Travel Diary: Chiang Mai

It’s 36 degrees, I’m covered in a layer of sweat and as I walk down the small laneway leading back to our hotel I am certain there are people wondering why I’m covered in oil and looking particularly awkward. There’s a damn good explanation for it, I’ll have you know.

After a delicious breakfast at our favourite little cafe, Matt and I decided to treat ourselves to a full body massage. We walked in full of hope, our minds running through visions of relaxation, bliss and nirvana…. which is exactly the opposite of what happened.

The massage parlour’s wonderful masseuse ladies have taken their lunch break, leaving behind the only two men who work there. The shop manager kindly asks me if I mind a boy massaging me. I feel too awkward to say no because I worry if I do, it’ll be a sexist act towards this friendly looking fellow, who probably gives a wonderful massage! So, I nod and smile, “Yes… a boy is fine.” Matt is snickering at me. Don’t worry, his giggles will soon fade.

Chiang Mai Street

I’ve opted for a full body aromatherapy oil massage, while Matt has chosen a full body Thai massage. If you don’t know what they are, a Thai Massage involves pushing and stimulating your muscles and also bending, flexing and contorting your body to stretch it out. In short, full-frontal nudity is not appropriate for this particular brand of rub down. So they supply you with loose fitting traditional Thai clothing to wear.

We walk into the full-body massage area, sectioned off with curtains. I’m given my 2-thread-count sarong and Matt is given a bright pink floral ensemble to wear. It is now me who is snickering.

“I don’t know what to do here,” I say to Matt, “I wore a g-string today. I got this wrong. What do I do? This guy is definitely going to see my massive butt.” Matt smiles, clearly entertained by my discomfort, “Definitely leave it on. Good luck,” and with that he shimmies into his pink hibiscus shirt and pants and promptly lays down on the bed.

I gingerly remove my shorts, singlet-top and bra, shield as much of my big, white bootay as possible using the world’s flimsiest sarong and lay face-down on the massage bed, trying to deep-breathe myself into a state of relaxation. “This dude is a professional… just relax. He’s seen loads of fat white chicks before,” I tell myself.

Before I know it, he’s on me. The tables are low-set and if the Thai know one thing, it’s that to give someone a really good massage you have to be on and around them at all times. They’re right, it is good, but I’m the most awkward person alive and I’m all too aware that because I’m wearing a g-string, the flimsy sarong is definitely sitting in my butt crack and this poor man is being subjected to a very intimate look at the vast, white expanse of my beluga-whale body.

It is at this precise moment that I resolve to do as many lunges and squats as humanly possible every day for the rest of my life.

I feel awkward and I can tell that the guy massaging me feels awkward too. How can he not? I’m twice his size, I’m oiled up like a spring roll and my husband is less than a metre away wearing an all-pink floral outfit, with a delightful Thai man crawling over him, bending his body into a human pretzel. It’s like the world’s weirdest cirque-de-soleil orgy is unfolding before the four of us and we all have to go through with it. What the actual hell is going on!? How do I get myself into these situations?

Exploring Chiang Mai

The quality of the massage doesn’t matter at this point. I’m way too awkward to even feel what’s going on anymore. There’s a LOT of information and questions running through my mind at the moment, things like, ‘Why didn’t I shave my legs?’ ‘Why didn’t I wear full-brief underwear?’ ‘How much cellulite is this dude used to seeing?’ ‘Is my butt going to be the subject of conversation at his home tonight?… is he going to go home to his wife and be like, “Oh honey, I had the worst day, I pretty much had to massage 70 kilos of greasy pork belly and it was so bad that I need counselling and I think I’m going to quit my job and be a silent monk forever in the hope I can one day recover from this ghastly event.”

I am paralysed. By the time it’s over I have a sore neck from tensing the entire time. I scurry back to our hotel with Matt in tow and get into the shower immediately to wash off the oil and my shame. “Let’s forget this ever happened,” says Matt, “The four of us just need to forget this ever happened and you and I need to try again tomorrow. We’ll find a nice little place with some girls giving massages and we’ll go there and we’ll just never speak of this again.”

Alright, so aside from that little event, our time in Chiang Mai has been absolutely amazing. Last night we visited the local cabaret, which is performed by locals from the transgender community. I understand it isn’t offensive to refer to the performers as Lady Boy’s so, I’m going to use that term safe in the knowledge it isn’t derogatory. In fact, rather than hiding their gender transition, they’re proud of it and flaunt it openly and confidently!

