September 26, 2008

Getting Thai-style hairdo and other beauty services

I have an exciting day on Saturday. I'm going to judge a dog show in Thailand (No they do not eat dogs). I want to look and feel my best. First impressions matter here as well as elsewhere. Before moving here from Seattle, I went through all my beauty rituals -- hair cut and color with David my stylist, pedicure, acrylic nails, brows waxed or as they say in Thailand "same same".

Not now I've been here a while. The hair is getting long, it's curling in the heat. I'm beginning to look like a cave woman with bushy eyebrows. My feet need care -- particularly because in the heat, I'm not wearing hosiery. And, oh yes, the dreaded gray hair is lurking. I get my color codes from my stylist in Seattle. It reads like a secret code but I feel more secure. His email wishes me luck...What to do? Where to go.

Since I walk to and from the Siam Center every day for one reason or another. I began my search at the upscale shop. I watch, I lurk. I remember the prices of the acyclic nails (more than the U.S.) I leave. I take the walk over to the other side of the street. here are lots of tiny fashionable boutiques and fun shops. Very trendy. Better prices. But perhaps a bit too trendy. I am not wearing the skin tight jeans of a 20 year old or a trendy mini skirt with mile long legs. I don't have a tiny body and head to go with it of a Thai beauty in her 20s. I don't want the spikes of my hair to stand straight up (Okay I considered it for a moment) Nah.

Off to the MBK. MBK is a shopping center with hundreds of small enterprises including beauty shops. People shop there for basics, faux designer bags, tourist trinkets, food. It's big; it's fun; and usually cheaper. But it's lots of people with stylists standing in the shopping lanes "Take a look." "You come now." So maybe a little to crowded, too much "in and out" for me. What I do notice is there are jut as many Asian men getting their hair colored as women. Color, highlights, are for for everyone.
I final settle on the Siam Discovery Center, next to the Siam Center. There are two shops. Toni and Guy which I later learned is a chain and has special "European styling training." The only problem, the receptionist had blonde, really blond hair on top and dark hair below. And I remember the time I sent my husband Michael to get "highlights" in his hair and through miscommunication he came back with a bowl head of bleached blond on top and brown hair below. I don't speak Thai so this may be issue. My search continues...

Tucked in a corner on the same floor, I find the Hair Decor. Not too busy but a good mix of people. I liked most of the stylists hair and except for aging queen who was negotiating to have orange hair and semi-Mohawk, I liked the look and feel. You name it is there. Cutting, styling and coloring one's hair like many things in Thailand is somewhat negotiable. The signs usually read 1500 baht and up for color, 1000 baht and up for highlights. 500 baht for a cut, 1500 baht and up for permanent, etc. After failing to get a total price at the nail salon. I decided to get an agreement on the full price BEFORE we started.

We started at 1500 baht for color, 1500 baht for highlights plus a hair cut at 400 baht. I'm silent. Thai price I say. I'm silent. "Okay, Okay," he says, special price for you. A free haircut." I add up the price. It's about $92, more than I pay at home. "Too much. More than American prices." "We discuss that I have short hair so less to color and less to highlight. No movement on price. "The higher the price to the shop," I say,"the smaller tip to you." The price immediately drops. "We settle on 2500 baht total. We talk about color and highlights and that I want a "Thai updated look but not too Thai. After all, I am not 20 or 30 or 40.... Okay, we agree "This color base. Not too much, not too little on highlights. Just enough, "Markoki my stylist agrees.

One advantage in Thailand is that there is usually no waiting and no appointments needed. The downside is that Thai service provides are slow and meticulous. Maroki applies the highlights. An assistant finishes up with the base color over the rest of the hair. This process takes a good hour or so. Shampooing is not just once, not twice but four times. But you get a great scalp massage as well.

The haircut took about an hour. He was amazing. Being the daughter of a beautifican and showing dogs, scissoring techniques are curiously interesting to me. He held the scissor and cut in a very different way than I have seen used in the U.S. We talked about the differences in hair textures and how Thai hair feels different than Japanese or Korean or Indian hair and how American's hair was much easier to cut. And we are less demanding.

An way the color was nice and just some nice highlights. It is a little more Burgundy than I've had but I asked for that. He was more than willing to match my stylist's original color specifications. If you are picky and want a certain hair dye it better be Wella or L'oreal because that's the only brands I could find in the shops I visited. I've been wearing an asymmetric style and he left it that way but shorter than usual. I love what my stylist in the states does but this was neat also. And he even took time to me how to use hair wax exactly right to "punch it up" a little when I want.

