The afternoon before I had been lost in Chiang Mai, stumbling over a rock on a dusty pavement as I looked skywards for a street sign, my feet already blistered from walking so far. I’d been advised before leaving for my trip not to appear lost, even if I was, as this would make me easy prey. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible, and since I’d booked to have a full body Thai massage a couple of hours beforehand and I was already running 30 minutes late, I hailed an oncoming songthaew.
[Songthaews are red, open-aired vans that act like buses in Chiang Mai, though like a taxi (or tuk-tuk), there is no set route (or stops for that matter). The driver will either give you a firm “no” or “OK” if your destination is in his direction; of course, like anything, offer enough money and you’ll get to where you want to be.]
Several jolts and car horns later, he knocked onto the plastic screen between us to grab my attention, but peering out of the open-aired van, I couldn’t see any massage palour – he was lost too. Luckily I recognised a street sign and knew that it was close, so I paid him the full 20 baht anyway (about 38 pence) and got out my map.
I slip off my shoes before entering Lila Thai Massage (a palour ran by female ex-prisioners and one of many in Chiang Mai), and apologise for my lateness. She says not to worry and asks for my ticket (I’d left a deposit of 100 baht earlier in the day), but rummaging around in my bag – filled with restaurant receipts, worn, folded maps, sun lotion, my notepad, camera, purse and torch (which has saved me several times whilst travelling, especially in Luang Prabang during a power cut!) – I couldn’t find it. I remember showing the ticket to my songthaew driver so it must’ve slipped out of my hands only moments earlier. Fortunately, she remembers me and kindly tells me to take a seat.
[I wasn’t going to write about the massage in this post, but seeing as I’ve got this far…]
Lila Thai Massage in Chiang Mai
In front of me there’s what I can only really describe as a foot sink (perhaps there’s a proper name for this, but I don’t know it). A lady -an ex-inmate lady, I remind myself – kneels down in front of me and gestures for me to take off my shoes. My feet are sore from the walk, and I have two plasters on my heels which have accumulated dirt around the edges; slowly, I peel them away, one after the other, revealing a brand new, pearly white blister (beautiful!) on my right foot, and she gives me a sympathic look.
Gently, careful to avoid my blister, she washes my feet, and the cool water against my hot, swollen skin is instantly therapeutic. Afterwards I am handed a pair of woven slippers and directed through to the back, where I’m given clothing to change into.
We go into a darkened, aromatic room. It takes my vision a second to adjust, but there are rows of beds with curtains in-between, and she tells me to lie down. I may not be able to see other customers, but I can certainly hear them. A woman beside me is snoring loudly as her masseuse goes through the motions; this tickles me, but I contain myself. This is all new to me. To my right side, further along the line of beds, a man is also very audible; he seems to want it harder, and his groans sound almost painful, but evidently pleasurable also. I am suddenly thankful for the curtains.
I won’t go into my massage in much detail, but I had a foot, leg, back, shoulder, arm and hand massage, the most surprising bit of which was when she sat behind me and got me me to sway to the left and then to the right, making my back crack in multiple places – a first for me, but strangely enjoyable. My masseuse was very observant, noticing every one of my many bruises (don’t ask how they got there) and every mosquito bite, before dabbing on some cream and putting a new plaster onto my heel. She commented that my blonde hair was “very beautiful” and that I was “so tall”. I also learnt that my toes and the tops of my thighs are more sensitive than I thought. The massage was two hours in total, and after feeling worked up beforehand, I felt so much more relaxed, even though it was now dark outside and I still had to find my way back!
Earlier in the day I’d been to the Writer’s Club & Wine Bar for lunch as I’d read good reviews, but I left feeling disappointed. Still, I knew that it wasn’t far and I wasn’t in the mood for searching for another place, so I’d planned to go back before heading back to my hotel. On the way, I pass a restaurant with live jazz music playing; it is perfect. I order one, then two wines, and scoff some chips (it’s past ten o’clock when I arrive and they’ve stopped serving food, but they agree to chips and I don’t mind as, at this point, I haven’t had any western food in over a week).
[Actually, that’s a lie – I had a Burger King in Bangkok one night!]
In the morning, I have a day trip booked to see Wat Rong Khun, better known as the White Temple, in Chiang Rai, the most northern province in Thailand…
The Morning After (Chiang Rai Day Trip)
Keep reading here to find out about my day trip to Wat Rong Khun (also known as the White Temple) in Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle.