Tag Archives: sauna

Thursday 5/ Friday 6 September

I let Eyrique call the shots.

He chooses to go to the herbal sauna

Sme cubicles on the roof of a massage shop full of heavy teak furniture

Shower,wrap around sarong. Attendant brings tea. In the cubicle there is a tap to control the steam.

We spend 1 hour

We meet a Canadian guy with perculiar pornographic tattoos and a long beard.

We go to have lunch at the khao soi bookshop restauarnt

Seems Eyrique has been taken for a ride, as his meeting is not happening……….

Internet bullshit…….

I drive him to the airport. We wander the small number of shops and have an expensive foot massage with some smiley fun women. The place run by an old made up Madame. Sabai, relax, my masseuse tells me. Why can t I?

Soaked to the skin riding back

Soaked again trying to check out the market.

Long deep sleep

Last day in cm, alone

Blat around on motorbike. Trade it for bike

Day 6 leaving chaing mai

The blog has taken a breathing space. It’s now 6 September, and is am now on the train at Chiangmai station waiting for departure. Chiangmai does weird things to me. The second time ive been here and the second time I’ve left feeling laid bare on one way or another. This time it is emotional. .

What was he trying to prove by anaylsing all my numbers. It tells him I’m very sensitive and also persistent. I would say I suffer because I’m on- committal.

I was learning about the world, but have found myself retreating back inside. I’ve lost my desire to eat. I’ve seen enough temples. I have had enough conversations. I feel like everything is collapsing inward. I can’t write this blog. I need an outlet through which to channel all this energy and tension.

A record for myself. The me who is fragmenting.

Visit Wat Chedi Luang: Largest chedi in CM, partially destroyed by earthquake 500 years ago.

Wat Chedi Luang (a.k.a. Jedi Luang) was built in 1391 during the reign of King Saen Muang Ma, 8th ruler of the Mengrai dynasty. He intended the structure to house the ashes of his father, Ku Na. Appropriately, the site was designated as a ‘ku luang’ instead of a chedi since it was not intended to house relics of the Buddha.
The massive reliquary was expanded over the centuries, until it reached its final form in 1475, when King Tilokaraj made it the home of the Emerald Buddha, the most important cultural treasure in Thailand. At one point the reliquary–which had come to be known as a chedi–was 144 feet wide and 282 feet tall. Unfortunately, the pagoda was heavily damaged in the 1545 earthquake during the reign of Queen Mahadevi. The Emerald Buddha remained here for about six years after the earthquake, whereupon it was brought to Luang Prabang (in today’s Laos) by King Setthathirat, who ruled Chiang Mai for a short period in the years following the earthquake.

Monk chat, but no monks.

Burmese restaurant for lunch

Wander the empty closed night market

Trying to work out what I want to do….

Nothing much

Night train to BKK Leaving at 5pm

School and sauna

Today I went to peter’s school, which I would never have found had Kaye, 27, a volunteer administrator not taken me there. Amidst the back streets behind the hospital, in a poor Burmese area on the due of town. The school is a concrete building with 3 teaching rooms, a library of very soiled second hand or hand me down books, each room giving onto the next, no doors. To the rear is a long area that serves as a kitchen, and where lined up are small plates of fish in sauce, the students’ lunch. On entering the building I find myself in a class, and also there is a long table which seems to serve as an admin desk. His is where Kaye works. Peters class numbers 16 and the students are an even mix of 17- 21 year olds. The boys mostly wearing longyis. They converse amongst themselves in English. Peter is rather paternal in manner and the students are called in turn to stand and address the class. They seem confident, expressive and imaginative, and are not fazed by my initial presence. Brian is another post 60 year old Ozzie and has a lower level class. He is doing a rather clumsy and pointless exercise in following instructions. A drawing dictation which doesn’t really go anywhere. I place my finished cup of tea on a flappy table chair top and it slides of crashing and smashing on the floor. How embarrassing, but nobody is perturbed. Peters lesson is about creative story writing, involves drama, characterisation etc. he doesn’t frame it very well, and the students that I talked to wre not entirely sure what it entailed. They act these out hen he gives them a similar task for homework. There are no language aims, but the fun element is there and the students seem quite content. I spend some time with Brian’s class and never have I sweated so much in a lesson, my salmon shirt is dark with perspiration.They are invitee ro ask me questions. you would expect them to ask the standard ones like : are you married? whats ypur name? but the first one was from a little boy with short hair, white shirt and purple longyi whi asks me “are you sort or long? ” he is talking about height…! what a strange opening gambit…anyway i explain that or a european im not veryfall. i ask him how tall he is and he replies “5 inches”! i ask him to to stand up. obviously he means 5 feet. interesting how the burmese use feet and inches.I discuss with them where I’m from. Their world geography is unsurprisingly minuscule. They know I’m a native speaker but they are guessing I’m from Spain. They think paris is a country in the uk etc…..


