Adventures in Thailand, how to, lifestyle, travel

Learning Thai Massage at Wat Po Thai Traditional Massage

Why I chose Wat Pho Massage School

After leaving Koh Chang, I headed to Bangkok and chose to study thai massage at the world renown Wat Pho massage school.

The #1 reason I chose this place instead of other schools in Chiang Mai is due to their deep rooted history and their accreditation.

Wat Pho is the birthplace of Thai Massage. Thai massage is said to have come from, or rather, inspired by the yogic asanas and Ayuvedic principles from India – which is why I have interest in Thai Massage. It is not relaxing form of massage, at times it can be slightly uncomfortable. It focuses more on the acupressure points of the body to form to release muscle tension or pain.

Wat Po was 1 of the 3 schools listed in Bangkok as being accredited with the National Health Practitioners of Canada (NHPC). One of other schools was Phussapa Thai Massage running fix course schedules from Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., alternate weeks. I like Phussapa and being Japanese-run, I think it would have had a more efficient way of running things, but it was more expensive at 12,000 baht, compared to Wat Pho at 9,500 baht. The other accredited schools were mostly in Chiang Mai with prices from around 6,000 baht and up, Sunshine being one of the top choices. Check if your school is accredited with NHPC.

Additional reasons why I chose Wat Pho were based on schedule flexibility. They have courses for General Thai Massage every single day 9-4, you just show up at 8:30 in the morning, register and pay.

I found hostel accommodation on Samsen 2 (near Khaosan Road) called Glory Hostel for about 200 baht a night and it cost merely 7 baht/day for my bus ride to and fro Wat Pho on Bus 53. The hostel was clean and tidy, albeit a little cramped as most hostels in Khaosan are, but the staff were super friendly and helpful. It is within walking distance to Wat Pho too, if you would like to stroll about 30 minutes each day.

Finding the Wat Pho Massage School

So recently, as of November 2015, I realized during my research that the location of the massage school was quite ambiguous, with Google Maps showing 2 locations. And I know people have been going there for years and locals will just give you instructions on how to get there. But let’s put a map to it.

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Basically, you will first have to go to the (1) administration office to first to get registered. It’s right down the alley where the yellow building is.

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You’ll need 3 passport sized photos – if you don’t have the photos right away they can be taken later by the 7-Eleven close by for 200 baht and they give you 12 photos! Once you are all registered, they will send you upstairs for “orientation” which is basically watching a video that explains the origin of Thai Massage. In the afternoon, you will move buildings down the street (2) at where the rest of your course will be held.

Reusi Dat Ton classes at the eastern of the temple grounds in front of the massage parlour is (3) every morning 8 – 8:30 then followed by my own gentle yoga practice. It is open to public and I practiced here every morning.

Overall Experience 

My overall experience was pretty good. I like learning and that’s key to any experience I believe. There are no real bad experiences, only lessons to be learned. I also met a really cool Japanese guy living in America who had a sense of humour and made the experience a fun one.

The only complain I have is that our main teacher well wasn’t very interested in her job. On Day 1, a girl from my group that talked to much decided to ask for private lessons at her 5-star hotel. And thus, favouritism began in the class. Also, our teacher played with her telephone more than the others and had visitors throughout the day coming in to do business with her. I believe it was some sort of furniture building business because a guy came in one day with measurements of tables and handed her money. She left it up to other teachers to step in to show us the techniques in a more professional manner. If you are picky about teachers like I am, you can request for Pi Thip (the one I liked best) or the Indian Thai lady teach whose name escapes me. Request to start on the day that they start teaching Day 1, then they will be your main teacher for the rest of the course.

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Adventures in Thailand, lifestyle, travel, yoga

Koh Chang Says Goodbye

The entire time I was on Koh Chang, time stood still. It was as if my life had been suspended in a state of surreal beauty as I watched stars in the sky night after night and butterflies swarming around me during the day – it was really one perfect day after another. Even the rainy days were absolutely beautiful.

During my last month here, time un-paused itself and suddenly, I found myself counting down the days. My last two week here on Koh Chang were incredible and it felt as is the entire island gave me a farewell party. I couldn’t arrange a more perfect ending to this chapter of my life. To capture it all in the writing style that I’m accustomed to (which is overly descriptive to a fault and lengthy) would probably put you to sleep. So I’ll try to keep my highlights short and allow for more pretty pictures instead.

