The past two days have been pretty hectic, submerging the group into Thai culture in every possible way! After the Welcome Drinks on Friday, most of the group were suffering jet lag so most people turned in early for the night, probably a wise idea as we were up at the crack of dawn on Saturday for the first of the included excursions...a trip to the Floating Markets.
We were collected at 7am by our very bright an energetic, 62 year old, tour guide, Mr Charlie. He was full of enthusiasm and could not have been more delighted knowing that we were all massage therapists; he was overjoyed knowing that we had chosen his country to study in. We made our way south of Bangkok heading to the Damnoen Saduack Floating Markets. When we arrived we were split into 3 and boarded the long tail speedboats, if you’ve never seen one, think of the Man with the Golden Gun and the scene with James Bond speeding through the canals! It really was very much like, great fun, although at times you did feel like you were speeding through families back gardens! The floating markets when we arrived were bustling with local and tourist activity, boats selling everything from fresh fruit, hats, shoes and the most delicious coconut pancakes!
On our return journey, Charlie decided to take us to see the Elephant Camp, allowing those that wanted, the chance to ride on an elephant! Most of the group jumped at the chance!
By now we were all starting to wilt in the heat – it’s been consistently 37c so far and blazing sunshine! We got back to the hotel, time for a quick refresh and a bite to eat and then we were off again, this time to Wat Po. The famous temple that was the first Open University in Thailand back in the 1860’s when Thai people would travel from far and wide to study the inscriptions in the grounds of the temple and learn about Traditional Thai Medicine and Massage. It is here that Thai Massage is thought to originate and everything we know about Thai Massage all has roots here. Here the students had the chance to walk around and take in the amazing sights such as the Reclining Buddha, and viewing the famous inscriptions, we all then got to experience a full body Thai Massage from the Wat Po therapists. By now we were both melting from the heat but totally dazed from this amazing massage experience, but the day was not over yet!
Our last activity for the day took the group out for dinner, by now I think we well and truly deserved some food and drink!!! We went to a great restaurant called Cabbages & Condoms – The food is great and all the profits from the restaurant go towards awareness of safe sex and HIV research within South East Asia. The restaurant itself has to be seen, with all the table decorations made from various coloured condoms – quite amusing and very tongue in cheek! The food was delicious – a banquet of around 8 dishes including Spicy soup, cotton fish with fresh mango sauce (My personal favourite), Red Duck Curry, Chicken and Cashew nuts, Chicken Fried Rice and all polished off with Banana Fritters and Honey!
So today, Day one of the course for the students at Wat Po (Yes, we are here to do more than eat, sight see and swim) the entire group were very excited but also all equally nervous. Everyone has had plenty of massages since arriving so they knew what it was all about, not sure whether that made them more nervous or not! We arrived at the school and were taken to our own private room were our teacher introduced herself – she told us her full name, laughed and said, “but it’s ok, you can call me A” The group were then shown and short video introducing the school and Thai Massage. Everyone received their handy school satchel and all the material they need for the next 5 days. The routines is broken down into five steps 1) Supine 2) Side Lying 3) Prone 4) Supine and 5) Seated. The morning would be spent with the teacher demonstrating the full 5 steps, and then after lunch everyone will be practicing with the whole 5 days being full on practical. Lucky for me, I got to be the body for the demo, unlucky for me it meant that I got drawn all over. One of the great ways they teach here is that they draw on your arms, legs and back to show the position of thumbs etc and the direction that the SEN lines run in. Seeing me being drawn on gave the group much to giggle about; however it was soon re-paid in the afternoon when they all got drawn on too – we now look like a group of measles infected foreigners...
After lunch, we joined the main classroom where other groups were also practicing – students from all over the world. Our teacher, A, came over with 4 other teachers, we then had 1 teacher for every 3 students meaning that despite being such a large group the assistance and attention was very focused and no one felt like they were missing anything...There were a few “ooohs” and “aahhs” as everyone adjusted to a totally different way of working – very deep, focused pressures, crazy stretches and being on your knees the whole time takes some getting used too! Despite the language barriers, all the teachers speak really good English, or at least good enough to convey what they are teaching us. If there’s something they cannot describe, they resort to using examples which instantly make sense, such as “Monkey climbing tree” for the technique for working on the hamstrings, and “Sexy Pose” to keep reminding you about posture – as that is pretty important with this kind of treatment. We laughed and giggled, but everyone remembers it!
By the end of the day the group were exhausted, but had thoroughly enjoyed themselves and can’t wait for tomorrow. A few of the group escaped to the pool to cool down (And no doubt wash off the measles), which is where I am now whilst writing this...the sun is setting on another glorious educating day in Bangkok, time I think for some more street food, and oh, I don’t know...maybe another cheeky little foot massage whilst I’m at it ;) (Hope that doesn’t make you all too jealous!)