I’ve just completed two massage courses in the past couple of weeks and now have my certifications! It is the first time I have a certification awarded by the Thai Ministry of Education. It’s good to learn new stuff and this is the kind of practical training I probably enjoy the most. It was great timing as well given ti is low season here and at most were about three students for four teachers or more at any time, I can certainly recommend The School of Massage for Health here in Chiang Mai if ever you’re interested in learning. It’s not a big school or a factory like some of the others which I enjoyed as well. Given we were few students we really had a a lot of time with the teachers to learn ask questions and practice a lot.
I passed the Foundation Traditional Thai Massage course with an A. Being in Chiang Mai, I learned the local Northern style Thai massage, which is supposedly a little more relaxed than the Southern Wat Pho Bangkok style, though I have read a few things online about it and the differences sound minimal. Given my teachers also told me the Northern style is different but not that much (Same same but different, as it were) it might simply be a North vs. South thing going on in the country. I was talking to a friend yesterday who surprised me by saying he’d had conversations with people who had visited Thailand several times and had no idea there was such a thing as traditional Thai massage, they firmly believed anything massage related was only to do with prostitution or happy endings. Obviously while those things exist for sure, my courses had nothing to do with it, and Thailand has a big traditions in massage that are a part of their traditional medicine.
Given we were praying to the guy every morning, I looked it up, and the person considered the founder and spiritual leader of traditional Thai massage is Shivago Komarpaj, whom according to Buddhist tradition was the Buddha’s personal physician over 2,500 years ago. The basics for traditional Thai massage involves a lot of yoga-like stretching and pressure points based on the Sen lines in the Human body. The Sen lines are a Thai traditional medicine thing, maybe based on though different from the Chinese traditional medicine meridian lines. Beyond the Buddhist tradition, Wikipedia tells me the current forms of Thai massage are most probably a blend of influences from India, China, and other parts of Southeast Asia that were more or less put together around the 19th Century.
|Doctor Father founder of Thai Massage, Shivago Komarpaj. Nice beard.|
In the first course I learned many different points and lines to manipulate with the person laying on their back, massaging feet, legs, chest, stomach, arms, shoulders, neck, and head. With everything covered I can perform a massage over two hours long – probably close to three in total. A fair warning: if ever you ask for a massage over an hour long, there’s a good chance you’ll be in for some of the more adventurous stretching positions so be ready. And that’s not even involving the more advanced levels with the more extreme lying on your stomach positions (and someone sticking their knees and elbow in your back while stretching your arms in weird positions). It’s all for good health, and it’s also worth knowing that it is supposed to stretch but not to hurt – unless you enjoy that kind of thing – so if you have a traditional Thai massage, they should ask you how you prefer the pressure, and if it hurts it’s not right so don’t hesitate telling them.
I enjoyed the first course, had time for another and chose foot reflexology massage which definitely holds its own origins in Chinese traditional medicine rather than a purely Thai heritage. Who doesn’t like a foot massage, and it’s fairly easy to do, not needing a big mat or a table or anything. I really enjoyed this, and it’s pretty interesting to learn all the reflex points and areas for both feet and hands. So I’m trained to perform a foot massage that can easily last up to 90 minutes, and can even add up to 30-45 minutes on a hands massage. I was mainly tought by Teacher Pattana who has 20 years experience in teaching Thai massage so she knows her stuff – the other teachers stepped in for occasional practicing on someone else, and they would all give me different tips and pointers which is great. Everyone develops their own style of massage once the basics of all the positions mastered. On the reflexology side, I have charts with all all the areas and more specifically learned about 26 points for each foot, areas to massage the feet in certain ways for various ailments. I have no idea if it works and it’s not supposed to replace seeing a doctor if you need one, but it’s all very interesting in any case. I passed the test with an A+ and all the teachers told me I was really good, I just need some more practice now so I’ll be giving some massage to friends in Hong Kong!
|Hitchhiking in Malaysia last year (hadn’t hitchhiked since I was about 16. Lots of fun!|
It has been almost a year now since I’ve officially transitioned into being a digital nomad, working and traveling on the way. I remember a year ago I had just left from three fantastic weeks on the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia and got sick arriving in Kuala Lumpur with a mean tonsillitis. I was at the end of my travel budget and seriously needed to figure out what was next, being ill I couldn’t do much so I took it as a good opportunity to mull things over.
I could see three main options:
- Come back to Europe and look for a new full time job (most likely as a planner in another agency)
- Stay in Asia and look for a full time in one of the main business city platforms (Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong). Similarly Australia was another option in the same style
- Go freelance full time, and while at it do it remotely and keep wandering.
