4 April 2003, Hatyai
A Steam Bath

I was told that the accepted spelling is "Hatyai", and not "Hadyaai" or "Hat Yai", so that's what I'll use from now on.

I actually fell asleep in the afternoon, after being shown to my room in the school. It actually straddles three shophouse lots and is very open. Ooi lives and works there, and life is simple (well, especially for a city dweller like me!). I guess all the rest and relaxation rubbed off on me.

After my nap, Ooi looked up at me and asked "Want to go for a Thai Steam Bath?". One of the main rules of the Big Trip is to experience anything new, so the answer had to be "Yes!". It really is something that should be experienced.

He drove me out into the boondocks of Songkla, up to a hut placed at the edge of a remote field, deep into the darkness of night. You see all these semi-robed people trotting in and out of these rooms, glistening with sweat. Men go to the left, women to the right, and it's ideal to strip down to swimming shorts or something else you don't mind getting wet.

Walking into the room was like something else. You're hit by a wall of heat, and you grimace through to find a little plastic stool to sit on. There are no lights in the room. It's like some sort of sensory-deprivation oven. The smell of super-heated herbs saturates your nostrils, which is not all that often because the air is so thick that you have to breath through your mouth. A layer of moisture condenses upon your body as soon as you step in.

The whole idea is just to sweat it out. The herbs and the hot air encourage your body to expel toxins. I actually found it impossible to completely relax through the sweltering heat, and you feel light-headed after a while. I had visions of myself passing out and being steamed alive, like some herbal hainanese chicken. They even sell oil outside, just to make it all complete.

Ooi told me to relax and just sit there until you feel you have to get out. Twenty minutes is about right. Just like boiling four eggs in a row, I thought.

But after a while, it feels ok, I guess. Your body does try to scream at you to get out, because the temperature must be a good 40 degrees C or something, and I put that all down to heat shock.

When you really can't take it anymore, you laboriously get off the chair and make your way out again to cool down with herbal tea and a view of the night sky.


posted on Monday, April 07, 2003 - permalink
Comments: Post a Comment