Thailand is famous for its unique version of bodywork, Thai Massage, which is really a combination of massage and applied yoga stretches.
There is a lot of information available about the benefits of massage. Nowadays there is plenty of scientific evidence that massage is good for your body. Massage is also good for your mind. It relaxes, de-stresses, and temporarily shuts off incessant mental chatter. The Thais have been well aware of both of these benefits for more than a thousand years.
I am lucky to live in a place where massage is not a luxury, Chiang Mai, Thailand. At about $5.- an hour there is little reason not to indulge regularly. My personal measure for good massage is being able to fall asleep during the session.
When I first came to Thailand over 14 years ago, I was fascinated by the Thai Massage system which is practiced everywhere. I fell in love with it and soon it became my new career. Receiving it also became one of my favorite leisure activities which is luckily very easy here. Read the rest of this story
touch feels great!
Language is sometimes not sufficient to convey meaning. Let’s look at “love”. You can love your wife, your children, your job, your cup of coffee in the morning, your new hunting rifle, God, or your country.
Clearly loving God is a very different concept from loving your job. Loving your wife is a totally different emotion from loving your new hunting rifle. We use the same word “love”, but its meaning changes depending on the context. The word by itself does not have meaning.
Now let’s look at “touch”. Your laptop has a touchpad. That’s a very mechanical, non-emotional concept. You can touch someone’s body. That could be anything from friendly to sensual to sexual to painful to lethal depending on the kind of touch. Read the rest of this story
A Buddhist nun gives alms to a monk
When you travel to Thailand or visit any other country, it is easy to assume that our values apply there also, or that other people think like we do. This can lead to very embarrassing situations when we find out that we just unknowingly insulted someone or made a fool of ourselves.
Before your Thailand travel adventure, familiarize yourself with the following two lists. One is about things that you should never do, and the other is about things that you should do frequently. I promise you, your Thailand holiday will go a lot smoother and be more fun. Read the rest of this story
Vendor at Food Festival in Chiang Mai Thailand
Thais love food! It is everywhere. No matter where you are in Thailand, you are almost always within walking distance of food. In many western countries you have to drive for miles to find something edible, but here it is everywhere.
Restaurants, food vendors with carts on wheels, mini restaurants set up on motorbikes with sidecars, food markets, food stalls, floating food vendors, grocery stores, supermarkets… You can always find something to eat regardless of the time of day or night.
Food in Thailand is so important that a common way of greeting someone is “did you eat already?” You see people eat in public at all times and in all places. Eating is not considered a private affair. Read the rest of this story
Thai massage is part of a family of Asian healing arts – Japanese Shiatsu, Chinese Tui Na, Indian Yoga Therapy. They all share common elements which distinguish them from Western Swedish massage.
- They are performed fully clothed, generally no oil is used. Therefore the technique has to be different from oil massage. Instead of long massaging strokes, pressure is applied by thumbs, hands, knees, forearms, or feet.
- Asian healing arts all incorporate the principle of ‘energy’ – “Ki” in Japan, “Lom” in Thailand, “Prana” in India, “Chi” in China. The idea is that the physical manipulation affects a subtle energy flow which in turn aids the healing process. Western massage is more focused on anatomical principles like structure, muscles, and tissue.
- Asian massage techniques incorporate much more physical manipulation than Western Swedish massage. There is stretching , bending, twisting, and traction. Thai massage is often quite similar to yoga poses.
As you can see, here is a genuine ‘money tree’, actually several of them. They grow up rather quickly in many places in Thailand. Now I have to admit that the growth of the tree has less to do with fertile soil than with the generosity of the Thai people.
‘Money trees’ are set up in a public place, like here in a fruit and vegetable market. People then place money on the tree until it grows into a very expensive tree. The purpose of this is to support a temple project such as a new construction or a renovation project or another pious cause. Read the rest of this story
Different touching habits around the world
Once I was traveling in Mexico, and I met a girl from Spain. Like me, she was backpacking around the country and we spent a few days hiking and sightseeing together. Then we both continued on our separate ways. When we said our good byes, she kissed me on the cheeks, and I hugged her. Both of us were a little surprised and uncomfortable.
In those days I did not know that kissing on the cheeks is a normal way of greeting in several European countries. And she did not know that hugging is quite a normal exchange among friends in the US. However in the US we do not kiss on the cheeks when we greet someone and in Spain people don’t hug casual friends. So I was a little surprised by her kiss and she was surprised by my hug.
Touching habits in Thailand
Now I live in Thailand, and touching is an interesting subject here. Girls often walk around hand in hand, and men sometimes put their arm around the shoulder of an another man in a casual way. In social gatherings Thais often have body contact, but only in a casual way.
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The main bus station in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Does this Thai bus station look like a place where magical events take place? In my case, this is exactly what happened. At least it felt magical to me. There are some events in life which we never forget even though they happened a long time ago. It might have been a little thing, a kind word, a helping hand, a truly happy or beautiful or magical moment. In my case it was a simple heartfelt touch. Read the rest of this story
What does a smile mean to you? If you are from a western country, you most likely associate smiling with feeling good. That is not always true in Thailand. Thai smiles can mean many things. There are over a dozen words in the Thai language that refer to all different types of smiles. Thais use smiles to express emotions of politeness, happiness, embarrassment, frustration, indifference, condescension, nervousness, or just to mask their real feelings.
Does this mean that the famous Thai smile is not real, that it is a fake? No, it just means that you have to expand your definitions of what it can mean. Read the rest of this story