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Archive for April, 2008

Spa-tacular

Along with being a beach connoisseur, through trial and error, I’m starting to discover which spa treatments I like the most (ah, such difficulties I have in this life…)

I got started with the whole massage experience when Alex and I were on our honeymoon in Mexico. My very first massage was a hot stone massage. I still remember it fondly. I think it must have been one of my best massage experiences, ever. But I’m starting to think it was just that spa, or that woman, because almost every hot stone massage I’ve had since then has been a little lackluster. Either the stones are too hot, or too cold, or the ladies don’t know what to do with them, or they press too soft, or too hard. It’s kind of a special thing, so I know they’re all trained, I just don’t think they’re all trained well.

So, while we lived in Malaysia I got regular massages at the spa down the street. I found a lady I liked, who did a good hot stone massage, so I usually went for that, with the occassional standard Swedish massage.

Now, having moved to the land of fabulous massages, I’ve started experimenting a little bit more. I’ve tried a variety of kinds of Thai massage – the stretching, the luk pra kob with the hot poultice, lots of great foot massages, and of course the aromatherapy.

And somehow, this year in particular, I’ve been to lots of different spas and tried out a much wider variety of treatments. I’m not sure if I’ve been more stressed out (and thus more frequently in need of a spa) or just splurging more or just so amazed at how much cheaper it is here than in Malaysia (which is so much cheaper than in the US or Europe), but I’ve been on quite a spa bender over the last few months….

Back in January, when our friends Sabine and Neil were here, we splurged on a visit to the Chiang Mai Oasis spa. It just so happens that they were offering a special for a scrub and massage combo. That was my first scrub and I knew it would soon become a favorite. They basically massage you lightly with a lovely scrub instead of oil. My skin was so soft afterwards! Plus every room at that particular spa had this amazing outdoor bathroom, so I got to shower off under the beautiful blue sky. Amazing!

Last week, when we were in Phuket, I had a special 50% off coupon for the spa (thanks to the wonderful Marriott Gold Card) so I figured I would do something a little special while I was there. The JW Marriott has a gorgeous Mandara spa on site, with outdoor treatment rooms (and showers). Since I liked the scrub so much in Chiang Mai, this time I figured I would try a wrap. Talk about relaxing! They basically cover you with a thick lotion, wrap you up tightly, and leave you alone for about a half hour. I think that may have been my best nap ever! Totally cocooned and warm. And, since this was a splurge, I had a massage right after the wrap. Perfection!

And, thus, I’ve had myself a little revelation. I used to think that the hot stone massage was my favorite kind of massage. I think that was because I was somewhat unfamiliar with massage and wanted the experience to be as painless as possible. Now that I’m becoming somewhat of a connoisseur, I’m starting to learn that a few painful points in a massage only leads to more relaxation and feeling even better the following day. So, I think I’m done with the hot stone massages for a while, now it’s all about the aromatherapy massage (I still can’t quite stomach the pulling and pushing of the Thai massage).

Finally, I put all this “research” to the test yesterday. We have a great little spa called Salus Per Crystal (owned by an ISB grad) right down the street, so I headed out for a whole afternoon. Back when Sabine and Neil were here I made the mistake of buying a package there – one of those things where you put in a certain amount and they give you an extra lump sum on your account. I guess I thought I’d be heading there every weekend, but I’ve been so busy, I haven’t really had a chance. What a mistake.

I spent three and a half hours there yesterday. I got a scrub (with orange-scented oil and sugar), a wrap (orange-scented again), and a two hour aromatherapy massage (with peppermint oil). Oh. My. God. It was fabulous! The combination of the scrub and the wrap made my skin so soft and radiant and the repeated massaging was so so so relaxing. I was like a wet noodle on the walk home.

It’s the trifecta! A scrub to get you clean and smooth, a wrap to soften you up, and a massage to relieve all your tension and complete the relaxation experience. So, now I know, my spa treatment of choice is a combo scrub, wrap, massage. What’s yours?

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I think I’m getting a little spoiled. You see, I’ve been to some pretty spectacular beaches over the past few years. And I’m starting to get a little uppity about my “beach” vacations. Now, unfortunately, every beach is held to the “Redang Standard” – mostly because when we lived in KL, we could get to Redang (a stunning beach in it’s own right) in under 1 hour on an easy charter flight leaving from an airport only 20 minutes away from our house. Basically it was an hour from our front door to the beach chair. When I found out we were moving to Thailand, I thought for sure I’d have that beat. I mean Thailand is known for it’s beaches, right?

