Slow day, herbal sauna

Lunch was at the vegetarian Chinese place I saw last night. Only Thai menu, but with pictures,and I understood enough from those plus the owners speech to grasp that he recommended laab, and that it would be good with rice. An iced herbal tea arrived and then the laab, tie and a refreshing soup flavoured with lemon grass. Laab is basically a warm salad with a predominance of mint leaves, this one also with sweet basil,and spiced crispy cubes of possibly tofu,maybe gluten, accompanied with raw vegetables: green beans and Chinese cabbage leaves. It came with tasty chewy red rice. It was very good…aroy aroy.

I spend some more time in the peace of the garden at he guesthouse reading, dozing, then chatting with peter as he returns from work.

Later in the afternoon I head for wat mani for the herbal sauna. It’s not apparent where it is, yet obvious when the monk points it out. It’s a shack roofed with corrugated iron in the corner of the temple compound. There is a low wall surrounding it with space to stretch etc, I guess. Some rudimentary wooden exercise benches with roughly hewn metal weights on bars…and an inclined sit up bench. Gym equipment! On the left is a counter and behind it a large man in his forties wearing a sarong swaying from one foot to the pt hand swinging and stretching his arms. I think he works here. Maybe a masseur. In the centre is a table with a donations box. 20 baht! And a water cooler. Around the edges of the space are stone benches, the floor is concrete and covered with sand and grit. The sauna itself is at the back of this space. It is a green coloured little house with 2 doorways coved by tatty curtains. The right hand one is red and I learn it I’ve men’s entrance. The lefty and for women, and this has a kind of antechamber, probably for changing. There is no changing room. You come prepared. Past the little sauna house on the right is a metal drum with a scoop and cold water. The furnace is behind the house. It’s burning freshly chopped wood, which is prepared by 2 dark skinned guys. One in Welles. I actually see him rinsing our the in nerds of these. Music is broadcast through the tinny speaker of a mobile phone balanced on the donation box. On the whole the experience is a serious and solemn one. There are more men than women coming and going. All are around my age and with some fatty deposits.one guy nets wearing a vest, the others in shorts. A one point a monk joins us removing the top part of the garments they where. The sauna room is small. 2 benched facing one another, large enough for 8 people, though the max I experienced in any one go was 5 of us. That was full enough. The walls are tiled and the ceiling is just about high enough for me to stand. The flappy now sodden curtain is a poor door and on each entrance and exit it needs to be red draped, it’s weight and moistness allowing it to be stuck to the sides of the doorway. It’s hot, of course. I’m wringing wet with a minute. It feels great, and the herbs are powerful, the one I pick out most clearly is lemon grass. I come and go five times, each time feeling ennervated and refreshed. It’s also hot outside, but strangely cooling..it’s still 28 or so degrees. It means my sweat and damp shorts dry quickly and my body cools down from the 40 degrees of the sauna. As I’m preparing to leave,ore people arrive. Locals, I guess, a lot of chit chat. Sme small kids run through. One takes a drink of water, another plays withhe curtain and is not quite sure whether to go in or not.

When I do leave its rush hour. I see kids boarding sawntaewns. I must have seen both ends of their day.this morning I watched some squashed, both standing and sitting, and over spilling onto the step, like cattle in a truck. It looked really uncomfortable. I wander he market on my bike and buy some more mangosteen. I’m eating a kilo of fruit a day. Love it.

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