After two days of chilling out in Chiang Mai and organising our next steps, finances etc. we got ready to leave for Chiang Rai. Our bus wasn’t until 12.30pm so we decided to wake up early and make the most of our last morning in the old city. Something I had wanted to do since we got here was have a Thai massage (when I was last in Thailand I never had one and have always regretted it!), and this particular place came highly recommended in the Lonely Planet.
Chiang Mai Woman Correctional Institution Vocational Training Center is exactly what the name suggests. A rehabilitation centre which houses a spa and restaurant where inmates of Chiang Mai’s women’s prison, who are coming up to the end of their sentences, can train in cooking and massage therapy in order to learn a trade and earn money for when they are released. We paid 200 baht each for a 1 hour full body traditional Thai massage, and being one of the first groups there were ushered through immediately.
Apart from the prison guard at the welcome desk, there was no other visible sign that this was anything different than a professionally run spa. We were given robes to change into, and our feet were washed before being shown into the cosy main room for our massages.
Now don’t get me wrong, I had heard from other travellers that a traditional Thai massage wasn’t your standard oil rub. However these women took no prisoners (pardon the pun)! The next hour of my life was a weird cross between a chiropractor session and what I can only describe as pure torture. Joints that I didn’t even know I had were being clicked and every single one of my muscles was either elbowed, slapped or pulled. One minute I was trying not to cry out in pain, while the next trying not to laugh as I looked over at Matt to see a tiny Thai lady trying desperately to get her leg around his torso in order to click his spine. The whole experience was strange and anything but relaxing; however I have to admit that my body does feel a lot looser than it did this time yesterday! If you are ever in Chiang Mai and want a massage I would fully recommend here; you’re helping these women have a better life when they finish their sentences and that’s always got to be good!
Once our hour was up and we had drunk our complimentary herbal tea, served in their cute front garden we headed to breakfast. Over the last few days a place called The Corner has become our regular morning hangout. The restaurant itself is rustic and cute with lots of people-watching opportunities and the food is so amazing and so cheap. We both had chicken fried rice (fully embracing the Thai way) with Matt having an Orange shake and myself a Papaya one. We then grabbed our stuff from the hostel we were staying in and took a red truck taxi (I know they have a proper name) to the bus station.
The bus to Chiang Rai took around 3 hours, we had massive roomy leather seats with air-con and even a pastry snack and a bottle of water for the journey. We then got a tuk-tuk to our hostel, which is a slight walk from the centre of Chiang Rai but is worth it as our room is massive for the money we are spending.
This evening we have wandered around Chiang Rai, browsed the night bazaar (I wish I could fit things into my bag) and had dinner in a small local restaurant before heading back to the hostel to plan our next few days here. There’s so much to do in the province of Chiang Rai and not enough time to do it all!