A massage made in heaven! – Bangkok Chatuchak Market

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I jump out of the cab and Bangkok market hits me. It is literally like a punch in the face, the smells, the noise! Rotting food covers the streets, it’s squashed into the curb and strewn across the roads. There’s an overkill of people, a blind man singing, dogs with shoes, snakes dancing, and feet massaged openly on the dirty paths.

I walk off in one direction with no idea of where to go or what I am looking for.
It takes me a lot of time to digest the total disarray of smells, commotion, and shouting. The tiny streets are winding and never ending. I swiftly sidestep three small children as they swish past me, chasing each other and laughing.

Hectic, new sights hitting me one after the other at speed, the heat, humidity, and noise. It’s claustrophobic. People are running, singing, pushing, smiling, they are sucking fried insects right off sticks in front of my eyes, crunching at locusts, and ripping away at cockroaches, and there are animal penises everywhere! Coated ones, glazed ones, fried ones – I almost want to cover my own with my hand in case someone tries to rip it off me for their lunch!

Every corner I turn, there’s a fresh new lot of experiences. Women call to me, “Massage! You like Massage?” There is even a man lying on a beanbag dressed as Elvis, in a studded white jacket in this immense heat! I almost can’t bear to look at him.

A lady pops up right in front of my face, eyelashes fluttering, and a huge grin. “Massage?” She nudges me towards someone who is old enough to be my grandma, the woman gives me a toothless grin. There is nothing seedy looking here at all, it is row after row of comfy chairs set out on the road for all to see. I’m torn, barely having a moment to decide. Numerous people say how wonderful the Thai massages can be, yet I hesitate. I’m not used to being massaged.

“Come, come,” the woman says, literally pushing me into a chair. What the hell? I think whatever this trip is, midlife crisis, whatever – I am here to explore new things and a Thai massage is a much better way to start than sucking an insect off a stick! The old lady smiles at me and moves to the next chair so the lady who has persuaded me can sit down, I’m secretly relieved, it is nicer to be touched by an attractive younger looking girl!

Oil on her hands, she gets to work. I close my eyes and heaven knocks. Now, I get it! Why everyone makes a fuss, this angel is manipulating, stroking, rubbing in directions that are literally impossible and I am loving it. The smooth motions of her slender fingers are moulding away at my feet and I can feel all the stress from the last few months seep out. It’s almost a euphoric feeling, someone being that close to you and their touch being able to make you feel these emotions. Deep in the heart of this giant tumble drier of a market, I have found peace. Even as she chats on her mobile, phone in one hand, my foot in the other I am suddenly oblivious to the noise and the jungle that is Bangkok market. Perhaps I will do this again!

Half an hour later, I am slipping my new set of feet back into my shoes. So this is what it feels like to be reborn. Forget religion everyone, just come to Thailand for a massage!

Feeling rejuvenated and calm for the first time since arriving at this crazy place, I decide it’s a good time to head back to the hotel. Having negotiated the Rome Metro, the Budapest Metro, and the Russian Metro, I might as well keep the tradition going. Each country has its own idiosyncrasies when it comes to travelling across the city and this one surprises me, in a great way. It’s modern, really modern but more importantly, clean! There are less rats underground than there are on street level! The trains are efficient and the platforms are safeguarded by a Perspex glass so there’s no danger of falling on the rails. It’s fast and simple. I am pretty impressed.

Back at the Grand Sukhumvit, I take a look online at Pattaya. Deciding to follow the advice I have been given, I reserve a room at the Siam Design hotel, starting immediately. Bangkok is just not my type of place, so why wait? I call up the cab driver from earlier, Mr. Patinna, and within two hours he arrives outside to pick me up beaming his white teeth at me, all smiles. Something about this man just makes me feel good – they do say happiness is contagious.

I drill him on the ride, purely to ascertain how this lucky man seems to be so constantly at ease and cheerful. He is happy to let me in on his secret, he is a Buddhist, and he tells me. “I am happy inside, work hard, money okay. I love my wife, love my children, I breathe good at home.” He breathes in deeply as he says this in a form of meditation. “You happy?”