Massage is recognised as an ancient art in Thailand and is one of the traditional medicine practices recognised by the government. Thai massage is basically doing yoga while wearing pyjamas, except you don’t have to actually do anything. So win-win all the way around!
Thai massage is based on a concept similar to Chinese massage, where there are “lines” in the body that are important to keep flowing. Unlike in Swedish massage, no oil is used. Patients change into loose-fitting trousers and shirts and are massaged through the clothes. Massage takes place on a (very firm) mattress on the floor, and the masseuse will spend the next hour or two pummeling you into a soft paste until allowing you to slide out the front door.
Masseuses squeeze your muscles, stimulating blood flow, and use their elbows, balls of their feet, palms and knees to realign your bones. A standard massage will crack your fingers and toes, elbows, ears, and in one spine-orgasm inducing moment, your back. Patients are put into a variety of yoga-like positions and the masseuse uses the weight of their bodies to stretch the muscles. It can truly be one of the delights of a visit to Thailand, especially considering that most two hours massages will cost 350-600 baht. A tip is greatly appreciated, from 20 to 50 baht, given directly to the masseuse. Worried about too much pressure or too little? This guide will help you master the lingo.
Most massage parlours offer one- or two-hour options (a traditional Thai massage, following the entire proscribed treatment, takes around two hours), as well as shorter head and shoulder massages (ohhh so good to get your scalp massaged) or foot massages (also amazing after a long day of trekking around Bangkok).
Good massage places can be found all over Bangkok; look for masseuses wearing pyjamas instead of sexy “evening wear” (sometimes as hilarious as prom dresses) to ensure you’ve signed up for the right kind of massage. Wat Pho also offers massages by masseuses training at its traditional medical school — a great way to end a long day of sightseeing.
By Brock Kuhlman
Last updated on 23rd September, 2011.