My Chiang Mai Thai Massage Experience

Thai MassageMy Chiang Mai Thai Massage Experience
A Guest Post By Tom Tanner

My back has been bothering me as of late, so I thought a Thai massage would do the trick in fixing my stubborn ailment which has been plaguing me off and on for several years. I went to a shop near Chiang Mai gate that I’ve passed many times before, where a sign outside grabs my attention every time I pass by: “Thai Massage – 120/Hr.”

Damn, that’s a deal.

Actually, nearly all Thai massages are less than an oil massage and are priced very reasonably, but 120 baht is the cheapest that I’ve seen anywhere in Thailand. This equates to just $4 [edit, now just $3.70!].

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Shadows from the Old Lanna Kingdom: The First Capital City, Wiang Kum Kam

wiang-kum-kamIn 1984, the city of Wiang Kum Kam was rediscovered by archeologists.  Before that time, the ancient city was thought by many to be just a myth.  For at least two centuries, the city had been almost completely buried because of the many years of flooding from the Ping River that originally traversed right next to it.  This was once the fortified capital city of the Lanna Kingdom, built by King Mengrai in the early 1200s.  It seemed like the perfect location at the time, along the banks of the Ping.

Unfortunately, the city was hit with flooding problems during the rainy season every year.  It was built too close to the river and the city was low lying.  Because of this, in 1296 the King decided to build a new city, Chiang Mai, on the opposite shore of the Ping River, in an area thought to be safer from the annual floods. In 1297, the new city of Chiang Mai (which translates to “new city”) became the Lanna Kingdom capitol.  The old city was Wiang Kum Kam.

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Advice on Marriage and Divorce from an Expat

Sawadee statue 1One of our regular comment writers on blog postings on this site, Chuck (aka Thai Stick), is going through a bit marital trauma and would like to contribute a little advice that he has learned from the experience. I am repeating Chuck’s words of wisdom pretty much exactly as he passed them on to this blog.

I just divorced my Thai Wife of 5 Years.

Will not bore you with the details, only that it was Money Motivated.

And wish to inform the Expat Community that the Thai Law has changed concerning Divorce. Before, when one went to get a divorce all that was needed was you and your wife agreeing and signing the papers, same as is now done by Thai people.  Now for an expat here in Thailand, there are a lot more red-tape headaches.

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The TPP and the “Pivot to Asia” by the US may not be going so well

TPP Protest - Japan

TPP Protest – Japan

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a “Free Trade” Agreement initiated by the United States about 3 years ago, and has been strongly promoted by the Obama administration.  The agreement, however, has little to do with free trade and much to do with protection of American corporate interests in Asia and the Pacific.  The agreement has encountered stiff resistance in several Asian and Pacific countries, but despite that, it seemed to be making steady progress towards completion.   Some in the US and Canada have called the TPP a “done deal”.

TPP ProtestMany have described the TPP as very evil in its concept, protecting US corporate interests above the interests of the people in the signatory countries, including Americans living within the US borders.  Many say the results will be a loss of internet privacy and increased medical costs amongst other extremely uncomfortable results.  If you are not familiar with the TPP, I did write an article in the blog about it near the beginning of the year:  http://americanexpatchiangmai.com/the-great-american-deception-the-tpp-trans-pacific-partnership/.  I am unable to provide many details about the TPP, and the same goes for everyone else, because unlike almost all other trade agreements that have been introduced ever, the terms of this agreement are kept in complete secret.  Even members of the US Congress cannot read the terms of this agreement.  No media can examine it, debate it, or discuss any of the agreement details.  And that also applies to every signatory country to the TPP as well.   So much for the “transparency administration.”

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Live Theater is Alive and Well in Chiang Mai

Gate TheaterChiang Mai is regarded in Thailand as an educational city, with some of the best universities and lower preparatory schools in the country, which brings with it an appreciation for the arts and humanities.  Consequently, it is very fitting that Chiang Mai would also have an active Live Theater community, even amongst expats, and it does in the form of the Gate Theater.

The Gate Theater Group is a non-profit organization operated by volunteers bringing performing arts to Chiang Mai in the English language.  It is run by an energetic ex-Chicagoan that has had a lifetime involved in live theater performance in New York, Chicago and other cities, Mr. Stephan Turner.   In the spirit of strong determination, he built an English language theater company in an exotic environment against all odds, and despite everything stacked up against him, and has developed an ongoing production company that is bringing American theater arts to the Chiang Mai public. The theater group’s website is located HERE.

