Sean Gray @ Sunshine Massage
Who am I…
My name is Sean Gray and I’ve been living in Chiang Mai for a little over two months now.
My wife, Mee, and I decided about a year ago that it was high time to make some serious changes in our lives and literally in a matter of two months put our house on the market, sold everything we owned, and headed to Hawaii for a couple of months to figure out our next move.
We are lucky in the fact that we have a little bit of money coming in every month and soon realized that are next move wherever that may be needed to cost a hell of a lot less than Hawaii, and honestly probably anywhere in the U.S., so we pulled up the top 10 best (yet cheap) expat locations and low and behold Chiang Mai was at the top of the list.
Subnote: Visiting Asheville about a year ago a friend of ours recommended a wonderful clairvoyant named Sage. (Don’t laugh) During a consult she mentioned that she felt that the next move I made would be in the Wellness Field and recommended I look into Thai Massage as it correlated with the yoga which had become a big part of my life. Up to that point I’d never heard of Thai Massage, except for maybe a movie or two which I won’t mention.
How we did it…
We actually spent a few months down south in Koh Phangan prior to coming to Chiang Mai. We knew we wanted to spend time both studying Yoga at Agama and in Chiang Mai studying Thai Massage. Luckily we started down south. The reason is that while down there I started seeking out both great massages and people, both Thai and Western, who had studied in Chiang Mai. It also gave me time to start researching all of the available schools, of which there are a ton.
My criteria were that I wanted it to have a long term program, (i.e. more than just an introductory course) and I wanted it to be a size which allowed for a continued relationship once I had finished training. In other words I didn’t want to attend a course which had hundreds of people coming through where I would be just a number, or another farong.
Amazingly I met a young man in Koh Phangan who had studied in Chiang Mai a number of times as well as in Laos and other areas of Thailand and he became my liaison to what has become a fantastic experience. While he was very unbiased and laid out where all of the schools were and the benefits of each, ultimately I learned the most through receiving massage from him. He had studied mostly with Sunshine Massage School and the Thai massage Circus.
So I focused my attention on the Sunshine Network and ultimately the School and contacted Max the owner.
I knew I wanted a longer term course so I signed up for a 240hr course, we got on the train and headed for Chiang Mai.
The Experience so far…
We arrived in Chiang Mai 2 weeks before the course started. DO THIS!
I realize everyone may not have this opportunity, but if you can manage it you must. Once your course starts you won’t have a lot of time to orientate yourself so do it ahead of time.
We hadn’t made arrangements on a place to stay since we were arriving in the slow season and word on the street is we’d have our pick of the litter. Well that was and wasn’t the case. We were coming from down south where you could rent a bungalow with a kitchen and a fair amount of room. While we knew there weren’t any bungalows we thought apartments would be a lot more prevalent than what we found. What we found were guesthouses galore but very little in the way of Apartments, especially inside the old city.
Since we had the extra time we got on Airbnb and fortunately came across Baan Ouikum, aka Stephen & King. They were super quick to respond and we met the next day. The location was perfect. Even more so than we understood at the time. It was on the West side of the old city away from all of the touristy stuff, but at the same time within walking distance of everything inside the wall. They even had a motorbike for us to rent and soon became more than just landlords. They became friends that we could call or email and ask questions and advice.
About a week before my class started I drove over and met everyone. It takes about 12 minutes to get there on the bike and is a fun drive. You get to line up with the 100 or so other students, all dressed in their uniforms heading to high school and college and race to the next light.
It’s Sunday night and I’m approaching my final week. It’s been fantastic. Next week I actually go out into the country and massage the fieldworkers. Thai people with real issues that have had Thai massage through out their lives. My ability to give a massage and assess the client and what they need is far beyond where I thought it would be after two months, but still I have some jitters. My class sizes have ranged from as low as just me and the teacher up to seven people. The training has been top notch. I’ve had three separate teachers and they’ve all had decades of experience. I’ve really taken an interest in the therapeutic side of massage and have signed up for a special course which focuses solely on the therapeutic aspect. It’s in two months so I just told Stephen we’d be extending our lease until January, another five months.
All in all it’s been an experience well beyond our expectations.
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