Whitewater Rafting at Its Best - Thailand Style!

About 90 minutes from Chiang Mai is a little river called the Mae Taeng. Bordered on both sides by steeply sloping fields of banana trees and luxuriant jungle, it is easily one of the loveliest places in Thailand for an adventure.

But lazily watching a river go by is quite a different experience from actually being in the midst of its rushing, bubbling madness. As the Mae Taeng boasts Thailand's best white water rapids.
The difficulty of a stretch of white water rapid is measured on an internationally-approved scale of one to six. The Mae Taeng is made up primarily of rapids rated three and four - enough to produce an intense adrenaline rush.

I went with Siam River Adventures. Owner Jason Younkin has been running river trips in Thailand for 8 years, uses the best equipment and runs his company with such iron-willed efficiency that he wears a German army helmet while navigating the Taeng. Whatever his reasons, the helmet inspired my confidence. Nevertheless, Jason hails from Colorado and is also a Rescue 3, Swiftwater Rescue Instructor. I knew that Colorado-ians were experts on rocks and rivers, if not headgear aesthetics. Jason is one of the first to run all the rapids on the Mae Taeng. He promotes "Cultural Adventures" - trips for adrenalin junkies with an essence of Northern Thai tradition.

After a bumpy but scenic ride up to the rustic company headquarters, we ate lunch and then learnt the basics of whitewater rafting. Most importantly, we learnt how to synchronize our paddling so that we could maneuver the raft efficiently, and also know what to do if someone should fall into the water. Groups of not more than six per boat were arranged and each was assigned a professional rafter as a guide.

A Rapid Ride

After drifting lazily down the river, we became lulled into a false sense of security. Then the first set of rapids hit. Det our guide shouted out directions and we dutifully obeyed. Though strenuous, we ultimately emerged unscathed from the rushing tumult and raised our oars in an exuberant "high-five".

The next set of rapids was fiercer, the water rushed around us as our boat pierced the waves. We were Soaked! We still had some more grade 4 rapids ahead.

The rapids kept coming, faster and more frequent. Gradually, we all fell into a rhythm and, like a well-oiled machine, forded our way over the boulders and falls, and twists and turns.

We thanked Det for taking such good care of us as we climbed out. There on the banks, it was how I'd imagined heaven to be: beer and biscuits, and hill-tribe women trying to sell jewellery.
I'd do it all over again because it was an amazingly fun trip - except, that is, for the parts where nobody realises you're panicking. Which is why I'm planning to wear a German army helmet every day, all the time. I'll sure look cool and moreover, I no longer have any fear of large rapids.

Living in Thailand - How to Know You've Been in the Land of Smiles For Too Long

Thailand is an amazing place to live. The friendly people, delicious food and beautiful scenery are just a few reasons to live here. However, the culture is very different from what most westerners are familiar with. Below is a list to help you determine if some of the more curious Thai cultural oddities have rubbed off on you.

You see an elephant in the street and don't think "Oh wow! An elephant!" but instead complain about how it's slowing down traffic.

You wake up in the morning with a hankering for rice and noodles, not eggs and toast.

You think that riding your motorcycle the wrong way down one-way streets, running red lights and riding on the wrong side of the road are perfectly normal.

You think that Singha and Chang are actually pretty decent beers.

You see a family of four and their dog riding together on a single motorcycle and you only wonder what they ate for dinner.

You wear sweaters and sweatshirts despite the steaming hot weather.

You are deeply concerned when your favorite rice dish goes up in price by $0.15 to a staggering $0.60.

The language actually starts to make a little sense.

You have no problems eating raw pig organs mixed with pig blood and spices.

10 year olds riding motorcycles in the streets do not faze you.

You think Sangsom and Mekong are actually pretty decent whiskeys.

You haven't cooked a meal in months, besides what can be made with a hot water maker.

You find that some of the Thai music is actually pretty decent.

Shaking somebody's hand feels weird.

You can ride a motorcycle with 10 grocery bags, a bookshelf and a hot pizza box strapped to it.

