Teaching Success and Tok Sen Sensation!

The week of teaching Level 1 Thai Massage to a group of Nursing Assistant students began well in the morning but took an unexpected turn over lunch. On the busy street next to the school a student was hit by a car as they crossed to eat lunch at the market. The group of students was very distraught and worried for their friend and all went to the hospital to be with her. Fortunately diagnostic tests showed she had no broken bones with only a cut on her head, a headache and a swollen eye. She was kept at the hospital overnight for observation and released Tuesday afternoon. We are all very relieved.

Then on Wednesday another student fainted in class and was taken to hospital and kept for observation overnight due to a pre-existing health condition. TMC staff handled both situations incredibly well. Their professionalism in dealing with the teachers in training and students under this kind of pressure, as well as their compassion for the students, is commendable.

Despite these incidents, it has been a great learning experience teaching Thai Massage to this group of young thai students. Most of our students have never given or received a Thai Massage. When asked if they liked being taught Thai Massage from foreigners they shared with us that they thought learning from foreigners gave them a chance to practice english (we have  A LOT of fun with this), they describe us as friendly, and they think we are less strict than Thai teachers. That got a laugh from our TMC supervisors.

Friday afternoon the students completed a full body practice on each other and took part in their graduation ceremony at the end of the day. The two students that had not been with us for the week were well enough to attend the celebration with us and their classmates. One of the students brought a stunning flower arrangement as an offering for the Buddhist alter that he had created himself. Some students were in tears by the end of the ceremony and thanked us, sharing that they were sad it was over and that we had to part ways. They gave each teacher flowers and a thank-you card printed with their selfie pictures. We gave each of the students a handmade thai elephant zipper pouch with a massage balm inside purchased from Wat Panwhaen.

This week I also had to say goodbye to my great friend Peter who is the one that introduced me to David Lutt’s work and is the reason I returned to Chiang Mai to take the Dynamic and Osteo Thai workshops in January. We had a great celebration complete with Peter’s magic tricks at the rooftop restaurant, CNX bar, and ended the night with a street party on Nimmanhaemin Road.

This week I also went to Wat Mahawan for a Tok Sen treatment within the temple grounds. Tok Sen is a centuries old Northern Thai practice developed by Buddhist Monks. Rhythmic tapping over the body and acu-points (sen lines) using a Tamarind wood mallet (khone) and wedge (limb) creates a vibration that penetrates deeply through the body’s fascia and muscles to the bones. Tok Sen is used to release tension, reduce pain, induce relaxation, increase circulation, and facilitate healing. The tapping can be combined with other Thai Massage techniques such as kneading, pressing, stretching, twisting and rocking.

The temple’s massage space is an open area with a collection of chairs used for foot massage and raised platforms for thai massage and Tok Sen treatments. When I arrived several people were in various stages of receiving foot massage, thai massage, and Tok Sen treatments. It was a wonderfully chilled atmosphere. The tapping sound of several Tok Sen treatments happening at once created a soothing, rhythmic dance of sound for everyone in the space. At one point during my treatment, my practitioner and another moved in and out of synchronizing their tapping which gave me such pleasure, I am sure it doubled the positive effect it had on me. I left feeling so very relaxed, yet I was literally tingling all over!

The second treatment of Tok Sen that I received this week was from Joe Khumlee at Wat Panwhaen. As I walked through the temple grounds to the massage area, I stopped to watch a man creating thai dragons to adorn the temple out of metal ducting and tin snips. Some of the pictures included in this blog are of him and scenes within the walls of Wat Panwhaen.  Joe teaches Thai Massage and Tok Sen out of this Wat and trains his staff for both Wat Massage Centres here. Joe’s Thai Massage and Tok Sen treatment was one of the best massages I have ever experienced. Joe blended Tok Sen, rhythmic motions, rocking, and pressure work for an otherworldly massage experience.

I learned Tok Sen two years ago from Thai Medicine Doctor Phor Mor Tannin Fainéant when I was studying at TMC in Chiang Mai. Since then, I have incorporated the technique somewhat into both my table and thai massages. However, after these treatments I have a deeper appreciation for how I want to expand my use of this unique healing modality with clients once I am back in Saskatoon.

I have already begun planning my next continuing education trip to Thailand and it will include a Tok Sen workshop from Joe Khumlee.

