Article by Kim Waddoup:
Massage is a way of life in Thailand. Parents massage their kids to relieve growing and young muscle pains, children then help their parents by massaging their aches, additionally, it is also a large source of employment. There is currently no official tally of the number of massage salons in Thailand but officially estimated in excess of 10,000 shops. With, on average 4-6 staff in each, that’s a lot of employment!
Thai Massage also sometimes called Thai Yoga Massage is a traditional art form of healing, combining acupressure from Indian Ayurvedic principles and stimulation of the Shen-lines (energy-lines) through assisted yoga postures.
There is now regulation for Massage Shops and Salons with quite rigid guidelines that they must observe, however at this lower end of the business spectrum many ‘arrangements’ are made for officials to turn a blind eye to both regulations and activities. Legitimate Massage Shops are required to display their License and the Diplomas of their staff, there are health standards as well as regulations for sanitary conditions amongst others.
To receive a Diploma a Thai must complete from 120 – 200 hours of quite intensive training that includes etiquette, alignment, positioning, techniques and anatomy. The basics of Thai Traditional massage are to eliminate fatigue, loosen tight muscles and tendons, relieve stress and pulling slack tendons into place. Other forms of massage generally available in the majority of Thai Massage shops are Oil/Aromatherapy, Foot Massage, Back and Shoulders and Head Massage.
There are many massage schools around Thailand and many welcome Foreigners who wish to learn. Some of the schools are linked to the major massage chains but the most prominent are located at some Temples of which Wat Pho in Bangkok is the most famous.
In a legitimate massage shop, the staff work for 50% of the cost of the massage and their tips. In some areas, the cost of a 1-hour massage does not exceed THB.200 and the lady will only receive half of this, so please consider the quality of the massage and tip well. If you are satisfied a tip if THB.100 is generally the norm. The staff are not really paid well, but they are able to live in the shop and use the beds when the last of the clients have left. It is hard work for small pay!
Most shops offer Foot Massage in a range of super comfortable lounge chairs. After a few minutes of having your feet gently manipulated, the challenge is not to fall asleep. These massages are relaxing and good for one health. The majority are just a foot massage with aspects of reflexology, so if you are looking for professional foot reflexology you should research for a spa that can offer this.
The most popular is the Thai Traditional Massage. As you enter you are provided with a shirt and pantaloons (wide cotton shorts). The strings should be at the back when you put them on and tied around your waist, at the front! Most Thai Massages take place on a thin mattress on the floor. Whilst curtains protect your modesty when you are changing, these are generally open during the massage. Traditional Thai Massage combines stretching and re-alignment of your ligaments and muscles. It is relaxing and invigorating with your therapist making close contact with your body during the treatment.
Oil Massage is also very popular. Generally, oil massage is made with you wearing no clothing to stop the oil staining your underwear. Some salons will provide you with a disposable bikini bottom but not all. Don’t worry about modesty the staff have seen everything before! Massages, especially Traditional Thai massage are generally carried out in large rooms, whilst oil massage is either conducted in a private room or at least with the curtains drawn.
So far, I have written about legitimate massage for relief or stress and aches and pains. In a relatively carefree society, more intimate massages have become readily available. There are the Soapy Massages that include bathing, body to body massage and much more and there are less salubrious establishments that offer ‘Special’ or ‘Happy End’ massages. If this is what you want no problem, generally look for younger, seductively attired ladies (or boys) in uniforms. Generally, the massage is at the advertised price and the ‘additional’ services provided by your masseuse at extra charge with the payment directly to the masseuse.
Trying to work out what you want is sometimes challenging. If you are looking for a good massage and only massage, it is vital to establish this before you enter. Some shops have a very strict ‘No Sex’ policy but still, sometimes you will find that private parts of your anatomy being surreptitiously ‘grazed’ especially with an oil massage, you only have to say no and the proper massage will continue.
If you are looking for an intimate massage generally the name and decoration will indicate which kind of establishment it is. However, do clarify what you are looking for and agree on the price before you proceed.
Having a massage in Thailand is an essential part of your life or an enjoyable experience if you are just visiting. Lay back, relax and enjoy!