There are many, many places on Phuket where you can get a Thai Massage.
On the beach (Patong) you can be sure to be asked if you want one at least once a day by one of the many woman that have their places there.
An other possibility is at most hotels, they also provide this service. In special rooms, or you can also order them into your room.
Third possibility (and the one we choose) are Massage Saloons.
I am aware that the word "Massage" may have a sexual undertone, especially in some western tourists.
It actually happened to my friend once, that he was asked, whether he wanted a "hand relief" ... that was in a hotel. That was also the reason, I wanted to make sure we had a reliable and professionell place for a massage.
We asked around and found those: The Blooming Spa.
They are located at one of the roads back in Patong.
They offer the traditional Thai Massage as well as special feet and hand treatments and Massages with Herbs and Oils.
They were wonderful. If you make one of the longer treatments (they can be up to 2.45 hours long), then you go upstairs in one of the cubicles. You get clean clothes (some sort of kimono) - no, you will not be naked when they massage you.
Again: they are very good and quite cheap, too.
- Spa and Resort
Next to the Buddhism Thais also pay homage to a world of gods and ghosts that influence every aspect of live.
You will hardly ever see a building without a small ghost hut (like in the picture: ok, thats a ghost villa) or at least an altar.
Here they worship the ghosts of the place. They are pleased with food, drinks and flowers or other little presents.
To make them angry may bring floods or other disasters.
If you are driving around, you may also notice that a lot of people honk the horns of their cars when driving over the highest points of a pass. This is also to greet the ghosts of that place. Just join in (can't be bad, right?)
- Road Trip
- Historical Travel
Be respectful towards Thai Culture!
Thais are really polite and they won't say anything even if they dislike your behavior.
They tend to "look over" our bad behaviour. So it is our own thing to adapt at the culture of the land we are visiting.
So please: don't lie on the beach without any clothes (I especially say this to the women who are lying around topless).
Try not to be too rude. It is still a pleasure to see what a smile you get back, if you smile at the people there.
- Whale Watching
Next to Buddhism and natural religions, muslim also make a bigger part of the religions of Thailand.
These boys I fotographed on the Sea Gypsie City in Pha Nga Bay. Most of them are Muslim, they even have built a Mosque out there.
You can have a look at the Mosque from the outsied, but it is no longer allowed to get in.
BTW. behind the boys is a big hawk. I have been only noticing it later, but I (and many more) just walked by it before.
- Religious Travel
Thai script -just lovely
I wish I could read what is written here... although this is just a cut out from a newspaper.
The Thai "ABC" consists of 44 consonants and 32 vokals or Diphtong-signs.
There are always different ways to write something, so the names can vary from travel book to travel book, although they mean the same places.
In Thailand the people "wai" in greeting. Wei is pronounced "why". You put your two hands together like in prayer and hold them just under your chin and bow your head slightly at the same time as you greet someone. The higher you hold your hands, which can be held as high as your index fingers against your forehead, the higher the show of respect. If you are wei'ing to a monk for instance, you would use the latter position.
The greeting if you're a female (speaking) is; "Sawatdee Kha", and if you're a male (speaking), it's "Sawatdee Krup", no matter whether you're addressing a male or female. It is considered impolite not to wei to someone that wei's to you, so be polite and show the Thai people that you are interested in their culture.
Young children are not supposed to be wei'd to, as it is a practise of respect, and respect is largely based on seniority in Thailand. Children should wei and greet an adult first.
Do not touch a Thai person on the head either, as the head is sacred and it is offensive to a Thai person. Only people who know eachother really well (as in family) or someone who has a much higher position is permitted to touch a Thai on the head. Touching a young child on the head is not considered inappropriate.
It's a shame I caught this little girl just as she was finishing wai'ing to me, but she was so gorgeous I had to put her picture up.
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Buddhists deem feet to be the lowest part of the body, they are unclean and as such, there are certain rules to observe.
1. Always remove footwear before entering a temple or a Thai person's house. Place them neatly at the door. Some other places also require footwear to be removed before entering. A good rule of thumb is that if you see shoes at the door, take yours off too.
