This is Thailand

 |  September 1, 2011

1. I see that fish spas are getting more common these days but I’m too scared to try. What are the benefits of fish spas? And what does it feel like?

Pim (intern):
The toothless garra rufa fish (doctor fish) you see in the foot tanks suck away at dead skin cells, ultimately cleansing your feet of dead flesh. The incredible doctor fish can survive in water as warm as 43°C. It’s not only your feet that can get fish-scrubbed; it’s any part of your skin that you submerge in the water. I have never tried a fish spa myself so personally I do not know what it feels like, although I have witnessed the reaction of many first timers and they tend to enjoy the ticklish sensation.

2. I’m new here, and I’ve noticed that there’s no general tipping rule for restaurants and services. Does this mean that we are not expected to leave a tip wherever we go?

Pim (intern):
If you’re looking for a place that will add a 7% service charge to your meal then try somewhere fancy where the napkins are not of the pink paper variety, and the music hums a classical tune. Either that or you can tip the local restaurant anywhere up to 10% on top of the total cost. The places where you are generally expected to give out fifty baht notes here and there are at airports and hotels. Keep in mind that carrying small notes are good, especially for taxi drivers who tend to say that they don’t have change in hopes of getting a big tip. We, however, believe in tipping if the service warrants it, just use your personal judgment and remember that many wait-staff earn a pittance and do indeed rely on the largess of strangers.

3. Hello. I’ve been wanting to try out meditation and finding inner peace with myself, but every time I sit quietly and close my eyes I always get distracted. Are there any places, or temples maybe, that can teach me how to meditate and improve my focus?

Pim (intern):
Chiang Mai has several temples that can teach you how to peacefully sit cross-legged on a hard surface for as long as possible without letting your mind wander. For foreign beginners Wat Doi Suthep offers a 21-day course, teaching in English the basics of meditation and Buddhism. For more information give them a call at 053 295 012 and ask for Ajarn Yuttadhamm. For a more intensive course try Wat Chom Tong International Meditation Centre (near Doi Inthanon), which recommends a minimum of 26 days. They also have a forest retreat if you want to try out your meditation skills in the midst of nature. Give them a call for more information at 053 362 067.

4. What are the best times for cycling in Chiang Mai?

Pim (intern):
The best months to take your bicycle for a spin would be from September to March. September is when the rainy season has reached its end and you can ride freely around the lush, green mountainous regions of the city. The winter months are from December to January – most riders prefer this time as the air is cool and fresh. The weather gets too hot to do anything in March, however if you don’t mind the rain, getting attacked by the mud and sliding around then the rainy seasons of July to August could be a whole lot of fun.

5. Where can I take items for recycling?

Pim (intern):
Recycling is always a good option when getting rid of your garbage and it’s also a great way to earn a little cash. Since there are no local recycling bins where you can drop off your stuff, you have to go to the centre of recycled things at Kawila section, Baan Den Electrical Station on Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road. Here you can sell your garbage (paper, plastic, glass, metal, etc.) from Mondays-Saturdays at 8 a.m.-5 a.m. On the other hand, The Stratton ABC foundation for young children is a registered charity that offers to collect your recyclable materials directly from you. All the money from the recycle centres will go directly to the foundation. To get in contact with them leave a message and your email on their website, www.thestrattonabcfoundation. com/tag/recycle/, and the director will give you a prompt reply, complete with all the details you need to send off your recyclable materials. Note that this option is only for those living in the Chiang Mai City area, or between the city and Sarapee area (where the ABC foundation is located).