I realised today that tomorrow I will have been on Koh Phangan for a week; I almost feel like a local. It’s the quiet season at the moment, and hence the island has a very mellow feeling and most of the people who I’m meeting live here permanently (or as permanently as some of the more nomadic are able, at least). There’s a very friendly, community feel here, and I have been welcomed into a large circle of friends, who I’ve met through the diving. It’s a nice feeling to know my way around town, and receive waves from familiar faces whilst I’m out and about, as they fly past on their scooters.
Everyone seems to say how the island’s sleepy magic sucks you in, such that days become weeks, become years. It’s happened to me already – I only meant to pass through for my diving course, but I’ve found I’ve ground to a halt and will be here until my last couple of days in Thailand – ten days in total, and they’re whizzing by very happily indeed.
I’m now living an idyllic existence in a lovely bungalow, which is a dramatic upgrade from the previous ramshackle shed. This one has a kitchen, bathroom with hot shower, air conditioning, balcony overlooking a lake and is in a lovely, peaceful part of town, in the grounds of the healing centre where my massage course is based. But no entertaining dogs in residence on my veranda this time – swings and roundabouts…
I’m in one of these bungalows around the lake. Note the caged bird in the foreground – thais have a serious obsession with keeping these as pets. Most houses, even the most humble, seem to have them hanging off the corners.
My daily routine is built around two hours of intensive massage training in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, plus a yoga class in the evening, which is based at the centre too. In between I chill out on my balcony, wander around town sourcing new foodie delights, meet up with new friends at the night market and, as my travels are drawing to a close, I’m also now on the look-out for suitable souvenirs and gifts for folks back home. All in all a lovely existence to end my travels on, with plenty of time for contemplation about how far I’ve come in four months, and not just geographically.
The massage course is excellent; I’m really enjoying it. As my sisters and friends will vouch for, I enjoy massaging people, and have been thinking for a while that it’s something I’d like to learn properly. I also think it goes well with teaching yoga, if this is the direction I’m heading in. Plus, I LOVE being massaged myself, so it feels right to give something back. My teacher (it’s only me on the course) is a lively, feisty, energetic thai lady called Jaeb. Unlike most thais, she speaks very good English (although still pronounces ‘l’s and ‘r’s the wrong way round, which can be confusing) and is a very thorough and knowledgeable teacher.
Thai massage is very different from the standard massage you receive in the UK – there’s a lot of stretching of muscles, and applying pressure along energy lines in the body. I’ve learnt that the technique is over two thousand years old and is a combination of Indian ayuverdic massage and and Chinese healing techniques. It involves a lot of manhandling the customer, and applying significant pressure to the muscles. I soon learnt that it’s important to use my body weight appropriately to apply pressure otherwise I’d be too knackered to complete the whole sequence. However, this is the same with yoga adjustments, so I think I’ve cottoned on to the technique fairly quickly. I’m also becoming more confident about applying enough pressure. Jaep likes me to practise on different bodies, and today I had the tiny, wizened old thai lady who makes noodle soup at the end of our road. I was scared to lean all my weight on her but Jaep kept shouting ‘More!’ at me, and then the old woman joined in too, with great animation, so I got the message.
My ‘classroom’, on the upper floor of the beautiful bamboo and teak healing centre building – thai massage is carried out fully dressed (although you are often given a comedy outfit to wear – see my previous entry from Chiang Mai, ‘Temples and tuk tuks’, for an example) and you lie on a mat like this one. I will try to get a photo of either myself or Jaeb in action, so you can get the idea.
Anyway, I am feeling very happy and content. I have a feeling I could quite easily let the days flow into years here… However, although I don’t feel anywhere near ready to cease my travelling existence (would I ever, I wonder?!) I am VERY excited about seeing dearly-loved and dearly-missed family and friends SOON!
Happy Becky. I just took this photo as I sit here, chilling on my balcony, writing my blog (duh) and listening to some very mellow tunes (thank you SO much, Jezz, for letting me raid your music collection before I left – Jonsi and Boniver have been most appropriate of late… :)).