This past April, I had the privilege to study Traditional Thai massage in Thailand with a wonderful teacher, Homprang. She and her husband Christopher own and run the beautiful Baan Hom Samunphra retreat center just outside Chiang Mai, Thailand. For ten days, I practiced, stretched, breathed, and was moved around alongside six others from 5 other countries. This intimate class size in a beautiful setting was fantastic! It was hard work though; class was six hours per day and sometimes we continued practicing later after dinner. Homprang’s strict teaching style and the intensive hours paid off–I learned a lot! Here are some pictures taken by the fabulous Justine Webster, my dear friend and travel partner for my six weeks while away. I’m thrilled to be back and share my new skills. My clients seem to be enjoying it too 🙂
I know you’re probably hoping for a picture of some beach time, thai massage or interesting temples at this point, but you’re going to have to wait on those. I’ve been delighting in Art Deco. What a peculiar thing to find in Southeast Asia, you might say. Well, I thought the same until I decided to look up what the heck Art Deco is all about. Then it made perfect sense, at least for Cambodia. The French colonized Cambodia around 1864. In the 1953 Cambodia gained its independence. The expansive and breathtaking Angkor Wat was tackled in the 9th to 13th centuries; It was time for Khmer Architecture to make another statement. Between the 1950’s and 1970’s Cambodia sought new ways to express itself as a modern, progressive nation. A distinct ‘movement’ developed, now referred to by some as ‘New Khmer’ Architecture. It was innovative in that it combined old styles of French Colonial and Chinese architecture with new international trends such as Art Deco. The result is a beautiful mishmash of bold and refined, sharp and romantic. I’ve been musing over it for weeks.
Khmer Architecture Tours is a firm based out of Phnom Penh offers a free map of a walking tour which showcases the best examples of the mixture of French Colonial and Art Deco buildings in both Phnom Penh and Battambang. Since free and walking are two things Justine and I both love, we were hot on these trails. I’ve never had such a strong reaction to architecture as I have walking around Cambodia. The way buildings have been cut up, cut out, reshaped, or replaced can ultimately tell a great story about a city’s history, including who was there and what they liked.
I found myself really drawn to the geometric shapes and bright colors that make up walls and doors all around Cambodia and Thailand. They are everywhere! Photographing them has become a secret side obsession. Now I’ll let you in on it.
In these pictures you will see glimpses of French style balconies and Art Deco delights like geometric shapes and bright colors, some windows and doors, some fruit, and people. These are mostly from walks in Phnom Penh and Battambang, but the search for geometric shapes continued in Chiang Mai, Mae Sariang and Bangkok. Try to pick out my one shot of Bangkok!
Click here for my Walking Tours Photo Album
Yesterday, Justine and I have arrived to Mae Sariang, a sleepy little mountain town in northern Thailand. It feels so peaceful up here. Last night I slept 12 hours. There has been a lot packed into the last couple weeks. This feels like a chance to process it all. This last weekend marked the Thai, Cambodian, and Laos New Year, a water festival called Songkran. If you’ve been in it, you know it is something worth experiencing. As our friend Cara from San Fransisco who we met up with yesterday, said, “This puts a San Franscisco street party to shame.”
I wasn’t bold enough to venture out with my camera during this city-wide water fight, but I’ll try to depict the chaotic bliss in words. In the city of Chiang Mai, there is a moat surrounding the Old Town. People largely use this sunbaked moat water to throw on each other all day from around 11 until 6 for three days. On the 13th around 11am when things were just getting going, Justine and I found ourselves in a tuk-tuk unarmed and very bewildered as people started dousing us with water. We had all our valuables including a kindle and a couple cameras, so we quickly sought the refuge of our guesthouse where we dried out our things. That day was mostly a wash. The next day, the 14th, we felt more rejuvenated and ready to go. We bought some pink buckets and started walking the perimeter of Old Town along the moat. It felt like more than half the city had come out to play. Everybody was walking around as wet as a drenched rat and carrying a super soaker or a bucket. There were several stages with live music, and hoards of food vendors were out, but mostly the attractions were empyting our buckets on these happy Thai people and refilling our buckets from their troughs of water. After a couple hours of being hosed, we went back to the hotel to clean out our ears and dry out our clothes again. When we met up with Cara a little later, we were clean and dry and ready to eat. We walked away from the main party scene, but still got doused. As the day wore on and the sun started descending though, there was a sweeter nature to the washing. It turned from dousing to splashing. The point of all this washing of course has a backstory worth sharing. And of course like everything in life, things are a lot more enjoyable when you care to learn another perspective. Traditionally, Songkran was a quiet festival of house cleaning, resolutions, and temple festivities. The city’s temple’s primary Buddha was ceremoniously bathed. Afterward, water might be sprinkled on the hands of elderly family members or playfully splashed on friends in a way of wishing them good luck. The cleansing powers of water also always felt good during the hottest time of the year. As a huge fan of hydrotherapy, I am so glad I got to experience it Thai style.