And a blog about Chiang Mai wouldn’t be complete without mention of food. And as I have quite the sweet tooth, the food I will talk about time is sweet. Passionfruit season is nearly done and I have done my share to ensure not a single passionfruit goes bad or uneaten. I have it with my muesli every morning, in shakes, juice blends, and in my homemade kombucha. The season for mangosteen is arriving and I hope they make it to the market before my return to Canada next week.

One of my favourite treats is coconut ice cream. But the street vendors here take ice cream to a whole new level serving it with sweet sticky rice on the bottom. My newest find is a vendor tucked in the back of the International Food Park. Here they take a halved fresh coconut, scoop out the fresh meat in strips and set the coconut ice cream in the hollowed out coco shell. Then they drape the fresh coconut strips over the ice cream and top it with either fresh, juicy, ripe strawberries, roasted peanuts, or sweet corn kernels. I suppose you could do all three toppings! There is always a reason to go back for more…


All study and no play makes Paul a dull boy. Good thing I am not that Paul.

The last two weeks has flown by without me blogging a single post. The training at TMC ramped up since my last post. Our class taught our first group of students a two day foot massage course. Happy to say we all made it through the experience, students and teaching students alike, with more knowledge and skills than when we started.

TMC arranged transportation to the Anatomy Department at the University of Chiang Mai where we spent an afternoon in the cadaver lab brushing up on our anatomy. We also had a written and practical test on Level One that we will be teaching all week beginning this coming Monday to another group of students in their Nursing Assistant program. It is an enormous amount of detail and process to memorize and perform in order to make our teaching clear, and effective for a five day full body Thai Massage course. I have been joining my other classmates on evenings and weekends to practice our treatments and teaching techniques.

This Saturday I also took a one day course on how to teach Thai chair massage.

Since my last post I have also managed to squeeze in some social and exploration time, discovering some more Chiang Mai gems.

Nicole and I spent a wonderful Sunday practicing our Dynamic Thai techniques and then lounging at the gorgeous Clay Studio Cafe, a haven off a small soi (lane road) in the Old City with tables scattered about a lush jungle garden enclosed by high brick walls adorned with clay statues and friezes. Great coffee and delicious food. My dish was a perfectly breaded white fish with green curry and blue rice (boiled in blue pea flower water). We also learned how to carve vegetables into decorative flowers by a delightful Thai woman who has been doing this for over 30 years. From there we spent the afternoon relaxing by and in the Lotus Hotel pool to beat the heat as we move into the hot season (36 celsius during the day).

In my continued search for good coffee shops I discovered Arte Cafe where a Chinese Dragon came for a visit on Chinese New Year. Then there is Ponganes Coffee Roasters, and Overstand for breakfast and coffee. iBerry is an experience unto itself. It has food stalls, a clothing store and ice cream/coffee shop that shouldn’t be missed when in Chiang Mai. The courtyard has great lounging space with a large tree in the centre which is light up at night. Odd sculptures and paintings adorn the walls and grounds. For great thin crust handmade pizza with a large number of vegetarian and vegan offerings as well, By Hand Aristan Pizza Lounge in the Old City is great place to people watch on the corner of a small soi.

Tuesday night was open mike at the North Gate Jazz Club, always a hot spot any night in Chiang Mai. It was my last night to say goodbye to Nicole before she left for home in Germany.

My guesthouse owner Noi took Andreas (another student from TMC who stayed at Tip Top) and me to Huen Phen, a popular local Northern Thai Food restaurant in the Old City. Our menu included spicy banana flower soup, curried pork ( Burmese style), Lanna spicy minced pork (Laab Moo), spiced green chilli dip and steamed vegetables, spicy young jackfruit salad, fried chicken, fried Lanna sausage and sticky rice that we ate with our hands. Thanks to Noi I have been introduced to more authentic Northern Thai food. Another great Northern Thai restaurant just outside the Old City is Huen Muan Jai. Tucked in off the main street it is always packed and also super delicious.

Near the Night Market is the charming Ploen Ruedee International Food Park. It is a collection of great food stalls surrounding a stage for nightly live music and a courtyard filled with tables and chairs, high tables with bar stools, and hay bails surrounding wooden spools as coffee tables.

Peter and I had a super fun evening in the Nimmen area west of the old city eating seafood off the table with our hands at “Catch”. Then we had chocolaty truffles and tamarind sorbet at iBerry and took photos with the crazy sculptures there. To round off the evening we went to Warm Up, a Thai hotspot for live music and dance music. Then it was a late night snack from Tacos Bell, a great food “truck” that parks outside Zoe and Yellow dance club.