Well, I’m starting to think I had it pretty good (by beach standards) in KL. Not that I haven’t enjoyed the beaches here in Thailand, but they’ve been pretty built up compared to Malaysian beaches. And I definitely haven’t seen that perfect powder white sand with crystal clear blue water yet. Maybe I still haven’t been to the right place, though… 

Either way, we did have a great time in Phuket last week (pictures here). It was, by far, the most relaxing vacation I’ve ever had. We ended up staying at the JW Marriott because friends of ours are vacation club owners and scored us three nights free and a reduced rate for the rest of the week. The hotel has three gorgeous pools, a totally secluded pristine beach (sand was a bit grainy and water definitely wasn’t that perfect clear blue), phenomenal restaurants and an awesome spa.

The only problem is that it’s totally isolated. I mean totally. The resort is far enough from downtown that the shuttle-bus actually charges to take you down (what kind of resort shuttle bus costs money? I ask), and there is absolutely nothing around the resort. So basically we spent the entire week hanging out on hotel grounds. Which is quite rare for us. We never splurge on the resort restaurants – and definitely not for lunch! 

Thankfully, we had the fantastic Marriott Gold Card (for Thai residents only) and everything was 50% off. Otherwise we would have gone broke from the meals alone. They were pretty fabulous meals though. The Italian restaurant was fantastic, and the deli had this breakfast sandwich… yum… I’m drooling just thinking about it.

So, we did a lot of eating. A lot. And a lot of sleeping. I actually read almost all the books on my list and I got two amazing spa treatments. We went on a nice snorkeling trip and got to play with the hotel’s baby elephant. Plus we got to hear the Marriott vacation club spiel, which I’m surprised to say, they were not able to sell me (and I really wanted to buy).

It might not have been the perfect beach, but it was a perfect relaxing vacation, that’s for sure! Now I just have to find that “Redang Standard” beach here in Thailand. Anyone have any hints?

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Storm Day

Pretty much every week, maybe even multiple times a week, we loose power for a few minutes here in Nichada. I remember everyone laughing at me when I first moved here and was looking for an alarm clock you can plug into the wall. I couldn’t imagine such fluctuating power – especially because we so rarely had those problems in KL. Now I know better. My alarm clock tends to, shall we say, run “fast.” Every time the power goes out it gets a few minutes faster. 

And on Wednesday night, it got the chance of a lifetime to race ahead.

At around 6pm, it started storming here like I’ve never seen before – plants were literally flying off the balcony, the wind was so fierce. Almost immediately we lost power and we spent the rest of the evening watching the lightning dance across the sky until we finally fell asleep (and let me tell you, a rainy April evening in Bangkok is not a good time to be without aircon).

Amazingly we managed to wake up on time on Thursday, only to find out that the storm had caused so much damage that school was actually closed! Apparantly the power was still out at ISB and some roof tiles had blown entirely off – leaving actual holes in the roof! We had some storm damage here at Samakee Gardens too, of course, but nothing dangerous – just a few downed trees and smashed plants.

Having grown up in snowy Connecticut, I really have been sorely disappointed in the lack of any weather-related school closing days here in southeast Asia. I mean, that’s half the fun in working at a school, right? That wonderful feeling of possibility in the air when the first snowflake is sighted. That was pretty much the only thing I ever liked about winter anyway.

Unfortunately these warm climates don’t give us much opportunity for hope. In Malaysia school closed for two days for the horrendous haze, but (of course) although the air wasn’t safe for student to travel to school, teachers had to come in anyway. But this time, we seriously lucked out! We actually wound up with an extra day off! And now my alarm clock is just about an hour and a half fast… I decided to let it go and see if it can go so fast, it actually comes back around to the right time.

And, I think I have to say, a storm day is a lot better than a snow day, since most of us spent the afternoon at the pool… Can’t really do that on a snow day, can you?

 

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Ah, vacation is finally here!

This year has gone by so fast, I honestly can’t believe it’s already Songkran (Thai New Year). Amazingly, this is the first vacation where we haven’t either had friends visiting or been on our way to visit friends in new exciting countries. Tomorrow we head out to Phuket for a week of eating, sleeping, swimming, and enjoying the antics of the hotel’s baby elephant.

I’m definitely looking forward to the extensive relaxing sleeping (on the beach, at the pool, wherever I can get horizontal) I plan to do over the next week.

Just in case I can muster up the energy to do a little old-school reading, in between naps of course, I’m bringing along a few must-reads:

Actually, these books serve a dual purpose, not only are they entertaining for my “awake time,” but they do a mighty good job of reserving a table at the all-important breakfast buffet. And, truly, what kind of vacation is complete without the breakfast buffet eat-a-thon? Either way, I’m pretty sure that 90% of these books will end up accompanying me on my next vacation, but a girl can try right?

See you in a week!

Karon Beach, Phuket image from yeowatzup

Tags: travel, Thailand, Phuket, reading, books, personal

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