Singapore Adventure

Monday, December 12, 2005

Thai Massage
by venitha

Massage has never been my thing. Jim, on the other hand, is something of a connoisseur, so when I won the lucky draw (door prize) at an event several months ago, I gladly relinquished my prize, a free massage at a posh spa, to my supremely stressed-out better half. Karma is apparently alive and well in Asia, as I was richly rewarded for my generosity. While Jim had the softball-sized knots in his shoulders kneaded out, I spent a lovely hour dissolving my tensions in my own style, sipping a frothy coffee and doing the Sunday New York Times crossword at the cozy and soothing café next door.

Our recent trip to Chiang Mai provided plenty of coffee, but the NY Times was nowhere to be found, and even my ticklish feet can't argue with the fact that no trip to Thailand is complete without a Thai massage, without the thumbs, as a fellow tourist laughingly and appropriately dubbed it.

Thai massage is anything but soothing, relaxing, or comfortable. Pummelling, jabbing, squeezing, stretching: it's a wrestling match that you've no hope of winning and so just lie pliantly inert, hoping you won't be injured too badly. Why submit to such torture? Because it feels so good when it stops. Seriously. Downright painful as Thai massage can be, and I spent a good deal of time during both that I endured wondering what the hell I'd been thinking and how I would possibly stand it for an entire hour, I felt really great afterwards.

Clearly, I am not alone in this. Massage is enormously popular with the Thai; massage parlors are as common as guesthouses in Chiang Mai, and impromptu shops are erected in shaded alcoves along the walking market and in grassy plots within temple walls. Jim availed himself of three massages in our four days in Chiang Mai, and he spoke wistfully of how it would improve his life to get a massage first thing every morning.

I told him that I'll strongly consider Thai masseuse for my next career, though at Chiang Mai's going rate of 200 Baht (US$5) per hour, it's going to be far less lucrative than engineering. Regardless, I'm far more interested in Thai cooking school. Forget massaging our tensions away; let's just blow them out of the water with some Thai peppers.