By this point, we had been travelling for over fifty days. I quit my job almost a month before that. Time had become somewhat meandering for me and only my smart watch knew what day it was.
Regardless, this was a chill out day. We had many of them planned throughout the trip, but this one was particularly special. It’s been a whole year since I fractured my L2 vertebrae and we utilised ‘Klook’ to book a spa day. I hadn’t had a massage since, even though I’m confident I healed fully after two months rest, I have maintained an element of caution since. I even highlighted my lower back as a caution spot on the form, citing that whilst it should be fine, diligence would be appreciated. Our treatment consisted of a 2.5 hour Thai aromatherapy massage. I’d had massages in Asia before but they were mostly Balinese. This was different, very different.
It started with a foot wash followed by a shower – They washed our feet, we showered ourselves. We then had ten minutes in a steam room. A five minute break for water followed by ten more minutes in the steam. Fortunately, I was given a towel to cover my face, making it easier to breathe when it got too much. Another five minute break and more water before we were sent back in. This time only for 5 minutes as we were pink and sweating from every pore. I think they just took pity on us. We showered a second time them donned some nifty pyjamas and took up position on the beds. I was then made to stand back up as I had my pyjamas on wrong. Being redressed by a woman clearly younger than you is only mildly humiliating. You only get the full humiliation when it’s done in full view of your wife.
Thai massages, if you have never had one, are completely f@#king brutal. They kneed you, contort you, and crack your bones as they go. I found some of it outright painful. This tiny woman was trying her hardest to tear my calf muscles from the bone. The most unnerving part was when she pulled on my toes. They each made several distinct cracks and pops on my right foot and all four people in the room laughed loudly. Either at the disconcerting noises my poor toes made, or the pathetic whimper that I did. Probably both. I wasn’t sure if it hurt, felt good or something entirely new.
Once the cracking, hammering and general ‘pretzilising’ of my body had finished, my masseuse stripped me off and got to work with the oils. My body finally relaxed and received the reward it sought after our long journeys on planes, trains and automobiles.
I got showered and dressed and headed out for my complimentary tea and rice cracker. The tea was ginger and quite spicy which, excuse the expression, is not my cup of tea. Instead, I visited the onsite coffee shop for a latte and a warm chocolate brownie. H is treating herself to a facial, so I decided to treat myself too whilst she is distracted.
Once we were reunited and H had eaten her complimentary mango sticky rice, we were chauffeured back to our hotel. If you’ve never had it, mango sticky rice is a desert. It is exactly what it sounds like. The rice is really sticky and covered in a coconut sauce, served with half or a whole mango depending on how much you’re paying. It’s hugely popular in this part of the world, especially with tourists.
That afternoon we went to the local post office for stamps to send postcards home. Hungry, we went to a Mexican restaurant for fajitas. Whilst we enjoy Asian food, we both have an odd fascination with trying different foreign foods in the countries we visit. We had Chinese food and Italian food in Japan, Japanese food in Mexico, Mexican food in Mongolia, Italian food and Japanese food in America. The list goes on but is apparently limited to several cuisines. It has lead to some classic meals such as the mashed potato and pepperoni pizza incident in Mexico City.
The fajitas were good but the wind picked up as we ate. The weather was visibly turning and the skies grew overcast and grey. You know it’s bad when the staff start taking down the lantern decorations that are up in advance of the festival next week.
We shot across the street to a Boots Pharmacy and the rain was falling by the time we emerged. It was the first time I had ventured out in flip flops; I’m precious about my feet. It turns out that rain makes them death traps. They lose all grip on both sides rendering them useless. I proceeded carefully but the rain got consistently heavier. Having tried to wait out storms in Asia before, we both knew it to be a fools errand and conceded that we were going to get wet. To limit the possibilities for damage we put our phones and my wallet in H’s bag, whilst not especially waterproof it would offer better protection than my shorts. I had to go barefoot for the five minute walk to our hotel. It wasn’t too bad as we hurried from cover to cover, puddle to puddle. It was liberating. I recently read an article claiming we should all spend more time barefoot. It helps develop muscles that aid balance, keeps your feet aired out and healthy and helps to ground you to the Earth, creating a path for energy to flow. Fortunately it was still warm enough to not worry about them getting cold.
We were comparable to drowned rats by the time we arrived at Hugnur Hotel – it looks like a spelling mistake but that’s what it was called – and strip off for the fourth shower of the day.
Once the rain stopped we headed back towards the night market for a cheap eat and some road snacks; the next day would see us cross the border into Laos and embark upon country number five. We could only hope our clothes would dry first dry first.