On Saturday Night a group of us met at the Chiang Mai Balloon Park for a festival called  Space Artsdict. The attendance was low but the concept was interesting. There were artists doing graffiti art on boards, other artists displaying and selling clothing, furniture, lighting, and drawings. There were three stages playing live and recorded music and some great food. A friend Gabe has been going all out brewing creative kombucha flavours and brought me a sample of his latest batch to taste. Out of this world Gabe!

On the way home Peter and I passed the mega mall Central Festival that was packed with screaming, happy, energetic Thais rocking to the sounds of the Uber popular music star Modern Dog. We were caught up in the joy and excitement of the concert and had, yes, more food, while meeting those around us.

Today I cycled to Hauy Tung Tao Lake to meet Jenny for a coffee, hike to a waterfall and swim in the lake. Then her husband Mark joined us for lunch lakeside. We had a great fried Tilapia with herbs and hot sauce along with Green Papaya salad. Then I spent the afternoon preparing for the week of teaching that begins Monday morning. Peter and I had great wood fired pizza at Street Pizza, a walk through the Sunday night walking market and it’s the end of another fabulous week in Chiang Mai.



Teacher Training at TMC

Seven of us have completed our first week of teacher training at the Thai Massage School of Chiang Mai (TMC). It has been great to reconnect with my teachers from two years ago and meet a whole new group of students.

This week the focus was on learning the Thai foot massage program that we will teach to a group of young Nursing Assistant students this coming week. It is great to have the opportunity to put our new skills in foot massage and teaching to practice in a real teaching situation within our program at TMC, even if learning one week, then teaching it the next is a little nerve racking.

As a fun classroom exercise to practice lesson planning, class preparation, and teaching, each of us had to come up with a topic to teach to our classmates within 10 minutes. Thailand is a beautiful country where food is everywhere and its’ presentation can include decoratively carved fruits and vegetables. I thought I would use the theme of beauty and food within my teaching topic.  I am including a picture here of me demonstrating to my classmates how to fold a napkin into a pinwheel design. I bought napkins for each of us, printed out step by step instructions on how to do the fold, practiced my introduction, demonstration and guided folding to prepare for the class. Of course my teaching ended with us having a snack of coconut pancakes and gooseberries that I had bought at the market.

This weekend was packed with great things to do including the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, the Chiang Mai Month of Photography Festival, coffee shop visits, and a Farm Dinner organized by the restaurant Rustic and Blue.

The pictures here from the Flower Festival include displays around and inside of the public park in Old Chiang Mai, events on the Tha Phae stage, and from the parade that started at 8 am on Saturday. There were stunning floral displays, orchid competitions, and each float was decorated with individual flowers and flower bouquets. I can’t imagine how long it must have taken to prepare the floats. During the parade there were marching bands, dancers, fire breathers, and processions in traditional costumes.

It amazes me how the internet and smart phones have changed travel and can instantly influence what I plan to do with my day. A half a world away in Saskatoon, a friend and neighbour, Jacquie emailed me on Saturday while I was watching the parade with a list of the top ten coffee shops in Chiang Mai that she found on the internet. Since I hadn’t been to all of the ones on the list so far I decided I needed to check out a few once the parade ended. My favourite was a tiny shop called Graph Cafe that has incredible coffee, is owned by a designer and photography enthusiast, and was were I found out about the Photography Festival. So from there I cycled around the city to the different photography exhibit venues as part of the month long photography festival.

Then last night I met my wonderful new friends Nicole, Jenny, and Mark for a Farm Dinner hosted by the restaurant Rustic and Blue. Spending the evening with these three was a real treat, and so comfortable, it was like we had known each other for years.

We rode a red truck taxi north and east of Chiang Mai for a Farm to Table dinner that will definitely be a highlight of my trip. I am including the poster and menu in my photos. It was a five course meal with wine, and local craft beer from “My Beer Friend” and live music. We met people from all over the world who are travelling in Thailand, living and working here, or studying or doing research here. The company and conversations were fantastic, as was the five course meal prepared by a French Canadian Chef from Montreal, now the head chef at Rustic and Blue.

He came out to visit everyone (60 people or so) between the courses to talk about the food, our love for food, food as love, more about food, and life. We spent the generous time between courses chair hopping, meeting different people, and lounging on mats and pillows on a bamboo dock bedecked with lights over the water. The evening began at 5:30pm and the taxi took us home at 11:30pm. It was another great adventure in Chiang Mai.