Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spectacular Ink celebrates 15 years

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog post to bring you … some quick thoughts about the Spectacular Ink client showcase, held Tuesday evening at the V Lounge above Earl’s in Yaletown.

I know, I know - you really want to know what the other half of my “My Top 10 Most Odd, Interesting, Unique and Amusing Massage Experiences” consists of, right?

I promise, that will be my next blog post - really!

However, seeing as this gathering of travel writers and travel suppliers took place Tuesday, I thought I’d blog about it ASAP.

Until Tuesday night’s event, I didn’t realize Jane and Peter Lloyd-Jones had been running their West Vancouver-based travel marketing/public relations company for 15 years. Wow! That’s longer than I’ve been freelancing. In this business, that’s a long time to be running a company like that successfully.

One of the "tenthouse suites" at Rockwater.
I’ve known Jane since 2007 through our membership in the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC). I met Peter in 2008, when I went to their client showcase for the first time. I was fortunate enough that year to win a two-night stay with one of their long-standing clients, Rockwater Secret Cove Resort. It offers glamping at its finest, on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast.

Rockwater was at the event this year again, along with several of their other clients like Echo Valley Ranch and Spa, Tourism Harrison and King Pacific Lodge, to name but a few. There is a complete list on their website.

This event allows travel writers to meet some of SI’s clients face-to-face. It’s also a great event for networking, nibbling and noshing, and touching base with some writing colleagues you may not have seen in a few months (or in some cases, a year!)

I didn’t win a draw prize this time, but between the wine, the food and the company, I enjoyed a truly marvellous time, meeting old colleagues as well as some newer colleagues face-to-face for the first time.

Congrats to Jane, Peter and the rest of their team for a great event, and all the best for the next 15 years.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging … “My Top 10 Most Odd, Interesting, Unique and Amusing Massage Experiences, Part 2” will be my next blog post. (I promise!)

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Top 10 Most Odd, Interesting, Unique and Amusing Massage Experiences, Part 1.

Okay, I admit it: I love to be pampered. Must be the extra yin energy I have in me, but I love going to get a nice, relaxing full-body massage. I’ve been enjoying regular massage from Registered Massage Therapists since about 1994. I opt for RMT’s (LMT’s in the U.S.) because:
a) with a few exceptions, their massages are almost always better than those provided by Certified Massage Therapists (CMT’s) or spa therapists.
b) part of the cost of the massage is deductible through extended health care (an important consideration, since they are more expensive than CMT’s or ST’s).

Since I’m a travel writer, I travel a lot, including flying all over the world. Flying creates tense, stressed muscles, so when I arrive at a new destination, I always try to line up a massage the first day I’m there so I’m ready to hit the road in search of stories.

Preparing a massage table for the next client.

Now with any RMT/LMT in North America, you’re guaranteed a fairly standard, professional massage. That may not always be the case when you’re in another country.

For one thing, many countries don’t register/certify massage therapists the way we do in North America. Then there’s always that other kind of “massage” that’s associated with the real McCoy – I’m talking about the “happy-ending/massage-with-extras” you can get anywhere in the world. Because other countries may not offer designations, you do have to be careful you don’t end up with that “other” kind of massage when all you want is to relax your stressed muscles.

I’ve had massages all over North America, in Europe, the Caribbean and Asia. And I’ve had some interesting – sometimes amusing – experiences (and not all of them outside of North America).

Here then, in no particular order, are My Top 10 Most Odd, Interesting, Unique and Amusing Massage Experiences, Part 1.

1. The Coffee Shop Waitress Massage

During a press trip to a spa in New Mexico, all the writers were treated to free 30-minute massages. For a minute, I thought they’d put me in the coffee shop instead of the massage chambers. The therapist working on me was chewing the gum the whole time – and she was cracking it, like one of those stereotypical waitresses you associate with diners, like Mel’s Diner on the old 70’s TV sitcom, Alice. I kept waiting for her to yell out, “Two blue-plate specials, one Bossy in a bowl and three belly-warmers!” That was definitely a sub-optimal experience.