The Lady Boy Cabaret is freaking amazing! The girls and boys dress up to the absolute nines and dance and sing their hearts out. I spent the entire time bopping in my seat with a HUGE smile plastered across my face. It was honestly one of the best things I’ve ever done and if you ever come to Chiang Mai, it’s a must-do.

We’ve been eating a LOT of delicious Thai food too. I love that the Thai people understand the importance of fresh, healthy meals. From big fresh fruit platters with locally sourced honey and homemade yoghurt to big bowls of noodles and curry with chunky vegetables and fragrant herbs, we have been stuffing ourselves with good food.

We were also very fortunate to be able to spend a day zip lining through the Thai jungle thanks to the awesome and generous team at Flight of the Gibbon. I felt like a little kid, whizzing through the air, climbing up rope ladders, abseiling down massive fig trees and laughing and smiling the whole day. I’m doing a review of the entire day, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Chiang Mai at night

Coming here has been like a mid-holiday detox! I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes when I travel I start to feel a bit off-kilter. It’s like you leave little pieces of yourself in all the places you visit and feel a bit scattered and ungrounded. Being in Chiang Mai has been so soothing and relaxing, it’s been a slow, relaxed pace and given us some down time to just sink into relaxation mode and replenish.

Today we are off to Bangkok! It’s a short 1 1/2 hour-ish flight and it’s going to be a snap back into the busy life of a big city. Tomorrow I meet up with some other bloggers from around the world and on Wednesday we’re all going to be doing some fun stuff in Bangkok to celebrate Air Asia’s Blogger Community. It’s my first time attending something like this and I get social anxiety meeting new people, so it could be awkward as all heck. Wish me luck 🙂


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12 Comments on Travel Diary: Chiang Mai

  1. I really liked your post. Chiang Mai is such a great place to visit. I stayed at the Yaang Come Village hotel which is near the night bazaar and that was a really nice place.

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  2. Great blog and article. I had a lotnof laugh reading about massage! 🙂

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  3. Lazzy Man // May 15, 2016 at 6:03 am // Reply

    Hi Phoebe! Whay you think? Where can rent good scooter in Chiang Mai? Thai Moto Rent good company or not? mr. Mechanic good or not?

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  4. oliverkenxyz // March 23, 2016 at 2:38 am // Reply

    Chiang Mai is unsurprisingly, for the top of each of our list when we finally make it to Okazaki, japan together (I was in Thailand on my individual last season, but didn’t acquire to the north-west). Searching forward to it!

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  5. Gayle Stone // June 23, 2015 at 5:44 pm // Reply

    Hi , am heading off to Chiang Mai in August and just wondering if you can recommend any nice places to stay there. At this stage looks like we will be there for 4 nights. Your thoughts would be most appreciated. Cheers Gayle.

    PS. Love your posts

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    • Thanks so much Gayle! It depends on budget and the kind of holiday you’re after. For a low-cost spot that’s comfortable and in a quiet spot with lots of great places to eat, Yindee Stylish Guesthouse (where we stayed) is a good option and is close walk to the Sunday markets. If you’re after something with a pool and more of a resort, I would look to stay near the river 🙂

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      • Gayle Stone // June 24, 2015 at 6:14 pm // Reply

        Hi Phoebe, thanks for that. We have actually chosen a place called Bodhi Serene, which is inside the old town. We were only meant to be be staying for 3 nights (which I did not think was enough) but our flight from Singapore to Chiang Mai was cancelled and changed to the day before, so am looking at it as a stroke of luck as we are now staying for 4 nights. Have heard good reports of Chiang Mai, so really looking forward to it. We are also visiting, Bangkok, Penang, Langkawi, KL and back to Singapore. 2 x internal flights and 3 x train trips, (one from Bangkok to Butterworth). So am looking forward to our Asia trip for sure.

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        • Your trip sounds wonderful, Gayle! I agree, 3 nights in Chiang Mai would have been a bit too fast. I hope you are there on a Sunday for the huge street market in the middle of the city. My favourite place to eat was called Nice Kitchen 15/1 Moonmuang Road, Soi 6 Sriphoom District. Really delicious, fresh, healthy food. Definitely recommend it 🙂

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          • Gayle Stone // June 25, 2015 at 5:28 pm // Reply

            Hi Phoebe, thanks for your recommendation, will definitely be trying the Nice Kitchen for sure. Have just read your other suggestions on your blog and will try and cram as many of them in as we have in our 4 nights there. Cheers

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  6. seasandromance // June 10, 2015 at 9:37 pm // Reply

    This was wonderful to read! Your travels sound incredible! Xx

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