Anyway, yesterday the third day of the festival, we decided to hit the high road for the mountains. Of course it wasn’t that easy to escape getting wet. The smaller town of Mae Sariang had their own party going on when we arrived, and again we succumbed to more water fights as we explored the town last night looking for a cold drink. We had left our pink buckets back in Chiang Mai so this time our only defense was to say “Kop koon ka” (Thank you very much-i think) and let them bathe us with water. This time I just I found that offering my shoulder up and letting the healing power of water renew my fiery skin was pretty renewing. There was a town parade with more live music and dancing in the streets. Today it is quiet, though and tomorrow we will take a guided tour to visit a Karen village and take a boat ride down a river close to the Myanmar border. The people we have met are so friendly and helpful. I did think the mountains would be a bit cooler, but no. It is currently 100 degrees F, and “feels like 113,” according to weather.com. I agree.
It has been over two weeks since my last post-sorry! I’ve been in vacation mode, but also on the move. In Cambodia, we visited three major cities: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the surrounding Angkor Wat temples, and Battambang. I’ve been writing and accumulating thoughts and pictures everyday. I’ll try to catch you up on my wherabouts with some pictures. Fair?
You may or may not know that I’m in Cambodia. Last night around 12am my friend Justine and I arrived after 18 hours of travel. Side note: this wordpress app wants to autocorrect phnom penh to “phenomena openhanded” which I have to say poetically describes my my first impressions of the city quite accurately. However lonely planet guidebook informs us that phnom penh is actually “the pearl of Asia”. Also a side note but worth observing: long distance plane travel gets harder on the body as we age but you can override that with the excitement that you are being hauled into space at insane speeds and will be soon pooped out in a whole new world. Do astronauts have severe dehydration or what? Anyway this trip was a long time coming.
This post and hopefully many more over the next six weeks are in fact side notes to my regular posts about massage teqniques and wellness related things. When I started the blog it was supposed to serve as a creative outlet as well as inform my clients. What does the “b” in blog stand for? Its not boring or bullshit, right? My drive for writing about what i do seemed to taper off in the lsst months. Sometimes in the quiet space of a massage studio you find yourself daydreaming of loud and crowded things. I seem to have manifested that for myself. And now I have the space and time to write about a different side of myself. There is my disclaimer for a shift in the voice around here and an apology for not updating since October. Okay, enough of that.
Justine and I started our morning with a real accostation of the senses; in the best way. It was like a shot of espresso. Guilty-seattle girl. The first street we turned down out of the hotel was an open market. I know soon that i will be desensitized to this sort of scene so all the better to capture these details now. There were tiny bananas and a wriggling carp on the asphalt-(metaphor for fish out of water?). Literally that fish was trying to wriggle away from the hot water. There were babies on mopeds and grandmas in hammocks swinging over their raw meat, tuk tuk drivers beckoning us every 10 feet, clothing and shoes and books and auto parts for sale and the humidity crawling down my spine and thawing out my cold Seattle bones. All this while I tried to stay out of the way of motorcycles and tuk tuks.
Later we visited the national museum which houses loads and loads of Buddha and Vishnu statues. I learned a bit about the Khmer civilization. There was a peacecul shady garden spot and a liter of water for one dollar. Everything is cheap here, as promised. After we rested for a bit we headed out on a tuk tuk for a tour of the city and ended up at the Russian market. This is where the real shopping is done. Bartering is expected. I scored a watch, three bracelets and a Buddhist figurine for 9 bucks. I probably overpaid. But probably the tuk tuk city tour for ten dollars was our favorite because our driver was so sweet. We didnt even mind when he ran out of gas. By the way I don’t know how there would ever be a traffic violation in phnom penh. Ever. You can tell all the lines have been crossed too often for too long, or maybe the lines were never drawn. There is no Median line in the middle of the road, they only have their horns and good sense to stay out of eachothers way. And there are no crosswalks.
I didn’t even describe my meals yet, but I will save room for later. I wouldnt want you to get bored because the b in this blog stands for boisterous, blissful and bouyant.
Thank you for reading. Stay tuned. Over and out.