- I spend a lot of time looking for work and keeping in contact with friends and professional acquaintances. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is pretty true so I make extra efforts to keep in touch (and I like keeping in touch anyways, I think it’s really important)
- I developed marketing, brand strategy and promotional tactics for a Kenya / US based Luxury African safari tour operator intending to develop a brand and service selling directly to people rather than competing on costs only with wholesale tour operators
- I worked on the launch strategy of a new Facebook social game of a small game development studio based in Hong Kong – really interesting stuff to get into
- I devised a brand and B2B strategy for a new mobile company in Nigeria who have secured one of the few mobile banking licenses recently granted by the government. Very interesting piece of work.
- I worked on two pitches (fairly large banking and energy clients) for an agency in Trinidad & Tobago. First pitch was won, still waiting on news for the second
- I developed marketing plans / strategies, brand or business advice for a bunch of startups, in the US, in Australia, in Europe, Singapore, and working on very different industries (film production, travel & tourism, education, etc).
After The Maldives and the unexpected return trip to France for Keanu’s funeral, I was unfortunately pretty broke so I asked my brother Morgan if I could come and stay at his place the time for me to get back to work, back on my feet financially and I also wanted to spend more time with the family and see my baby niece again. Morgan, his partner Virginie and their daughter Anahì live in Vientiane, Laos, where I also spent time last year, so I hopped on a flight to Sri Lanka from Male, stayed a night (sadly, I really want to experience it properly but I’ll leave it for another time), flew to Bangkok in the morning and then straight on to the overnight train to Laos – where it was great to meet and hang out with random fellow travelers over drinks in the bar car. Back in backpacker land!
It was really great to hang out with my little niece who changed so much over the past year, she’s 2 1/2 years old and lots of talking going on now. She’s also in her ‘Terrible Two’ phase, saying no a lot and I turned out to be the aim of a lot of it. She would take quite a few opportunities to remind me of the things that I wasn’t allowed to do according to her: “Willem, you no! You can’t go to the nursery school!” or “Willem you can’t go to the restaurant with us, no!” All the while waggling her finger at me and looking all serious. I’d just smile and tell her that’s ok, I’m working on my computer and wasn’t thinking of going to the nursery school anyways.
There were a couple of things in particular that I thought were amazing. One, I had her play with my iPod Touch and she loved taking videos – actually what she really really loved was watching herself afterwards. Over and over again, of course. It might partly given she’s at the phase developing self-awareness – She knows she’s her and she’s Anahì but still talking about herself at the 3rd person; there is no “I” just yet. It might also be partly because she’s a girl and enjoys looking at herself (Did I just say that? Must’ve been someone else) which she’d maybe take after my sister Saskia who looooves her own reflection. Anyways it’s really fascinating to see a kid at that particular stage of development – I don’t have children as you may know so it’s not something I experience very often.
The second point was with of all this digital technology and in particular photos everywhere, how does it have an influence on the development of memory for children (and everyone else, actually)? So for example, I’d be working on my laptop and Anahì comes to me:
“Well, yeah I guess that’s what it can be summed up to…”
“Photos..?” *cutey begging voice*
So I’d stop working for a bit and we’d go through photos on my laptop, Facebook mostly. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember a single thing from when I was her age. I certainly couldn’t name and identify on photos pretty much every single member of close family, extended family and close family friends like she could, every time, without fail. Even people she’d only met once. I think it’s incredible. At her age, I also didn’t have near as many photos all over the place to look at, so I’m wondering if all our digital content is having a particular impact on memories, perhaps re-enforcing them given we have so many more mementos of past moments than we had before. Or is it the opposite and we’ll be forgetting more because there is not need to remember, like with phone numbers?
This is my bro Morgan. Just to prove how much life goes on and on, down and up, and again; the day after Keanu’s funeral he learned his partner Virginie is pregnant – so massive congrats, he’s going to be a daddy again! Life is mental. They are also moving back to France and he’s planning a very exciting new business, starting up a food truck – I’ve started helping on the plan, more on that some other time.
He had another excellent story happen while I was there. He teaches at a nursery school and tutors a few kids from the French school (where Virginie teaches). Anyways, he was with this 9 year old and going over his history lesson. A sentence said that very little precise information about the Gauls was found because it was undecipherable, so most of the records of their culture come from the Romans. The kid didn’t understand and asks Morgan about what the word “undecipherable” means. Morgan explains, but the kids looks even more confused. He says “But I don’t understand how we wouldn’t find their records, why don’t they just look it up on Wikipedia or something?” Morgan explained how the Internet was really not old, that wasn’t even around when he was a kid so it certainly wasn’t when the Romans were. The kid just couldn’t believe it, or fathom it, it’s taken a stretch of imagination on his part to think about a world without the Internet.
We kind of know intellectually that whole new generations are born with this tech around and it’s natural to them but really when you have kind of experience you only get the faintest glimpse of how it actually is for them and it’s pretty crazy to try and comprehend. On top of that, I think the education system and curriculums need to change and adapt fast, or else may well have a lot more confused kids like that!
