My face is being pushed into the pillow as I once again debate my choice of paying for this service. The last question occurred with her titanium infused fingers digging into my back or was it her pinching my shoulders. Truth be told, I debated this a great deal. And yet, this was one of the better massages I’d experienced in Thailand.
When visiting this wonderful country, a Thai massage is on most people’s list of things to experience. That there are about a million massage places throughout Thailand offering various services at a small price makes this easy to accomplish.
On average, you can find an hour body massage for about $6. You’d probably think, ‘wow, that’s amazingly cheap’ but unlike it’s more expensive, relaxing twin in the States, a Thai massage is a more active and at times painful massage. Likewise, the massage locations (parlor paints a different picture here) may not be as pristine as ones found in the States and the masseuse may be at different level of “training”, but it is cheap!
In a typical Thai massage, you will change into very fashionable Thai “fisherman pants” and a short-sleeve top. Your feet will be washed then you will be directed to lie face-down on a padded mat on the floor that has a pillow. The masseuse will join you on the mat by your feet and begin her (I’ve only had female masseuses) many acts of torture, I mean massage. Her being on the floor with you allows more leverage for pressure and is necessary as her body is typically used as a prop for the many stretches ahead in the session.
The main massage component of a Thai massage would be more accurately described as rhythmic pressure, at times in the form of pinching. The pressure is applied up and down the body part, which would not sound painful yet often turns out to be. What Thai massage is most known for though is the yoga-like positions your body will be arranged in, from mild bends of the arms and legs to the backward backbend, which is always accompanied by a soundtrack of “Relax! Relax!” for me, which is somehow not relaxing. The masseuse will use her body to encourage the desired bend so it is a full contact “sport”. I always leave from a massage feeling a bit more battered but with the hopes that I will feel better the next day, with mild success.
While the traditional Thai massage is the most common, there are certainly a variety of others to choose from including oil massages, heated compresses, and various others per shop. If you are not into a full-body experience most massage locations also have chairs setup for just a foot massage, which typically extends up the calves, or a shoulder massage, again with the rhythmic pressure being applied to the body part in question. It is common to see at the Chiang Mai night markets lines of chairs filled with tourists and locals alike getting foot massages.
And every traditional Thai massage ends with the masseuse closing her hands as if in prayer before using them to karate chop you on the back a few times for good measure. Once you dress and put yourself back together though you are rewarded with a lovely herbal tea to finally relax with. Ready for a massage?