Spirit of Thailand

Spirit of Thailand

Culture, Relationships,
Thai Massage, Traveling

The Magic of Touch in Chiang Mai Bus Station

A magical massage experience

 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 that 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.

Young Thai monks waiting for their bus

Young Thai monks waiting for their bus

An unexpected event in a bus station in Thailand

I was waiting for my bus in the waiting area of the bus station. Next to me sat a middle-aged Thai woman.

Some time ago I had sprained my ankle quite badly, and it had not healed properly yet. It was often painful and prevented me from getting around easily.

While waiting for my bus, I massaged my ankle for quite a while to reduce the pain.

The Thai woman who sat next to me, waiting for her bus, kept glancing at my efforts with my ankle. She could tell that I had a real problem.

A selfless act of kindness

After a while, she spontaneously stood up, went to a shop in the bus station and bought some tiger balm.

She came back, grabbed my foot, put it on her lap, applied the cooling balm, and started massaging it.

She tried to say something in Thai, but our efforts in communication were hopeless since she did not speak one word of English, and in those days my Thai language skills were practically zero. So we just smiled at each other, the universal language.

After a while, she had to catch her bus and left, smiling and happy that she had helped me, and I was just overwhelmed by the fact that a total stranger gave me a spontaneous foot massage in the waiting area of a bus station.

A lifelong memory of the magic of touch

It was such a simple and heartfelt act of kindness, and it was a moment that I will always remember although it happened over two decades ago.

I wonder if this woman knew that her simple act of kindness reserved her a permanent space in my heart and mind and that she gave me a memory that makes me feel good every time I think about it for the rest of my life?

Touching habits in Thailand

Before you think that this is normal behavior in Thailand, you should know that Thais generally don’t touch each other in public. Massage is the one exception.

Thais don’t shake hands, they don’t hug, and even holding hands is typically not done, although this is slowly changing nowadays among the young generation.

The one exception to touching taboos – Thai Massage

However, helping each other with Thai Massage is widely accepted in Thai society. Since then I have often seen examples of that.

Sometimes one employee in a shop or in a market will massage a colleague. Massage therapists often work on each other. Friends or family members massage someone who has pain somewhere. This is quite normal in Thailand.

However, it is not normal that a Thai person will spontaneously start massaging a total stranger who is from another country and not capable of communicating at all.

What I experienced was a spontaneous act of kindness and desire to help a fellow human being.

The author, Shama Kern

The author, Shama Kern, has been living in Thailand for two decades and is married to a Thai woman. Both of them founded Thai Healing Massage Academy, an online training institute for worldwide Thai Massage education.

24 thoughts on “The Magic of Touch in Chiang Mai Bus Station”

  1. Hi Shama,
    First another message regarding “massage for lovers/friends” My daughter who is pregnant has aggrevated an old neck injury from a car accident, asked for the neck and shoulder massage from the aforementioned massage. 15 minutes later her neck and shoulders were completely painless. Now to comment on bus station kindness šŸ™‚ If that was the same situation here in England the recipient would probably have called the police and said they had just been assaulted!! That is the difference between the cultures, over here because of the repercussions you would be left to suffer!!


    • About your daughter’s neck improvement: Wow, that’s great, I am so happy to hear that!

      Regarding the ‘assault in England’, this is sad but true. England has a reputation for being a no-touch culture, as have many northern European countries.

  2. hi Shama few things came into my mind – real healing and caring others must be done spontaneously like you experienced without thinking like in western people use to do – strangers – not my responsibility – everyone is human being and simple small friendly action as you said can be remembered rest of people’s life and also one important thing- this is done without asking something as return …. that is something which comes from your heart and by doing not just by saying – nice words are great but finally actions makes this better world for everyone – best regards – mikko

    • Agreed Mikko, my little story is a perfect example of a totally selfless kind act with no motive for getting anything in return. Imagine if we would all treat each other in such ways, what a world it would be – like heaven on earth.

    • And this unknown woman will never know that her act of kindness would be read by thousands of people on a popular website.

  3. I have to say that even here in Thailand, this is neither a typical nor a common event. That’s why for me it felt like a massage angel appeared out of nowhere and disappeared again.

  4. Shama,

    i was touched by this act of kindness! Here in Chicago, well I would be surprised to see such thing too. After all we are all people in need and kindness is a wonderful touch!

    • I am sure there can be acts of kindness in Chicago as well, but they would likely take another form than a foot massage in a bus station:)

  5. Hello Shama,

    Another nice story! And a beautiful demonstration of Metta in action. I think of Compassion (Karuna) as something we FEEL, and Metta (Loving-kindness) as something we DO. And yes, there are always risks that your act of love can be misconstrued and cause problems, but whether in Chicago, Chiang Mai, London or Johannesburg, acts of Loving-kindness often take real courage to perform… So good for you for show-casing such a good example. And may we always endeavor to rise above the constraints of cultural formality, personal shyness, fear of legal liability, etc. and keep on giving the love wherever it may be needed.
    Much Love to You and Be Well,

    • I was fortunate to come across some such situations, and I hope I will come across more of them. They all are wonderful memories and great stories to share with others.
      Thanks for your thoughtful input, much love and best wishes to you as well.

  6. Wow, that’s exactly who I want to be when I grow up! Granted I’m over 50 but certainly there’s hope, right? šŸ˜‰

    Thanks for sharing that lovely story, there are moments in life where things change our direction, shows us human beings are beautiful when allowed to be.

  7. Hi Shama,
    Beautiful story Iā€™m happy to hear that you have a beautiful happy life in Thailand, is a great country, people are warm and beautiful, culture what can I say …
    One day I will visit that part of world,
    Thank you so much for sharing!
    Take care,

  8. Wow, Shama thank you for sharing this story. Makes me think in my 56yrs on this planet, has any stranger suprised me with an act of know kindness, of this magnatude. Sadly, I can’t think of remember one. Maybe holding a door open for me…?
    There’s a saying, Be nice to people, you never know what they’re dealing with. Sometimes, something as simple as a smile or a kind compliment or a hug can be the highlight of ones day or week. But a massage, of course it’s the ultimate and bound to have a lasting effect. So, on that note, I try to do weekly if not daily acts of kindness for people. If I had to think of something I’ve done to help a stranger that lastingly “touched” them it was answering their post about their lost cat. I called the number and could feel this person’s pain and distress. I went over to help look a knock on neighbor’s doors and hand out flyers. The person who lost his cat, said I could never just knock on people’s doors and talk to them like that. I told him, it’s your furbaby … Gonna need as many eyes as possible to look. I didn’t find his cat, but one of the doors I knocked on and explained the situation did a spot his cat a couple days later hiding in their backyard and called him. That owner, wrote me a thank you note of appreciation that I will never forget. And from that day forward, when I see posts of people missing their pets, I do my best to get involved and help. So I guess, I DO have a special stranger act of kindness… It was that thank you note that he wrote to me that touched my heart and my memory ā¤ļø

    • I fixed it. For some reason many people misspell my name in this way – Shaman or Sharma – but it’s Shama. That’s what happens when you have an unusual name. šŸ™‚ No big deal.

  9. Spontaneous kindness does leave a long imprint. My cousin in England found a young Australian hitchiker looking for a cemetary that no longer existed, where a relative had been buried. Seeing his disappointment, she took him home for lunch. 10 years later with no contact between them, he came to see her out of the blue with his new wife, and said he had never forgotten her kindness… Give and thou shallt receive.


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