My last two weeks on Koh Chang comprised of the following highlights:

  • Spontaneous photography session with my artist friends – My student/friend Cristina and I went to visit my friend Pi Jo at his artsy little boutique hotel Picasjo House via bicycle. When we arrived, Pi Noy and Kwang were there as well. Kwang, Pi Jo’s girlfriend, was visiting from Bangkok and wanted to take photos of the island as the sun was about to set which is when the lighting is most dramatic. We all jumped into the back of Pi Jo’s truck, loaded our bicycles and went around taking photos. Here are a few cool shots we got:
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  • Sunset at Lonely Beach – After a beautiful afternoon lazing in the sun and sand with Cristina people watching, we watched the sun go down dramatically over the horizon.

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    As if that wasn’t perfect enough, a sailboat decides to float by creating a postcard scene with its silhouette against the blue and orange sky, as well as the silhouette of tiny islands offshore.

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  • Bioluminesence – Simply put, bioluminescence is the process of microorganisms emitting light in reaction to movement in their environment. And what this means is that if the night and the water is calm and clear enough and there’s enough of these microorganisms, such as plankton, around. This is what you see…

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    Okay, I stole that picture from Google because I don’t have one. And although that is a very impressive photo, it was a similar experience. So you get the idea. It felt like I was in the Life of Pi. Only I wasn’t alone with a tiger but with friends, under a sky full of stars at 4 AM in the morning after an awesome night of live music and dancing. It was so beautiful, I almost cried. But I didn’t. But I could have, really, I just didn’t want to seem weird.

  • HTMS Chang Wreck Dive with Tim – Spent the night in Bang Bao and we went to check out Tim’s favourite bar, Mr. Tee Bar, where Mr. Tee and Tiger played amazing live music as we sat with sand in our feet and beers in our hands. The next day we went diving at the HTMS Chang. About 20m+ of visibility and huge schools of fish at the wreck, barracudas and a whole lot more. This video here gives you an idea of how massive those schools were.
  • Loy Krathong – I made my first krathong lantern and I couldn’t be more proud. I used two shades of green and trimmed it with red leaves, and poked the incense and candle right in the middle of a hisbiscus. It was so pretty. At night we went to the pier to release our krathongs to appease the river goddess. I wished for good luck for the rest of my journey.
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    Photo Credit: Atee Noy
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    Photo Credit: Atee Noy
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    Photo Credit: Atee Noy

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So that’s a quick peek at my last two weeks on the island. I miss it so much as I sit here in Bangkok attending massage school. But life takes your where it wants to and I’ll leave you with the following words of my favourite song right now.

We’ll drive until the gas is gone
And then walk until our feet are torn
Crawl until we feed the soil
Film the whole thing
-Dan Mangan, Road Regrets

 

Adventures in Thailand, lifestyle, travel, yoga

Koh Chang: A Summary of Experiences

My 7-months is up. I leave for real tomorrow.

Though I’m a big believer in staying in the present moment, I’m not immune to the feelings and emotions that stir up like a dust cloud as you trail behind the footsteps of Father Time.

I  allow my mind to drift into this state of nostalgia. I begin to see things as “this will be the last time.”

This will be my last coffee at Picasjo House.
This will be my last swim in this waterfall.
This will be my last bicycle ride to Salak Phet.
This will be the last time I see my friends.
This will be the last time I ride all the way round the island.

I start to think about all the people I’ve met and all the experiences I had while I was here on a month-to-month basis. I must say, it really was like a dream. Wow, am I a lucky.

May, 2015:

Arrived on the island and a large smile plastered on my face as I approached my new place of work. Had an amazing time teaching and connecting with students. Snorkelled in the powder white sands of the islands south in beautiful turquoise waters. Fell in love. Fell in love with this stunning place.

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Thai Language level: Sawadeeka (Hello/Goodbye)

Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 0

June, 2015: 

Getting into a nice rhythm of life here. After a few hiccups from mold and mice, life was good. I made new friends with the lovely ladies at the restaurant and had the first inside glimpse of how the locals live here. My friend Bow had a Thai barbecue at her lovely house on the water. Her little wooden house overlooking tiny islands  with two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen was pretty much what my dream house would look like.