I also got a pedicure for 300 baht or about $8 dollars. They don't rub your fee like they do at higher priced places but not the callouses are gone, the feet look fine.

Would I go here again? Absolutely. Maroki was great. The next day several of my students (including some males) commented on my new Thai do. One student said I looked 3 years younger (I was hoping for at least 4.37865 years) but 3 years will. then again next week they have test and buttering up, well it never hurts.

I have cool hair, nails and feet are god. I think Botox will be order soon...that too is suppose to be a bargain in Thailand. Let's hope I can find the real thing rather than the Chinese "faux" brand.

September 17, 2008

Thai Names and how longgggg they are

Names names and more names
Origins of Thai names

The issues with trying to get the bank to call me either Dr. Huber or Ms. Huber raised another issue in my mind. Particularly because I have difficulty taking roll in my classes. The last names.... They are sooooooo long. So I wondered why.

So what is in a Thai name and why are they sooooo long?.
My research has uncovered that until the 20th century, Thais only went by one name, their given name. The country was small, localized and you generally associated with people from your local area. As a result, you only needed a given nane. Family? Everyone knew which family you belonged to.

Around 1913, the Thai government passed a new law requiring that everyone have a unique last name. That's the "hitch" each family name had to be unique. it was not allowed to choose a name you liked -- unless it was a unique name. So there were no Jacbob "son" or John "son". The exception was that if the name was unique and was the first name. We can't have lots of Smiths unless it can be proven that the Smiths are all related. Nor do we have mac Donald to mean son of Donald. We have looooong last names.

The new law partly came about because there were many immigrants into Thailand from other countries -- particularly China. To not stand out as a foreigner and to not be discriminated against, these immigrants wanted to have Thai last names or least hyphenated names indicating their heritage but their new beginnings in Thailand. The number of immigrants was particularly large from China. Therefore, a law was passed. The law is quite stringent. To make it easier on immigration authorities, the 1913 law required that only one family can use any given surname. So any two people with the same last name must be related. So in Thailand

As a Fulbrighter scholar teaching at Chulalongkorn University, I checked my role of students. In my two large classes, there were no students with the same last name. There were similar last names and similar first names. however, all students had unique names.

One interest variation is that some names have "Na" in them. This is particularly used when there is a relative that comes for nobility or royalty. So I do have some students who are related to royal. For example Panomwon Na Ayutthaya is the last name. Ayutthaya is a province in Thailand founded in 1350 by King U-Thong. So my student's family is either from the Provence of ayutthaya or a descendant of King U-Thong. I prefer to think he is related to the king.

In terms of formal first name, we have more rules to follow and learn. Assuming a child lives more than 30 days, most families turn to the Monks to help with the naming. Used in the naming is
1> Thai astrology and the date of birth to form the name. The day begins at 6 a.m.
Using a process I don't understand, they consider based on the date the degree of honor,power, property, diligence, patron and misfortune. For males, letters in the word power have been popular while the letters in the word honor have been popular for women. The letters in Misfortune are avoided.
2. Named based on numerology. Each letter has a numerical value and you want to create a name high in value.
3. Naming based upon the traditional Thai calendar is the best way according to fortune tellers for anticipating the horoscope or destiny of people.

For more on the science of name giving see the following article

Showing respect if you don't use titles or last names

Nicknames in Thai

Not because the last names are so long but because of traditional beliefs, most Thais also have nicknames or play names that supplement their given names. The nickname often comes at a early age and may be given by friends or family and be related to something the child does. According to some reports, the giving of second names dates back to primitive times. It was thought that a child with a lovely official name or an important family name would be at risk of envy from spirits. As a result the spirits might embark bad fortune or even steal the child. Therefore, families began giving children, second names "nicknames" based on things in nature or which would not attract attention. The nicknames may also be derived from favorite things of the parents or relatives. Among my students, I have a "Mint" "Oak" and "Nunu"

Curious about the word nickname I did further research. Some say, the Greeks and Romans were the first to use nick names as an endearing term Here is the trivia word for the day. The term "nickname" originated in Middle English as an Anglo-Saxon word: ekename. In the Anglo-Saxon tongue, "eke" meant "also" or "added." Over time the word, as many words do, became awkard to pronounce and became nekename and also nickname.