After break I talk at length with Kaye and learn about his life here. He is studying psychology at university, but finds it tough going. Critical thinking is a challenge, so too are very new and difficult concepts. He has been here for 7 years as a refugee. Most refugees have I’d cards issued by he Thai authorities and are restricted to the Mae sot area. There are immigration road blocks. In fact I encountered one on the way in. He is able to travel all of Thailand if he wishes. He tells me more about the cage, where he was once locked up, for not having his papers with him. There is no food provided there. He bailed himself out with 6000 baht. Twice a week the detainees are transported by boat back to Burma, and many of them just keep coming back. It’s like a yo yo. I learn from him about the Chinese food aid. This happens once a year. A few years ago it was so hectic that a baby died in the crush. There is also a yearly Muslim aid hand out too. I hear about the occasional antagonisms between local and Burmese workers and sporadic killings off migrant workers and hushed up burials. I tell him about my experiences in Burma and he acknowledges the inequality of the society, the self- interested power borking, the useless and corrupt police.

Brian’s second class is about business and trade. He models a transaction and introduces vocabulary in the context of trading mangoes for chickens. Interesting that when role playing the kids do not have much desire to make profits…..

At lunchtime the classroom is cleared out and 2 tables positioned for the 3 teachers, Kaye and myself. There are 3 simple dishes and rice prepared for the staff by the administrators and a student. We sit and eat,the students mill around the other rooms and eat their fish.

After lunch I circulate with my bags of longans and mangosteens, and sit with a group of boys and chat about English football. They ask my views on Alex ferguson, and why Liverpool and man utd hate each other. I get a a group photo then begin to show them pics of Brighton, not conscious that I’m cutting into their next lesson!

I make a gracious farewell and depart, getting lost on the way. It was nice being in a school where nobody is feeling under pressure to learn, where the mood is so relaxed, where the students are so open and smiley. I’m not sure about the methodology nor the language content. It’s all how I imagined an expat volunteer school to be. But, these students are producing English, are motivated and its a nice environment.

Cycling back I come across the end of Friday prayers at the mosque. Many cultures here, many religions! I’m now going to get out of my sweat soaked clothes, relax, then probably hit the sauna again.

On the way to the sauna I buy another half kilo of longans. The stall holder mimes to me how to eat them…as if I don’t know already! I’m an experienced longan eater now!

There are already 2 guys in the sauna. One has many boils or similar all over his back. The other talks to me through the fog. He is a police officer with Chinese blood. He has two grown up kids,his wife has a banana stall. He asks me if I’m married. I hate that question actually. It’s expected of me robe married at my age….anyway he says see you tomorrow as he leaves. Soon after the big guy who I saw last time arrives. The one who rocked around flapping his arms. He speaks quite good English. He is Karen, has been in Thailand 45 years and doesn’t want to go back.he has a Thai wife and 2 kids. He Gets changed into his coloured sarong again and begins once more the same pacing, flapping routine. Although he has put some money in the box, I don’t think he goes in the sauna.

After 5 or 6 ins and outs from the steam room, I’m done, I take some photos and wander the temple grounds. Back to base, where the mosquitoes are active this evening.

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.

