January 2004, Thailand: index

Andreas worked in the Singaporean office of his company during December. I graduated from Insead on 18 December. After this, Andreas and I took a few days off to go to Bali, then sort out the admin back in Singapore, and then he had to go back home to his Norwegian office. I wanted to spend a little more time in Asia before returning to the cold North, so I took three more weeks off in order to dive, trek and learn traditional massage in Thailand.

The first part of my trip, a dive trip to Burma Banks, didn't quite come off, but that is a long story. We dived in the Similans instead, closer to Phuket.

Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand was wonderful. It is cooler than the south, and it has beautiful surroundings, with high hills and lush forrests. There are many minorities in the area, and there are some really nice hikes in the hilltribe areas. Chiang Mai is also famous for its good cooking and the many related cooking courses, and for the massage schools. There are some very serious massage retreats in the tribe villages, where professional masseurs from all over the world come to spend two weeks living healthy, freezing at night, and upgrading their already advanced massage techniques. I decided to take a gentler option, a four day private course in a style called Nerve Touch Massage. During the course, I got so interested in Thai massage that I decided to go to Bangkok to the "big school" at Wat Pho for a week to learn the classical style as well. It is a bit like passive yoga -- relaxing, healing and stimulating at the same time.

I couldn't leave Chiang Mai without trying one of the many Thai cooking courses. The one I chose was organised by Gap's House, and it was excellent. In one day, we made nine dishes that tasted as if they should be complex and tricky to make, but in reality only took fifteen minutes each and were as simple to cook as turning on the fire under the wok.

I also went on a hike in the mountains for three days; the landscape was beautiful and the group was great. The tribes we visited were poor, but seemed to live a gentle, content and harmonious life, and even a month later I clearly recall the sense of peace in the Karen village, as the colourful women sift the rice in the quiet sunset on their hill, surrounded by small children and tens of domestic animals. It does not sound possible, but it was really quiet. The people were very freindly, always smiling, and the the children were surprisingly polite, even sharing the small toy presents. I never thought children would be willing to do that!

Chiang Mai is also famous for beautiful hand woven silk and cotton fabrics, and design that combines traditional cloth and styles with modern colours and styles. A charming designer lady from US helped me find out a great deal about this.

The links below contain photos from this trip.


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Silvija Seres, January 2004