Addressing people "given name, family name or nickname"

When addressing people, the tradition always has been to use their first name. While Americans or Europeans may be offended and perceive this as a lack of formality. It is not. It is tradition. Whether you are the dean of a school, a doctor, a lawyer, your first name will be used. Respect is shown in how they greet you using their hands. Instead of shaking hands, Thais “wai” to greet people. The “wai” is a short bow done with hands held fingertips-together close to your chest or face. The higher you place your hands, the more respect is being shown.

Signing Off Vandra who has a name made up by her mother.

Thai names and Banking

Thomas Jefferson once said “Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.” This seems true in the current economic crisis. But they are also driving me crazy in Thailand. The bureaucracy is overwhelming and for a high anxiety American can be crazy making.

Opening an account
I tried to open a bank account at Siam Bank. Well enough. Where is your work permit? I have my Fulbright Scholar letter, my letter from Chulalongkorn University about my position. I show they clerk these. I curiously ask, why do I need a work permit to put money in a bank? What if I brought the money with me (which I had). I sit as they continue to wrestle with allowing me to do this among themselves for 15 minutes. They decide it is maybe okay. I fill out the paper work.

Please are you Mrs. or Miss. I respond. I am neither. I am married by I used my maiden name. I would like to be Dr. Huber or Ms. Huber. We have no space on the form for that. No box. You must choose.
I'm nor Mrs. Huber, that's my mother. Nor am I Miss Huber. I am married and rather like my husband Michael. My checks at home say Dr. Huber. I show them my Foster Business School callings. These are no good the clerk mumbles in broken English. Anyway can make up cards saying anything. Women can only be a Mrs. or Miss.
I'm as stubborn as the Scottie dogs I raise. If I decide to take a stand, I do. "No I am not Mrs. nor Mrs." I will be "Ms or Dr." That's it.
The young man says I must go to the home office. He can not do that. It is not right.
"Right I say or afraid to make decision" He walks about. Okay. I wasn't so nice.

I leave frustrated, close to tears out of frustration. (I cry easy)

Attempt 2
I am required to open an account by the Fulbright Association so they can deposit my paychecks. Time to try again. This time, I take two women from the university with me, one the financial manager of the college and the other who speaks excellent English. We try one branch on campus. No can do. We wander over to a shopping center near campus. They suggest the green bank Kasikornbank. In we go.

It takes another 20 minutes or 30 or so and finally, it seems I am opening an bank account. Well now we are back to Mrs. or Miss. I sigh deeeply. Here we go again.
But it's women power. My two Thai friends explain I am a professor and I don't want to be a Mrs or Miss. They enter it on the form as Mrs. Then they white it out in the savings deposit book. Not good enough for me. I check on the screen. Somehow in this bank I am finally at least a Ms.

I found out that part of the issue is that Thailand passed a new law 2008 to give women more rights. The law allows women to choose the title they wish. However, the law only gives them two choices Mrs. or Miss
According to articles in the Nation, a Thai newspaper, the law was passed in February
The thinking is that
span style="font-style:italic;">"Since we want women to have equal rights with men, they should be able to choose the title they want. In the next four months, women's titles will identify only their gender, not their marital status as in the past."

The problem is that you can't be a Ms nor can you be a Dr. So perhaps not so equal.

In other ways, Thai is liberal. It is a central location for individuals undergoing gender reassignment surgery. A bill being considered will allow people to to change their titles after undergoing a sex change operation.

Rules to succeed
1. Take your passport
2. Take a letter of introduction from your university and from the Fulbright association
3. Take business cards preferably in English and Thai
4. Take humans with you who speak Thai
5. Take copies of any documents (drivers licenses, school ID) that will further prove who you are. They will copy it all.
6. Be patient. Thais are very rule oriented. Expatriates present challenges. The typical bank employee or manager knows how to switch dollars in Baht but anything more and they check and check again with the main office.
7. don't go to a small branch office. Go a large office where they are more likely to have dealt with Americans (e.g. Siam Square). Ask for best English speaking person
8. Even though anger is not appreciated in the land of smiles. You may have to repeat many times what you want. Tell them to call a higher level. Tell them to check. Ask the clerk to ask his or her manager.

I was finally able to get an on-line pin number to view my account on-line only after 2 hours of negotiating and talking. Finally, the young woman deferred to the bank manager (but only when I asked her to do so.) He gave permission in 2 minutes. The only problem is the password still doesn't work.

