Photo: A true oasis.

Spas and massages in Chiang Mai

3.5 1

As with any Thai tourist destination spas and massage parlours of every description are ubiquitous throughout Chiang Mai. So here’s a brief run down on what to expect and some suggestions as to where to go.

For visitors unfamiliar with Thailand and Southeast Asia massage generally conjures up images of either the snigger, snigger—naughty/happy—or being blissfully rubbed with exotic oils by a sarong-clad masseuse in a pile of jacaranda petals. Traditional Thai massage isn’t either of these and the vast majority of the myriad parlours in Chiang Mai offer neither.

Not your average prison massage centre. Photo taken in or around Spas and massages in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Not your average prison massage centre. Photo: Mark Ord

It is usually immediately evident what’s what and if you see a masseuse wearing a mini-skirt and high heels it’s probably the former and if you see a 2,500 baht price tag it’s undoubtedly the latter. Typical Thai massage is quite vigorous and involves some heavy kneading of pressure points and some strenuous joint bending. For those not used to it, it can be a fairly painful experience.

Consequently—as with the sometimes painfully burning food—much is toned down for foreign visitors and the more gentle Swedish style muscle rub is popular. Bear in mind that whichever the parlour, any masseuse can have an off day, and while training standards ought to be higher in more upmarket spots, there’s always going to be a certain hit or miss element involved. Plus of course what’s a great massage to one person may be torture to another.

Catchy name. Photo taken in or around Spas and massages in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Catchy name. Photo: Mark Ord

As to when a massage parlour becomes a spa is a tricky question and you will come across all levels in between in Chiang Mai but to us spa implies; firstly more emphasis on setting and surroundings, and secondly a wider range of more niche treatments including reflexology, aromatherapy, herbal baths and so-on as well as beauty treatments such as body masks, manicure, pedicure and waxing. For a simple massage you sign up for an hour or two with a choice of perhaps body or oil massage and maybe a head, shoulder or foot option as well. A spa however is designed to keep you there all morning. Aside the name outside—the price list will be a dead give-away.

Your standard, traditional massage by a professionally trained masseuse in a clean and kosher parlour should cost around 3-400 baht for a two hour session. (two hours being considered the required period for a complete massage.) Larger hotels often have in-house massage services and you usually pay a bit more for the convenience.

There are then myriad spots in town offering such services and we’d suggest The Women’s Massage Centre with four in-town addresses, or the excellent Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institute, as examples in this category. The latter provides not only a fine massage at reasonable prices but is also we feel an excellent initiative as it was established to create vocational training for short term women prisoners from Chiang Mai Prison. (Money earned is saved and issued to inmates on release as a kind of start-up, help package.) Both places offer traditional massage at 200 baht per hour with oil, reflexology and facial scrubs on the menu too. Masseuses are usually on short term incarceration—often for drug or debt related charges—and you’re not going to be rubbed down by an axe murderer or politician. Nor will you be serviced in a prison cell but rather a beautifully restored 100 year old teak villa.

Easy to find, hard to forget. Photo taken in or around Spas and massages in Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Easy to find, hard to forget. Photo: Mark Ord

A few hours in one of Chiang Mai’s plush spas is more about the whole experience so at the end of the day it’s up to the individual how much extra you want to pay for Lanna decor, a lily pond in the lobby, fluent English speaking staff in traditional dress and massage accessories along the lines of herbal balls or turmeric wraps. We liked the Fah Lanna with a central location on Wiang Kaew Road since despite the very classy setting they offer the full gamut of option from a basic one hour traditional massage at a very reasonable 300 baht up to a four hour, “Romantic” package including herbal bath, facial, body scrub, aromatherapy, oil massage for 5,000 baht. (Check their website for the full array of options.)

The popular Oasis Spa also must be doing something right as they now have four locations in town with the most central being Samlarn Road near the main post office. Others are on Nimmanhemin, Ban Saen Doi way out in the southern suburbs and a Rattanakosin Road address which comes with meditation garden and solarium. Again please check their website for full addresses and package details but prices go from 1,200 for an hour’s reflexology up to a four hour “Lanna Explorer” full Monty at no less than 6,500.

Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institute Ratchawithi Rd, corner of Chaban Rd, Sri Phum T: (053) 210 824 Open Mon-Friday 08:00-16:00 & Sat-Sun 09:00-16:00
Fah Lanna 57/1 Wiang Kaew Rd, Sri Phum T: (053) 416 191 Open daily 10:00-22:00
Oasis Spa 4 Samlarn Rd, Phra Singh T: (053) 920 111
Women’s Massage Centre 182/2 Wiang Kaew Rd, Sri Phum T: (093) 984 0532 Open daily 09:00-21:00

Best places to stay in Chiang Mai

A selection of some of our favourite places to stay in Chiang Mai.

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Chiang Mai.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Chiang Mai.
 Check out our listings of other things to do in and around Chiang Mai.
 Read up on how to get to Chiang Mai, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Chiang Mai? Please read this.

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