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One of the most intriguing observations we’ve had while traveling in Asia is the plethora of skin products on the market designed to make the user whiter. While in the West we’re spending millions of dollars to make our skin darker (from tanning salons to self tanners), in the East they’re spending a corresponding amount to go lighter.

I spent the few days we had on the Thai island Koh Phagnan working to get my tan on.

I scour the pharmacies for anti-wrinkle cream by my favorite brands including Olay, but all I can find are whitening products. They even have products for men.

Where's the anti-wrinkle cream?

The TV commercials hawking these creams are an additional source of amusement with the women in them gazing approvingly in the mirror after a graphic explains this whitening lotion just made them 2 shades lighter.

Will it ever be possible to abandon our world-wide obsession with skin color? Our preferences towards melanin levels clearly have more to do with the culture we’ve been born into than any degree of worth.

Although to be fair, if I wasn’t so obsessed with getting a little color on my face, I probably wouldn’t need that all that anti-wrinkle cream either.

~ Molly

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As some who have known me more than 3 months can attest to, my hair grows quite quickly. This was not much of an issue in South America knowing full well that we would return in time to get a “humanizing” trimming. On the second leg of our journey, decisions would have to be made; such as when & where to get a haircut. Molly first suggested India would be a good place and at the right time. While the timing would be right, the location would interfere with the facial hair I was sprouting and managing. The answer suddenly came to both of us: BANGKOK! We would both get haircuts and massages while in Bangkok.

We scouted the neighborhood for prices and a general look at the venues, going as far as checking out where our host gets his hair cut; at the Hair Olympic in the The Big C (think of it as the Thai Walmart). When we did the necessary walk-by, however, we noticed an older woman with flaming red top hair sitting down inside. We debated the situation: Molly speculated that she worked there while I thought she was waiting her turn in the salon chair. We both decided to keep shopping around the neighborhood. Communication problems arose at the other local establishments, so we both decided to go back to Hair Olympic for the slightly more expensive haircuts, but better communication options.

Arriving at the salon, we relayed our desires and were separated for the hair washing & head massage. Afterwards I was introduced to the stylist… the same red-haired woman we had seen on a previous day. Molly was right and lucky, since she has sworn the day before that the women with red hair (if she did work there) would not touch a hair on her head. To her credit, she spoke English well & performed admirable considering her shaking hands. I was even lucky enough to have kept both my eyes and ears intact. Half-way through the cut, I was directed back to the washing station for another wash and massage. With her assistant handing her scissors & combs, along with several washings & massages, I felt like part of a racing team… a well oiled machine. The rest of the time I spent watching Molly across from me as her stylist performed “a cutting ballet”. I wasn’t sure, but she looked a bit hesitant at the process. Overall, it was probably the longest haircut I have had and the back of my hairline hasn’t been quite this high, but overall I think she did a good job. Molly came out looking pretty good as well, but she’ll have to tell you what she thought about that.

Before & After Shearing (Photo by Molly)

Fresh from the shearing, we went back to our bed & breakfast to take the required “after” photos, before getting a taste of the Thai massage. For those that do not know me well, I do not like massages much. Up to this point, the only professional massages that I have allowed to be performed to me were all on our honeymoon in Bali. I find it hard to relax when someone is digging their elbows and hands into my flesh, causing me more pain than when I came in. After spending a month each in India & China (as well as 5+ months of travelling overall), a $5/hour massage seemed like a good idea at the time. I’d like to say that it was a painless process, however, a Thai massage does seem to involve pain and some odd stretching. By the end, you feel like a discombobulated yoga practitioner. My masseuse also seemed to get a good workout as she was unable to get me into some of the poses and was at least half my size.

All in all, our day of beauty & rest was well-earned. I’m not sure we will have the opportunity to do it again somewhere else on our trip, but I am definitively not dreading it.

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