As we visit each new country, one goal we have is to challenge ourselves with a mental task (like language acquisition) as well as a physical skill developed by that culture. The inspiration for this came from Tim Ferris
, one of our favorite lifestyle design authors. We see this type of challenge as the perfect way to continue to grow while traveling. It can be easy to become a passive observer of a culture as one travels - just consuming, observing, and judging, as is typical for our minds. But to challenge oneself to immerse in that culture and learn a few of its contributions to the pool of human knowledge is a perfect way to stay physically and mentally sharp. Whether at home or traveling abroad, it seems crucial that everyone find their own "stagnation stoppers" to keep life interesting and to fight off the sleepy malaise that can so easily take hold of body and mind.
Neda practicing her vegetable carving - another Thai skill she is picking up...
For the major physical skill here in Thailand, we are doing a month long Thai massage training. We got interested in Thai massage during our wonderful yoga teacher training at Dharma Yoga
, where one of our guiding teachers, Camilla Figueroa
introduced us to the basics of the practice and philosophy. So what is Thai Massage? I like the description of massage therapist Nephyr Jacobsen
, who says:
"I've done deep-tissue Swedish massage for 17 years. I mean really deep; no fluff-and-buff stuff here. But it doesn't come close to Thai massage, and nothing I've seen does. It's yoga and Rolfing and acupressure and tapotment and chiropractic and reiki and deep compression work and myofacial release and hydrotherapy with herbs and the power of spirit, all rolled into one."
We spent a few days in Chiang Mai researching the different schools and found an amazing teacher that learned Traditional Thai medicine and massage from her grandparents. These techniques were passed down for generations in her family. She has since been certified as a Doctor of Traditional Thai Medicine and Thai Massage, but still cherishes the oral and tactile lineage by which she learned. Her estate is about 9 km from Chiang Mai - check out the site
here. We are staying in house #4
– isn’t it beautiful?
Wat Chedi Luang
As for our time in Chiang Mai, we found it to be a city full of growth - for good and ill. On the positive side the city has seen many ex-pats settle within its old walls, leading to a fascinating mix of people. One fellow we met was good friends with Glen Campbell back in the day and drove Merle Haggard to Capital Records to cut his first single! The city is also full of the wonderful temple architecture of the Lanna Kingdom, of which it was once the capital. On the negative side, Chiang Mai seems like it is bursting its britches a bit, with lots of traffic and poor air quality unfitting of such a beautiful mountain location.
Wat Doi Suthep
Like our massage training, which is located 9km south of Chiang Mai, we found that many of our favorite parts of Chiang Mai lie just outside of it. Wat Doi Suthep is a beautiful temple on the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai and the San Kamphaeng Hot Springs and Muang On Caves were great Thai tourist attractions to visit with the locals! At San Kamphaeng we were able to boil quail and chicken eggs in the sulfuric waters, making for a delicious breakfast! We also spent Valentine's Day here and had a really special Thai dinner - Khantoke, where a small tray of several different dishes is served with rice and a whole bowl of fresh herbs! For all the pictures, see this link: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjyNZ2En
San Kamphaeng Hot Springs - measuring 105 degree Celsius
A giant stalagmite in Muang Cave
Our massage training starts tomorrow and with it comes some stability for the next month. In the meantime, we had a wonderful visit to the mountain towns of Pai and Suppon while we waited for the training to start, so we'll post a blog on those experiences in the days to come.