September 13, 2008

Bankgok Not So Dangerous

Well. I felt it my obligation being in Bangkok to check out the new Nicholas Cage movie, Bagkok Dangerous. I actual went the day it opened to no so backed crowds at the Imaxx theater at the Siam Center, the big upscale mall near my house. After standing in line I finally stood next to a American couple so I could ask the question of the day "Is it in English or thai". The woman nicely responded English. She told me to try to see it movies 1-4, those are the delux theaters. Hmm what is the definition of delux in an upscale mall selling High scale fashion, designer shops along with the stables of coach, docle, ferrari's on the 4th floor, a whole floor of golf stores and stuff. Well I decided to do the big deal. I laid down my 500 baht for the to scale theater and off I went.

I got a wierd look when I was escorted into the waiting lounge. I'm suppose to buy my drinks there and recline and get my popcorn cookies, liquor and what else here. How's a girl suppose to know. With the debut movie ready to begin, I's ushered to my seat. The seats are group in twos. Two recliners with sound barriers around them. There is a small table and can holder between each recliner. Yes I said electronic recliner. My usher hands me my silky blankie and pillow. A girl up, push the reclin button, the feet pop up and we're ready to go. Now this is living. A few minutes later a young teanage kid with too much cologne sits in the reciliner next to me. But he does not recline -- not yet anyway.

I just get situated in the recliner and then the music starts. All around me everyone is standing. The screen is filled with pictures of the queen being charitable. I can't figure out how to make the reclining foot rest go back. But I need to stand. I don't want them to think I am disrespectful. I don't want to go to chair. So I just straddle the recliner chair -- a bit uncomfortable -- for three months of singling and looking patriotic. But it worked. Okay Rule 1 is don't put the recliner in recline until after the national song is song and you've paid proper homage to king and queen. Whew that one is over.

Now for the show. I'd rate it about a 3. It had lots of drama, blood and gore juxtapoisitioned against a man attempting to refind his soul humidity thurhg human contact. An elephone with a trunk turned down similized that things are going to go bad and they do. Would I see it again-- well probably not. But I did like see all the places I see every day in the movie, the boots drug store, the MBK shopping center with the neon light, the night market with the neat jazz and music, a streets dimly lit with vegegation. I found like I was getting the lay of the land for my new hood. That was until I went to transparency internerationals webside and look up the transparency index for Thailand, or I though about the newest moves by the government to fire the Prime Minister because he appeared on a coiking show on TV and his party deciding not to renominate him. It's a crasy place in many ways.

Well anyway go see the movie if you want to see my daily huants. Most were shot very near my apartment hotel.
Momenets later I found out why. Before ever movie they play about a 3 minute tribute song to king and queen. Everyone must stand and show proper respect. It's a jail sentence to be disrespectful. I could figure out fast enough how to get the recliner foot cushion back up so I straddled it. Yeah I looked wiered, a lot wiered. But I told myself it didn't matter much because of the spacer between the seats. But the usher did look at me a bit funny.

Now for the movie. It one I would normally choose.It would be rock 'em off, bad guy show we'd go to on Michael's night to chooose the movie. But I was in Bangkok and it was filmed in Bangkok. I actually got off on figuring out where the scenes were filmed. There is one scene where he is up on the walk way or sky bridge. Bangkok has two sky trains to cross the busy streets you climb two flights of stairs and talk the walk ways which lead to the toerh side, major shopping malls and the sky train. One seen shows the big globwing MBK sign in the hight light. Heck that's about a 1/2 mile from my little apartment.

And the scene where he meets the lovely death pharmacist. Well thtt has to be Boot's pharmacy by the layout and colors. They are a cross between the old drug store and real time pharmacy. You can get many drugs you get in the U.S. in these stores weithou a prescrptions. They are conveniently located and have English speaking (to some degree) work personal who actual try to help you.

While I don't know which back dark streets he walks down, I feel like I have been there. There are many. Stores which may be printers become restaurants in the evenings. Tables pop out on the side walk. Some streets are very dark. Luckily the bridge I cross over to my hotel is well lit. It's anchored at each end by 3-4 tuck tuck drivers who will take you across the bridge for only 100 baht. A couple of times I have been tired enough to think about it but the price is too too high.

Oh yes, back to the movie. I think the movie captures the essences of Bangkok. The old traditions, the drak streets, the beauty of the monay people. The hard work for what every purpose. My masssage center stays open until 1 a.m. The corner store is open from 10 a.m. to midnight every day. These people work hard. Very hard.

Well A move theater with a blanky, a weaiter to bring popcorn and treats, drinks sure beats the regular theater. And all this for 600 baht. Count me in again.

