticism of the way the PM is handling the violence in the south. Government authorities finally admit in today’s paper that they have found Bird Flu in 25 provinces. I am glad we are leaving soon.

With no patience for waiting around, Bob has been roaming around the mountains in northern Thailand and Viet Nam. I am in a new serviced apartment down a little soi off Suhkumvit 22. I have a king sized bed, kitchen, satellite TV (that gets knocked out when it rains) and a broadband internet connection in my suite. My Mac laptop is hooked up to some miniature speakers and my iTunes provides plenty of music. The smiling workers at the front desk keep good track of me.

A short walk away and I have my choice of a dozen massage shops…an hour long foot massage which includes legs, arms head and neck costs about $5 while a two hour full-body Thai massage sets me back a whole $7.00. I will miss these when I go home.

On Friday nights I can take a motorcycle taxi through the sois (side streets) to listen to a great blues band at Tokyo Joe’s. And the food is great. The lead singer and guitar player seems American but he says he is Danish! I can get a great beef stew in this bar. The rest of the week features progressive jazz bands…which Thais generally find very uncomfortable to listen to…so it seems odd to see Thai band members wailing away on sax’s and guitars. Most of the patrons are farangs and last Friday I had a great conversation with a young French English-speaking couple who have been in the city almost a year putting together a visitor’s magazine. I envy their courage to strike out on a publishing adventure like this.

Lovely Lao

Wednesday, November 20th, 2002
ySKKSpbtXBjgyhP6z8LuC0-2006217035001655.gif My favorite country so far...the people are sweet but very natural and direct. Flew from Siem Reap Cambodia to Vientiane, the Capital of Lao. The "s" was added by the French so ... [Continue reading this entry]

Talad Nam Lam-Paya Floating Market

Tuesday, August 6th, 2002
Our friend, Jiraporn, who lived in the U.S. ten years and has a doctorate from Oregon State University in Fisheries and is now a lecurer in the Department of Fishery Management of Kasetsart University, generously drove us to the weekend ... [Continue reading this entry]