2. The Paint Mask Massage, Part I

This could really be 2a. of Number 2. I went for a massage at a Chinese spa on Kingsway in Burnaby, B.C. once, and while the therapist was not an RMT or even a CMT, it was a legit spa. My therapist was dressed in a hospital-like uniform – and she had a paint mask over her face (maybe she had a cold?) English was not her first language, but it was certainly better than my Chinese. Partway through the massage, while I’m still on my stomach, she climbs up and straddles me, sitting on my bum. I guess she wanted to get better leverage? Meanwhile, she’s trying to convince me to sign up for 10 massages from her, so I get the 11th one free. “Maybe you teach me English, I teach you Chinese?” she says. Not really a bad massage, but certainly a bit off-the-wall, compared to what I was used in other spas or health centres.

3. Paint Mask Massage, Part II

This could be 2b. During the massage described above, the therapist kept asking if I’d like to buy a small vial of aromatherapy oil for $30! She would then add some to the massage oil she was using and make it a better massage – and I could keep the oil to use at future massages. She offered two or three times. Hey, I’m here to relax, not be pressured into spending more money. Then when I went to pay, they told me the “special” they were offering (one of the reasons I went there) was only applicable if you bought a package. Won’t be going back there anytime soon.

4. The Malaysian Massage, Part I

In Malaysia, you often find, for lack of a better term, “street-massage.” Vendors provide you with foot rubs, shoulder rubs or sometimes even full-body massage right along the sidewalk.  During a stay in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, I wandered across the street from my hotel and took advantage of an incredible offer: $30 Canadian for a 30-minute foot scrub and reflexology treatment, followed by a 90-minute full body massage. Deal!

The massage was great; the ambience…well, it was outside next to an outdoor cafĂ©, where people were eating and drinking 30 feet away. Overhead was a gigantic viewing screen showing rock music videos. Since there was no privacy, I stripped down to my walking shorts and lay down on a big couch-like contraption.

It was a great massage, the woman giving it was very skilled and very tiny – at one point, she crawled up onto my back and used her knees to massage my gluts and hamstrings, to make sure she got plenty of pressure on them.

When I flipped over onto my back, two other therapists who were not busy were sitting on the massage couch next to us, chatting away, asking me how I was enjoying my massage!

After I was finished, I felt like a bowl of jelly. Great massage, but certainly different...

5. The Malaysian Massage, Part II

My last night in Malaysia was spent at the Putrajaya Shangri-la Hotel. When I got there, I was told the room they had booked for me was not available – so would I mind an upgrade to the Presidential Suite? Of course not, I said agreeably.

It turned out to be bigger than my house. We got in at about 9 p.m. after flying for several hours from the far east end of Borneo. We were leaving at noon the next day for a 20-hour flight across the Pacific back to Vancouver. Time for a massage!

But I didn’t want to leave this gorgeous room, I only had a few hours to enjoy it. I called down to the spa, and they said, no problem, we’ll send a therapist up.

The very attractive massage therapist arrived at 10 the next morning; I expected her to have one of those portable massage tables.


She said, “Strip down, put a towel around your waist, and lay down on the bed.”

Hmmm…mmm… I didn’t really want that kind of massage… but I did as I was told, as in the interest of good foreign relations, I’m always very agreeable while visiting another country.

After I was comfortable, she climbed up onto the bed, on her knees and gave me ….

…. one of the most relaxing massages I’ve ever had. At one point, I think I fell asleep.

Great massage.

Five down, five to go. I’ll tell you about my other five massage experiences in my next blog post.

Losing my blog virginity

Paddling the Rio Shiripuno in Ecuador,
looking for parrots 
We've all had many "firsts" in our life...first date, first kiss, first day of school, first day of summer, first job, first ---- (you know!) - and like all those and many other firsts, I thought long and hard (no pun intended)about what my first blogpost should be.

I now know what I want my first content to be about, but before I post that, I thought, maybe a short introduction is in order.

As you may have guessed from this blog's title, I'm passionate about parrots. And paddling. As a professional travel writer, I often try to combine the two passions as I roam the world looking for new stories to write about.

While this blog will often feature posts about parrots and paddling, there will be many other travel-related stories featured here, ranging the gamut from conservation-oriented diatribes to scribblings about spas, from adventures with food to travel by train, plane and boat (in addition to canoes and kayaks).

It is a work in progress, so over the next few months, there may be many changes and modifications to this blog.