September 8, 2008

Sepak Takraw - Thailand's Aero Volleyball

So I decide to visit one of the oldest stores in Bangkok "The Emporium." Off I go on the Sky Train which conveniently stops at the store. After successfully not buying anything, I decide to check out the neighborhood. It's Sunday. There is suppose to be a nice park nearby named "Queen Sirikit Park." She is the reigning queen of Thailand. About a block away there is a lovely park with lush green grass, a small lake, interesting sculptures including some modern and some traditional. One interesting one made of granite portrays about a dozen naked Little Thai kids standing crowded together (a funny row of Thai cherubs). I speak briefly with a American woman who has worked for a nonprofit in Thailand for 18 years. 3-4 Thai kids run up to her calling her auntie. I continue my walk past a couple young folks snuggled up, a man lying on his back shaving in a prone position (hmm how do you shave laying down?). There are a few old folks (well older than me) who are feed pigeons. A vendor nearby shoos the bird away as fast as they land). I pass a modern skate boarding park. And then I see them...

Sepak Takaw
Young men probably around the age of 18-24 are flying through the air. Yes, they do flips in the air and then kick something that resembles a small ball. They flip over; their legs fly up, cross and land. The ball bounces high off of one kid's head, then again and now off of a team mate's ankle. Now off of another head. Is it soccer? No the court is too small. It looks like volleyball but the ball is much smaller and brown. The ball dives to the other side of the court. The three players dive towards the ball, legs stretching, just a little more, a little more and then contact. Like hacky sack, they kick the ball with their foot up, up in the air as it nose dives down, another player springs high into action. He flips the ball up and over the net using only the side of ankle to bounce the ball off.

The guy really jumped up as high as net, kicked the ball up even higher and aims it over the net. He finished off the move with an air-bourne flip around. He does a back flip like a cheer leader but higher in the air with legs outstretched. It reminds me of karate or kung fu kicks you think are fake in Jackie Chen movies on television. But it's for real. These guys are flying and it's real. They aren't bouncing off walls, they are springing high in the air from the ground. The ball bounces off of one guy's head. The entire time his hands are by his side. The guys on the other side dive with his head almost parallel to the ground. But it is too late. The ball lands on the court, bounces slightly. Point made. The guy in the back of court serves. He tosses the ball high and simultaneously jumps up and makes contact with the ball on his ankle. The ball flies at about 60-70 mph. His body is like a giant tennis racket. On the other side of the net, they are ready. Squatting and bouncing slightly in anticipation. The ball zooms over the net. Two players rise off the ground as high as volleyball net.

I sat transfixed watching this game for about an hour. A team which is called a Regu consists of three players. The player at the back is the server or Tekong. Serving is done by kicking the ball over the net. Positions are not rotated as in volleyball but scoring is very similar. It is the most fascinating game I have ever seen.

To play Sepak Takraw, you bounce the ball off your body or those of your teammates -- just so it doesn't touch the ground. A player can touch the ball three times per point with any part of the body except hands. Eventually it must go over the net. Here is a really neat picture which shows how much the game involves acrobatics . Note that the one player is upside down on the left with his legs higher than the net. There are three sets to 15 points. There can be tie-breakers as in tennis or bandminton.

According to research I have done,the name is derive from Thai and a Malaysian words. Takraw means kick in Thai and sepak raga means kick rattan ball. The game of Sepak Tekaw dates back to as early as the 1400. Purportedly in Bangkok there is a mural at one of the temples (I think Wat Phra Keow) in which the Hindu God Hanuman is playing the game with a group of monkeys. But there is really no monkeying around in this game. It is an acrobatic sport that requires great dexterity, jumping, and flipping up and around. Players wear wraps on their ankles since the ankles take a lot of abuse and are used to bounce the ball off of and to slam it over the net. the body weight propels and adds momentum. Some players also wear wraps around their knees. All drip sweat as the game is very fast paced. And it is hot and humid in Bangko. On this day it was 91 degree with humidity of about 40 percent. But it is the game that grabs your mind. You've got to see it to believe it!

There are traditional Sepak Takraw games which are played and scored like volleyball and badminton. A new form of the game is more like gymnastics. In the new form, the aerobatics of the team and players is scored for the maneuver's, height and entertainment value, height of kicks and variety of kicks. Who knows we might see it in the Olympics

The original balls were made of rattan. Now they are made of a rubber like substance that is hard but somewhat flexible to bounce. The balls weigh from 145 grams (5.1 ounces) for a beginner's ball to 178 grams (6.3 ounces) for a professional tournament ball. Compare that to a softball baseball and volleyball. Courts are the same size as in badminton.

