Let’s get the elephant out of the room from the very beginning. This is not an article for people looking for a cheap thrill or a happy ending.
This is all about the superb professional Thai massages that you will find throughout Thailand. Once you get one, you will never look back.
Getting a massage never really appealed to me Of course I had heard stories of dodgy massage parlours both at home and in Thailand, but I had also heard that some therapeutic massages could be painful and oil massages just felt like something for the girls.
How wrong I was.
We traveled to Thailand for our wedding in 2009 and as part of our wedding package was a couples massage. There was a range of treatments on offer but we both opted for a traditional Thai massage. What a revelation it was. Despite my sunburn that I had picked up the previous day, and was quickly spotted by the masseur, the massage had an incredibly effect on my body, making me feel far more relaxed, flexible and even light on my feet.
Now a holiday to Thailand wouldn’t be the same without one or two Thai massages. This year we found what I think is the perfect solution, a Thai massage on the day we arrive (or next day if we arrive too late) to help get rid of those plane aches, pains and stiffness and another on the day we leave to get ourselves into a more relaxed state for the journey home. If we are there long enough we may add an extra, different, massage into the middle of our trip, this year a wonderful coconut oil massage was a wonderful bonus.
What is a Thai Massage?
Dating back thousands of years, a Thai massage is a full body massage with origins and influences from Indian, Chinese and throughout South-East Asia. Thai massages will vary slightly between masseurs and may have some cultural or regional variations as you travel around Thailand.
Unlike other types of massage that rely on gliding and kneading motions, usually utilising oils, a Thai massage uses no oil and relies on stretching, pulling and rocking techniques. The therapist will use their whole body to manipulate your body, using their hands, feet, elbows and legs.
You will usually lie on a low bed or even on a mat on the floor ensuring that the therapist can work from both sides, each end and also be able to work from the bed or mat itself.
Most massage centres will have a number of therapists so you will generally have a therapist of the same gender as yourself. You can always ask if this is not the case.
Professional massage therapists in Thailand must have completed hundreds of hours of training and be registered. Wat Pho, next to the Grand Palace in Bangkok, is renowned throughout the world for the excellence for not only its massages but also its education centre, teaching future top class Thai masseurs.
Although some of the techniques may involve a little discomfort, a skilled therapist will quickly recognise your limits and will adjust the intensity of the massage to suit your needs. It is important that you always let them know of any injuries or ailments you may have so that they can take that into account during the massage.
From a personal point of view a Thai massage completely relaxes my body, making me feel looser, relieving aches, pains and joint stiffness and I feel energised.
Other benefits cited include relief of headaches, back pain, muscle stiffness and pain, increases flexibility, stimulation of the circulation and lymphatic systems and even help to calm the nervous system.
There are some people who should check before they have a Thai massage including pregnant women (especially later into pregnancy) and people with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and neurological diseases that affect the spinal cord and anyone who has recently had surgery. A good massage centre will be able to advise if you should have a Thai massage, adapt the massage to suit your needs or an alternative treatment. If in any doubt, especially as language may be a barrier to communication, consult your doctor before leaving the country to ask if a Thai massage should be avoided.
A Thai Massage is not a naked or semi-naked massage. No oils are used and so there is no need for clothes to be removed. Many establishments will provide loose fitting clothes for you, like a baggy set of pajamas, others will ask you to wear your own loose fitting clothes.
You will find no shortage of options for a Thai Massage throughout Thailand especially in tourist areas.
There are a number of things you can do to ensure that you are not heading to a sex establishment.
Generally the massage centres on the main streets will be offering genuine massages, unless you head down a street that is packed with girlie and go go bars. Many will have large rooms with massage areas separated by curtains, these give plenty of privacy for a massage but probably not enough for sex services.
Many hotels will have their own spa offering a range of treatments including Thai massages. These are often much more expensive that you will pay in a massage centre. However in some more remote areas they may be your only or best option
The vast majority of massages available on the beach will be fine but may sometimes be more expensive than a main street centre and the quality may not be as good.
You may also find a number of temples, not just Wat Pho, offering massages that will usually be very high quality and are sometimes in spectacular settings.
A number of the more popular and larger massage centres may have their own website and will have reviews available on the internet which will help to pick the ideal centre for you.
A true story.
On our first trip to Bangkok one of our friends and his girlfriend were going for a couples massage. Before he went he had a quiet word with me as he was nervous that there may be some sort of sexual nature to the massage and he wouldn’t know what to do or say. I reassured him. “It’s a nice hotel not a seedy backstreet place, there won’t be anything like that going on and anyway you will be with your other half”.
He felt much better and happily went to the massage. Later that evening he came up to me again. “Her massage ended before mine and after she left the girl asked if I wanted anything else.” After I stopped laughing I noticed he was still quite serious “Do I tell my girlfriend?” I asked him if he had said yes and of course he hadn’t but was just nervous she would take it the wrong way. “tell her” I said, “she will see the funny side”, which she did.
I have no idea if she meant “extras” or a “happy ending” when she asked him if he wanted anything else but that was certainly what he though was meant. So maybe the seedier side of the industry does take place in some of the nicer spas in hotels as well. All I know is that I have never been asked the question.
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