2. Never use your feet to point towards anything, particularly people.
3. Never sit with your legs outstretched in front of you.
4. Never have your feet pointing towards any statues of Buddha.
- Arts and Culture
The Thai people are quite modest in their dress, usually wearing long sleeves and long pants. Don't take it as a rule. They prefer this clothing as they don't like to be brown. You will even see them on the beach fully clothed in long shirts and pants. Being brown makes one appear to be a peasant, one that works in the fields. To this end there are myriad whitening lotions and potions on the market. My friends are forever wearing such hot looking clothes in the hot weather. I ask them how they can, but they're used to it. You will frequently see people working out in the sun on 30+ degree days wearing not only a knitted balaclava, but also a towel over their heads and necks under a hat. Some will wear layers of long sleeved clothing - even to the beach.
Thai people find topless sunbathing on their beaches offensive, but accept it in very touristy areas. Modest dress is preferred, so if you're going shopping after the beach, it is better to grab something to put over your top rather than wear your bathers/bikinis. Be sure to never wear anything strappy, shoulderless or short, (no belly showing either) to a temple, museum or government office, as that is considered disrespectful, particularly in temples. It is shameful to see tourists not respecting the culture, but you do see plenty of them. The Thais are pretty accommodating though.
- Family Travel
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- Museum Visits
Burial at Sea....shore
Our friend introduced us to this traditional, ancient Thai massage. You start with a full-body oil massage which lasts for two hours. Much muscle/joint "reading" is done during the massage and it is the most therapeutic massage I've ever had. The girls explain how the pains in one side of my neck and head were coming from my calf! I guess it's based on the body's meridians. The masseuses have been taught by a master. The tools of their trade are pictured. The first piece is a bundle of joss-stick ends tied together to form a kind of brush. When a muscle or area fails to respond to massage, it is brushed to stimulate circulation. The second piece is a cow's horn which is used for pressure-points and the third piece is a kind of wooden "knuckle".
The second part of the massage is to be buried in sand at the beach. Your feet point toward the water and are buried deepest. The sand comes right up to your neck and it's actually very comfortable. You lie like this for 1-2 hours. The sensation is quite strange. It already feels interesting and pleasant to feel the weight of the sand compressing your muscles, but within moments, you actually feel your body (particularly hands and feet) throbbing. It's like an internal massage.
While you're buried in the sand, the girls give you a face sand massage. It may sound terrible, but it feels really good. Gradually they brush the sand away from your neck and arms and massage those with sand. Not only do you feel a gentle sloughing of your skin, but the release from the compression makes you feel really light. Anyhow, after you've been sand-massaged, you get up and wash off in the beautiful calm, warm water of the beach, then stay to watch the sunset.
I can't think of a time when my head has felt so clear, my body so light and energetic as after my first burial. It is a great experience. There is a group of disabled people (through stroke or accident) who go there almost daily for treatment and we have seen one man who has managed to leave his wheelchair through this therapy.
Loy Krathong Festival
November's festival of light of "Loy Krathong" is held on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month when the tide in the river is highest and the moon at its brightest. The festival is believed to have originated in Sokhothai in the 13th century, when a young lady, Nang Nopamas, floated the first Krathong offering to the deity of the river.
This year the festival was on November 8th, and I was lucky to be in Thailand on this day. There was a festive dinner at the hotel and each of the guests had a chance to float their Krathong (made of banana leaves and pieces of trunck of banana trees) in the hotel's pool and make a wish.
It really looks and feels very romantic...
You can have your own Loy Krathong in Phuket, even if it's not November, just go to John Gray's Starlight Canoe trip (see my tip).
Visit Wat Ko Si-le
This Temple is know as Wat ko Si-le which is set on a small Island attached to the mainland by a small bridge and is set on the top a very steep hill overlooking Phuket town and Phuket harbor.
There is some sort of Monk school here and many of them live here.
To get to the temple you have to practically thrash the motor out of your little rented motorbike, and then climb the giant serpent staircase that runs all the way up to the mountain top temple.
But the effort is defiantly worth it. ;-)
The view was fantastic from here and the big reclining Buddha was quite impressive too.
At the bottom of the hill there is a fishery sea port and a sea gypsy village which are both worth a look as well.