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The American Dream…Overseas

pattaya-beachThe American Dream…Overseas

Is it called “The American Dream” because you have to be asleep to believe it?- George Carlin

a better life found for some Americans in Pattaya

a guest post by Blair Thomas

Connie and Pete have been friends of the family ever since I can remember. Their mission is to “Squeeze the juices out of life” and enjoy every moment of their time on this planet. Over five years ago, they went on a trip to Belize and decided that they loved it so much; they didn’t want to come back.

Over the course of about two years, they systematically sold their home, sent the last of their kids off to college and got rid of most of their possessions. (I bought their dining room table.) At last they were ready, and stowed the remainder of their worldly collectables in a storage unit and left with two suitcases.

They have been around the world at least three times. At last count, one of their favorite places to stay is Thailand. Over and over again, they rave about the wonderful people and the low cost of living.

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Perception v. Reality for Bangkok, Thailand

Perception v. Reality for Bangkok, Thailand

The movie Hangover, part  II brought America a view of Bangkok, and that movie, along with all the racy stories about this massive city, has created a perception in American minds about what this city is all about, not to even mention what the double meaning of the very name of the city conjures up in the imagination.  And if you talk with a certain type of Bangkok visitor, you will get that perception reinforced.  The Red Light Districts of Bangkok are world famous, and mind imagines that this is what much of Bangkok looks like.  It is Sin City.

Bangkok at night from Lake Ratchada

Bangkok at night from Lake Ratchada

Or is it?  Bangkok is 606 square miles, considerably bigger than Los Angeles (503 sq. mi.) or New York (468 sq. mi.).  Much bigger than my hometown in America, San Francisco (232 sq. mi.). The largest Red Light Districts (there are few of them) in Bangkok are generally about 2 or 3 square miles, and all of them together (being very liberal with the figures) might total 25 square miles.  And that figure is probably too high.  That leaves a lot of territory that NOT in Red Light Districts.

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Mecca for Backpackers: Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand

khao-San-RoadMeet up with backpackers in Machu Picchu or in the depths of Calcutta or roaming the clubs in Hamburg, and you will find that everyone has something to say about this short street in Bangkok, the famous (or infamous)  “backpacker’s ghetto” of Khao San Road.  For backpackers exploring Southeast Asia, it is usually the first stop on their trek and often their last before heading home.

You will often hear that Khao San Road is not like it used to be before all the tourists discovered it.  Well since backpackers and “budget” (cheap) travelers have taken it over, and other travelers have made the area a “destination”, no one can say this is the “real” Thailand, but it can be quite an adventure to visit.  It can be a lot of fun.

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The Naga Festival on the Mekong – Fire and Water

NagaThe Naga Festival

Guest Posting by Angie Picardo

The Mekong River, in its path from central China to the ocean, forms border between Thailand and Laos as it flows southward.  The waters provide irrigation for crops, sustenance for fishing villages, and a cultural foundation for many Thai and Lao communities.  According to Thai legend, the Mekong also is home to a mythical creature, a giant serpent, called the Naga.

The Naga is a snake that is often suggested to have seven heads. Buddhist iconography popularly shows this beast as a dragon-like water serpent, and at times we see the Buddha depicted as standing upon its head. Once a year, for several days, people from all over Thailand and Laos make their way to the banks of the Mekong to watch the Naga Fire-balls, or often called the “Mekong Lights” (in Thai bung fai paya nak, บั้งไฟพญานาค) emerge from that river. This phenomena has been recorded and witnessed by many over centuries, and is as yet not adequately explained.  Some have suggested that it may be a UFO.  In any case, it is a “real” phenomenon to most people of the region.  Another theory is that methane gas trapped under the river bed finds just the right conditions this time of year, and is released and ignited upon surfacing.

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Dinner in a Rain Forest: The Khaomao-Khaofang Restaurant – Chiang Mai, Thailand

khaomaokhaofangStreet food and small cafes are great in Chiang Mai, and you can usually get a great meal for very little money.   On special occasions and with special people, however, it is nice to go to an upscale place that is bit higher on the quality scale that creates a culinary experience to remember.  And Valentine’s Day is coming up in about ten days.

One of my favorite places to take visitors to Chiang Mai is the Khamao Khaofang Restaurant just south of the central city in the Hang Dong district.  It is on Ratchapruek Road between Hang Dong Road and the Canal Road.  This is the main road that heads into the Night Safari.

