Healing: Story of Kamalasom Massage ~ Phitsanulok, Thailand

on the massage mat, so exhausted and disheartened by life but… doing it

What follows comes from my erstwhile “Healing Journal” – written/compiled on a foggy meandering journey to various countries (Pacifica, Phitsanulok, Cochin, Pokhara, Dikwella/Galle…) visiting all manner of hospitals, clinics and exploring various healing modalities and techniques.

Shared here more-or-less unedited for posterity (whatever that is) and to shed light to those struggling who might come across this riff.  Please watch the “Healing Ramble, introduction” video for context on this series.

Importantly, this is not meant to be a travelogue or creative writing exercise, just laying out my experience as it came to me. I may include some links to other projects or creations that came out of this, maybe… I’m not there yet.

This entry, from Phitsanulok, Thailand over 4 extended visits in 2016-18. It’s now June 2021, i live in Japan, am stable if far from “normal”.  No comments, sympathy requested or accepted. Carry on.

kind ladies at the massage clinic on one of my visits (looking better here)

On my healing journey, i was introduced to Kamalasom Traditional Thai massage ศูนย์ส่งเสริมสุขภาพแผนไทย กมลาศรม (สาธารณสุขจังหวัดพิษณุโลก) clinic in Phitsanulok, Thailand after the magical Mrs. Athaya made arrangements.  Since Oct. 2016, so far i have spent 4 extended treatment sessions at this facility.

always catching a “good bye” photo (including me in my disposable clothes)

This is NOT TO BE confused with ubiquitous “tourist massage” or the abundant s3xy massages, this is traditional “royal court massage and i’ll tell ya, its not gentle, relaxing or delicate – but Oh so great!

I’ll explain how the routine goes: Usually,… first starts with a blood pressure and pulse rate check (keep in mind all this happens in Thai so i just play along with smiles and they are all so nice to me), and brief consult (again, in limited common language).

starts with blood pressure test and whatnot

Then, after changing from street clothes to sorta pyjamas/shorts, i receive 1-1/2 hours of Thai “Royal Court” massage in which all my muscles, joints, ligaments etc are stretched and bent to the very outer limits with elbows, knees, feet as well as hands involved.

It’s almost always the same lady tending to me, so after probably 30 sessions, she knows me well.

this sorta massage is not gentle nor soothing, rather a centuries old routine, hunker in and deal with it

The treatment takes place in a rather hectic, non-private room on mats on a slightly raised dais. Sometimes there is a curtain, usually not. All the practitioners are talking and joking and everyone teases me as i am the only foreign patient and know like 12 words of Thai.

They do enjoy that i am game for anything and realize i need and appreciate their help. Sometimes other patients are even getting phone calls while receiving treatment(!) while others wince and groan in pain.

Anyhow, then i am beat down with various hot cloth pouches containing herbal poultice of some kind. These are frequently refreshed to be maximum hot (in a sorta slow cooker steamer type device), and are especially applied to pressure points and afflicted areas.

Then onto a herbal steam sauna – a small infrared sauna with the addition of an open top rice cooker steaming herbal mixture. Keep in mind, the outside temperature is already hot and humid and this :30 session is very heavy duty – even for a guy like me who loves hot hot heat. Intense!

Finally, hot tea and sometimes a little snack.

Sometimes i walk back to my guesthouse – cutting through various markets, past the train station and what not, or other times i get a tuk-tuk along the way or wait out front for a cheap-ish taxi.

As for payment… i pay when i check in and do the blood pressure check, then, while i am in-treatment, they bring my change and receipt and place by the dais. It is very reasonably priced for a high-quality professional service. 

I have a stack of the green carbonless copies. The bills are stapled to the receipt which is kind of a pain but whatever, i love the inky stamps!

I also buy a gift on my last day for the staff – usually a big fruit basket or other food as they all seem to basically “pot luck” for lunch each day. Someone is always perched having a bite. It’s a professional, but decidedly casual, environment.

Most importantly, the treatments loosen me up, flush out lactic acid or whatever to leg my limbs moving and feeling more limber and balanced.

Extra most important, they are all very sweet and kind me and know that i appreciate them. 

Reminder: The treatments are rather intense and much more so than the “tourist” massage widely available (no, not that kind of massage :)). When i arrived after having a “tourist massage” in Chiang Mai, i was covered in bruises and they laughed about this, a lot!

Everyone was so kind to me and i am so grateful. 

Note: black clothes as they King had recently died

Should you have a notion to visit, here is a vague map: 

go to the red pin for: ศูนย์ส่งเสริมสุขภาพแผนไทย กมลาศรม (สาธารณสุขจังหวัดพิษณุโลก)

…and the sign out front: 

Next up, more about “regular” and logistical life in Phitsanulok >>>

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