This is on the wrong side of Phuket town (the west coast) for many visitors to get to but if you have a bike its a great day trip with a special someone.
- Religious Travel
- Mountain Climbing
Yes, Thai people eat bugs, all sorts of them. Beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches, pupae - anything. Fry them up and eat them, ugh!
You even see young schoolkids going up to a stall and buying bags of them. Quite a change from seeing them buy McDonalds!
I believe they are crunchy with a nutty flavour - I'll pass, thanks.
- Family Travel
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It may surprise you to know that although the majority of Thai cuisine contains chillies, they were introduced to Thailand by the Portuguese and Spanish traders in the 17th century after taking it to Europe, Africa and Asia.
The Thais embraced chillies and took them as their own. They are known as “phrik” or “prik” in Thai. So, any dish you see with "phrik" in it, means it's hot. It has become such a tradition and so deeply entrenched in Thai culture that there is a Thai saying; “phrik kheu thai, thai kheu phrik”, which means “chilli is Thai, Thai is chilli”.
Thai people always had a love of hot, spicy food, but the heat in their food was based on black or green (young) peppercorns. Pepper is still widely used in Thailand, but the chilli has supplanted it as the main spice ingredient in Thai cuisine.
Chillies are very high in Vitamin C, A, B1-3 and E and have anti-bacterial properties which help fight bacteria in foods that are borderline unsafe to eat. Chillies contain the chemical capsaicin which is found mainly on the seeds and white pith. This fools the body into feeling pain, which then stimulates the release of endorphins. Chillies also stimulate your metabolism for at least 15 minutes after consumption. Only mammals have this response to chilli.
My advice is that if you have eaten some chilli which is uncomfortably hot, do not drink any cold drinks. The thing that works best for me is to eat some rice or other plain food, but I can eat more chilli than most of my Thai friends. I don't seem to have as many pain receptors to it. : )
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Wat Chalong Temple
As a follow-up to the spirit ceremony, after I had taken the medicine prescribed for me by Grandfather and the Spirit, I was to give thanks and an offering at Wat Chalong.
When you are an outsider, your first experience with Spirit is facilitated by someone else on your behalf, after this point you may address Spirit yourself, which is what I did at Wat Chalong. The following is an brief overview of the procedure of making an offering.
I went to Wat Chalong with my friend Nuch who was making offerings as it was her birthday. We bought Lotus Lillies, incense and offering baskets which came with an envelope for a monetary gift.
We removed our shoes and entered the temple then placed the lillies in vases at the altar. We returned to the mat, bowing and touching the ground with our palms in front of the candleholder and incense pot. We each lit two red candles and placed them into the holder along with three incense sticks. We bowed three times, touching the ground with our open palms each time. After this we moved to the side of the altar where a monk was awaiting us. We knelt before him, bowing again and handed him our offerings. He began chanting then handed us a small chalice which had a jug of water resting in it. Nuch and I held the small jug together and slowly poured the water into the chalice whilst the monk chanted over us. When the water was all poured out we took the chalice outside and poured the water on a tree. We returned inside and once again knelt in front of the monk. He then flicked us with water and finished the ceremony.
An interesting experience and my first time participating in a Buddhist ritual. I'm really glad I had the opportunity.
Jak Ga Jaan
Well, I'd never heard of these on any of my previous stays in Phuket, but one day after being buried in the sand at Mai Khao Beach (long story - next tip), a few locals came along with a net which was strained over some sticks. They would push it into the sand with each wave along the beach and then retrieve some small creatures from it.
Once I was "exhumed", I went to join them, along with our masseuses. They were catching creatures which they call Sea Grasshoppers, Sea Cicadas or Jak Ga Jaan. They look like a cross between a crab and a prawn and bury themselves into the sand after each wave.
We all had a great deal of fun trying to catch them with our hands and ended up with a creepy looking bagful of them. They are considered something of a delicacy as they are time-consuming to catch and not too many of them.
They are put into ice to put them "to sleep", then have the main body shell removed before they are coated in flour and deep fried. I did try them and have to say as off-putting as they looked, they really were delicious!
- Food and Dining
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