So, now we are in Thailand and were looking forward the the cheapness of things. Everyone had been telling us about this since we started our travels. We must admit, however, that starting travelling around Thailand's islands did not fill us with much enthusiasm, the prices topping most things in South America. However, two things, for me, stood out as pretty cheap: haircuts and massages.
1) The Haircut:
After about 7 months without a haircut, it was safe to say that my hair was in dyer need of one. Constant sun exposure, wind and sea salt (along with the lack of hairbrush and sun cream finding its way in) had made the last two inches of my hair course and straw-like to say the least! So, at four quid a haircut, what did I have to loose??
I was about to learn that my sanity might be one of those things. I walked into the hairdressers in Ko Lanta (should have taken more notice of the shaggy bob, complete with "palm tree" pony tail that my hairdresser was sporting) and asked if I could have a haircut. The lady spoke little to no English (again, this warning signal should have flagged another immediate red!) but she ushered me to the chair, making lots of hand gestures, and between us we managed (I'd hoped) to communicate that I wanted about 2-3 inches taken off the bottom of my hair. After another five minutes of sharades and looking at some pictures from a 1999 stylist book (that I'd hoped I would not be sharing after the cut) we'd also established that I was going to have layers.
First job, my hair was to be brushed. This was actually quite embarrassing, and I tried to smile as the hairdresser attempted to brush out my knots and tats. Now, what I would usually expect for the net stage of a haircut would be a wash (or at least a spray to make it wet) but no, this little woman just started to snip at bits of my hair. I thought at least she'd put a parting in my hair, but nope, that didn't happen either. She didn't even use her fingers to measure - just one hand to snip at random bits as I looked on in horror. Johnny, who was sitting next to me, refused to look me in the eye! He kept his head down and ignored my pleading face for a reassuring nod or smile.
Then came the layering. This involved her picking up random clumps of my hair and hacking into it with a jagged pair of scissors. Am I going to have any hair left?? This thought crossed my mind constantly as I tried to concentrate on turning my frown upside down every time she looked at me through the mirror.
When she had finished, she asked (gestured) if I would like the front of my hair done - my fringe? I quickly turned down her kind offer - I was already so please with my hair, how could it be improved further?? At the end, instead of showing me the back of my hair if the mirror, she swung my chair round and showed Johnny. "Good?" To which Johnny replied, "Err, yeah...I duno." Great.
Then came the really surreal part. Just when I thought she'd finished, she started doing something else to my hair. Oh God, where else is she going to cut?? But, she wasn't cutting anything. Instead, she was putting my hair into a SCALP PLAIT!!! Of course she was, that's how all my haircuts end up! In five minutes I was transformed into Jenna at her First Holy Communion.
Now she was finished. "Thank you very much", I managed to muster and quickly paid her and left the shop. Of course, Johnny could do nothing but laugh, which I had to join in with. Go in for a haircut, come out with a scalp plait. I wonder if that is a Thai tradition? Well, I'm not going to be going back to the hairdressers any time soon to find out!
2) The Massage:
I had been looking forward to a Thai massage since we boarded the plane in Newcastle. I love getting massages at home, but they are so bloody expensive, so the idea of a massage for a few quid was very welcoming. From our very first walk in Thailand, I realised that a massage would not be hard to come by, there were places everywhere, all offering a one hour Thai massage for between four to six quid. Champion! Our first few island stops though were pretty hectic, spending only one of two nights at one location, so when we arrived in Ko Phangan (our first four night stay somewhere) I decided this might be the time to pamper myself.
On our second day, we were walking along the beach and noticed a beach-side massage "booth". Having seen lots of other places, where people were lined up on thin mattresses on the tiled floor of a shop, I knew that a private cubicle with a proper massage bed was out of the question, and this place was by far the nicest setting I'd seen. Raised on a painted wooden deck, with green curtains (that I would later find out were just for show and not for actual use) and nice mattresses with pillows and towels was the little massage deck. It only had three mattresses too, so there was only a chance of sharing my experience with another two people. The best thing about this place, though, was the view. It was right on the beach, overlooking the gorgeous blue-green sea and the bright blue sky, with other islands in the distance. Yes, this was where I would have massage!
We had a bit of a wander into one of the little towns and then I headed back to the place. No-one else there - result! So there was just me and my masseuse. I was soon to realise that we'd be much closer by the end of my treatment! I was instructed to take off my top, which I did - I had my bikini on and this was normal for a massage. What wasn't normal though was the fact that anyone walking past could see me, including the people sitting around a pool about five metres away! Never mind, just relax Jenna. And I did. The cool breeze was in my face, the waves were lapping against the shore and, when I opened my eyes, I had a beautiful view right in front of me. How could I not be relaxed?? Then came the elbows and the knees!
A Thai massage is not like your Slaley Hall or Finishing Touch deals, and this little Thai lady was definitely reminding me of this. I had elbows in my back and my legs, I was getting walked on and all parts of my body (including my head) were getting karate chopped and pummeled with fists. At some points I wasn't even aware of how she was twisting me, or in what position I was, but at one point my back was arched over her knees as she pulled and stretched my arms. Now this might all sound like a horrific form of punishment, and, sure, it was different, but it actually felt nice and as if something was actually getting done. My back and toes were cracked, my hips were twisted and my hamstrings were stretched within an inch of their lives, but it felt good. Even my head scrubbing was pleasurable!
Johnny couldn't resist taking some snaps of my ordeal, and nor could a passerby apparently, who was taking a picture of my awkward positions.
When my masseuse had finished, I was about ready to fall asleep! I got up, said my thank yous, and handed over a very deserving six pound. I felt as light as a feather as I walked back along the beach - can't wait for my next one!!