You see, rain in Thailand isn't exactly synonymous with earth calming, refreshing, clean or cooling like it is back home. Oh no. It is close friends with hot, humid, thickly muddy, sticky gassy fumes swelling up form boiling, sizzling earth. They run around in a thug gang together and get you all steamed up!
So when you feel like you can't breathe for all the moisture around you, (like the oxygen content in the air is being chocked by the water content, falling down in liquid torrent form, rising from the ground in thick gaseous form), and you start to grow jungle-rot heart-stoppingly close to your bits, you want electricity, and with it, AIRCON!
But, alas, when the power cuts out, you wallow around in your warm rashiness and wonder 'Why me?' as the cruel gods of electricity laugh down on your steaming soul.
Fortunately for us, it only lasted a week. And in that time, we spent our days going for massages to help detract from the humidity. The ladies in the spa got to know us well, and seemed to get a kick out of the fact that they had to bring me the mens (large) slippers every time.
I am 6 foot, and so, proportionally, have feet that are significantly bigger than most Thai ladies. Most ladies of any nationality, come to think of it. I'm a good solid size 8 (so as not to fall over) and when they brought out these teensy weensy little china doll slippers for me, my feet would only go in as far as the toes. So then, - EVERY - TIME, they would look at this, giggle apologetically (or mockingly?) and rush off to fetch me the mens slippers instead.
I didn't feel too bad though. Husband barely got his toes into the mens slippers either...so I guess in Thailand, we are just very big people. Needless to say, we spent a LOT of time washing our feet, as is the custom before entering a room, when your feet have been in immediate contact with the earth outside.
Amongst the massage ladies there was a lovely little thing called 'Tear'. The prettiest of the lot with the softest hands and nicest nurturing technique. I would hope and pray I get her each time we went, but only seemed to hit the jackpot 1 out of 3. The rest of the time, I would be taking my chances with the skin-burning, hair pulling, mozzie slapping, garlic burping ladies. You would be lying there, minding your own business, and suddenly a SLAP would make contact with your left thigh. Massage lady of the day (not Tear) obviously spotted a mozzie, and of course the only thing to do was splat it, right there and then, in the middle of your soothing, stroking session, right against your skin. Yeugh.
Then there were the burps. Loud and un-expected burps. Ones that smelled of all foods Thai (in other words, heavy garlic, chilly and loads of lemongrass) Husband and I would take turns holding our breath as our adjacent massage beds were circled and burped over periodically.
Then the hair pulling! I was quite surprised by this one. It was only one of the ladies who seemed to enjoy this technique, and every time I got her, my hair was pulled within an inch of it's roots! Usually at the end of the massage, when she was done with the rest of me and I was feeling pretty darn tenderized. Then the hair pulling would start. She would clamp on to small chunks of hair, yank outwards with a great big tug, and then with equal effort and speed, smack back in again, knocking her knuckles against my skull. Incase I didn't notice the hair pulling, I guess. Like 'Hello! Big-Foot Lady! I'm pulling your hair! Knock knock knock! (on skull) Anyone at home? Hellooooo!'
But the most 'unique' of all, had to be the skin-burning. Either with coal heated bags of spice called Thai Herbal Balls, or with herb mud-packs, boiled to a nice volcanic paste - then spread up and down your spine where it can simmer and burn to its hearts content! And as soon as it had cooled down and you lie there thanking your lucky Buddha that even in this humidity and heat, things can cool down, THEN they would press boiled stones against it till the molten heat rises again.
Kind of like someone is standing there ironing your back.
Poor Husband got the worst of this, because on one particular occasion, he was sunburned. That didn't stop the massage ladies! No, they were DEDICATED. They applied heated elements to his pink back, sizzling and singeing, and he told me afterwards that the most relaxing part of that massage, the very BEST part, was the moment that he realized it was all over!
Having said all that, the massages were still wonderful (mostly) and being rubbed up and down in those little jungle huts, surrounded by butterflies, squeeky-toy sounding birds, frogs and exotic flowers was a memorable experience I would do over and over and over again! And the massage ladies were all really sweet. In fact, all thai women seem to be very sweet. We only ever came into contact with one grumpy thai lady, and I suspect that she may have been an import.
We also only ever came into contact with one 'manly' thai man. Maybe it's just a limited observation based on my short 3 week stay, so forgive my ignorance if I am wrong in saying this, but most Thai men are, well, girly! I watched them in astonishment, one after the other, wondering where all the testosterone went? No matter what their age, it simply isn't there.
Though scruffy at times, thai boys seem to start off in their youth as girlishly-boyish, then become skinny, androgynous adolescents. As young men they could pass for any eastern supermodel female type with perfect skin, especially when their hair is grown long and silky, all the way down their backs. Then they seem to bypass middle age completely and become gap-toothed, decayed and old-man narky. I was very confused, but do have a better grasp of the reasons behind the ladyboy sex trade Thailand is so famous for now. I mean it had to happen right? Looking like that, they had no choice!
|Photograph by Randy Magnus|
I had to keep reminding myself, however, while passing yet another drop-dead-gorgeous specimen, that they were in fact men, and that Husband was not staring at them for any other reason than the same reasons as me.
But I was happy to get home, where my competition is all within my own gender. Because competing against men who don't have those pesky cellulite molecules in their body, well, that just isn't fair!
(For more pics of these ladyboys, see The Katoeys of Nana Entertainment Plaza, by Randy Magnus photographer)