At the request of a friend who's coming to Chiang Mai soon for only two days, I'm going to tell you all the important stuff I've learned here in my four-day sojourn. So far, there are only two things that I would call important. The rest are interesting, which is a far cry from important.
For those who have never had a Thai massage, you're in for something different. In contrast to the soothing, along-the-line-of-the-muscle Swedish style prevalent in the US, the Thais believe that they should rub hard across the grain of the muscle. This has the effect of stretching your connective tissues, such as tendons and ligaments, in directions they've probably never been in before. Honestly, it hurts. But, after it's over, you'll ask yourself why the hell haven't I been doing this all my life?
A full body massage (minus the feet) takes two hours. You can tell you're getting near the end when the masseuse puts you in a Full Nelson in order to stretch your back. That comes right after she tries to rip your arms off, if you're keeping track of lap times. When the rending is over, I recommend adding an additional hour just for the feet.
Yes, I said you should have a three-hour massage. It's perhaps the best suggestion I've ever given on this blog. (It will probably be eclipsed by the Four Diseases You Should Keep in Mind as You’re Eyeing that Hooker in Bangkok” post, but I haven't got around to that one yet. I'll let you know.)
I've had four massages since coming to Thailand. The best, by far, was by Mrs. Pon in her shop called Gold Fingers Massage. (I will resist the obvious James Bond reference. You're welcome.) Her little shop is on Ratchadamnoen Street–what Tha Phae street is called when it crosses into the old town. It's between Phra Pokklao and Jhaban on the south side of the street.
Mrs. Pon is tiny, but don't be fooled. She will give you a Thai Massage that hurts like hell, but will make you beg for more. It's sort of like a domination session except she wears a baggy t-shirt, her teenaged children are sitting in the shop on their cell phones and computers, and she laughs the entire time at how inflexible I am.
Or maybe she was laughing at how fat I am. The two sort of go together, I suppose.
She will go hard or soft on you, depending on how much you grimace. I recommend the grin-and-bear-it countenance if you want her to dig deeper into your muscles than you ever thought possible without a scalpel.
Three hours of this exquisite torture will cost you about $14, plus a generous tip. Don't forget to tip. Remember what your last three hours with Mistress Carlotta cost you back in the world? Something short of that is adequate, but don't skimp.
Thanks to Jodi Ettenberg at Legal Nomads, I also now know who makes the Best Smoothie in the World. It's Mrs. Pa, and she sets up her cart every day around 5 p.m. at the Chiang Mai Gate market on the south wall of the old city. Take my, and Jodi's, word for it. Mrs. Pa is the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of smoothies. The freshest fruit, homemade sugar syrup, and a big smile are the winning ingredients. A large glass of her icy concoctions will set you back the equivalent of about 70 American cents. It's 100 times as good as Jamba Juice, and it only costs one seventh the price.
And, you say, “Yeah, but that's all in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and I'm stuck here in the snow in the U.S.”
Think of it this way: If you have one of Mrs. Pon's massages and one of Mrs. Pa's smoothies every day for about six days, you'll have saved enough for your plane ticket from the U.S.
Oh, yeah, the interesting things: There's a night crafts market, really good street food, and wonderfully artistic temples (click here to see them) to sample as well. Check those out between pummelings.
Here are some suggestions of what to do in Bangkok.
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10 thoughts on “The Two Most Important Things About Chiang Mai”
Guilty! I had a massage (and mani/pedi) followed by Mrs. Pa’s today as well. It’s hard work but somebody….
Well, as soon as you meet Mrs. Pon, your Chaing Mai experience will be complete. Be sure to tell her not to sand off your polish, or pull your entire toes off. She tried to do the latter to me.
Tom, your now a Thai massage convert! You make me want to fly up for the afternoon. You couldn’t have described it more beautifully! Assuming I can find a good Thai massage in Boston, I could be the first person to go bankrupt on massage. My Bangkok favorite is at “At Ease” with Uni behind the fingers, forearms and feet.
Dave, if you truly plan your retirement correctly, there is an earmark in your 401K for Thai massage. It’s right in the IRS code. You can look it up.
haha.. i didn’t know massages included wrestling moves. glad you made it out in one piece, buddy ;)
I wrestled a bit in junior high, and I never faced anyone as strong as Mrs. Pon. I did however meet several who laughed at me as they were killing me.
Looks like we were in Chiang Mai around the same time. I noticed your comment about the place on Landlopers, sounds like we had a similar so-so experience there. We’ll link to the story below.
Larissa and Michael
As I said on the comment on another site, Chaing Mai was nice, but not really that distinguished. Of course, all of Thailand could have been suffering from two major drawbacks: air quality (terrible) and proliferation of tourists. If I had to pick a SE Asian place to label as a “paradise” where I’d actually want to live, Chaing Mai trails Bail by a long, long way.
I find that the smaller the masseuse, the stronger she is and the more she can hurt you.
Mrs. Pon was tiny, and yes she kicked my ass.