Day 14 (Christmas eve) Vientiane Sauna and Massage

Seems like the next destination could be tricky: accommodation in Luang Prabang is full up. I find this out with the help of a girl in the tourist office who phones my Lonely Planet numbers. Everyone here seems to have that book. Thousands of trips are being shaped by one book..what power……

I decide to stay put today, take it easy, writing yesterday’s blog, having a dragon fruit shake then lunch at a veggie buffet place in the very hectic dusty market.

From then I cycle on to my destination for the day: Wat Sok Pa Luang, but get a little lost on the way. It’s not too far out of town, but I overshoot the turning, then ask some rather immature cops, who are busy stopping and intimidating motorcyclists. I notice the cartoon patterned white socks one of them is wearing as the fumble over my map trying to show me the way.

The Wat entrance is an ornate yellow and white gateway opposite the German embassy and a cafe made from the front end of an American plane. The path leads up a dusty forested track. Between the trees I spy an assortment of wooden huts. The temple is somewhere at the end but I dont need to get that far for my purpose: a herbal sauna.

This is housed in one of these huts on stilts in the forest. Chickens running around underneath. I’m called up some steps to the terraced area, given a sarong and undress. The sauna is up here. Steam billowing over the crack in the wooden walls. As I enter I can see nothing, just a point of light from the point where the sun must be, the light creeping in through the same cracks that are letting the steam escape. The experience is like Anthony Gormley’s Blind Light. You are in a small box, can see no further than about 50cm, yet are aware of others somewhere in the space. You hear conversations and reply to questions but the disembodied voices can only be placed to faces when we step outside sweat drenched to drink tea and cool down on the seats on the terrace. The sauna is heated by a furnace under the hut burning eucalyptus, lemon grass, basil and rosemary. Smells so invigorating and makes my skin so smooth. Outside and inside I meet a curious mixture of Laos professionals on a break from their work: employees of precious metal companies, who sound like they are ripping apart the mountains of northern Laos in an explosive search for gold and silver; an estate agent. A clutch of Finns arrive, no doubt to get a fix for what they miss from home. Two guys smoke and drink beer either side of going in the sauna. What a waste, as you sweat it out immediately. One of them has a fantastic job, working for the National Geographic Society teaching cartography to the Laos. His work involves flying in helicoptors over undeveloped and badly mapped regions taking aerial photographs then interpreting them. A slightly camp Laos with a slim body (oddly all the other Laos there are pudgy or fat – unusual in this country), called Mina flirts a little amd introduces me to his “friend”. Obviously gay and I know he picks up on this on me too. Anyway he is nice to chat with.

After the sauna on an adjacent platform I stretch out on a bed in the cooling breeze for a Laos massage of 1 hour, which involves a lot of prodding, thumping and pulling my limbs and digits to make it all crack. Relaxing.. By now the place is busy. Maybe 10-12 people there. Funny watching the new arrivals unsure of what to do, where to go. Arriving out of the forest and not really knowing what to expect. Just like I was!

Walking back to my bike I pas a young novice who is jiggling about on an old car tyre. I can hear some faint pop music. As I reach him I see partially concealed in his sleeve a mobile from which the music had been coming. Caught in the act he turns it off and stands still. I take his photo, then as I walk off he resumes his solo performance. This is forbidden behaviour, I learn later.

I cycle back to the city, I can feel a headache brewing, maybe from dehydration. I reach the promenade by the Mekong and see an orange gowned shape in the distance: it’s Sombath, my novice friend. We were both looking for each other, we greet each other with smiles. A half-conversation ensues about robes and I teach him some English words: “reincarnation”, “comfortable”, “take off”, “put on”. He gives me his mobile number and agree to meet again.

Darkness falls. At 6.30 I go back to my room and sleep off my headache. This has intensified following an annoying conversation with a humorless Frenchman who knows it all and does it his way….

I go out and walk around the block a few times. Guesthouse bars, Indian restaurants, 7-11’s. It’s a bit cold. Tuk-tuk drivers on corners, almost given up on fares, a few santa hats, a fairy-light strewn Lao Christian church, the same old man-woman prostitute calls out. He-she has been waiting for me (he-she says!). Town is dead, bars look empty. This is not a party town.

I call it a night and fall asleep with my i-pod plugged in.