All in all I spent 6 weeks in Vientiane. No sightseeing, just working and enjoying the family, reading, tropical heat and all that. The experience of freelancing, working remotely and not having work when you need it is pretty damn tough, it takes a lot to keep going – certainly a lot of confidence verging on considerable stubbornness and belief that it’s possible. And then I also had a moment with my bro and Anahì, sitting on steps looking at the Mekong, enjoying the sunshine while sipping on a banana and mango fruit shake. And those magical moments make it all a worthwhile hundreds of time over. Thanks again for everything bro, love you!
I’ve been thinking of what to write about this trip in the past few days, it was a bit strange given the circumstances. Still, it was pretty damn amazing to visit my brother and spend time with him and his friends / colleagues in the Maldives and have the chance of staying in a luxury resort so rather than trying to find something profoundly meaningful to say about it, I’ll just be showing off instead.
It was the first time I landed in an archipelago country and it’s a pretty weird feeling to see nothing but the sea around as the plane lands on a landing strip in the middle of the water, with only a few other tiny islands around. The Maldives as a country is made of about 1,190 coral islands grouped in a double chain 26 atolls and spread over 90,000 km2. Most of those islands are only one or two km2 in surface and lie about 1 meter above the sea level. It’s pretty crazy to see, and really beautiful if you like the sea.
The second villa was of the ‘Crusoe’ style of design on the sunrise side of the island. I had some unexpected work to do, helping a client for a website redesign and social media strategy pitch so it was good to have the office space:
They strive to be as sustainable as possible and have vegetable patches on the island, growing about 35% of the fruits, herbs and vegetables for the restaurants.
I had an absolutely fantastic 2011. I started traveling, leaving in February this is what I’ve done:
You can view the whole list of places I’ve been here. I’ve been wanting to go on a trip like this for a very long time and I’m loving it so much it’s not over.
Here’s a list of some cool things I accomplished in 2011, in bullet points and no order:
- I visited 7 countries in Asia and altogether traveled a pretty impressive 22,845 miles (36,765km), a lot of it overland in Southeast Asia
- I caught up with one of my very best friends I hadn’t seen in 4 years
- I grew a beard for the first time. Then shaved it
- I spent time with my lovely baby niece, my little brother and his girlfriend in Laos
- I learned to scuba dive and fell in love with it
- I did nothing, for hours on end. Watching life go by and observing people in different countries
- I helped sort out a pretty important family crisis early in the year
- I started officially working for myself while traveling
- I kickstarted the first Beersphere planner meetup in Singapore
- I joined the Heather‘s team to crunch numbers for the annual Planner Survey
- I started taking care of my health, for several things that were overdue
- I lost 16 kilos (2.5 stone) though of course regained a bit while staying with my parents
- I met some truly amazing people on the way and made new friends
- I read a bunch of books
- I hitch-hiked for the first time since I was like 16 years old
- I got myself in a fight for the third time of my life
- I partied!
- I had some fantastic food
- I spent time with my parents and my family in France
- I started a pretty ambitious plan of organising an event it’s still work in progress
- I became a digital nomad.
2011 was such a great year. So much fun, so many new experiences.
2012 is looking good too, I’m soon going to start traveling again. First catching up with more friends and family in Europe and then more travels in Asia. My first faraway stop should be to visit my older brother in the Maldives, which I’m really looking forward to. I can’t wait to see what awaits this year.
I was looking through my pictures from China and there are a few I’d like to share here. This first one was at the Great Wall in Simatai:I know they are investing a lot of money in translating a lot of things in (proper) English for the Beijing Olympics next year, and they definitely have a lot of work to do.
That said, I was really happy there was some matter of English, and even more so that it was usually quite entertaining!
Now on the other hand, bars in Beijing have some great slogans and I particularly like this one, direct and compelling: I don’t know what you would have done, but I saw that and walked straight in! I think whoever came up with this should be working on the Olympics, but somehow I doubt that’s the case…
I saw this sculpture while walking along the river in Chengdu, Sichuan.
I was actually surprised to see it, after a few weeks in China, you completely forget it’s supposed to be a Communist country. Fortunately they left some of the artwork to remind us, and I think this is a fine piece of Soviet art.I saw this while climbing Mt Emei, one of the four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China (a big deal for Chinese people and one of the main tourist, historical and religious sites in the country). The ability for Chinese to surprise was endless, the last thing I was expecting was to read about Donald Duck hanging out there in the mountain! Of course, I didn’t manage to spot the tree, I mean it is a forest right in front of you… I don’t even know if it’s possible to see it from this picture, but if anyone does please do tell me!I saw this one in Shenzhen, it’s really funny how just one letter changes the whole meaning in English but at the same time probably describes the food even better!