Since I am not a team sport kinda gal (didn't grow when girls played team sports) I prepared a small table with some comparison. So here goes


Sepak Takraw



Soccer Football

Hacky Sack








Thailand and Cambodia





Ball Weight

145-178 gm

5.1-6.3 oz


5-5.25 oz

260-280 gms

410-450 gm

14-16 oz

55 gms


16.5” -17.5”

9 inches

25-27 inches

68-70 cm


Could not find reference



Rattan or rubber. 12 holes and 20 intersections

Core of rubber/ or cork. Yarn wrapped tightly.

Cover of cowhide.

Rubber bladder, cloth layer and 18 panel leather cover

Air filled with leather cover

Cotton or ultra seude cover. Sand, birdseed or plastic pellets inside


3 /team with a reserve player

25/team 9 on field

6 /team

Beach volley

2 / team

11 players and 5 substitutes

As many or as few as you want

Court Size

19.5’ X 42.8’

30’ X 60’

10 X 20 yds

50-100 yds X 100-130

As big or small as # of players


Tossed in air and kicked

Throws with hands.

Serves with hands

Held and kicked

Tossed in air and kicked

I am totally in awe of these players. I am tired just watching them. I want to watch more. But I know that I personally will not be playing any of these games soon -- even with lots of Thai massage.

September 6, 2008

The Art of Thai Massage

Some of you may know and others may not that (to date) I have gotten a massage in every country that I have visited. It's just what the doctor ordered ('course the doctor is me). It's one of those things I do for research purposes. You understand...
So what exactly is Thai massage and how does it differ from other forms of massage.
Setting the Stage
It's hot and humid in Bangkok. Really humid. I walk across a bridge to go shopping (about 1/2 mile away). I walk up and down stairs to take the sky train. I walk up and down stairs to cross the road via walk overs (The traffic literally will kill yeah in Bangkok). Needless to say a massage is just what you need to relax. As I cross over the bridge, I'm created by a handful of Thai women dressed in black pants and pink polo shirts waving signs. "Thai massage Madame?" The sign says only 180 baht body or foot massage. Next door, their competitors dressed in yellow shirts and black pants also wave signs, smile sweetly. One or two are eating some noodles. A couple sit on the bench, feet curled up under them. Pink is a favorite color in Thailand (More about colors in a later post) so I pick the shop with the pink topped workers.
I tell them I would like a Thai massage. "How long madame? " I pause only long enough to do the math. I hour equal $5.29. Two hours I say. "Sit, please sit." I sit on a wooden bench. One of the workers takes my shoes and socks off, placing them on the shoe rack. From behind the counter, a small boy peeks out. Many Thais I have noticed take their kids with them to work. The youngster comes out and grabs my hand then dashes over to the next bench and jumps off. Superman. I understood him. I understood him flying by as well.

The work whose name is Amp ( I later learn) comes back with a small plastic container of water. She places it down and washes my feet with a small brush. She dries them off and places some slippers on my feet. "Come. We go up now." It is my understanding that the feet are considered the unholiest part of the body. Therefore, they need to be clean before any work is done. It also makes sense because most people wear sandals, no socks and have smelly, dirty toes in Bangkok. Too darn hot for socks and boots (It's my third week here and I've now also dumped the support socks in favor of "air conditioned" legs.)

We travel up some treacherous steep stairs to the second floor. Futon-like Mattresses neatly line the floor. Red gingham checked curtains that can be pulled close are between the massage pads. I'm handed some bergundy-colored knee-lengh PJs to change into. Given my lack of flexibility, I awkwardly stand atop the matress and change clothes, removing jewelry, slippers etc. I lie down on the matress with my face buried in a pillow as I would in the U.S. Afterall, they'll start with the back ... Boy am I wrong
First difference
My masseuse tells me to turn over and lie on my back. I comply. The work begins as she tells me in broken English to let her know if "too hard or too soft." I wait for the lotion or oil to be applied. It isn't at any time. That's difference number 2. Thai massage focuses on manipulating the body, slowly and mindfully. There is no need to the hands to slide over the skin. Therefore, Thai massage needs no oil or lotion.

