As the end of my sometimes stressful trip is approaching, I’m starting to find it more and more appropriate to indulge myself in some of life’s pleasures, particularly the ones that are cheap in Thailand. No, not that.
My Russian host told me about the saunas in Russia, a place often visited on a weekly basis. I’d never even been to a sauna. He told me that, in the countryside and smaller towns of Russia, people sit in the sauna’s heat and, after working up a sweat, throw their naked bodies into the snow before coming back into the heat. It sounded crazy enough that I had to try it. Unfortunately, it is apparently too hot for snow in Bangkok. He took me to the next best thing: a sauna with a cold pool. I’m not a sauna expert, but I’d never heard of this.
The pool room that was full of large-bellied Thais, and there we were: two skinny white guys. Nic had to show me the ropes because I don’t know sauna etiquette. We went into the sauna and just sat there. My first impression was that it was really hot. It was like a sauna in there. After a few minutes, I was wiping pools of sweat off my body. It felt like sitting in a humid oven. After a while it was uncomfortable, and I asked myself what the hell the point in this was. Wasn’t it hot enough outside?
To my relief, Nic finally stood up and walked out the door. I followed him like a confused puppy. He jumped into the pool so I followed him in. Ohhhh mama was it cold. It felt like jumping into a pool of ice. I got out of there in a hurry, even more confused as to what the point of all this was. We repeated the process several times, with a little exercise in between. I don’t know how it happened but, somewhere along the line, I started to enjoy it. We headed out past the fishbowl of girls and left feeling refreshed. I’m looking forward to revisiting.
My last night in Bangkok, I went to get a massage with a new friend (Nate Dog) and my new Texan host named Nana (how cool is that name?). I was advised to get an hour massage, and so I did. I ordered the Thai massage because, well, I was in Thailand. Besides, the oil massage sounded like it might be a little oily, a point that didn’t phase Nate Dog. We changed our clothes and laid down on neighboring mats.
I was waiting for my masseuse while Nate’s had already started rubbing oil all over his half-naked body. It actually looked pretty relaxing and I was starting to wish I’d gotten that one. At that point, my masseuse came in and commenced a very deep and painful massage. She tortured me and I had to bite my lip through the whole thing. She then started twisting and folding up my body like a big hairy pretzel. I think she wanted to make me into the smallest package possible, maybe to roll me into a ball to kick around, or to stuff me into a hat box. I’m not sure which one. At one point she asked me if it hurt and, for some ridiculous reason, I said no. Maybe I didn’t want to feel like a sissy in front of this tiny girl, or maybe I was just too scared of her to say anything else. It definitely hurt, though. Hurt like H-E-double-hockey-sticks. I looked over at Nate to find that he had fallen asleep during his massage, the bastard. My masseuse finished beating the hell out of me, then I said thanks and gave her money before limping out.
The spa was crazy though somehow enjoyable, but my poor body must be too fragile for the likes of that tiny Thai woman.
I stayed in Bangkok way longer than I’d planned, and I blame that on the many amazing couchsurfers I met along the way. Among them are:
Nic, the Russian fruit vacuum who eats at the same restaurant under a bridge every night and treks insane non-paths around the world.
Nana, the 25-year-old first time host who had just managed a university business school in Laos for two years and welcomed three of us into her lovely home, gave us a key, and showed us a great time.
Alex, the Russian travel writer and photographer whose freelance work is funding his extended trip through Papua new Guinea, where he’s already contracted malaria three times but won’t be stopped.
H, the stripping New Orleanian with a thousand stories who has lived all over the country and actually made me want to revisit New Orleans.
Her friend James, the awesome and nerdy-in-a-cool-way Librarian taking a year off work to take a year long trip around SE Asia.
Nate Dog, an overseas English teacher and photographer who James met on the plane, on the start of his year-long trip.
Plus many others at the meetings and the occasional stranger on the street. It’s been fun. Next stop, Guangzhou.
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