A tourists guide to Thai massage
The ancient art of therapeutic massage was first developed in India some 2,500 years ago and brought to Thailand by Buddhist monks about 1,800 years back.
Well known for its healing properties, Thai traditional massage is developing into a global brand.
More and more westerners come here to be trained in this kneading art, with Wat Pho in Bangkok probably the most well-known place for receiving instruction. Chiang Mai in the north also offers a wealth of more or less accredited schools, teaching a softer northern style massage technique. There are courses however in Phuket, Pattaya and Samui.
Tourists and visitors to Thailand soon observe that the practice of mutual rubdowns is an everyday custom practiced openly and without embarrassment. Mothers kneading babies, teens their grandparents, vendors and motorcycle taxi drivers their colleagues’ tired shoulders or even easy chairs on the pavement offering instant foot massages for weary pedestrians. Thailand travel and tourist information
Then there is in-flight massage service on the national carrier and the mechanical massage chairs in airports or shopping malls. Put in a 10 baht coin and get three minutes of shaky back massage – just make sure you don’t fall asleep mid-massage.
But possibly the oddest place for a foreigner to be offered a massage is while standing in front of the urinal at an upmarket nightclub or restaurant. The toilet attendant will sneakily approach you from behind to place a hot towel on your neck and then start rubbing your shoulders.
Traditional Thai massage is for the most part practiced by women, but is also an important job for the blind. “Women can massage any clients regardless of age or gender, but male masseurs who can see may unintentionally be seduced by their visual perception,” says Aree Sanyaluck, massage teacher in Chiang Mai. “Unsighted masseurs are able to concentrate better and have purer intentions.”
Anyone who tells of their Thai massage experience to those who aren’t familiar with this art will likely get nudge-nudge quips about ‘special’ services. It is important to distinguish between massage with clothes on and with clothes off. Sadly, Thailand is better known for the latter, especially in some parts of Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket. But this is a misrepresentation.
Both kinds are social more than individual occasions with patrons chatting to each other through the partitioning or even to the masseuse who welcomes any distraction to lessen her boring routine. Visits to the flashy palaces offering more carnal pleasures as part of the massage routine are also usually done in groups, often to round off an evening of drinking and eating.
But back to the real tradition Thai massage, this is offered by skilled massage persons in all tourist areas, such as Phuket, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi, Samui and Pattaya. They are very inexpensive and a two hour treatment will cover all 104 main energy points in the body using a kneading, yoga type positions, stretching and other techniques. Then there is the soothing oil massage and of course foot massage, which is similar to reflexology. Guide to massage in Phuket
Lately there has been a boom in the spa industry in Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Phuket, where massage is central to many of the treatments on offer and although probably more expensive they are a very relaxing and pampering experience.
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