The massage begins with your feet because that is the beginning source of all energy entering and leaving the body. They kneed your feet, your legs. About half of the two hour massage I had focused only on the legs. Your legs are stretched and bent into what some people say are various yoga positions. Since I can't even bend and get on my knees to do most yoga positions, I was utterly amazed how they were able to move my legs in various positions.
The massuese uses his or her entire body in the process. Sometimes (she generic) would stand between my legs and put pressure on my legs, or where my hip sockets are. Other times elbows would be used. Sometimes my leg would cradled in her hands and she sat on the mat and worked on my leg. One then the other. She bent my leg at the knee and very slowly ever so slowly (they are taught to move slowly and thoughtfully) she bent the knee and leg outward to the ground. Another time across my body to stretch my back. Somtimes she would pull back on the leg. Other times push the sole of my foot to flex my ankles. What was amazing is that it really didn't hurt. Yes I knew she was there but it didn't hurt like physical therapy or exercising at the gym.
I think what suprised me most was just how tender my thigh muscles were. Normally, I have always blamed the tension and soreness on tight calf muscles. She found pressure points in my thighs that I never knew were sore at all. But they definitely were tender. It radiated down the leg.
Once the legs were done, arms were next. The same thoughtful, careful process. She bent in positions that I couldn't even think to bend in to work on my body. There was thumping as well and stretching. No heat, no oil, no creams.
Only then I turned over my back. But once again I was surprised. it was more stretching and pressure points and slow tracing of muscles down the back of my leg. Only a tiny portion of the time was devoted to my back. Very different than the traditional Swedish massage or even the Chinese massages I have had.
Eventually, she had me sit up as she slid behind me and cradled my head in her folder legs. "It's alright madame." She slowly moved the muscles in my neck. Because I could not see for sure, I believe she used her elbows and fore arms for some of the work. For such a small woman. Those hands had power! They traced down the middle of my back. Around my head. Pulse points by my ears. She used what I would equate to acupressure on my face, hitting the major sinus spots I am familar with as well as a few other tender points on the face. The massage ended with her flicking my hair and in a sense rubbing my head so that the hair made a crunchy sound in my ears. Much softer and gentler than the famous head massages I received in India which were more like head bonks!. This reminded me of being a kid in my mom's beauty shop where she would give me a scalp massage with hot oil. The difference was that no oil was used.
The only thing I would change about my massage was the room temperature. While a big towel was used to cover me, it did not keep me warm enough. My arm and hands closest to the air conditioner got very cold.
Many people say you are sore for a day after a Thai massage. This was not the case for me. I felt really good. Maybe too good because I wanted to take a nap. But it was good ... Oh so good. I frankly liked the Thai massage I received from the woman more than the man because it did not hurt. He moved my knees rapidly and they didn't want to move. Then again, perhaps by the time my female massage worked on me, I was bit looser. Afterall, I have been walking everywhere. But it was heaven.
I paid my 360 bahts. The dollar is now worth 34 bahts so the cost was $1. I have my massuese a 100 baht tip. Remember the minimum wage in Thailand is only 203 baht a day.
I plan to do a lot more research on Thail massage in the future.

Vandra in bliss

Extending and stretching the entire muscular system stimulate the local circular of the skin,

the connective tissue and muscles.

September 1, 2008

What do things cost

As I was planning for this trip, one of the things I considered was what do things cost and what would the "adventure" cost me. Everyone assured me that things would be a lot less expensive in Thailand so it would be no problem to live on my reduced budget. Or is it....

I'm staying at a very nice apartment hotel made for expatriates such as myself as well as some students from various countries. It's called the Evergreen place apartment. For my one bedroom apartment with a special discount for being affliatated with Chulalongkorn University I'm paying about $1,000 a month plus electricity (the cooling bill has not yet appeared). It's about 2700 baht or $80 a month for a computer hook up in the apartment. I could not do this if I had to go to the lobby, go to school or an internet cafe to use the computer. A team of cleaning women come each day (they come barefooted) and sweep the floors, make the bed, do the dishes. I have access to a gymnasium with an on-hand trainer, a laundry room. There is an on-sight restaurant which I used once but didn't like the hamburger so didn't go back.
A load of laundry neatly folded, stacked or put on hangers is about 375 baht or $11.
So far not so bad.

I take a taxi to school and the journey takes about 15 minutes even in early morning traffic. The cost is about 60 baht or $2. I come home by taking a hot pink "students" bus from the school to the Siam Center, a huge shopping complex about half a mile from my hotel apartment. It costs 2 baht. A real bargain.