You ask for every meal extra spicy.

You put spicy fish sauce on everything.

Thai Massage - A Bodywork Experience Like No Other

Thai massage is rapidly becoming one of the favorite options for individuals looking for a good, relaxing massage. While still not as popular in the United States as it is in Europe, this style of massage is certainly becoming more prevalent - and well-paying - for qualified practitioners.

History of Thai Massage

Thai massage is rapidly becoming one of the favorite options for individuals looking for a good, relaxing massage. While still not as popular in the United States as it is in Europe, this style of massage is certainly becoming more prevalent - and well-paying - for qualified practitioner

Despite the name, Thai massage originated in India. It is an ancient practice that monks learned in India and then brought back to their homeland. Shivago Komarpaj is commonly thought to have been the originator of this massage style in Thailand, bringing it back from his travels over 2,500 years ago.

For generations, Buddhist monks taught other men (as women were forbidden to enter the temples where monks resided) the art of massage, and many Buddhist temples combined spirituality with these treatments.

Techniques of Thai Massage

Most massage types require the person receiving it to simply lie there and receive the treatment for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. Thai massage is more intensive and participatory for the client. The traditional style takes up to two hours and usually involves the recipient being maneuvered into yoga poses to aid the function of the actual techniques. Putting the body in certain positions makes it easier for the masseuse to manipulate the muscles properly, resulting in a far more thorough treatment.

The movements in this type of massage are fluid and smooth. Through stretching and pressure, the muscles are worked and acupressure points stimulated. It is often referred to as "Thai bodywork," as it has such a beneficial effect on the body.

The process of Thai massage begins with by pressing the muscles, opening the sen energy lines and softening the muscles in preparation for the stretches. All this is done while the recipient of the massage is completely clothed, which is yet another difference from regular massage practices, wherein oil is used on the bare skin.

Once the muscles have been softened sufficiently, starting at the head and extending down to the toes, the process of stretching begins. The masseuse uses full body contact to mold, stretch, and maneuver the recipient's body into the chosen yoga poses, stretching the now soft muscles and elongating them.

Because of the number of different ways the body can move and muscles be manipulated, there are different specialties in the area of Thai massage. Some aim to prepare the body for sports, while others are designed to heal or repair damage done. Also, there is a more modern type of Thai massage that came about from the teaching of tourists the techniques only, leaving out the information on energy flow and spirituality.

Benefits of Thai Massage

There are quite a few benefits unique to Thai massage procedures. Whereas regular massages simply knead the muscles to relax them, the Thai techniques work to return them to their original length. This is believed to be effective because muscle pain may be caused by muscles that tighten due to tension or repetitive motions. For example, if an individual only ever moved his or her legs in 45 degree angles, the muscles would shorten over time and even cause considerable pain. Thai massage is designed to help.

After a good Thai massage session, the entire body is relaxed and the muscles are stretched out, making movement easier. Often, joint pain is diminished or even eliminated completely. With repeated treatments, the body becomes supple and flexible, returning to what should be a natural state. Other, more unexpected benefits include relief from constipation and other bowel problems, headaches, aches and pains, and joint stiffness. This is usually attributed to the newly released flow of energy caused by the pressing of the muscles.

Learning Thai Massage

It's not a good idea to try Thai techniques without proper training in this specific type of massage. The pressure and positions used mean that the possibility for injury with untrained masseuses is quite high. The danger is not just to the recipient; because this is a physically strenuous activity for both parties, incorrectly performing the moves can cause back problems in the practitioner, as well.

Certified courses can be found in most Western countries. You can also study in Thailand, but the courses are usually lacking in many areas, and it can be difficult to find one that is held in English. Most traditional massage schools in the United States don't yet offer Thai techniques as an option, so you will likely need to enroll in a facility that specializes in alternative therapies or even Thai massage in particular.

The demand for this unique brand of bodywork is growing rapidly as more and more people discover the benefits of Thai massage. While it doesn't require any equipment apart from a mat, there is special training involved to master the techniques safely.