Keep calm and sawadee krap
awadee krap: “Welcome to Thailand.” Always said in a melodious voice, with a smile. Besides the beaches and temples, it is the smiling faces of the people and their heartwarming customs that attract travellers to this south-east Asian country.
Thailand is one of the most attractive countries for those looking to meditate and learn more about Buddhism. Its thousands of temples make it the ideal destination if you are seeking a calm retreat. The majority of them, such as Wat Ram Poeng, Chiang Mai, welcome travellers to their initiation rituals. For those who don’t have the 10 to 15 days that a retreat of this type normally requires, other temples in the heart of the city, such as Wat Mahathat, offer a more flexible timetable.
The Mecca of Thai massage
If you want to keep on spoiling your body after your trip, you could learn how to give a Thai massage. Throughout the country, schools offer courses, which last about a month. The Mecca of massages is Thai Massage School Shivagakomarpaj, known as ‘the old hospital’ of Chiang Mai.
If you don’t want to immerse yourself in Buddhism, a spa may be a great choice to put the finishing touch on a long day of visiting the wats (temples) of the Thai capital. The most luxurious hotels have sophisticated spas and the best relaxation therapies. Many emulate ancient Buddhist sanctuaries. That is the case in the hydrotherapy centre at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a long-standing regular on lists of the world’s best spas.
There are also options outside hotels, particularly in Bangkok. Face Spa, for instance, is inspired by the millenary Silk Road and includes two restaurants, a bar and a cake shop. With more modern décor, Infinity Spa is designed for travellers and offers a special package for jet lag, which “rejuvenates body, mind and soul.”
Many of these centres offer traditional Thai massages, although you don’t have to go to a spa to treat yourself to one. In the streets of any city in Thailand, including in some temples, you can get a low-priced full-body massage, or one for your feet or head. One of the most reputed places is Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha, which boasts of being the guardian of traditional Thai medicine. The majority of masseurs will, if you ask them, tone down the energetic Thai massage for those unused to such vigour.
Away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, Thailand is a tropical paradise. Nearly 25% of the country is forest, which means anyone can go on a quick excursion toward peace and tranquillity. Jungle hikes, elephant watching, and canoe rides on tranquil rivers are the usual activities in almost every national park. One of the most popular is Doi Inthanon, in the north of the country, about 100 km from Chiang Mai. It owes its name to the highest mountain in Thailand, which stands at 2,565 m above sea level, and you can fly over it on a zip line. Options are also available in the south. Hidden in the heart of the 739 km2 Khao Sok National Park is Cheow Lan Lake. Letting yourself relax in one of its floating cabins is a fine reward after an excursion in the jungle.
You can’t leave Thailand without enjoying its beaches. If what you are looking for is relaxation, it is best to avoid the crowded party beaches, like Patong, on Phuket island, and Haad Rin, on Ko Pha Ngan. Koh Lanta island, which you can reach from Krabi, conserves the charm of an undiscovered paradise. There, the murmur of the sea and a comfy sun lounger will leave you as relaxed as a good Thai massage.