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A One Day Trip from Chiang Mai to the Golden Triangle

GoldenTriangle sign 2The Golden Triangle conjures up mystery in an exotic paradise.  Named as such because at this particular point in the far north of Thailand this is the spot where Laos, Myanmar and Thailand merge bordered by the Mekong and Ruak Rivers that has served as a major trading spot for about a thousand years or more.  Just a little further up the Mekong is the Yunnan Province of China.  

For a long time, the trade that flourished in this Golden Triangle was illicit but very profitable.  The area had pirates, shady traders, small private armies and thugs. That illicit trade was in Opium which grows very well in the warm mountains of Southeast Asia.  While it brought a lot of riches to the area, it also brought unsavory characters, but that helped make the Golden Triangle a place of legends and violence.  Today, most (but not all) of the opium trade is gone but the romance of the region stays with it.

The Golden Triangle is not so far from the City of Chiang Mai, a trip that I do often and jump at every chance to revisit.  I find the Golden Triangle area to be amongst the most naturally beautiful parts of Thailand, and worthy for visitors to Chiang Mai to make this full day trip  I recently had a couple of Californians visiting me in Chiang Mai and it gave me another opportunity to travel there.

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How Much Money Do You Need to Live in Thailand?

How much money does it take?  That’s almost an impossible question to answer, but one that is asked most often.  Once again, I will tackle this and do my best to give some answers.  It is not an easy problem  to crack, but I will give it my best shot.  Your input in the comments on this number one question would very much be appreciated

beach housesThere are plenty of American expats in Thailand living on social security or a small pension or a little interest income from some assets back home.  In the US, it may not add up to much money to live on, probably not enough, but in Thailand it may give an expat an acceptable amount to live pretty well.  You can live cheaper, but it may be considered cheap living. I will stick my neck out right here and say that if an expat has somewhere between $1200 to $1800 USD per month coming in, they can probably live pretty well almost anywhere in Thailand.  There are plenty of expats that live on less, and there are plenty that would require more. It does depend on lifestyle and there are no absolutes.

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Exploring Chiang Mai as a Potential Home – a trip report by an American

Before an American makes his permanent home so far away from his homeland, he should spend some time checking the place out, spending real time to see if this is the right location for them.  That’s just what Peter Holden of Santa Monica did, and I am very pleased to be able give you his report.  Hopefully this report will provide insight to others about Chiang Mai.

Exploring Chiang Mai as a Potential Home

Guest Post By

Peter Holden

Wat_Chiang_ManMy expectations for Chiang Mai were high even before arriving last month.  Timing my visit with the start of the Loy Krathong festival in November seemed auspicious: the promise of sending away bad luck through the launching of candle-laden wax floats in the Ping River and setting aloft huge paper lanterns somehow seemed appropriate after a year of frustrating unemployment and finding myself rather in limbo, at 51 at home in California.

Even after 20 hours in the air I was enchanted by my hotel’s Lanna-style architecture, and inviting pool – no matter that is was 1 am.  The tropically warm and humid temps (think Hawaii) made the nearby jungle and vast unseen river valley palpable, and the warm greeting that everyone at the property gave me that first evening, seemed like every Thai Airways marketing message come to life.

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Eating Fruit the Right Way to Get All the Benefits

Yes, there are certain times you should eat fruit, and certain ways in which you should do it.  This is the way to get the maximum benefit from the best food on Earth.

Fruit1One of the things I most love about living in Thailand is the abundance of good, cheap food, especially fruits.  When I lived in the US, my home was in Northern California, very close to the center for fresh fruit farms. Thailand, however, offers so much more; more varieties and quantities of fresh fruit than anywhere else I have lived, plus it is extremely cheap.   For those of us living in this paradise called Thailand, we are very lucky when it comes to eating fresh foods.

Fresh fruit makes me healthier and happier.  Because fruit grows so easily here, even in my own garden, most of the fruit is not chemically treated as much of as it is in California.  After being in the US for some time and coming home to Chiang Mai to consume gobs of fruit every day, I quickly lose weight, gain energy and generally feel a lot better.  I have been learning some of the finer points about fruit now, which ones to eat for certain benefits, and how best to consume it, and am ready now to pass on some of my findings here.  My immune system seems like it has improved because I am getting fewer illness, like colds.  It also fills me up so that I keep away from the processed poisons that fill our supermarkets.

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How Expats can Start a Business in Thailand

Welcome to ThailandA Western expat in Thailand often has to think about making money.  Thailand is for sure a paradise in so many ways, but if you don’t have any money, it can be a hell.  Even if one is getting a steady pension check or social security or trust fund payout, there is always the fear that the dollar or other home currency can lose value in comparison with the Thai Baht, so it is important to find some kind of income stream locally.  One of the ways to do that is to start your own business, but in Thailand there are special considerations that must be taken into account.