Tonight I had a pizza delivered. The large size Hawaiian pizza with a thin crust, musrooms and a bun of garlic bread was 512 baht plus a tip. The size of the large pizza is about that of an American small pizza. I ordered it on line and it really was delivered to the hotel in less than 30 minutes. It comes complete with a about five squeeze packs of ketship but no grated cheese or hot peppers (I thought all food was hot here). So with tip it was about 580 baht or $17.50. Well, it's smaller than an American pizza, a little less expensive but they delivered. I can't get delivery where I live in Woodinville. Nor can I get cable television. Pizza tastes pretty good. The delivery company is The Pizza Company. Maybe next time I'll try the lasagna.

I've tried a donut or two or maybe three at dunkin donuts. I can a nice donut and a strawberry slush for 59 baht or $2. A nice snack on the way home for school. A Burger King double cheese burger with fries and a small drink is about 280 baht. So a little cheaper than a combo in the U.S.

My addiction to diet coke is a bit costly. And they don't have cherry diet coke. They do love coke zero which tastes funny here. A case of 4 six packs of cans costs me 350 baht or $11 at the little corner store by the hotel. I like going there because they are always so grateful for customers. I went to the 7 11 and they saw the bag in my hand and reminded me that they had the same cookies. Could I please buy from them? more convenient. So I have. We've made a deal that they will carry potato chips with ripples but not with the exotic flavors such as shrimp or onions and tomato. At home if I wait for the sales I can get a 12 pack for about $3.50 or $7 for a case. So we save in the U.S.

I can take the sky train to the end of the run and to the big Weekend market for a $1. Who needs a car, certainly not me. I'm walking a lot more here and hopefully losing some weight.
I can by a real Lesportsac bag for about $20 more than I pay at home. But a lovely related brand "lesport bag" that looks pretty much the same is only 180 baht or about $6.

Make-up is general more expensive here so if you come bring it from home. I figured out the prices on some make up I used. I have been using a Japanese brand called DHC which has some lovely olive oil that I like, great hand creams and nice makeup and night creams. So in the states, it is coming from Japan. Now I'm not a geographer but I think Thailand is closer to Japan than the U.S. But there is about 40% increase in the makeup. They did have a store at the mall but I didn't pay shipping in the U.S. So import costs must be higher here.

Now for the bargain:
Massage. I can get a one hour foot massage with a little back rub added at the end for only 180 baht. At the big discount mall the same treatment is twice is much at 360 baht. At a major hotel (I've checked out a couple, it goes up to around 1,000 baht or more. So the range is $6 to $30. I can get a Thai massage and they are wonderful at my corner massage store for 180 baht for an hour and 360 for two hours. You really need 2 hours for it to be done right. My store (yes I'm sounding like a local) has the gals and guys dressed in pink shirts. We'll talk about colors and how to dress in another posting. So for about $12 I can get all the kinks worked out. At home an hour massage is at least $60-$100. Now here I don't get a shower but I do get to wear special massage PJs for the Thai massage. Now this is living.

Silk. Thai is known for its silk products that are hand, rather than machine loomed. I got a beautiful hand made to fit hot pink silk short jacket for 4000 baht or $121. And a pocket for dog shoes. I also got a longer jacket with patchwork silk colors, two large pockets for about $150. I could have gotten a similar long jacket embroidered with Asian print for the same $121 I paid for the other jacket. All of these were negotiable. I decided to go to better shops because of the guarantee on tailoring and quality silk.

I am having two skirts, two sleeveless silk tops and skirts in hot pink and royal blue made at another shop for 7250 baht or $219. The skirts are long and flowing and hand tailored. I didn't have them made at the same shop as the jacket as they would have cost 100 more dollars.

Not always bargains
Tuk Tuk drivers are not always bargains. They seem to like the price of 50 baht to 100 baht. I'll take the cab with a meter and air conditioning unless I want a thrill ride or have lots of people to cram in the tuk tuk.

One thing that was harder to fine was someone to do acrylic nails. At home for a fill its about $20. and a pedigure is $18. But here it was close 2750 at a nailshop at the mall. I cared about quality and the use of sterile equipment so I found 20 Nail Studio at the Siam Paragon. Now the price somewhat shocked me because other personal services were so low. But I got a fill, two sets of the prettiest flowers hand painted on my nails. I think the flowers are growing. Tha nail artists are known for their expertise, a pedigree, a gel overlay. The nail artist took over 2 hours to paint my nails. Then the specialist painted the flowers in about four minutes. Truly lovely services and I'll go again but the sticker price was a little surprising.

So that's it from Bangkok. Vandra signing off