Pieter was right: the temple massages at Wat Pho really were awesome. Lisa wasn’t surprised by how crowded the site was, because it was dazzlingly, exotically beautiful. All of the palace buildings had golden roofs that gracefully swooped down and curled back up towards the heavens. Guardian demons held up columns or stood with watchful eyes. All of the surfaces were covered with encrusted diamond shapes of colored glass, or tiny mirrors. Throngs of tourists wandered with cameras and guidebooks, admiring the buildings that glittered in the bright Thai sun. “It’s almost as if this entire site is winking at us!” Lisa exclaimed.
Lisa and Babs wandered with their own cameras until they found the traditional massage school. An attendant asked them what kind of session they wanted (how long? what style massage? rather from a male or female therapist, or no preference?) and assigned them numbers. Babs’s number was called first and she looked nervous as she vanished out of sight with a therapist. A few minutes later Lisa heard 32 announced. She stood up and a young Thai woman led her to a different building.
The slats of the rattan walls in the low open structure let in both light and air. Lisa was led to the back of the long room, filled with low mats to the left and right. All around her fully clothed people lay on backs or stomachs as Thai therapists pulled at their limbs. Her therapist pointed for Lisa to lie down, and Lisa watched intently as the Thai girl put her palms together in front of her chest and whispered a prayer. She took one of Lisa’s legs in her hands, and Lisa forgot everything around her as the therapist smoothed away the knots of travel.
In the tropical climate Babs’s own long blond hair had gone completely limp. Babs was miserable. She was pretending she wasn’t shocked and frightened of the foreign megalopolis. Thailand’s capitol city might be a short plane ride away from Singapore. In reality, Bangkok was light years distant from any sanitized, orderly place. Babs knew Lisa admired her for what she perceived to be Babs’s sophistication and worldliness, her previous international travel experience. But just a few days in Bangkok quickly forced Babs to admit how terribly narrow the contours of her worldly knowledge were.
She was terrified of the jostling throngs and afraid of the foreign faces hurrying down the streets. The Bay Area consisted of lots of ethnic groups, of Americans. The jumble of nationalities here was far too authentic. If one more sticky brown body brushed against hers, she would have to scream.
At the temple Babs had been unable to relax despite the massage therapist’s coaxing, dexterous fingers. She had lain fearful and stiff, horribly awkward as a stranger touched her. Babs left the temple with an uncomfortable awareness of how uptight she was and no idea of how to release it.
Her sinuses were clogged with humidity and the aromas of overripe fruits and other odors she couldn’t identify. The stench from open food grills just made her want to gag, while the sly, half closed eyes of the Buddhas in their strange rich temples frightened her. They watched Babs, and on all accounts they found her wanting. The glittering Thai world was simultaneously far too blinding, and contained far too much clarity.
Lisa noticed nothing of how scared Babs was. Instead, Lisa charged head first into the contradictory experience of the crowded streets and serene, glittering temples. Babs was dismayed first by her friend Lisa’s surprising lack of fear, and next by her startling physical transformation. For the first time in their friendship she was discerning a little stab of jealousy against plain Lisa.
– from my short story “Banged Cock” in Broken In: A Novel in Stories. Available online at amazon.com, amazon.de, and amazon in countries everywhere.
(All photogaphs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image.)
More pictures from our trips to Thailand, and of Uwe’s photography, may be viewed at viewpics.de.
18 thoughts on “A Massage at Wat Pho”
Wonderful photographs here 🙂
Thanks for commenting. The serenity photos were easy. I had to go with the night traffic pic to even begin to show how chaotic Bangkok’s streets are. —Jadi
Fantastic title for a book/novel/storyset! Thank you for a trip to Thailand during breakfast.
Glad to have provided a morning trip; this post is one close to my heart. Thanks for following my blog, and welcome! —Jadi
I loved the pictures and the post… I also loved the beauty of Babs and plain Lisa… Gorgeous sharing on so many levels! Thank you for doing so!
So glad you liked it. The posts from my book are the ones I’m most nervous about. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, and come back soon. —Jadi
Hi Jadi. Thanks for visiting my blog, and in so doing, introducing me to yours. It covers much real neat stuff!
Thanks Mary, Welcome to my blog, I hope you enjoy your time exploring it. I seem to do a ‘mixed’ blog as my topics seem to vary too much from post to post to be able to define what I have to say (Or maybe I’m just too random?..) I liked your site as well. WordPress is great for discovering interesting folks. I’m sure we’ll meet up again! —Jadi
I love Thailand…
We keep going back. It’s got everything. The food is great, the people are kind, the nature is fantastic (I have to blog at some point about some of the parks we’ve visited there), the culture is fascinating. I still can’t wrap my brain around Bangkok, but that’s a small price to pay. —Jadi
Each seems more beautiful than the last one. Thanks for stopping by! —Jadi
Brings back memories of living in Thailand. Pictures are fabulous.
Thanks for commenting – where did you live in Thailand? Bangkok is the city that assaults my senses in ways like no other place I’ve been. I never get used to it. —Jadi
Bangkok! Ha! We taught for 4 years at International School of Bangkok. Assault is the right word.