First of all, being an independent entrepreneur is not for everyone.  Incomes go up and down, and there are always strange things that hit the business owner, making stress part of the price that must be paid.  But that’s the same everywhere. You have it, or you don’t.

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On the Road Again: Driving is Dangerous in Thailand

Almost every day, I have this time when I am totally terrified.  It is when I am on the road driving around Chiang Mai.  I love living in Thailand so much, and I love my city, and the Thai people, but I don’t love driving here.  It is a very scary experience that I try to get through and then go somewhere and calm down.  It is very dangerous.  There are over 20,000 deaths each year on Thailand’s roads.  For comparison, the highly populated United States of America had a bit less than 33,000 deaths on the highways, but the population is about 5 and quarter times the population of Thailand.  Italy, which has roughly the same population as Thailand and has a reputation for crazy driving has about 8000 road deaths a year.  Thailand has 2 and half times more road deaths than Italy with the same population.  There is a problem.  And I feel it every time I am on the road here.

In 2011 almost 10,000 people died on Thailand’s roads. In Britain, which has a comparable population and comparable size and comparable number of roads, that figure came in below 2,000.

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A Short Adventure Down to Krabi

My Trip Report to Krabi, in the south of Thailand:

One of the really nice things about living in Thailand is that there are so many short trips possible to some amazing places within Thailand and in neighboring countries.  So late last night I returned from a 4-day excursion to the far south of Thailand in Krabi.

The purpose of the trip was to attend a big wedding for some Thai friends being held in Krabi, but we also took advantage of getting to know the town and beaches and sites.  We stayed in a beautiful resort in Krabi town (because of the wedding), The Maritime Park & Spa Resort in Krabi  but for any Westerner traveling to this area for a holiday, they would probably want to stay somewhere around the Ao Nang Beach area, which is 18km away from Krabi town.

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Visiting a Sa-Lor Shop in rural Chiang Rai Province

In the Lanna Kingdom (that is today’s Northern Thailand) one of the traditional musical instruments is a two-stringed bowed violin-like musical tool called a Sa-Lor that is usually played in an ensemble of other stringed instruments, flutes and drums.  The resonator is made of coconut shell cut off on one side, off center and a small hole is drilled on the other side.  The larger side of the half coconut is covered with a sound board.    The strings are metal, giving a raspy sound and are tuned using two teak wood pegs on the side. A tiny bridge holds two fine metal strings off the sound board. The instrument has a free bow (many Lanna string instruments have the bow trapped on the inside of the strings).

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A Visit to “Monkey City” in central Thailand, Lopburi

There is one city in Thailand that is ruled by Monkeys.  Since I am from California, I am a bit used to having Monkeys with a free reign of a given town (we tend to elect them there so they can pretend to run the local governments), but in the case of Lopburi, Thailand (usually pronounced like “Lope-Boo-Lee” by the locals), it is actually the little furry primates that dominate the city.   Lopburi is known all over Thailand as “Monkey City”, and as you enter this town (population of people about 26,000), there is a large stone statue commemorating the guys that actually run the place; the Monkeys.  The Monkey residents are Long-tailed Macaques Monkeys which stand at about two feet tall fully grown and make a lot of chattering noises.

Lopburi is about 160 km north of Bangkok (about 2 hours drive), and makes an interesting stop on a trip up to Chiang Mai (or visa-versa).  Lopburi is not loaded with tourists, and is a good place to get a taste of the “real Thailand”.  The easiest way to get there is by car, but it is also serviced by buses from Bangkok and has a train stop.

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The Wood Carving Villages of Sanpatong, near Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you are looking for Thai artwork to import into the US for resale, or want to decorate a very large home locally, Sanpatong offers some of the best markets in Thailand for finding the right pieces and for the right price. The markets may look rustic (and they are) but they are able to produce volume quality products that allow for export and resale with excellent profit potential.

