Pains And Pleasure Of A Thai Massage, Courtesy Of Chiang Mai Prison Inmates

Getting a massage at this women’s prison in Northern Thailand has become a tourist attraction. One reporter undergoes the not-so-tender treatment – always under the watchful eye of prison guards.

In Thailand, you can even get a massage in a market...
In Thailand, you can even get a massage in a market...
Christine Dohler

En, a prisoner at Chiang Mai's women's prison, is working on the soles of my feet -- with a stick. She laughs and asks in English: "Tickle?" You bet. In fact, it hurts like hell. The 22-year-old spends an hour kneading my feet with her hands and applying pressure with the wooden stick.

On a mat nearby, an American tourist is undergoing the torture of a full-body massage. The masseuse stamps on the woman‘s legs with her feet, and draws the upper part of her body back into what looks like an impossible position. Thai massage can look and feel pretty brutal – especially when taking place in a windowless room next to a prison.

And yet the prison, surrounded by high walls and barbed wire, has become an attraction for tourists who come to hike in the northern part of Thailand. By training inmates to give Thai massage, the facility offers its 1,400 female prisoners the opportunity to make some pocket money while they are still behind bars, and perhaps a legitimate way of earning money after their release.

The massages take place in an unremarkable little building across from the prison, in a room with rows of chairs. The walls have flowers and butterflies painted on them. Ten masseuses kneel in front of the clients – tourists but also locals – to rub (and club) their feet. One of the masseuses is En. She had to complete more than 100 hours of training before being allowed to practice. An hour's massage costs just under five euros, and she gets to keep half. She says she's saving the money for when she gets out.

"Prison is not nice"

Normally when you have a massage you close your eyes and give yourself over to complete relaxation – not here. What with guards patrolling outside and peering through the door if any body-pounding noise seems particularly loud, the vibe isn't very comfy. There's also piped-in Thai pop music – and the pain.

Why are you in prison, En? She smiles, and I'm surprised to see she has braces. Like all the other masseuses, she's wearing a pink and white top with pink linen slacks. Her long hair is held back with a clasp. "Cocaine," she replies and I'm sensing that she's not saying more because her English isn't up to it.

Still, she's able to get across that she got nine months for drug use, and has still two months to go. She shares a cell with 25 other women. "I'm happy I get out soon: prison is not nice," she says. She knows what she wants to do after her release, and it's not drugs – or tourists' feet.

En wants to study computers, start a new life. What she earns doing massages will help her realize her plans. The massage is nearing the end, so I have yet to discover whether all the pain yields feet that feel like they're walking on air. But even if that's not the case, I already have the feeling of an hour, and five euros, well spent.

Read the original article in German

Photo - avlxyz

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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