I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I’ve been getting Thai massages for years and I’m always on the lookout for THE ONE. In case you’ve missed it, I’ve already talked about all the wrong ones you are likely to meet so I figured it was high time that I write about the practical and good sides.
The problem is getting a good massage depends greatly on the person giving the massage. You don’t say…
So, anyone who tells you that they had the best massage at OK Massage or Spa for You probably got a good masseuse and there is no guarantee that you’ll get her when you go there. Sorry. I’ve gone to the same place over and over again thinking, “I found it! I finally found it!” only to be bitterly disappointed by that girl who poked at my body like Buddhist Lent leftovers.
And then I’d find another place and repeat my naïve process all over again.
It occurred to me while I was blissed out on the table that I needed to write about what I knew so things could go smoother for you and share my general knowledge because, well, you deserve it.
// The best massages I’ve had, upon relaxed reflection, have been in small massage shops where there is one or two women working there. Naturally there are exceptions.
// At Kad Suan Kaew in Chiang Mai on Thursdays and Fridays, if memory serves, around 4pm there is a massage setup in front of the mall. They are the exceptions.
// The rule, on the other hand, is next to Boonthavan Court on Ratchadamdern Soi 1. I tremble as I type because they are that good. Those two ladies are THE BEST. I was in CM about 2 months ago and they were still there.
// The best one in Chiang Rai is on the second floor of Condotel. Her name is Bee, she’s a sweetie and it’s only her. (She’s closed on Wednesdays)
// In the North, women massage women, but in Bangkok I got an excellent massage from a man. He was much more conscious about touching me where he shouldn’t, more than any female masseuse I’ve had.
Now, men usually massage men and if you’re a dude and don’t want another dude massaging you, speak up. No, you are not homophobic, (are you homophobic?) you should be comfortable and if you are not comfortable then you need to say so.
// This brings me to the most important point and that is tell them where you hurt, problem areas and if you want them to be gentle. I’ve endured some pretty shitty massages when speaking up could have alleviated some of the problem.
I think we get scared, but just tell them “softer please” or whatever because a Thai massage is not like a Swedish massage. It can be thumbs of iron digging into your skin or worst, your temples. The very opposite of relaxing and I’ve scared you away by now, haven’t I?
// I’d recommend telling them to skip the face massage if you are having an unpleasant experience. It’s one of the last things they do and this can only make you feel worse if it’s “meh” or torturous already.
// You can also ask them to not to the twists at the end (where you are sitting up). I do. I find the back-cracking twist and the other shenangans at the end of the massage to be risky and not worth it.
// A lot of tourists just get the foot massage, but if you want to be brave, but don’t think you’ll like the Thai one, you can get an oil massage and that is much more like a Swedish one. Smoother, soothing, and yes, you will have to be naked.
// For the ladies, when you go get a massage, I’d recommend wearing a sports bra. You can always not wear one when you change into the provided pants and see-through top, but for those who want the coverage, a bra without tiny straps will be infinitely more comfortable.
// For a Thai massage, they usually work on your legs first (forever), then your arms, ask you to lie on your stomach, then work on your back, more legs (they can’t help themselves), then you’re on your back again for a head massage and then sitting up for some last minute twists and back thumping.
// Tipping is something you should do. I think there have only been one or two instances where the massage was so bad I didn’t tip. But generally, I tip 50 baht for a one hour massage. 20 baht seems to be the standard tip, but I think that is a rather shitty tip. I’ve been known to tip 100, too.
// The price of a massage depends on where you are at. The airport and Bangkok will be more expensive than Chiang Mai. It will also depend on whether you go to a fancy spa or not. To be honest, I haven’t felt much of a difference between the upscale places and the hole-in-the-walls. I think for the nicer places, you pay for the ambiance, the pampering, and like I said, I’ve had excellent massages from small businesses.
// Be totally willing to walk out after checking out a place.
// Cleanliness counts. If it looks or smells dirty, just leave. You don’t want to put on the clothes they haven’t washed or lie on the bed that others have laid on or be touched by a person who doesn’t use soap. Seriously. This isn’t you trying to prove how cool you can be “roughing it”. I was in such a place and she used a washcloth to massage me.
She never touched me with her bare hands. It was always the wash cloth against my skin while I got this massage. I began to wonder if she was protecting herself from me or the other way around. Yes, I immediately went home and took a hot shower. I contemplated shaving my head. Just kidding. Sort of.
What are your tips? What’s the best “PG rated” massage you’ve ever had?