A Feel for Thailand

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As I lay on a thin mattress on the floor in baggy clothes with a Thai woman kneeling on my thighs, I thought to myself “this could be a great metaphor for Thailand”.

Let me explain.

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First, I should explain that I had a Thai woman kneeling on my thighs because I was in the middle of a Thai massage. Throughout Thailand, Ben and I got a lot of massages. We tried Thai massages, foot massages, oil massages, skin scrubs, cold milky massages, etc. You name it, we tried it. It became a running joke that anytime we didn’t know what to do, we would just get a massage!

If you have never had a Thai massage, this will make a lot more sense with a bit of explanation. To start, you have your feet washed and then you change into the aforementioned baggy clothing and lay face down on a thin mattress. The masseuse starts applying pressure to your feet and generally work their way all the way to your back. No matter the size of the masseuse, you end up with their whole body weight on top of you. It’s not what one would call a relaxing massage by any stretch, but it feels amazing. They work on your pressure points, they knead knots with all of their strength, and they bend you into positions that you didn’t even know your body was capable. After the massage, they thank you and provide you with a glass of herbal tea while you relax in the lobby.

Now, I will expertly relate this to Thailand.

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From the beginning of our time in Thailand (in Chiang Mai), we felt incredibly comfortable. On our second day in Chiang Mai, we were talking about living there long term, looking at real estate, and having in-depth discussions of how we would manage relationships in the states over the distance (and the time change). The people were some of the friendliest we have met on the trip. The food was some of our favorite. And, everything was genuinely affordable. But, mainly, the people went out of their way to ensure we had a good experience and that we felt at home. That comfort and connection mirrors the comfort and service we received at each of our massages.

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Once a massage starts, it becomes a balance of pain and pleasure. The masseuse kneads and looks for knots, but then bends and twists you to release them (as opposed to some of the more straightforward kneading of other massage styles). The metaphor is a little twisted (ha, get it!) here since Thailand itself was so much more pleasure than pain. However, even the briefly uncomfortable moments of Thailand were part of something great. During our first trip in Ao Nang we scuba dived for 8 hours a day, worked for 8 hours, and somehow used the remaining 8 to pass our exams, eat, and sleep. While that week was probably the most sleep deprived I have been on the trip, it reminds me of the times during the massage where you grit your teeth a bit, breath out a little stronger, and know that at the end of it you will feel amazing.

The rest of Thailand was more about relaxation, realignment, and self-care.

After India, we were struggling a bit with how to be open and welcoming to strangers (without being wary of scams). We were exhausted from a country with so many “must-see” places that we had to be tourists all the time. So, Thailand became the necessary respite. And it went above and beyond. As I mentioned, the people were incredibly nice. To our knowledge, we weren’t ripped off for taxis, we didn’t receive any exorbitantly high prices when buying clothes, and they just generally cared about us (and our trip). A manager at a cafe we frequented in Ao Nang would ask us each day how diving went, if we passed our test, and what was scheduled for tomorrow. The scenery did not disappoint either. The beaches and mountains were unlike anything that we had never seen. And the seemingly endless temples in Chiang Mai were each insanely beautiful in a unique way.

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As I mentioned in the beginning, a Thai massage ends with a thank you, and a cup of tea. Our trip to Thailand ended with family time (shout out to SJ and Bobby for coming to visit), becoming regulars at the German beer house across from our hotel, and one last massage. We are walking away from Thailand feeling comfortable, happy, and already planning our next trip back. We are leaving here PADI open water certified; we have taken the necessary time to feel balanced and rested; and we are ready for the rest of Asia!  

ขอบคุณ Thailand! (pronounced kob-khun krab)

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