About thirty kilometers south of Chiang Mai city is the little satellite village of Sanpatong. It is separated from Chiang Mai by some countryside of raw forests, rice fields and fruit farms. Because of its separation, Sanpatong cannot yet be considered a Chiang Mai suburb, but maybe in a few years that countryside area will fill up and unite the village with the others that make up the Chiang Mai area. This little known village is one of best places in Thailand for finding wood carvings. You won’t find tour buses and tuk-tuks bringing in loads of foreign shoppers, but you will find the savvy wholesale buyers making deals in the small woodcarving markets here. In fact, this simple village could be considered one of the “Mother Lodes” for high art wood carvings and rustic tropical wood furniture that you find in the most expensive Bangkok art markets and in galleries of London, Paris, San Francisco and other high-brow art markets all over the world. These little wood carver markets in Sanpatong are part of the “insider buyer secrets” for professional buyers all over Thailand and internationally.

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Things That Are More Expensive in Thailand than in the US

 

Talk to an Expat in Thailand, and they are always telling you about how cheap the cost of living is in Thailand.  Medical care, housing, food and a lot of other basics are quite cheap compared to US prices, so everyone can live in Thailand for a lot less than what it takes back home.  But not everything is cheaper.  Some things are more — substantially more — than back home in the US.  People considering moving to the Land of Smiles should be aware of these things and plug this info into their consideration.  And if you travel to visit some expat in Thailand, you might think about bringing some of these things on your next trip.

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Starting a Charitable Foundation in Thailand

There are a lot of needs for distressed people in Thailand, and even more in surrounding countries, so consequently there is a huge need for non-profit charitable foundations to do some worthwhile work here.  And if you can appreciate some of the tenants of Buddhism, it is also good Karma.  It is sad that it is not simply a task of identifying a need and then doing something about it; there are so many legal hurdles that must be jumped before a charitable foundation can open its doors for business.

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The Fun of Thai Nicknames

Nicknames in America last pretty much through 8th grade, and they aren’t pretty.  I had one, and you probably had one, and we would just as soon forget about them entirely.

Every Thai has a nickname (chuu len which translates to “’playname”) that they usually carry with them all their lives.  It is given to them when they are an infant, and they are often just one syllable.  Sometimes these names are a bit silly, but the Thai is still known by this name all through adulthood, regardless of how prestigious a level they have reached.  For instance, one long term Prime Minister of Thailand, Plaek Phibunsongkhram, was nicknamed “Strange” because as a baby he looked somewhat odd.  So while the PM met with world leaders on the most important issues of the world, his staff always referred to him by his odd nickname.  The current Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, is known by friends and associates by her nickname “Crab” (Pu).

When a Thai person is introduced, in both a social and business setting, they are introduced by their nickname, and people may never know the real name for the person.  Employers would have to look up in their records to find the “real” name for their employees they talk with every day.

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Buying Thai Products for Import in Baan Tawai, the market town near Chiang Mai

Many tourists do their shopping for Thai artwork, wood carvings and silk in the Night Bazaar, or perhaps the Chiang Mai Sunday Walking Street Market.  There is a good variety at these markets and pricing is good, but savvy buyers looking to export to the US or Europe at the best possible pricing must look a little deeper to get to the sources for these products, and one of those source markets is the village of Baan Tawai, south of Chiang Mai City in the district of Hang Dong.  This is where a buyer will find quantity wholesale pricing directly from producers for artwork, furniture and handicrafts.  For serious Thai product buyers, Baan Tawai is an essential stop.

Baan Tawai is open 7 days a week, but closes every day at 5pm, and is most famous for its wood carving artwork.  This is how the market first started, as a selling place for wood carvers.  The carvings are nothing short of amazing.  You will see very small pieces and huge  pieces that would a great centerpiece for a big hotel.  There are also “antiques” — some very old pieces, and some newly created antiques (I know, an oxymoron – but they are fine antique reproductions).  In fact, I saw a major sign on a factory near the Baan Tawai entrance that claims to make “Antiques – Made to Order” (with no doubt a time machine out back).

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Doing Dinner the Thai Way: A Guide for Thai Dining Like a Native

How to have a Thai dinner in a Thai Restaurant

Whether you are eating Thai food in the Land of Smiles, or going out to a Thai restaurant back in the States, the dining experience is enhanced knowing and using proper Thai dining etiquette and ordering correctly.

Foremost, know the basic foundation of Thai food:  There are four seasonings — salty, spicy, sour and sweet — and you will want to order various dishes that ensure a balance of flavors and textures.

The concept of Western dining and Thai dining are completely different.  In a European or American restaurant, meals usually consist of a starter, then a salad, usually accompanied with lots of fresh bread, followed by the main course and ending with a desert.  Each person orders as an individual, and rarely is food shared.  In Thailand, however, there is no such thing as a “starter” and there is no dish that belongs to any one person.  To Thais, all dishes are to be shared.

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