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Thai Language level: I start to pick up on Thai much better. Learn to say the phrase “Please teach me some Thai” and everyone jumps on board – they all love the idea of being a teacher.  Everyone becomes a teacher, even the Cambodian staff. I sit back and watch as my “teachers” argue with each other in order to teach me a better way to say a certain phrase and how my English name is spelt in Thai. I love how language is sometimes just a semantic perspective.

Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 1

July, 2015:

Explored more of the island and made more friends, did a quick visa run to Malaysia and visited family as well.

Lots of time spent with my new Thai friends. Heading out almost every day and night, they take me to various places to eat, sing karaoke, beaches, waterfalls, you name it. Since I’m Southeast Asian too, I blended in lots and get the real Thai experience. I would pay the local 20 baht fee for the national park entrance while other foreigners paid 200 baht. I felt super ninja chameleon and loved every moment of it.

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I wanted to learn more Thai to communicate with my friends better. I was advised against learning their writing system due to its complexity and they told me that I was better off just learning to speak Thai. But the combination of being a linguistic nerd and an artist that appreciates this exotic writing system, I decided that learning this phonetically-based system would be achievable. It was the best decision I made because each Thai consonant is linked to a specific animal or thing to help them remember their whopping 44 consonants (including 3 different types of K’s), so once I learned to write the consonants, I gained 44 new words in my vocabulary.

Thai Language level:  I learnt to write (most of) the Thai consonants and (hardly any of) the Thai vowels. 44 words added to my vocabulary.

Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 10

August, 2015: 

My first set of dives for my Advanced Open Water Course (AOWC) on Koh Chang after going over a year without diving. Beautiful weather and great memories. Met people in this part of the island that became good friends later on.

Second set of dives for my AOWC on Koh Chang at the HTMS Chang shipwreck was a combination of feelings. There was a “Dayum, wreck diving is so f**ckin awesome!” and then there was me throwing up every time we got out of the water – not so good. A combination of what I think is food poisoning and rough waters had me over the edge most of the time we surfaced. At the end of the day, I felt super weak and defeated by Mother Nature, yet I was glad that I was finally certified for deep dives.

Thai Language level: Lots of compliments towards my spoken Thai and the correct use of their classifiers. So instead of simply asking for water, I’d ask for “a bottle of” or “a glass of ” water. As in English, these classifiers really make the difference in smoothening out your speech. Getting better.

Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 30

September, 2015:

My fiancé comes to visit!!! We’re back to being like two peas in a pod. That’s what I love about my relationship with JR, it’s so unforced, so natural, as if he is part-me and I am part-him. He resumes to making me a cup of coffee every morning like he used to back home in Canada. Only here, my coffee is of the instant variety which he makes in our hotel room. Adorable.

I show him around paradise, my local hangouts and he feels envious and happy for me. He likes it way better than Phuket. We agree all we need is a small beachside bungalow. We start talking about moving here and living here, but he is still unsure what he would do for work.

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At the end of his stay, I get news that my father had a heart attack and when my fiancé leaves, I fall off-balance. My energy for teaching yoga drops. I had a very kind American couple that genuinely cared about me and provided me consolation and love to which I will remember them forever. I am moved by the human connection and how we can relate to each other having never met previously. I have a quick trip back to Malaysia to see my father and organize a family lunch.

Thai language level: I impressed my fiancé as he watched me chat up the locals everywhere we went on the island. I felt proud I could still impress him. And in return he impressed me by agreeing to ride the scooter everywhere which he perceived as very dangerous and unnecessary.

Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 50

October, 2015: 

I finally start to kick my addiction to Pad Ga Prow and have it less and less. After seeing my father, I start to get back into the swing of things and reconnect with myself. The Miss Grand International beauty pageant arrives on the island and I get the honour of teaching them some basic yoga breathing techniques.

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I also go for my third dive and was blessed with amazing weather and great visibility. Great friends and great fun.

Thai language level: Keng Mahk, which means very skilled – this is what they tell me at least. I’m now able to have entire conversations in Thai. I also understand what’s going on around me and I realize that my friends gossip a lot about me in front of me. They start to realize that they can’t do that too much anymore.

Plates of Pad Ga Prow consumed: 60

November, 2015: 

My last month here and the island gave me an amazing farewell. Please read about it in my next post Koh Chang Says Goodbye.