In December 2010, eight students (two from the UK, three from France, one from the USA and two from Italy) joined to take a twelve-day Thai Yoga Massage course in the Lahu Village “Huey Nam Rin,” the birthplace of the The Sunshine Network which was founded by the late Asokananda (Harald Brust).
We gathered there to take classes with Asokanada’s son Chatchoi. And of course — to experience a (cultural) adventure. Both a personal adventure and one shared with each other. And not to forget — a short parallel journey together with this fascinating Lahu Hill Tribe, located in the deep north of Thailand.
Not even twenty-five years ago this was an opium-valley near the notorious Golden Triangle, but today, a peaceful and legal agricultural Thai-integrated community counting about four-hundred inhabitants, two supermarkets, a coffee shop with a one-bench-terrace, quite a number of dogs, beautiful scenery, humble housing and the origins of a tremendous endeavor spreading Traditional Thai Massage in the Western world.
In this place, here, lie the roots of the Sunshine lineage and my great passion — Northern Style Thai Massage.
Our starting point is Chiang Mai at Chatchoi’s house opposite of the Sunshine Massage School. After a ninety minutes four-wheel-drive-pick-up ride up-north, we arrive in the Huey Nam Rin village and get acquainted with our new school. It might look somewhat different from what you’d expect usually from a Thai Massage school, but it’s really great to work here. It’s refreshing (in the night it’s simply cold; won’t lie about that), and with a grand view over the surrounding valley.
In fact, “our school” is just a huge, open (bit shaky) bamboo hut on poles. There’s a kind of “lobby” connected to it with samples of books-to-be-sold displayed, agendas of Sunshine Network teachers visiting in the coming period, a “library room” and some other practical local info about available treks, healers, and so on.
Sometimes during lunchtime, but definitely in the afternoons and in the evenings after class, we tend to visit one of the two local “supermarkets.” Most of the time we visit both, which gives us a slightly wider range of choice in products. I usually buy some sweets and cookies as I desperately crave for “raw energy.” I know, not too healthy, but… I just can’t resist.
Our (vegetarian) lunch and pause is usually somewhere between 12:00 and 14:00. It’s the time we basically just wait for Chatchoi’s mother to give us the you-can-eat-sign (and yes you bet—hungry we are). While we wait, we do some resting, relaxing, or we just enjoy the sun (and the village dogs). After lunch most of us would take a short nap to get ready for the second part of the day (which is from about 14:00 to 17:00).
On the sixth day we took a break (and a trip) to a hot spring and a waterfall in the neighboring region. I didn’t go in the hot springs myself as I just wanted to relax on a terrace drinking a coffee, but I went to the waterfall. Reaching the waterfall wasn’t so easy. It was quite a trip walking to it, really taking care not to trip off in a ravine or something. But finally we got to some beautiful surroundings. I skipped jumping into the water as I fancied it way too cold, but most of the others did.
At night, some of us (I did for instance) slept in the school library, which is located above the sleeping place of some of the village pigs and dogs. The school library is actually a separate room directly attached to “the school.” And to be honest — it took me a few days to get used to the noisy pigs under my bed (the term “snoring” definitely got quite another meaning for me). Others slept in little guest bungalows around the school or in rooms in the other school (secondary) location.
Taking my daily strolls through the village I managed to now and then take some nice pics of the village and valley. And as I’m this real jungle-fan, I regularly went up the surrounding mountains and got me some peace and quiet.
After twelve days we drove back to Chiang Mai. In hindsight, an exciting cultural experience, yet, I think I enjoyed the most the Thai Massage course with Chatchoi — I find that nothing really beats being taught Thai Massage by a Thai who masters the art.
Om Mani Padme Hum.
Salutations to the Jewel of Consciousness which has reached the Heart’s Lotus.