I’ve always loved Thai massages, ever since I had my first one on the beach 5 years ago. They are a great mix of acupressure, stretching, yoga and, of course, massage. It certainly isn’t your normal massage, as you remain dressed. You get twisted into shape, and usually the lady massaging you isn’t happy until she’s cracked and pop-ed every joint, including your knees. They use their hands, feet, elbows, weight and anything required to get the massage done. I once met someone who described it as “being pulled apart and then being put back together”, and I think that it’s a fair description.
Ask anyone offering a Thai massage where they have trained, and they will say Wat Po. I even received that answer in Malaysia. It usually isn’t the truth, but they are good business women, and they know what you want to hear. Wat Po is where the first Thai massage was ever given, and one of the most respected massage school in Thailand.
In spite of my love of Thai massages, I had never made it to Wat Po for a massage. I skipped it 5 years ago, thinking that it would be expensive. I slipped it when we were in Bangkok in November, because I figured that we were coming back to the city anyway. Well, I didn’t want to miss out on it again, so I made sure to include it on my 101 list. As we should be leaving Bangkok soon, an because we have so much free time, I decided that today was the perfect day to check it off the list.
After a hearty breakfast of super delicious noodle and dumpling soup, we headed to the ferry, which conveniently links where we are staying with the temple.
From there it was an easy walk to Wat Po. We decided to skip the sightseeing and go straight to the massage building, in case that we would have to wait our turn. We did have to wait, but not much.
We were shown to a different building, where we were told to change into fisherman’s pants (loose-fitting pants). The room was large, but completely filled with people getting massages. No privacy or quiet here! The place smelled of freshly cut pineapple and had a beautiful red and gold wooden ceiling. Travis and I were side by side, and the ladies went to work after saying a prayer. The massage lasted an hour, and then we were given a drink to help flush some of the lactic acids.
Because of the room’s setup, I didn’t find it very relaxing. Not that I usually find Thai massages relaxing, but usually I get some relaxation out of it. I also have to say that this was the strongest massage I’ve ever had. It was really painful at times! Thai massages usually hurt a bit, but not like this. It brought memories of being at the chiropractor, as this lady was hitting me in all of the same spots with as much strength. I think that overall it was a nice massage, but it was certainly not the best Thai massage I’ve had. For the cost, one could get a cheaper and better one somewhere else. I was expecting this to be the benchmark against which to judge all others, but unfortunately this was not the case.
Since we were already at the temple, we decided to look around. Wat Po isn’t just known for massages: it’s also the home of the famous reclining Buddha. It’s a funny thing that I just wrote about not wanting to do anything touristy in the city though, because 280 photos later, I can definitively say that today was the opposite of that! Maybe I was going through withdrawal?
And there were some temple cats, unfortunately these cuties were pretty scared of people.
The highlight of the day was at Wat Po, so I was really glad to have gone. While I was taking pictures of some of the Buddhas, a monk came up to me. From his gesturing I understood that he wanted some help to drape a Buddha in a golden cloth. I put down my purse and my camera and gladly agreed to help. After a bit of hesitation on his part as to which Buddha should be draped, I was handed the fabric and pointed to a Buddha in the double abhāya mudrā position (the Buddha preaching on reason). While I reached over and placed the cloth on the statue, the monk kept looking at me with approval. He then pulled out a few pins, and tied the cloth together. Then he just walked off! In all the confusion I chose to just look at everything taking place rather than take photos. While I probably missed a great photo opportunity, I think it would have killed the experience to snap away. Travis arrived near the end though, and caught a little bit of it on tape.
To conclude, here is my favourite Buddha find of the day was this – the only other place I’ve ever seen this was on Penang island in Malaysia.
And a little outtakes video, because, why not!
After all of that sightseeing and being in the direct sun, we were exhausted. We hopped on the ferry back home, but not after grabbing some cooled young coconuts and crispy fried dumplings!