Thai Massage: Pain, Pleasure, Or Both?

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Credit to Gladstone News

If you’re planning a visit to Thailand, you will see Thai massages available everywhere! Basically, for every 7-11 convenient store you see you’ll find at least 1 or 2 massage shops. It is a part of their social fabric and something that everyone finds time to enjoy. And so should you!

Thai Massage techniques were originally taught to Buddhist monks to help them meditate longer and bring healing to their communities. It’s an acupressure and yogic massage influenced by Indian Ayurvedic principles and its therapeutic traditions have long been in Thai culture.

Credit to Watpo Thai Traditional Massage School
Credit to Watpo Thai Traditional Massage School

In fact Thailand’s first University, Wat Pho, taught this ancient healing art! This tradition continues to this day and you can still go there to learn or get an authentic Thai Massage by one of their students or teachers.

As for me, I love massages and I’ve tried maybe 50 or so massage shops all around Thailand. It’s usually a hit or miss for me. All Thai Masseuses are generally friendly, but the trick is to find one with magical arms and elbows that can put you in a state of release and relaxation.

When choosing where to get your massage, first decide what kind of massage you want.  The typical massages are: Traditional Thai massage (Thai: Nuat Boran), Foot Massage (Thai: Nuat Tao), and Oil Massage (Thai: Nuan Nam Man). If you don’t need to be too impressed by the decor of the shop, the price ranges between 200THB-500THB per hour. That’s about $5-10, not including tip. Higher end places will charge western rates.

Credit to PostAdsUK
Credit to PostAdsUK

Bellieeveee meee, one of the things that will help you get a better massage is being an active communicator. Before I walk into a massage shop, I’ll ask for a quick test massage. It gives me an idea of what to expect instead of feeling awkward and uncomfortable for an hour of torture. If they pass the test, then I walk on in! If not, I put my hands together and wai them in respect and move on.

Here are some short and sweet Thai phrases that have helped me during my massages:

A little bit softer please Bao bao noi

A little bit harder Rang rang noi

Painful! Jet mak!

Very good! Di mak!

No problem! Mai pen rai!

Thank you! Cope coon ka!

One of my favourite massages was at Papaya Massage in Koh Phangan. They were right next to Agama Yoga, and were trained in understanding sports massage and the human anatomy. The yoga students would come in after occasionally over-stretching themselves into human pretzels.

Credit to Phanganist
Credit to Phanganist

I kept coming back because my masseuse knew how to read my body and where it needed attention. Her elbow was magical to me and she adeptly uncovered and healed even my most hidden aching pains.

My other favorite massage was by a blind masseur at Dahla Massage Blind in Phuket. He was perceptive and could push on one part of my feet in which I squirmed, and tell me that my liver needs some detoxing!

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Thailand, ask around for “the best massage” place and heed my advice. With a bit of luck and some good communication you’ll find yourself being pampered without breaking the bank.