So much has happened in the six days since I arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I am so grateful for this opportunity to study Thai Massage in Thailand and for the relationships with people and communities that nurture my spirit and bring such great joy to my life.
I have to put out a special thanks to my massage clients for being a constant inspiration to me. If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be here today. And so it is my mission to soak up as much Thai Massage Goodness as I can to bring back home to you.
I arrived in Chiang Mai Thursday night last week after over 24 hours of flying, and had a restful sleep at my guesthouse, Tip Top Thai House. I met with owners Jan and Noo of the Thai Massage School of Chiang Mai (TMC) the next morning to discuss their upcoming conference, their new alumni program, and plans for a study tour that I may lead with practitioners from Canada to TMC here in Chiang Mai. All very exciting. I will be attending their teacher training course for the last five weeks of my stay here.
Then the three of us went for lunch at Ohkajhu, a great restaurant nearby the school. This is truly “Farm to Table” eating, as they grow food for the kitchen in their fields around the restaurant.
Two years ago I bought a bike and left it at Tip Top Thai House where I was staying within the one square mile that is the old city. Chiang Mai’s old city is surrounded by the crumbling ruins of the ancient walls that surrounded it and four gates facing North, South, East and West. Outside the wall is the water moat and outside that, Chiang Mai expands outward. A population of 1.5 million people live in Chiang Mai and it has over 300 buddhist temples. On Saturday I washed my bike, cleaned the chain, put on new break pads, bought a new helmut, front light and lock (the lock’s key was lost so we had to cut it off), and I was set to pedal around this wonderful city.
Cycling has become very big in Chiang Mai over the last two years. Next door to Tip Top, Thai owner Yaowadee runs the organic restaurant the Birds Nest Cafe (and a bit further outside the old city, Ole, a great Mexican restaurant). She and a group of friends are big supporters of all things to do with bicycling in Chiang Mai.
I bought groceries (I have a small fridge in my room and use of the traditional outdoor Thai style kitchen at the guesthouse), registered for my Dynamic and Osteo Thai workshops at Sunshine Massage School that began on Monday, and had the smoothest and MOST beautiful latte of my life at Ristr8to Coffee Lab in the trendy Nimmanhaemin area of Chiang Mai. This coffee bar has won numerous international barista awards for its coffee and coffee art.
A great new gym called the Chiang Mai Muay Thai Gym opened up 6 months ago. I stumbled upon it Saturday in my cycling travels only a block and a half away from Tip Top. But more on that later.
On Sunday I cycled to the Tha Phae Gate on the east side of the old city to meet the Sunday Cycling Club. I had no idea what to expect. And was I surprised! The group was formed 20 years ago by a specific Chiang Mai police station. University professors soon populated the group and to this day the influence of these two groups are still evident. However, now it is definitely more mixed in age, sex, profession, and ethnicity. The majority of riders are Thai and there is always a small and dedicated number of foreigners. It is more of a social group than a “fast” riding group, although my ride back with a smaller number of riders was a great workout.
By the time we left the East Gate we were over 50 riders! We cycled through busy main streets to get out of the city and travelled south into the countryside to visit a temple (Wat) where we all sat for prayers and offerings. Then we visited a local handmade soap shop where I couldn’t resist buying a few exotic bars for home. They had a delicious VERY blue drink to quench our thirst (this is the cool season in Chiang Mai where it is 30+ degrees during the day and around 15 at night). The drink is made by steeping the blue Butterfly Pea Flower in hot water, straining, and adding honey over ice. If you add lemon juice you can watch this blue drink turn violet. It is great fun to watch.
Next we cycled to a small village where we ate a New Year’s lunch at a former school turned community events centre, and were entertained by our fellow cyclists singing karaoke in Thai! The cost of this delicious lunch was 100 baht, 30 baht of which went directly to the new school’s fundraiser. The Canadian dollar is about 25 baht to the dollar, so it was just under $4.oo for lunch. To get to this final destination we had cycled over 40km.
