I’ve always enjoyed a professional massage, since the first time a friend Rita, who had trained in Swedish massage, introduced me to them (rather than the friends give friends massages that I’d done previously).
For one, it makes the body feel good and I think the human body is meant to be touched. Secondly, which seems harder and harder for people to do these days, taking the time out for a massage is time for yourself, time to relax and time to be quiet.
I’d had various kinds of massage over the years but discovering Thai massage was a revelation. Instead of movement and pressure on bare skin, traditional Thai massage is done on someone clothed. It involves pressure and stretches, and sometimes kneading whole parts of your bodies: your arms, your legs. It is performed usually on a mattress on the floor, rather than on a massage table. This allows the practitioner to use the weight of their body in different positions.
When I have a Thai massage, it feels like my body is being stretched back into the right position, recalibrated and centred. It’s sometimes rather painful. Instead of the usual focus of Western massage on the back and shoulders. Thai massage often spends a lot of time on the legs. It can also involve moving the body into different positions (contortions) and it’s always amazing when a small Thai woman completely lifts up a large Western person with their legs or knees!
I also found it a nice discovery on my many trips to Bangkok that the art of Thai massage is so complicated that it really takes a masseur a full two hours to properly use all of the techniques they’ve learned, and to give attention to all parts of the body. Two hours of massage seemed unbelievable to me at first, but after comparing one hour to two hours, I could definitely see their point. On the other hand, some places offered three hour massages, and I just found that too much. By the end, I was a bit bored.
Thai foot massage is something completely different, another amazing practice where all the attention is on pressure points in the foot (and ankles and lower legs). It is amazing that there are so many different spots on foot to press and manipulate, and I’ve felt a deep, deep relaxation after a good foot massage.
In Bangkok, massages are incredibly cheap, usually around $12 for an hour, or $20 for two hours. I would recommend against the massages in hotels, as they charge much higher, and not necessarily at better quality. There are Thai massage shops on pretty much every street in Bangkok. Pay attention to the vibe and feel. Some of them will be a bit too brightly lit, and will have a television on! And some of them have so many masseurs, it would seem that your chances of getting a mediocre one is higher! I think at a smaller place, you’re likely to get better attention and service. However, there are a few massive places, rather than smaller shopfronts, and these are usually pretty good.
Ah, final advice. When you find a masseur you like, grab their name and details, and request them when you go back. There are so many masseurs that when you find the one that’s right for you, don’t let them disappear.
My favourite in Bangkok which I’ve recommended to many, many friends is:
Ruen-Nuad Massage. Soi Convent 42. It was 550 Baht for 2 hours Thai. Recommended to make a reservation at 02 632 2662 or 2663, 10am–10pm. They have a Facebook page now!
It’s is a little walk away from Silom, and you can ask for a room for 2 people if you’re travelling with your honey, or a friend (though they charge a little more for this). I’ve always found the masseurs there to be excellent quality, and the setting is tranquil and beautiful.
In Sydney, I’ve heard good things about Chang Sabai, near Chinatown. But I try to go fortnightly to Amy at the Pain Relief Centre in Oxford Square, the little shopping complex with the Fitness First and the Aldi on Oxford Street at Riley.
Do you like Thai massages? Any recommendations and tips?