After lunch I rode with a smaller and decidedly faster group of cyclists on the way back to Chiang Mai and we passed through a wonderful wood carving area just outside Chiang Mai. We stopped for a coffee here and chatted about potential cycling trips I could plan to do while here, as well as about the lives of these men, mostly expats now living in Chiang Mai. I also had a great conversation with Paddy from Ireland, on vacation from studies in Physical Therapy in Ireland. Then we followed the Ping river on our return to Chiang Mai.
Then it was the Sunday Walking Market where thousands of people walk the main street of the old city for arts, crafts, massage, food and more.
Monday I began my first Thai Massage workshop with David Lutt of France. I get up around 6:00 – 6:30 am, get ready, cycle to the Eco Resort where the first workshop is being held, and do yoga from 7 – 8 am. Then Jenny (from Canada now living in Chiang Mai) and I do some acroyoga. The only place I have ever done acroyoga is in Chiang Mai. Jenny has been so great taking me through both flying and basing poses and movements. Then we eat breakfast and are in class from 9 am to 4:30 pm with a break for lunch mid day.
We have 24 people in the workshop with three fantastic teaching assistants. Participants come from the U.S., the UK, Canada, Russia, Poland, Germany, France, Thailand, Italy, and Japan. It is an incredible group of people to learn with. David’s wife Dao and their young son often come to class later in the afternoon. Their son isn’t quite at the walking stage yet but he has a wickedly sweet smile, can wiggle his hips (to the music and chanting we do each morning and afternoon) and his giggling can get the whole room laughing.
The work I am learning is amazing and many of my massage clients dance through my head as I learn different techniques and think, “Oh! They are going to LOVE this!” Dynamic Thai Massage is a combination of rhythmic, rocking motions working into the stretches and pressure point work, amplifying the dance of Thai Massage. Dynamic Thai is also melding with all the fascial research findings, theory, and techniques I have been learning and using over the last several years of my practice both on and off the table.
Not only is this workshop creating stunning mental fireworks in my head with each new connection, but it is resonating in my body as I soak up the treatments we give and receive each day. I LOVE my job.
The beauty of travel and workshops such as this, is that you make new friendships so quickly and so deeply. We are planning hikes into the mountains, nights out at restaurants and music venues, and more. The other thing about travel is it demonstrates how connected our world is. It amplifies the joy of living when you realize how easy it really can be to connect with others half a world away.
Near the end of 2015 in Saskatoon the daughter of a massage client visited her from the U.S.. Her daughter received her first Thai Massage from me at Broadway Health Collective. It was a wonderful experience and she asked me if I knew anyone in her city in the States she could go to. I didn’t, but said I would try and find one for her. On the second day of class, I partnered with Mary, a Thai Practitioner from the same city as my client’s daughter! Mary was a wonderful learning partner and I was able to put the two of them in contact for Thai Massage once Mary returns to the States from Chiang Mai in February.
An article and a TED talk came into my inbox this week on how the quality of one’s relationships is the most important determinant of an individual’s happiness, quality of life, and health. I would highly recommend you read the first and watch the second.
And finally I just have to mention that once again the magic of Chiang Mai has lured me to try something I would never have dreamt I’d do – boxing. I joined the Chiang Mai Muay Thai Gym! On the first day, during skills training, I gave the trainers a good belly laugh. Supposedly I learned the kick super fast, which is usually the hardest to pick up. My punch however, included a hip thrust that caused my trainer Bang to exclaim in a fit of laughter, “hips too sexy!” Once I don’t look totally ridiculous I may include a picture of myself in the ring. Until then, these pictures of the gym and by boxing buddies will have to do.
I put a quote up as the tag line to my blog before I left home that reads, “all journey have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware,”and this has already been my experience within my first few days. There is no telling what experiences and stories this eight weeks will bring…